High Society follows the lives of four young adults as they navigate life, love and money. The main leads feature Jang Yoon-ha (Uee), a young woman from a chaebol family who hides her high social status from her friends and corporate worker who aspires to climb the social ladder, Choi Joon-ki (Sung Joon). Yoon-ha’s best friend, unaware of her secret, is Lee Ji-yi (Im Ji-yeon) who faces her own hurdles with a blooming romance with chaebol Yoo Chang-soo (Park Hyung-sik).
To shake things up, we’ve turned this drama review into a discussion between Gaya and myself, discussing what worked, what didn’t and what we want to see in the future. (Warning, spoilers below!)
Gaya: To start off, I would love to know why you chose to start watching this drama?
Laverne: Having been burned by dramaland one to many times, I’ve become very picky with the dramas I watch (and attempt to watch). So when a drama comes out, I usually read recaps of the first two episodes before deciding to watch. What intrigued me about High Society was Chang-soo and Madam Min’s characters.
When I actually began watching however, Yoon-ha and Ji-yi’s friendship became my OTP. It’s so refreshing to see a female friendship portrayed in such a positive manner with abundant love. When Ji-yi sacrificed her crush on Joon-ki for Yoon-ha’s sake, it was so powerfully realistic and you could see the bond between the women. In every other drama I’ve seen, the friend with the crush usually secretly sulks but here, Ji-yi was selfless without harboring any negative feelings.
While the show definitely has some things it can improve on, Yoon-ha and Ji-yi’s friendship remains the foundation of the show and allows me to ignore some of the more trite aspects of High Society.
Why did you start watching High Society?
Gaya: For me, shows about rich people are my guilty pleasure, and I started High Society to get my fix. I’ve already been disappointed by Heirs and I’m not even going to touch Boys Over Flowers, but I still had high hopes. That was mainly due to Uee, who I feel chooses interesting projects. She also gets to pash all the leading men I want to pash (Joo Won, Jung Il-woo and now Sung Joon), so part of me is living vicariously through her.
I didn’t pay much attention to the the teasers and plot summaries before I started watching, so I was surprised by the theme of “Is The Grass Greener On The Other Side?” But, I have to admit that it makes for interesting characters, mainly our leads who personify this dilemma. Both Yoon-ha and Joon-ki both yearn for what the other has, but they also have trouble fully renouncing what they themselves have.
Laverne: What did you think of Yoon-ha’s insistence that everyone she loves gets hurt?
I really didn’t understand it as the only two people she referenced were her mother and her brother. I’m not sure why she would think her birth caused her mother’s unhappiness. And she in no way caused her brothers disappearance/death. I feel like that was just a plot point written in by the writers to keep her away from Joon-ki.
But despite my qualms about that part, I think her grief was handled really well. Pushing everyone away is a hallmark of grief and people are often self-destructive, denying themselves the company of the people they want most.
Gaya: I’m not surprised Yoon-ha feels that way at all, especially with all the horrible things her own mother says to her. It’s not Yoon-ha’s fault that her mother is married to a complete arsehole, and it’s not her fault that her mother is taking the easy way out and laying all blame for her misery on Yoon-ha.
But when Yoon-ha has not just a voice in her head saying that she’s unlucky but also external reinforcement from a parent — especially one who, unlike the father, has shown affection to her other children — it’s only expected that she truly believes herself to be harmful to those she loves. I don’t think Yoon-ha really cares for the rest of her family as she does for her brother, who she’s grown closer to in recent years, and her mother, whose acceptance she still craves.
Also, I would say that oppa’s disappearance is meant as a way for Yoon-ha and her mother to repair their relationship, though I agree that it also served as a realistic obstacle for our main OTP. Without her favourite child around, Our matriarch may be able to get to know Yoon-ha like her other children and eventually absolve her of the blame she’s placed on her. Though, I don’t know how we’re going to get to that ending in a believable manner, seeing how horrible Yoon-ha’s mother is as a character. I almost feel like she’s too far gone for reconciliation to be a possibility without a personality transplant.
Laverne: Good point about Yoon-ha’s mother. I didn’t consider it from that angle but that makes sense especially with her mother’s blind love for Kyung-joon. Despite being sympathetic to Madam Min’s struggles, I cannot condone the way she treats her children. She is full of hurt and anger from her husband’s actions but to take it out on her children the way she does perpetuates a cycle of resentment and unhappiness.The family dynamic is toxic and unhealthy.
