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business lessons you can learn from itaewon class kdrama
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5 Business Lessons You Can Learn From Itaewon Class

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.

Business is. 

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!

PIN THIS!

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.

Because of this, I knew that when I started this blog I wanted it to be a money-making blog so that I could make blogging my full-time job.

With that in mind, I set out to achieve various goals to help me get there.

business lessons you can learn from itaewon class kdrama

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. 

Relationships Matter 

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.   

business lessons you can learn from itaewon class kdrama

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? 

Where to Watch Itaewon Class

Netflix

Amazon DVD

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18 Comments

  1. Well, I still remember when I first saw Itaewan Class. I was drawn into the characters, and loved the values presented in the show. I recently started my blog, and so far it is going great. Thank you for the lovely post! BTW I am watching True Beauty right now. What you guys are upto?

    1. Yes, I loved how Park Saeroyi was so principled. That really kept me curious about how he would handle each challenge presented his way. Congrats on recently starting your blog. Thank you too for reading this post. I watched True Beauty as it aired and LOVED it so much! I’m going to write a post on it soon too in case you’d like to read it. I just finished watching Extraordinary You – same director as True Beauty.

  2. Loved this show, and thanks for making a post such as this, summarizing and breaking down the business practices and principles in the show!

    1. I really enjoyed this show too! I’m thinking if it’s too soon to do a re-watch ? And thank you too 🙂

  3. I’m usually more of a rom-com girl myself, but I’ve watched this whole series. It was interesting to follow Saeroyi in his business journey, and I think your points are spot on! 🙂

    1. Yes it was so interesting to see how he would react and pivot every time he was faced with a challenge. Thank you 🙂

  4. Hi Izzy. What an interesting post! Pinned

    I’ve never seen itaewon-class but I liked the way that you’ve been able to recognise life lessons in a tv programme. Sadly, I think we are a long way from seeing many employers value “People over Profit” …

    1. Thank you, Richie! Always appreciate your support. And sadly, yeah, I wish more companies put people over profit first.

  5. I’ve never heard of Itaewon Class but these are very wise tips for business. I can particularly relate to not being complacent and to do business primarily for people over profit.

    1. It’s a Korean drama and at first I wasn’t sure if I wanted to watch it because of the violence/revenge plot but the business aspect intrigued me more :)) Yes, I agree that it’s so important to keep on improving & to focus on people rather than profit 🙂

  6. Hey Izzy,

    I tried watching Itaewon class, but the first episode and how it was so many cliches in one just threw me off completely. I’m glad you enjoyed it, and had all of these lessons to share though!

    I particularly liked what you said about, “It goes to show that your network is your net worth and that it’s important to cultivate positive, long-lasting relationships with people.” I definitely think that networking and the people whom I’ve met from blogging are a big part of why I am still in it,

    Thanks for sharing these tips! 🙂

    1. Haha yes there are many cliches ? Though I was intrigued to find out if he needed would be able to overtake the lead food company.

      Thank you too, Ming! So glad you liked that bit on networking too. Agree that the blogging community is so nice & helpful 🙂

  7. This is such an interesting read! I havent watched it but its on my list now.

    Amber – The Unpredicted Page

    1. Thanks, Amber!! Do let me know what you think of the show if you do go on to watch it 🙂

  8. I’ve never seen this one before but I’m intrigued enough to watch it now. I love how this show allowed you to reflect on your growing business and how those lessons translated over to this post. Out of curiosity, did you use a streaming platform to watch this series?

    1. I loved the business aspect of the show; though a disclaimer – there are some bloody/ violent scenes! I watched the show on Netflix 🙂