Itaewon Class was one of the best kdramas of 2020 (yet) and Park Sae-Ro-Yi one of my favourite male protagonists ever. This post focuses on why. You can check out my in-depth kdrama review of Itaewon Class here.
1. Courage to live life on his terms
Following your beliefs, ambition…it’s not all glorious or easy. He had to face every single consequence for that. And he knew that.
Other than being expelled and his father losing his job and him going to jail – and every other instance – he made a decision not because it was going to be easy but because it was going to be the one he wanted.
Even in jail when he enters his cell and refuses to kneel and greet the gangster and his goons, it’s not like he wins. He gets beaten up really fucking badly. He is brave not because he can dodge the consequences of living life on his own terms. he is brave because he knows that it is worth living life on his own terms.
2. The way he deals with Soo Ah
While re-watching the kdrama, I don’t hate her as much. Right from the start she was pretty clear about certain things – she doesn’t want to live like Sae-ro-yi and his dad, she told him not to have a crush on her, when she visits him in jail she accepts that she is a coward. I like his understanding + acceptance of Soo Ah from the beginning.
He fell for her because he saw that she didn’t accept help from anyone and she didn’t like those who did either. She ran all the way for her college interview and didn’t give up. If she has to survive in life ad be confident, she has to live it on her own terms too. I like how he didn’t try changing her ever or made her feel like a bitch about it or ever blamed her. I like how he lets people be. One thing I can definitely learn from him when it comes to my friends.
3. He is an adult who knows how to act like one
He treats kids like kids. Right from the start when Yi Seo and Geun-Soo end up at the police station because they lied about their ID and drink – Geun Soo says I’ll take responsibility because it shouldn’t hurt your business. Sae-ro-yi calms him down and says ‘You can’t take responsibility that’s why you’re a minor. Calm down’ and pacifies him. Wow.
I know his dad did that for him like didn’t blow up even the big things. But then too to action that when you’re in such a hard situation, when you know you’re going to lose SO MUCH business by being shut, to not blame others or get mad but be nice to them. Ahhhh. And like even with Yi Seo he took years to not see her as a younger kid but as someone in a romantic light.
4. He is so strategic and brilliant
Yes, business is about people. But also like he isn’t an emotional fool. He invested his dad’s life insurance money after his death in Jangga Co. He wasn’t like I am not gonna have anything to do with Jangga co. because they were connected with my dad’s death. Instead he embraced it all for his advantage. He also read the chairman’s autobiography in jail so many times that he had it memorized!
And the fact that he didn’t just have the desire for revenge and a goal but he planned from it in a very practical manner right from the beginning by teaming up with Lee Ho-Jin, the kid who he tried to save from being bullied, and took his guidance to invest and build his wealth! He’s a smarty! He know that it isn’t just grit or mad determination but strategic moves that will get him to his goals.
He’s not a male lead I like because he is romantically swoon-worthy. In fact, he is not. There is not much of a romance angle to him. And honestly I don’t care. I came to know his character and respect it and wish that there were more people like that in real life.
Reminds me of a Salinger quote – I’m sick of just liking people. I wish to God I could meet somebody I respect – It’s easy to like people but rare to come across those you can actually respect.