Itaewon Class Lessons: 15 Important Things Itaewon Class Taught Us!

15 Important Lessons that Itaewon Class Taught Us!

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Last month, I finally finished watching Itaewon Class. I usually have a stronger affinity towards rom-com K-dramas, so I didn’t know what to expect going into this slice-of-life series. My friends didn’t dare spoil me and I only read the brief synopsis before I started watching Itaewon Class. The greatest lure, of course, was Park Seo-joon (PSJ). And in true PSJ fashion, our oppa did not disappoint!

He may be considered the king of romantic comedy in K-drama, but entrust him with heavier narratives and he will transform into a character that will make you feel perplexed, vengeful, worried, and hopeful all at the same time. 

PSJ definitely carried this series; with every episode that went by, I knew we were all watching something profoundly different from other K-dramas we’ve seen in the past. Why? Because Itaewon Class discusses so many timeless principles throughout its story. Let’s do a review of these Itaewon Class lessons!

Disclaimer: This article will contain spoilers. 

1. Don’t let anyone step on your dignity

Would you believe that this message already comes through in the first episode? PSJ plays a boy named Park Saeroyi who transfers to a new school where he sees a classmate being picked on.

Long story short, Saeroyi stands up for his classmate and ends up punching the bully whose name is Jang Geun-won. Unbeknownst to Saeroyi, this boy is actually the son of the school’s biggest investor Jang Dae-hee, who is also CEO of the Jangga Co. food chain. In a nasty play of power, the CEO gives Saeroyi two choices: Be expelled for punching his son or stay enrolled after kneeling before Geun-won.

Disgusted and in disbelief, Saeroyi refuses while telling Dae-hee that kneeling before Geun-won would go against the principles that his own father taught him. Why say sorry when he doesn’t feel sorry for standing up to a bully? And to do it in a humiliating fashion? There was no way he would! 

So, Saeroyi took the high road and chose to be expelled instead. He may have lost his chance to study in a good school, but at least he kept his dignity!

2. Don’t let your anger lead to violence

Among the many Itaewon Class lessons, this was harder to see because you tend to root for Saeroyi so much. But as relatable and likeable as PSJ’s character is in this series, he is not without flaws. This is evident at the beginning of Itaewon Class, when Saeroyi allows himself to be verbally provoked by Geun-won. 

Because Geun-won’s attitude is overall despicable, Saeroyi is unable to stop himself from getting physical in a quest for vengeance. He repeats this mistake after Geun-won accidentally kills Saeroyi’s father in a car accident. But this time, it results in a three-year imprisonment for Saeroyi. This just goes to show that you should never let your anger, no matter how valid, get the best of you. Violence is never the answer!

3. Having a friend or two will always be better than none

When Saeroyi’s story begins, he prefers to be a lone wolf and sees his father as his only true friend. He shuns the company of those who make an effort until he meets Oh Soo-ah, who also sees Saeroyi’s dad as her father figure. 

Soo-ah stops Saeroyi from killing Geun-won, which undoubtedly would have put Saeroyi behind bars for the rest of his life. And when Saeroyi goes to jail, she even helps him liquidate his father’s assets. If Saeroyi didn’t open up to Soo-ah, what would have become of our hero then?

As the story progresses, Saeroyi establishes many more valuable friendships inside and outside of his work. Without his dad by his side, he learns to draw strength from the new people around him. Together, they help him turn his pub, DanBam, into a local success. 

4. Be considerate and generous to people around you

itaewon class lessons

If it isn’t already obvious, Saeroyi’s father, Park Sung-yeol, plays a crucial role in Itaewon Class. Despite being killed off in the first episode, you will clearly see how much of Searoyi’s identity was shaped by all the lessons he learned from Sung-yeol. 

Sung-yeol had limited scenes in the series but didn’t fail to make a heartfelt impact. He didn’t punish his son for getting expelled and standing up to Geun-won. In fact, he resigned from his job at Jangga Co. (yup, he worked for the bully’s father) and even sponsored Soo-ah’s tuition fee for a whole semester after he lost his job. 

Sung-yeol and Saeroyi weren’t rich, but Sung-yeol had money to spare to help those who needed it more. Heaven knows that this is the kind of wake up call for those who have become smothered by their own wealth and greed.

5. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t reach your dreams

In jail, Saeroyi meets another inmate, Choi Seung-gwon, who later becomes one of the pioneers of DanBam. The two initially don’t meet eye-to-eye mainly because Saeroyi still believes in a life after imprisonment where he is free to chase his dreams. Seung-gwon becomes confused and uncomfortable with this notion because — well, he’s pretty much given up on himself at this point. Frustrated, he punches Saeroyi for saying such “crazy” things. 