The only shred of decency in that family is Yoon-ha and Kyung-joon’s relationship. I didn’t see his disappearance as a way for Yoon-ha and her mother to repair their relationship. If anything, its’ a way to start getting Yoon-ha involved in the company dealings and if the show does go down this path, it will be interesting to see what happens. High Society has hinted at Yoon-ha ending up leading the company but that feel disingenuous to her character.
Although if she is named heir, Joon-ki will finally get his rich mistress. Speaking of which, what are your thoughts about him? How do you feel about the fact that he has known Yoon-ha’s identity all along?
Gaya: I totally agree about the family’s state right now; the only way things can change is if Madam Min had a change of heart, and right now I think that is going to be a tough sell.
That’s a good point about Yoon-ha’s ascendency. It was hinted at before by Kyung-joon himself. I feel like Yoon-ha blames money for the lack of affection, and thus really resents her status as a chaebol. I am really looking forward to seeing her romanticised view of poverty being challenged, and for her to lose her naivete and mature over the course of the series.
As for our hero — well, he’s feeling like an anti-hero right now. I do like that we don’t yet have as much insight into Joon-ki, which does well to make me worried for Yoon-ha falling for a possibly shady man. The reveal of him knowing who Yoon-ha was shows that I can’t underestimate him. Or, that I’ve overestimated Lee Ji-yi’s abilities to keep up with the chaebols.
This actually also makes me think about the story he told Yoon-ha as well, about his dad. Joon-ki says that it’s not something he would tell just anyone, and yet he chose to tell her… It makes me wonder if he was indeed was making a pass at Yoon-ha, or if he genuinely wanted to impart some advice. And when he comforts her at the end of episode 4, I can’t tell if that’s genuine or not either. Or, at least for now, I can’t. If this drama sticks to the usual script, you know he’s going to fall for Yoon-ha for real: it’s just a matter of when and how.
Then there’s the whole issue of how exactly he feels about his family. The way he acts with his mother as an adult is more polite than affectionate. My feeling is that he respects and appreciates his parents, but he is also more focused on getting ahead in the rat race.
The friendship with Chang-soo also affects Joon-ki’s feeling of inferiority. He does all the work while Chang-soo lounges around, and he also feels compelled to defer further by losing in bicycle races and the like. The difference in station between the two is a thorn in Joon-ki’s side. The frustration he expresses over this, along with the way his eyes almost pop out of his skull when he overhears talk of Yoon-ha potentially becoming an heiress, are the most genuine reactions I’ve seen from him so far.
Laverne: I didn’t mind Yoon-ha’s naivete but her passionate defense of being working class did rub me the wrong way. Not because she said anything untrue, but rather because she was speaking without actual experience.
It seems she wants the best of both worlds as exemplified by asking her housekeeper to make two lunches that looked simple and inexpensive; Yoon-ha wanted to keep the charade of being poor but didn’t even put in the work herself. She also does this by telling her brother about customers who are mean to her. Yoon-ha doesn’t mind using her connections when they suit her.
Like you, I find Joon-ki a mystery. With the ending kiss, it seems as if he does have feelings for Yoon-ha but his actions make me wary. Will this show go down the “he was using her then really fell in love” trope or will it surprise us with a different path?
I think Joon-ki loves his parents but doesn’t respect them. With the memory he provided, he demonstrated that he was headstrong and wanted justice. He didn’t want his father to bow down to anyone. Yet, life isn’t a perfect world and his father did what he needed to do to keep his job. I think Joon-ki resents that and can’t fathom how his parents are happy being poor. He loves them but doesn’t respect their ideals or their choices. To me, that’s why he’s polite but not affectionate — he thinks himself better than his parents.
Gaya: Oh, that’s a really good point about respect.
And I agree completely about Yoon-ha. I’m really looking forward to seeing her hypocrisy being challenged, and maybe even experiencing actual plebian life herself.
As for the friendships, the course the boys’ friendship has taken makes me think of what will happen to our awesome female friendship. How will Ji-yi react when she finds out about Yoon-ha’s background, and how will she find out? We are likely going to somehow see Yoon-ha and Ji-yi experience the same thing that is putting stress on Chang-soo and Joon-ki’s relationship. But Ji-yi is not Joon-ki, and her propensity for honesty may mean their relationship takes a different course in dealing with an unequal standing.
Ultimately, Lee Ji-yi is my favourite character on this show, and I am putting all my faith in her demonstrated abilities to be truthful, thoughtful and loyal. If this drama gives her a lobotomy halfway through its run, I will not be happy.
Laverne: Ji-yi is everything! I hope they keep her character consistent and I hope we see much more of her friendship with Yoon-ha. I’m sure we both agree that their friendship is the best part of the show!
Readers, what is your favorite aspect of High Society? What do you like or dislike about the drama?