“Itaewon Class” is a very interesting mix of elements. Based on a popular webtoon, the JTBC show which is now streaming on Netflix focuses on a restaurant in Seoul’s busy Itaewon section called DanBan. It’s run by the ex-convict Park Sae-ro-yi, who is fighting off all kinds of problems and fighting to make DanBan succeed because, reasons (no spoilers here). Sae-ro-yi has had a checkered past and he comes to DanBan with a chip on his shoulder and a point to make. To help him is a ragtag group of people who each have their own issues to deal with. Tackling some serious topics but with a light touch, “Itaewon Class” is a portrait of young adulthood, business and the struggle to leave your past baggage behind. Here’s what you must know about the class members of “Itaewon”:
He is of course one of the biggest stars in K-dramas, a face for the genre recognizable around the world. Here, Seo-jun’s role as the surly restaurant owner with a heart of gold Sae-ro-yi is a notable departure from his breakout role of openly kindhearted martial artist Ko Dong-man in 2017’s “Fight For My Way,” starring with Kim Ji-won. The 31-year-old actor has done some film work but is primarily known for his television work. Aside from the aforementioned “Fight for My Way,” Seo-Jun featured in 2015’s “She Was Pretty” with Hawng Junh-eum, 2016’s “Hwarang: The Poet Warrior Youth” opposite Go Ara and 2018’s “What’s Wrong with Secretary Kim” with Park Min-young. He hosted the popular music show “Music Bank” for two years and is also known as “PSJ.” He visited the Philippines in 2019 as an endorser for Bench.
Kim Da-mi as Jo Yi-seo
The troubled but genius Jo Yi-Seo, manager of DanBan but carries a flme for her boss, could not have been portrayed by a better actress than Da-mi. The 24-year-old Da-mi is clearly the breakout talent from “Itaewon Class.” She only started acting in 2017, in films mostly, the two “The Witch” films. “Itaewon Class” is her first K-drama. Her character Yi-seo is a popular blogger and influencer who left New York to study in Seoul. Da-mi plays her with a welcome quirkiness that is as colorful as her hair and antics. Expect more big things from her.
Jae-nyung is Jang Dae-hee, CEO of the Jangga Group, which runs restaurants. He is the show’s antagonist, having first encountered Sae-ro-yi when Sae-ro-yi defends a fellow student from Dae-hee’s bully of a son in school. They become bitter enemies, and Dae-hee wants to crush DanBan. Jae-myung has a LOT of roles and is the most senior of the lead cast. He is best known for his stern turn as Ryu Jae-myung, the headmaster in “Reply 1988.” He was also in “Stranger” and “Life”; he will be appearing in “King Maker” later this year.
Originally a member of the very popular and successful girl group Hello Venus, Nara has made the transition to K-dramas with notable roles as Cha Yoo-jung in the 2017 legal comedy “Suspicious Partner” and Choi Yoo-ra in the 2018 relationship drama “My Mister” opposite “Parasite’s” Lee Sung-hyun. Here, she plays Oh Soo-ah, a girl with a long history with Sae-ro-yi. They met because Soo-ah, an orphan, worked in an orphanage that Sae-ro-yi’s father helped and the two kids fell in love. She eventually winds up working for the Jangga Group, which paid for her studies, and thus falls into a conflict because of her feelings for Sae-ro-yi.
The youngest person in the cast, the 20-year-old Dong-hee already made a mark for himself as Chae Seo-joon (the son of Yoon Se-ah’s increasingly snooty No Seung-hye) in another JBTC drama, the top-rating cable K-drama of all time, “Sky Castle” in 2018. CEO Jang’s illegitimate younger son, long bullied by his older brother and unloved by his parents. He chooses to leave his home and comes to work at DanBan for Sae-ro-yi, whom he looks up to, and Yi-seo, whom he likes. He will be taking the lead for the first time in “Extracurricular” later this year as Oh Ji-soo, who has to turn to crime to be able to pay for school.
Most familiar as Kim Bok-joo’s (Lee Sung-kyung) bestie Lee Seon-ok, the 28-year-old Joo-young, whose signature is her short hair, has done a lot of film work outside of her K-dramas. Most recently, she had a supporting role in the Son Ye-jin-Hae in the 2018 May-December romance “Something in the Rain” as office girl Ye-un and found her first leading role as the interior designer with a secret Soo-ah in 2019’s “Drama Special: Home Sweet Home.” Here, she plays cook Ma Hyeon-yi, the rare Korean LGBT-Q character as a transgender woman.
The most unusual member of the cast, Lyon is an American actor who moved to Korea and is now playing Kim To-ni, a Guinean-Korean who speaks Korean and French but, ironically, no English. He is a model and a music producer.
“Itaewon Class” has a very large and impressive class of supporting actors such as Ryu Kyung-soo, Ahn Bo-hyun and Kim Hye -eun, among others, all familiar faces from big past K-dramas. Look out for some notable (VERY notable) special appearances especially towards the end of “Itaewon Class.”
“Itaewon Class” is now streaming on Netflix.