Seven years after his release from imprisonment, Saeroyi establishes DanBam and enlists Seung-gwon to be the pub’s first waiter. When DanBam is franchised, Saeroyi now a CEO, appoints Seung-gwon as a director. 

This storyline is one of my favourites on this list of Itaewon Class lessons. Breaking away from criminal stereotypes is a long, difficult road for most ex-convicts in any society. To hear of such success stories in real and reel life can only inspire you to keep your dreams alive, no matter how hopeless things appear to be. 

6. Patience pays off

The whole story of Itaewon Class takes place in a span of approximately 15 years. With the downfall of Jangga Co. becoming Saeroyi’s life goal after his father’s tragic death, Saeroyi had to muster a tremendous amount of patience starting from his incarceration. 

But while waiting, he managed to grow his money, worth billions of won (₩), by investing in Jangga Co.’s stocks (greatest plot twist in the series, if you ask me). He also had the help of Lee Ho-jin, his financial advisor who would later become the financial manager of Itaewon Class — now the official name of Saeroyi’s food franchise. 

Aside from Saeroyi, it’s Ho-jin who greatly benefits from biding his time to strike Jangga Co. After all, the whole story began with him, when Saeroyi defended him at school from the infamous bully Geun-won! 

7. Give second chances

itaewon class lessons

Yet another one of my favourite Itaewon Class lessons is the storyline of Hyeon-yi, DanBam’s main chef. Hyeon-yi is a transgender who’s working to pay off the procedures she needs for her transition. The pub manager, Jo Yi-seo, is initially hesitant of having a transgender on board, in fear of how it could affect the pub’s image if people find out. South Korea, after all, is not yet that progressive in accepting LGBTQ in their society. 

Yi-seo’s doubts only get worse when she sees that a lot of customers are complaining about Hyeon-yi’s cooking. Resolved to bring a quick end to the problem, Yi-seo tells Saeroyi to fire Hyeon-yi. With his mind made up, Saeroyi gives Hyeon-yi her salary — that happened to be twice as much as what he normally pays her. 

His point? Work twice as hard to be a better cook. He wasn’t going to let Hyeon-yi go without giving her a fighting chance, nor did he care about her gender preference. And that was a lesson he also taught Yi-seo. Work with your team and tell them how they can improve. Don’t limit them because of biased societal standards, your team will come out stronger. 

Hyeon-yi’s eventual championship win in a televised cooking competition speaks volumes of this lesson. What’s more, it gave DanBam the investment they needed to secure the franchise! 

Also read: 15 Korean Dishes to Try That You Always See in K-Dramas

8. Embrace differences

Itaewon Class also tackles racism issues with the character of Kim To-ni, who is half-black and half-Korean. There are definitely scenes that show the discrimination that exists in South Korea even now, such as when To-ni was not allowed entry in a club, and when Yi-seo tells him that it doesn’t matter if he’s Korean. People won’t believe him because of the colour of his skin. 

Yi-seo eventually regrets what she tells To-ni though, and promises that she’ll help him find his Korean father. When To-ni finds his grandmother in Korea, she also apologises for turning her back on To-ni’s father, who fell in love with an African woman. The lesson in To-ni’s story is clear. As long as you embrace differences that don’t hurt you in any way, you’re going to save a lot of people from unnecessary hurt and struggle. 

9. You can always redeem yourself

When Geun-won accidentally kills Saeroyi’s father, he frames someone else to take the blame and serve life imprisonment. There was one person of authority, Detective Byung-Heon, who saw the cracks and wanted to investigate the hit-and-run case further. But because of a corrupt senior in his office, he was forced to cover it up and keep quiet. 

Years later, he becomes DanBam’s food supplier, but the detective and Saeroyi both know that it’s not enough to make up for the cover-up Byung-Heon did years ago. He hesitates to come forward because he’s raising a daughter who thinks of him as a hero. But in the end, he realises that he can’t face his child without feeling ashamed of what he’s done — he turns himself in. 

Among the many Itaewon Class lessons, this one is probably the hardest to see through. Redemption can come at a steep price, but what’s more unbearable is leading other people to believe you’re someone you’re not for the rest of your life. You are allowed to prove that you have changed, you’re allowed to feel regretful, and you’re allowed to redeem yourself. Better late than never. 

10. Some things are more important than your pride

The whole conflict between Saeroyi and Dae-hee began when Saeroyi refused to kneel before him and his son. But years later, Saeroyi finds himself in the same predicament when he needs information from Dae-hee to save Yi-seo who was kidnapped by Geun-won. And there was only one way Dae-hee would give him the information he needed. 

