The Reasons Behind “Itaewon Class” Massive Success In South Korea And Overseas

Published Categorized as Kdrama Reviews

“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.

Related: Itaewon Class episode 1 to 8 review

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.

Whats your reaction to this article?

By Jass K.

Hi, I am Jass k. I discuss some of the hottest currently airing kdramas on this site in form of reviews an/or recaps, join me in the discussion~


  1. I totally agree with the comments/write up. All the supporting charactors are superb n outstanding, complimenting Park Seo Joon. I m in love with Yi Seo…she is one of a kind…felt so sorry for her when her boss said he didnt have any feelings at all for her during the game..when her love was turned down again and again along the way…i cried with her.

    Chairman Jang and his two sons did a very commendable act to make people hate them!!!

    I seriously love this drama as it really values of humanity, teamwork, love for teamate like own family and hard work snd struggle to survive in the challenging and nasty world now!

  2. Hey I fully support Yr ideas. I have been watching k dramas and I must say Itaewon class hit a core note in today’s society. An outcast boss trying to achieve his dreams, a talented girl very crude straight to the point manager, a trans, a former convict, a foreigner, it shows what society is made of. Not Eing a human, respecting choices and not just the beauty and beast story but speaking of values that are hard to find, loyalty, value of being human and knowing what Yr heart feels. Park Seo join was superb and I love Kam Da mi. Her portrayal of the character deserves an award and Park Seo Joon as well. Its a show I don’t mind watching over and over again

  3. Aside from falling in love with the characters as you slowly get to know them individually, the moral that it leaves us with give a warm sense of deeper appreciation and understanding that diversity in people and accepting each person’s individuality makes us learn how to respect each other since we’re all different and we all have our own story to tell, and regardless of that we just find it easier to love one another in all our differences and eccentricity. I’m loving more and respecting more each day I love Itaewon Class!

  4. Actually i saw the picture but was not keen to watch. After the 1st esp. I found it to be interesting. So now i am chasing but the 2 last esp. I think it will end. Hope to watch with good endings for the manager n boss.

  5. I liked it but I cannot take it anymore since park saeroyi changed his liking to jo yi seo. Soo ah waiting just thrown away. Park changing his mind this way does not go well with what IC tried portraying his image from the start. Love chemistry between Park saeroyi and Soo ah would have gathered more traction. Its a revenge drama with incorrect love interest. Maybe they change it in the last 2 episodes..

  6. One of the biggest factor is OST 6! The heart rendering song by Kim Feel. So apt so deep. And the uplifting motivational fight song by Gaho and that Ha Hyun Woo. Wooh! These 3 songs.

  7. I have been waiting for this drama for approximately a year plus now because of Park Seo Joon. No surprise there.
    However, what surprised me was how much I liked the drama.
    You are right, in saying that the characters are NOT one-dimensional, instead they all feel quite real and interesting. Not the run of the mill characters.
    And I like the character of Jo Yi-Seo. Although she comes across as brash, self absorbed and easily bored. KIm Da-mi played her well in showing us, mainly through her eyes that there’s more to her than just pure conceit. So we tune in week after week to get a sneak peek into the the possibility of other dimensions that she is made of. And although Kim Da-mi does not have classical features, you just feel drawn to her. When she steps into view you can’t keep your eyes off her.
    And of course, Park Seo Joon did not disappoint. I’ve been following him since he started playing lead roles in dramas and films. I’ve liked all of his portrayal. This is no different. I think that Park Seo Joon is a very solid actor. He is just so natural.
    When he played Park Saeroyi, you just see Saeroyi. You don’t see Ko Dong Man (Fight my Way character), you don’t see Lee Yong Joon (What’s Wrong with Secretary Kim character). You just see Saeroyi. A man that is serious and weight down by the enormity of the pain brought on by the loss of his father. There are little gestures that he (PSJ) makes like stroking his hair when he’s
    pondering on something that is troubling him that makes up the character of Saeroyi. The Saeroyi that Park Seo Joon has portrayed is a serious but kind soul. We don’t see him smiling or laughing with abandon throughout the episodes, until the last episode. Park Seo Joon is always in character. And that is the testimony of good acting.
    I think that apart from the good script, film direction, acting etc, a small part of the drama’s success could also be attributed to the current horrors that the world is facing battling the Corona virus. It is dramas like these that offers us some degree of psychological relief. When we are trapped in our flats, condos and houses, dramas such as Itaewon Class helps us escape into another world where we can overcome any obstacle if only we are willing to try.

  8. Itaewon Class is the first K serie that i have found myself growing attached to over time. I have mostly watched Korean series but I want to loudly say that i appreciate the team behind the making of this K drama. I truly enjoyed this and hats off for all the actors and actresses. You have positively impacted the life of a person a thousand miles away. I feel I don’t have the right words to use to deliver my message but THANK
    YOU VERY MUCH. I enjoyed this Itaewon Class Korean series

  9. Itaewon Class is the first K serie that i have found myself growing attached to over time. I have mostly watched Korean series but I want to loudly say that i appreciate the team behind the making of this K drama. I truly enjoyed this and hats off for all the actors and actresses. My heart weeps whenever I just listen to the soundtracks esp ”Still Fighting It”. It gave me a sneak peek into different lives and ended up motivating and not leaving me the same. It positively impacted the life of a person a thousand miles away. I enjoyed this Itaewon Class Korean series

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