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The Midnight Romance in Hagwon Review: Wi Ha Joon and Jung Ryeo Won’s K-Drama explores unconventional love, cutthroat careers amidst high-pressure Korean education system

en Bollywood News The Midnight Romance in Hagwon Review: Wi Ha Joon and Jung Ryeo Won’s K-Drama explores unconventional love, cutthroat careers amidst high-pressure Korean education system

Premiered on May 11, 2024, tvN's newest K-drama takes viewers on a journey through the competitive world of Korean education.

South Korea's education system is renowned for its intensity and competitiveness. This relentless pursuit of academic excellence has become a breeding ground for captivating stories, inspiring numerous K-dramas to delve into the world of hagwons (after-school academies or cram schools) and the pressures faced by students and educators alike. While Wi Ha Joon and Jung Ryeo Won starrer The Midnight Romance in Hagwon is a recent addition to this genre, several K-dramas including Sky Castle, Crash Course in Romance, and School 2015, have paved the way, exploring the intricacies of this high-pressure environment.

The Midnight Romance in Hagwon Review: Wi Ha Joon and Jung Ryeo Won’s K-Drama explores unconventional love, cutthroat careers amidst high-pressure Korean education system

The Midnight Romance in Hagwon Review: Wi Ha Joon and Jung Ryeo Won’s K-Drama explores unconventional love, cutthroat careers amidst high-pressure Korean education system

Premiered on May 11, 2024, tvN's newest K-drama, The Midnight Romance in Hagwon, takes viewers on a journey through the competitive world of Korean education, seasoned with a dash of unlikely romance and a sprinkle of nostalgia. Set in Daechi, a district synonymous with South Korea's hyper-competitive private education scene, the series explores the lives of educators and students caught in the relentless pursuit of academic excellence.

Directed by Ahn Pan Seok, the mastermind behind beloved unlikely romances like Something in the Rain and One Spring Night, The Midnight Romance in Hagwon boasts a strong cast, featuring Wi Ha Joon, known for his intense performances in thrillers like Little Women, Worst of Evil and Squid Game, and Jung Ryeo Won, whose K-dramas like Wok of Love and Witch at Court have garnered her a dedicated fan base.

The story takes viewers to Daechi, a district synonymous with Korea's hyper-competitive private education scene – the hagwons (cram schools or after-school academies). Here, we meet Seo Hye Jin (Jung Ryeo Won), a dedicated veteran instructor who has poured her heart into her students for 14 years. Despite her success, Seo grapples with a sense of uncertainty about her future and the toll this demanding profession has taken on her. Enter Lee Jun Ho (Wi Ha Joon), a former student of Seo's. A bright and quirky individual, Lee thrived under Seo's guidance and secured a coveted spot at a top university. This success not only cemented Seo's reputation but also left an undeniable mark on Lee. Ten years later, Lee makes a surprising return to the hagwon, not as a student, but as a potential instructor. The first two episodes keep his true motive veiled, but the logline hints at a desire to rekindle the flame of his first love, Seo Hye Jin.

The initial two episodes effectively establish the show's core themes. We witness Seo's unwavering dedication to her students, evident in her bold confrontation with a public school teacher who disrespects hagwons. Meanwhile, Lee's unexpected return throws Seo's world off balance. Hints of Seo's weariness surface, suggesting the emotional toll of years spent in this demanding profession. Lee, on the other hand, embodies a growing trend: young professionals yearning for paths beyond the corporate grind.

Their initial reunion is warm, but Lee's impulsive career shift – leaving a stable job for a potentially less respected role at the hagwon – throws Seo off guard. Episode two ends with Lee securing a position at the very hagwon Seo works at, setting the stage for a dynamic shift in their relationship. The age gap and past student-teacher dynamic are now intertwined with their newfound colleague status, raising the central question: can their unconventional romance navigate the societal pressures and the lingering echo of their past connection?

Jung Ryeo Won delivers a nuanced performance as Seo Hye Jin. Her portrayal captures both the strength of a veteran teacher and the subtle toll this demanding career has taken. Wi Ha Joon brings undeniable charm to Lee Joon Ho, making his first lead role a success. The supporting cast adds depth, showcasing the competitive hagwon environment and societal pressures.

Ahn Pan Seok's signature style infuses the early episodes. The narrative unfolds organically, intertwining the characters' professional struggles within the high-pressure hagwon system with the blossoming connection between Seo and Lee. These moments unfold with a slow, almost melancholic beauty, reminiscent of Ahn's past works.

While the forbidden romance trope might feel familiar, particularly to fans of Ahn's filmography, the series injects freshness through its unique setting. Here, the spotlight falls not on the typical school environment but on the demanding world of hagwons, offering an unfiltered glimpse into the lives of educators caught in its relentless pursuit of academic excellence. This shift in perspective, combined with the simmering tension between Seo and Lee, breathes new life into the familiar trope.

The Midnight Romance in Hagwon steps gracefully into the K-drama arena, offering a compelling blend of unconventional love, a critical view of Korean education, and the undeniable charm of its leads. This refreshing mix caters to fans of established actors and those who appreciate director Ahn Pan Seok's ability to craft heartfelt narratives. The audience's reception to the student-teacher romance has been positive so far, but it remains to be seen how the story unfolds and whether the shift in their on-screen dynamics leading to the love story will change the perspectives of the audiences. However, based on the initial episodes, the series promises a captivating watch.

ALSO READ: Wi Ha Joon and Jung Ryeo Won starrer The Midnight Romance in Hagwon: From release date to plot, everything you need to know about this heart-fluttering romance K-drama


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