At first glance, Moorim School sounds like it’s going to be a ridiculous show that isn’t actually going to be any good. The premise is that in a remote mountain, a secret school designated by the UN Peacekeeping Task Force teaches young adults from around the world martial arts. There’s a supernatural element to the school, which we discover as the series continues.
We’re introduced first to Yoon Shi-Woo, played by Lee Hyun-Woo, a seemingly cocky and difficult idol who has started to lose his hearing. Then we meet Wang Chi-Ang, played by Vixx’s Hongbin, the heir to a large Chinese corporation. The two collide in Shi-Woo’s hotel suite in probably the greatest fan service scene of all time. They immediately hate each other, but it turns out Chi-Ang’s company is sponsoring the concert Shi-Woo is performing at later that day.
At the concert we meet Sim Soon-Deok (Seo Ye-Ji) and Hwang Soon-Ah (Jeong Eu-Gene), two students from Moorim. Soon-Deok is there to sell potato cakes, while Soon-Ah snuck out to see Shi-Woo in concert. During the performance, however, a lighting rig falls and Shi-Woo can’t hear it. When he finally realizes what’s happening, he’s somehow able to stop it with his latent super powers. Soon-Ah then saves him and tells him to come to Moorim Institute. Both Chi-Ang and Shi-Woo make their way to Moorim separately. They meet in front of Moorim and get into a fight that causes the seal protecting the school to be released. And thus, begins the plot of Moorim School.
The first six episodes are definitely all exposition for the series; they spend a fair amount of time building the world of Moorim School and helping us understand each of the main characters. We get to see the beginnings of Shi-Woo and Chi-Ang’s friendship. They go from openly hating and blaming each other for everything to caring about on another. It helps that they’re sent on an impossible mission to climb to the top of the mountain Moorim Institute is named after. We see the two of them put the other first and working together to try and succeed.
We also see a budding love triangle between Shi-Woo, Chi-Ang, and Soon-Deok; though by Episode 5, it seems like the writers are setting up Chi-Ang and Soon-Ah as a potential couple. We additionally learn that Chi-Ang’s father has been searching for something contained within Moorim and has a man in a coma. According to the other students at Moorim, the enigmatic treasure in the school, that is handed down from generation to generation, possesses the power to either make or break a person. Not much else is revealed about this treasure, but it seems like more people than just Chi-Ang’s father want it; I’m sure in later episodes more will be divulged.
The chemistry between Hyun-Woo and Hongbin is extraordinary. It’s easily the best thing about the show. Lee Hyun-Woo and Hongbin play off each other so well, the viewers feel like they are watching two friends rather than coworkers. There’s an undercurrent of mutual respect between their characters, even when they’re insulting each other for being an illegitimate child or coward. Watching the two of them try not to care about the other while climbing the mountain is adorable; they act like teenagers who secretly want to be friends but lack the right social skills to make it happen.
Hongbin isn’t known for being a great actor. In fact, much of his other acting endeavors have been failures. However, his awkwardness works really well for the character of Chi-Ang. Chi-Ang himself is an awkward, naive kid who straddles an awkward position of being an heir but also an illegitimate child. He’s simultaneously used to getting whatever he wants, but never actually getting it; to being coddled, but also putting up with insults about his origins. It helps that sharing the screen with Lee Hyun-Woo also elevates his acting.
Lee Hyun-Woo is clearly a skilled actor. His portrayal of Shi-Woo as an idol with a tragic past doesn’t feel contrived or cliched, even though it easily could. He’s able to keep a warmth to an otherwise cold character. Shi-Woo is definitely misunderstood; because of his reputation of being stand-offish and arrogant, people frequently think he only cares about himself. Hyun-Woo takes this and helps the audience see how other people’s perception of Shi-Woo is actually incorrect. It’s interesting to watch Hyun-Woo depict Shi-Woo’s realization of how people see him and his attempts to try and be more forthcoming. Personally, I think he does an excellent job of this and I’m excited to see how his character grows.
The biggest downside to Moorim School though comes from the scenes that focus just on the teachers. They’re meant to be more lighthearted, to serve as a way to help introduce context, but most of their scenes feel trite and end up interrupting the flow of the episodes. It’s not the fault of the actors; they do the best they can with what they’ve been given, but the writing for these scenes is just so stiff and banal, there’s no real way to save it. Unless the writing improves for these scenes, the show would benefit from removing them altogether.
Moorim School never takes itself too seriously as a show, which makes it enjoyable to watch. It’s not sophisticated, but it makes no pretenses about that. It knows its premise of a secret school in the mountains with a magical seal and treasure sounds ridiculous. Moorim uses this to its advantage by keeping the atmosphere lighthearted, only being serious when it needs to be.
It’s a shame that conflict over funding has caused it to be shortened since this has clearly had an impact on the pacing of the episodes. The first four episodes all had similar paces, but once the fifth and sixth were aired, the pacing was much faster in comparison. Either way, “Moorim School” is a fun show and the upcoming episodes look like they’ll continue in the same vein.
(Naver. Images: KBS)