The Women of Itaewon Class

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I’ve been a fan of Kdrama as far back as my secondary school days. I love how they can weave a love story into any setting, hospital, law firm, high school, publishing house, anywhere — Think of a place and there’s probably already Kdrama love story created just for it and there’s also their Sci-fi, fantasy dramas. Koreans are undoubtedly good storytellers.

Another thing I love is how they act with their emotions, they immerse themselves into their roles — it’s so beautiful to see. Some of the stories I have written were inspired by watching Kdrama but that’s a gist for another day.

In this article, I want to talk about ‘Iteawon Class’ a 2020 Netflix Kdrama that I just finished watching from a feminist point of view. Not the entire story, but mostly about the two women in the main character’s life.

However, I can’t talk about that without a brief synopsis of the drama. I’m not sure about not giving spoilers so if you are opposed to that, this might be a good time to stop reading.

Iteawon Class is about a teenager, Park Sae-ro-yi played by one of my favourite actors, Park Seo-Joon who sets out to avenge his father’s death. His father was killed in a hit and run by the heir to Jangga group, Korea’s number one food corporation, Jang Geun Won. Park Sae-ro-yi ends up going to jail for two years for the attempted murder of Jang Geun Won.

While in Jail, he reads up on the biography of Jang Dae-Hee, the founder of Jangga group and Jang Geun Won’s father, who helped his son cover up the murder of Park Sae-ro-yi’s father.

Sae-ro-yi vows to create a food corporation to oust Jangga group and replace it as number one in Korea. He comes up with a 15-year plan to help him achieve his goal.

This is where the women in Park Sae-ro-yi’s life come in. Sae-ro-yi’s first love and former high school classmate, Oh Soo-ah, grew up in an orphanage and her life’s goal is to never be poor. She also likes Sae-ro-yi but Jang Geun Won has a crush on her. She knows Sae-ro-yi’s story and is fully aware of what Jang Geun Won’s family took from him and his determination to avenge his father’s death.

However, the fear of being poor makes her accept a scholarship from Jang Dae-Hee and subsequently begins to work for Jangga group. She loves Sae-ro-yi but would rather he gives up on his plan to go against Jangga group and avenge his father’s death so they can be happy together. Sae-ro-yi on other hand promises to become so successful that she would have to quit her job at Jangga group when he takes the company down.

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The second woman in Sae-ro-yi’s life is Jo Yi-seo, she is ten years younger than Sae-ro-yi but she is smart, a famous social media influencer with a very high IQ. However, Yi-seo lacks social skills and could be mistaken as a sociopath. Yi-seo falls in love with Sae-ro-yi and gives up on going to college to help Sae-ro-yi achieve his dream of creating a food company that would take Jangga group down.

Yi-seo’s mother wasn’t comfortable with her decision but she manages to convince her mother that she intends to be more than just Sae-ro-yi’s wife.

Although, Sae-ro-yi initially wasn’t attracted to Yi-seo, when he begins to fall for her, he holds himself back because of the age difference between them. He eventually couldn’t resist Yi-seo’s tenacity in loving him stubbornly and they end up being together.

So here’s my take, I believe that both women were right in their decisions, Soo-ah wasn’t ready to give up a comfortable life after growing up poor just to start from the beginning with Sae-ro-yi and neither should she be expected to. It was one of the things I love about Sae-ro-yi’s character, he recognised that both he and Soo-ah had different dreams and he had no right to ask her to give up on her dreams for him. My problem with Soo-ah was that she wanted to have her cake and eat it.

In my opinion, she chose Jangga and her life over Sae-ro-yi and she should have stuck with it because it was not possible to love Sae-ro-yi and work for his enemy at the same time, she should have been more confident in her decision.

As for Yi-seo, I went from being indifferent about her to hating her, to loving her and then hating her and then finally loving her. One thing about her was that she knew what she wanted and went straight for it, she loved Sae-ro-yi and for her, that meant hating his enemies too, she loved him with everything because he was a man deserving of that love and I was a little worried just like her mother when she decided to give up college to help Sae-ro-yi achieve his dreams.

I wasn’t comfortable with that aspect but as it turned out, her dreams and Sae-ro-yi’s dreams aligned and she not only got her love, she also became a formidable businesswoman, she made it to the Forbes list of Korea’s youngest successful businesswomen.

It was a very risky thing to do, to give up going to college for a man. If Sae-ro-yi had turned out to be a manipulative narcissist, she would have regretted that decision.

Sae-ro-yi’s character is what men should aspire to become. A lot of men who engage in a sexual relationship with teenagers give the excuse that she came on to them, she wanted it, so they gave it to her.

Yi-seo was twenty years old when she realised her feelings for Sae-ro-yi and he was thirty, he did not under any circumstance lead her on, if anything, he told her to her face that he couldn’t love her because of the age gap between them amongst other things. It wasn’t until she was twenty-four before they started dating and even then, it was obvious to everyone around them that there was no pressure or manipulation from Sae-ro-yi.

People need to understand that, the burden to be responsible falls on the older one — you can’t sugar coat it and find a way around it.

Conclusively, women shouldn’t have to give up on their dreams to be with a man. If your dreams and the man you want to be with don’t align, then it’s up to you to choose but whatever that decision is, stick with it because every decision and action have their consequences. I think every woman should be like Yi-seo, we must aggressively go for what we want, whether it’s in love or it’s in our careers because if men can do it, why can’t we?

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