Disclaimer: This post contains some spoilers of the Korean Drama, Itaewon Class. Trigger warnings: assault, bullying, violence, and accidental death (graphic)
Itaewon Class is not your typical Korean television show or K-drama as it is commonly known.
Throughout my Korean drama journey, I was always drawn to romantic comedy shows.
While Itaewon Class does explore romantic themes, the romance is not the focal point of the show.
Itaewon Class is about a struggling ex-convict, Park Saeroyi, who vows to avenge his father’s death by taking over the food industry with his own company.
Sounds heavy, doesn’t it?
I’ll admit that it is.
But even with heavy themes such as death and revenge (plus some violent scenes), Itaewon Class makes you reflect on your values and how you run your business.
There are a couple of business lessons you can learn from watching this Kdrama.
I’ve wanted to write a post like this, and when I read Vanessa Lau’s post about Itaewon Class, I was inspired to finally take action!
5 Business Lessons You Can Learn From Itaewon Class
Your Personal Values Dictate How You Do Business
At the beginning of the series, Park Saeroyi got into trouble because of sticking to his values. This even led to his father’s unemployment.
Park Saeroyi was headstrong and unshakable in following his values.
Even if at times, it would mean that he had to take the harder road when it came to building his business.
Instead of taking shortcuts or giving in to what other’s expected of him, he would forge his own path.
This made me realise that when we have a set of values, this dictates our choices not just in our personal lives but in the way we do business.
For example, if you value honesty, then this value carries on to how you deal with your clients and customers.
You are transparent about what it’s like working with you as well as your processes.
Watching this series made me stop and evaluate what my values were.
One of which is leading with kindness, so when I interact with my community or anyone online, I ask myself if my actions and words show compassion and kindness.
Reflecting on your values will also lead you back to why you started your blog and business.
Your blog purpose dictates the way you approach your blogging journey.
For example, one of the reasons why blogging is important to me is because blogging is my way to attain freedom of time & money.
With that in mind, I set out to achieve various goals to help me get there.
People over Profit
The next lesson is about putting your people first over profit.
You value your employees and the people you work with over the bottom line.
One example in the series is when Park Saeroyi hired one of his friends as a chef, but that friend of his couldn’t cook well at the beginning of the show.
When the manager fired this person, Park Saeroyi stopped the chef from getting unemployed.
Instead, he put his faith in the chef by giving her an additional month’s pay and telling the chef to work harder to get better.
While this may be an unconventional approach, Park Saeroyi stood his ground.
He believed in his friend and knew that this friend would be a great chef (maybe it was his intuition?).
But indeed, the friend was motivated and was able to cook really well and improve over time.
The series also shows us the opposite scenario where the main antagonist puts profit above his people.
He uses his people as his pawns, and when they no longer are of use to him, he fires them.
A pivotal scene also showing this was when he taught his son to look at his employees as livestock instead of actual persons.
In relation to the previous lesson, the next business lesson is that relationships matter.
This can also be viewed as networking, but it’s depicted in different ways in the series.
For example, there’s a situation where Park Saeroyi needs an investor or else he faces a massive problem in franchising his company.
He unexpectedly finds this investor–and turns out to be someone he already has developed a relationship with.
And this same investor played a massive role in the growth of a competitor. But since the competitor has been playing dirty to take down Park Saeroyi’s business, said investor severs ties with the competitor.
It goes to show that your network is your net worth and that it’s important to cultivate positive, long-lasting relationships with people.
You never know who you can help or who you may need help from in the future, so it’s better to treat people the way you want to be treated.
Another great depiction of relationships is how Park Saeroyi says that the way to succeed in growing his company is because of his friends.
They become his co-workers and then become the company’s founding members.
It was heartwarming to see how time and time again, Park Saeroyi chose to bet on his friends’ abilities and talents. And put his complete faith in them even during the times they didn’t believe in themselves.
They were able to grow the pub called DanBam into a huge corporation.
I loved how we see Park Saeroyi accept his friends for who they are, encourage them to become their best, and how diverse his DanBam team and co-founders are.
This point brings me to how even as bloggers it’s important to connect with other bloggers and cultivate supportive relationships as it is also a way to grow your blog.
Forgive but don’t forget
Park Saeroyi’s biggest pain was his biggest motivator.
While his driving motivation for succeeding in his business was to avenge his father’s death, it came with a cost.
To avenge his father’s death meant overthrowing the top food company in South Korea (the same one that fired his father).
But it also cost Park Saeroyi years of anguish for holding on to that anger, pain and bitterness.
He said he wishes for his night to be “sweet” again – a nod to the first time his father taught him how to drink Soju and asked him how the drink tasted.
If it was sweet, it meant he had a good day.
If it was bitter, it was not a good day.
And for years, Park Saeroyi’s nights were bitter.
I understand how grief and anger can consume you to take revenge, but revenge is not something I agree with.
Holding on to a grudge and to revenge is harming and hurting yourself.
I believe that if he chose forgiveness early on, he would have saved himself a lot of heartache and bitter nights.
Forgiveness can be hard but I believe he still could pursue that same goal of building a top food company with a more positive motivation behind it.
Don’t get too complacent
The founder of the top food company in the series, which is Jangga Co, had a belief of never being complacent.
He said that Jangga Co always had to be excellent and be at the top.
And that’s why it was hard for him to accept the victories that Saeroyi’s companies were facing as they were catching up with their success.
While it’s that classic, “whatever it takes” perspective to be on top and stay on top, again the founder also had values that I don’t agree with and that were opposite to that of Park Saeroyi’s.
In a way, that’s how the series would show two polarising views and approaches to business.
Watching Itaewon Class made me feel inspired to take action and grow my biz.
Though Park Saeroyi faces many challenges, he doesn’t let it stop him from going after his dreams no matter how challenging things seemed to get.
And just because there are many hurdles along the way doesn’t mean that the success we want will never happen.
It’s about staying true to your goal.
Have you watched Itaewon Class? What was your biggest takeaway?