Original Title: 학교 2013
Country: South Korea
Channel: KBS 2
Theme: Friendship, Slice of Life
Plot: School 2013 brings back the fleeting memories of one’s high school days and makes you wish that teachers cared about their students as much as they do in this drama. The drama is akin to a puzzle, each of the pieces are characters who need each other to become whole. Like a puzzle piece, each character has jagged edges that are looking for a counterpart to fit in with. The drama starts out with Go Nam Soon, played by Lee Jong-Suk, who seemed to be on the low end of the social hierarchy at Seungri High. Bullied at school everyday by the Terrible Three, he never seems to fight back and just takes it with a grain of salt. Sleeping through classes, and generally just ignoring the others seemed to be a daily routine for him. Meanwhile, two teachers, Jung In Jae and Kang Se Chan, who seemed to be on the opposites sides of teaching attitudes are trying to find their place at the school and in Nam Soon’s class. In Jae, a sweet young teacher, tries to care about each and everyone of the students. Meanwhile, Se Chan seemed jaded, a “it’s your life” type. One day, the school gets turned upside down when a transfer student, Heung Soo, arrives. It was the wakeup call that Nam Soon was waiting for. With their dark troubled past, Nam Soon and Heung Soo were at odds with each other immediately.
Much of the earlier story is dedicated to the mending of their friendship, a bromance as epic or even more so as any romance found in a drama. They had hurt each other greatly, and the mending of that broken relationship was a long painful process of forgiveness and acceptance. However, the story is not just about them. Other students in the class did not have a picture perfect life, each person had a story to tell, yearned for a person to help heal their hurts. As In Jae Teacher said, ” There is no flower that would bloom without being shaken.” Some students are shaken more than others, but bying shaken, they grown stronger, taller, prettier. Not only do the students find strength in each other, but they manage to trust their teachers when they have not ever done so before. In Jae and Se Chan, themselves grow and strengthen their beliefs as they connect with the students. To the students, problems that may seem small to you or me, can feel like the world is falling upon their shoulders. They learn how to cope, ask for help when needed, and accept the consequences. The ending, like the drama itself, is open-ended, just like real life is. You never know where life will take you, but you will always have hope.
Comments: What caught my eye the most about this drama is it’s patchwork quilt type of storytelling. Each piece tells it’s own story, but at the end they are all sewn together to make one piece. The drama makes you feel for each character since there is always at least one aspect you can relate to. Even the story behind the bully makes you really think about his behavior but at the end offers you hope that things will get better. School 2013 manages to capture those emotional highs and lows associated with the high school days and allows you to relive them in a different light. More than the raw feelings, the drama shows very realistic plot lines and stories. It does not sugar coat the harsh reality of the world nor overdramatize issues, but instead its as if you are looking into a window at what could be any high schooler’s life. Though there is not much romance in the drama, the heartwarming tales of the students is more than enough. This drama will make you laugh, smile like a fool, and bawl your eyes out when even no words are spoken because you feel everything at the most basic level. Life will lend you helping hand, but you must grab it on your own and hang on tight!
Actor Review: Jong in Suk and Woo Bin play Nam Soon and Heung Soo, respectively. To be honest, their chemistry with each other outshines many a couples I’ve seen in other more romantic dramas. From being best friends in real life, to portraying friends on the mend in the drama, they took acting to another level. Having characters of a few words, expressions were key, and they delivered. With looks alone, they portrayed anger, fear, longing, and joy to the fullest. They even joked on a show afterwards they were going for the Best Couple Award. Not to overshadow the others, Kwak Jung-wook, who plays Oh Jung-ho, was also excellent in his portrayal of the main bully. Though you may have hated his character in the beginning, his character arc and development gradually leads you to look at another side of him and actually sympathize. Though, I must say it is quite surprising he is in this type of role because most of his previous high school characters had been the nerdy, quiet, introspective type. It is great to see his acting be so flexible. Jang Nara and Choi Daniel, our two teachers also played their roles well. As they, too, have starred as a couple in a drama previously, they easily acted like “parents” to the student “children”.
Quotes; “There is no flower that would bloom without being shaken. All the pretty flowers in this world all bloom while being shaken. While being shaken, it straightened its stem. There is no love that would leave without being shaken. Where is there a flower that would bloom without being whipped? All the shining flowers in this world all bloom while being whipped. While being whipped by the wind and rain, the flower petals bloomed warmly. There is no life that goes by without being whipped.”