This time, Saeroyi actually kneels. 

The thing is, it was at this moment when Saeroyi realised that in exchange for the life of the woman he loved, kneeling in front of Dae-hee was the easiest thing to do. Pride and rivalry be damned.

I think we can all agree that there are a lot of things more important than our own ego. They only become difficult to distinguish when our hearts are way too clouded by our own self-righteousness. And this is the invaluable lesson — you don’t always have to prove that you’re right. 

11. Bullying others will always lead to your own bad karma

itaewon class lessons

I’m sure all of us have experienced being bullied one way or another whether at school or at work. And we also know how it feels to watch our bullies finally have their day of reckoning. I don’t know about other viewers, but this is what ultimately made me binge-watch Itaewon Class. I wanted to see the two biggest bullies in the series get their karma!

At some points, you learn to pity Geun-won because he was raised by such a rotten father who taught him that wealth and power could control everyone. But just when you think Geun-won’s redeeming qualities are about to come out, he makes ill-willed decisions to harm other people. His father, Dae-hee, is 10 times worse. And though Saeroyi worked so hard to bring Jangga Co. down, the father and son were the ones who truly doomed themselves in the end. 

12. Holding a life-long grudge isn’t the way to live

On this list of Itaewon Class lessons, this one took a lot of time for Saeroyi to realise. When Dae-hee asked Saeroyi how he felt as he was kneeling, Saeroyi told him he felt pathetic — but not for the reasons Dae-hee thought. The Itaewon Class CEO felt pathetic because he spent so many years bent on wanting to take his revenge on people who have done him wrong, not realising that he was taking his nearest and dearest for granted. 

Though it’s only right to hold people accountable for their misdeeds, don’t allow the desire for justice to turn into a self-destructive obsession. You deserve to find happiness outside of the revenge you’re seeking too!

13. Don’t be a pushover

itaewon class lessons

If there’s anything that Saeroyi refused to do until the very end, it was to allow himself to be a pushover for Dae-hee. Near the conclusion of the series, things took a 180° turn as the Jangga Co. CEO was the one who found himself on his knees. 

Saeroyi, now with the upper hand and an inch close from buying Jangga Co., didn’t take the bait at all. He knew this was just a show by Dae-hee to gain back his empire. Unlike Dae-hee, Saeroyi learns from his mistakes and comes out the wiser. Hence, it was a bittersweet moment when our oppa said that he wasn’t taking over Jangga Co. out of spite. In the end, he was doing it because he believed in the company. 

14. If you want a successful business, you have to value your people

This is the culmination of all the Itaewon Class lessons mentioned above. As I said, this series is all about principles. Between Saeroyi’s Itaewon Class franchise and Dae-hee’s Jangga Co., the former proved to be the better business and investment because of its philosophy: a business founded on people and trust. Not money and gain. 

When Saeroyi started his first pub, true, he was driven by his ambition to get revenge on Dae-hee’s family. But that didn’t prevent him from being a good boss. He taught his friends teamwork, he exhibited servant-leadership, and he was everyone’s moral compass. If those aren’t the makings of a good CEO, I don’t know what is. 

15. Follow your gut

itaewon class lessons

Here’s a fun conclusion to this list of Itaewon Class lessons! DanBam, and therefore Saeroyi’s success, is largely credited to the contributions of Yi-seo. With a genius IQ and a large social media following, Yi-seo had a promising and fun college life ahead of her. But she chose to sign up as DanBam’s pub manager because — aside from being infatuated with Saeroyi — her gut told her so. Likewise, Saeroyi hired her because — well, his gut told him so too!

And what followed aside from DanBam’s huge success was a four-year “courtship” between the two. Though their romance took the whole series to finally become a full-fledged love story, the risks both of them took led to a beautiful ending. So, let this be a lesson for hopeless romantics out there: Sometimes, following your gut is the way to go!

Also read: Chill With Park Seo-joon: Here Are All His Netflix Shows!

These invaluable Itaewon Class lessons prove that the series is definitely a must-watch; you’re surely going to look back on this K-drama for everything it taught you years from now. Did you learn something which we haven’t mentioned on this list? Let us know in the comments!

About Author

Therese Sta. Maria
Therese Sta. Maria

Therese's close friends know that if they haven’t seen her around recently, then she’s probably having an adventure with her luggage and camera in hand. Though she loves staying at home and spending lazy afternoons with friends, there are times when she has to be "away from home to feel at home," — that’s when she’s bitten by the travel bug. See her travels on Instagram @reesstamaria.


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