“Itaewon Class” is one of the most talked-about kdramas of 2020. It started out with decent ratings and kept rising, it has become the second highest-rated drama in JTBC’s history, and also one of the highest-rated cable TV dramas.
While people did expect it to do well because of the stellar cast involved, no one would’ve anticipated how successful it actually became. But its success was not random nor undeserving. Today, I’d like to talk about the reason why I believe “Itaewon Class” became such a massive hit.
The stellar cast involved
Can you imagine any other actor playing any of your favorite “Itaewon Class” character? Neither do I. The actors behind “Itaewon Class” fit their characters to T and have gone above and beyond to show their dedication to their characters.
Park Seo Joon, for example, even cut his hair and maintained it to the buzz cut unique to the character he’s playing which is based on the webcomic of the same title.
Its hard for fans to imagine any other actors playing their favorite characters in “Itaewon Class” because the actors did such a good job and immersed themselves in their characters so well.
Choosing the webcomic writer to write the drama
“Itaewon Class” is something that could’ve easily become an average drama because the core idea isn’t anything that is too special or anything that hasn’t been done over and over again. Revenge dramas are abundant in the kdrama world but “Itaewon Class” definitely stands out as one of the more interesting ones.
While in most cases, if a kdrama is based on a webcomic, the writer usually changes but that’s not the case with “Itaewon Class.” Jo Gwang Jin wrote the webcomic and the drama version as well, which helped it retain its original feel. There is no other writer on earth who knows “Itaewon Class” as well as its original writer.
The drama could’ve become another cliché if the writer had changed, I definitely believe hiring Jo Gwang Jin to write for the drama helped it a lot.
Filled with twists and turns
“Itaewon Class” might seem pretty average from afar but its filled with interesting twists that catches you off-guard and it plays off in an interesting way.
I won’t go into details because this won’t be an article filled with spoilers but “Itaewon Class” did surprise me at times when I thought it wouldn’t and it did with class. It all played out in an interesting and fun way.
It definitely helped make “Itaewon Class” more unique and interesting that I initially thought it would be.
Sticking to a message
Kdramas sometimes have messages they want to deliver to the audience and that’s the case with “Itaewon Class” as well.
I have been watching kdramas for over 8 years but I can’t say that every drama left a lasting impression or a warm feeling inside of me. Some kdramas tend to feel hallow and tend to feel simply made for profit. And as years has gone by, I noticed that fewer and fewer kdramas actually tried to deliver a deep message about life.
“Itaewon Class” stands out to me because it feels warm and because it has a message it wants to deliver to the audience. patience, understanding, persistence and forgiveness are the emotions this drama focuses on and you can sense the writer wants you to learn from these characters.
This ties to the previous point I’ve made about why hiring the webcomic writer was a good decision, you can feel that the writer cares deeply about those characters and I can sense that he’s trying to tell me something.
The interesting characters, especially Jo Yi Seo
“Itaewon Class” will be remembered in the future for being a kdrama that had very interesting unique characters. Oftentimes, kdramas have stereotypical supporting characters that serve no purpose but to drive the plot forward, if replaced, you’d likely never notice nor care that much, that’s not the case with “Itaewon Class.”
“Itaewon Class” focuses on the supporting characters, there are episodes throughout the drama that focuses on these characters giving them much needed depth that is often overlooked in your average kdrama. They feel like real human beings instead of just your average kdrama supporting character.
There is a transwoman, a black man, a former gang member, a sociopath woman, and a naïve but hard-working man. The people that surround Park Sae Ro Yi are more interesting than him which is something to appreciate.
The character that stuck out the most to me was Jo Yi Seo.
By no means does the writer try to convince you that she’s the devoted, nice and hardworking female lead, nor does he try to attribute her terrible behavior to bad upbringing or a set of bad circumstances, instead she was raised in a stable home enjoying an upper-middle class life and haven’t had any particular trauma.
You don’t often see unlikeable female leads in kdramas, they usually have a set of characteristics that are repeated across the board, but that’s not the case with Jo Yi Seo.
While in most cases being blunt, rude and often disrespectful goes to the male lead with ‘daddy/mommy’ issues, this time it went Jo Yi Seo and it’s refreshing to see.
What could’ve easily become an annoying character turned out to be such a pleasant surprise and I know its because of how talented Kim Da Mi is. Jo Yi Seo has the most potential of growth among all of the characters in “Itaewon Class.” It was fun to see her go from an immature kid who has feelings for her boss, to a mature woman who’s more thoughtful than she’d initially appear to be.
And this is why I believe “Itaewon Class” became such a huge hit. I’d like to add that I appreciate the OST which is one of the best since “Hotel Del Luna” but the OST is not enough to get me to stick to watching a kdrama.
What about you guys? What do you think made “Itaewon Class” such a huge drama? I would love to discuss this with you in the comment section below.