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Itaewon Class (2020) K-drama 16 eps

Director: Kim Seong-yoon

Writer: Jo Gwang Jin (author of Webtoon – Itaewon Class)

Main Cast:  Park Seo-joon, Kim Da-mi, Yoo Jae-myung, Kwon NaraPPark ark Seo-joon, Kim Da-mi, Yoo Jae-myung, Kwon Nara,

 Lee Joo-young, Kim Dong-hee, Ahn Bo-hyun, Ryu Kyung-soo, Chris Lyon

Learning the Korean language so you can watch K-dramas without the subtitles? Or learning to speak Korean so you can travel or study in Korea? Whatever the reason, Itaewon Class is a fabulous drama with endless opportunities to practice your Korean, from the quite simple one or two-word statements through to the more complex and longer sentences.

However, learning anything new, especially a language, can be difficult for most of us, so it helps to work out your learning style first. Are you a visual, auditory or kinesthetic type of learner?

Find out here    

This site has a free assessment and offers tips to help you succeed according to your individual learning style. 

So, if RM (BTS) taught himself how to speak English by watching the American sitcom “Friends” over and over, I think it’s possible to learn Korean by watching k-dramas too.  Unfortunately, most of us are so engaged in the drama that we forget to write down words we don’t understand, or practice speaking the phrases  and so we end up not learning much Korean, but just get good at reading subtitles a bit faster.  By the way, did you know that you can adjust the Playback speed on Netflix, allowing you to rewind and listen to the Korean language in a slower mode?  

Combining k-drama learning with a great teacher and solid learning platform like AKC will quickly move your Korean 
learning to a new level.   

Anyway, back to Itaewon Class. The title of this drama could be deceiving, and some might assume this is a drama based around a school class.   It’s not.  It’s about a very diverse group of people who get together to make a business succeed, finding purpose and meaning in their own lives in the process. 

In the first episode our main lead Saeroyi (perfectly played by the lovely Park Seo-joon) intervenes when a rich kid bullies another student. Saeroyi’s father happens to work for the rich kid’s father and therefore loses his job. And then, get your tissues out.

So begins the story away from the classroom, nine years later. A tale of love, friendship, revenge, loyalty, fighting through social barriers, and determination to succeed and live a life based on each individual’s principles and dreams.

Itaewon Class is quite different from other k-dramas though. The male lead character is not the typical, good looking, wealthy, perfectly fit bloke that others swoon over. Saeroyi is a ‘down on his luck’, slow thinking guy with a bowl haircut, who respects people more than money (unlike the rich kid and his father who turn out to be a mean team later).

Park Seo-joon had to have his hair cut every four days to maintain the exact “chestnut” style for the entire filming and it’s rumoured that quite a few Korean men, after seeing Itaewon Class, rushed to the hair salons to copy the haircut.  Not sure why, but there you go.

Saeroyi has a dream and a plan. Enter Jo Yi-seo (The fabulous actress Kim Da-mi who you may remember from the lead role in Our Beloved Summer.  Isn't she a wonderful actor?).  She takes over as manager for Saeroyi’s first small business and helps build it into the empire Saeroyi longs for.  In the meantime, Yi-seo falls head over heels in love and some one else falls for her, creating the perfect love triangle, the unrequited love and loss, and all the other things we love about k-dramas.

Apart from all that love and desire, Itaewon Class tackles social issues head on, such as inequality between rich and poor, discrimination and racism, ex-convicts, and LGBTQ issues just to name a few.   And, it does a good job. One of the characters is a transgender woman, another is an ex-convict (like our lead role) and there's also a black African guy who came to Korea to find his Korean father.  Looking at the world through the lens of these characters is enough to make anyone question their own beliefs and experience in the world.

Itaewon class is also rich in motivational one liners, poems, and quotes making it a great resource for Korean language students.

In the very first episode Saeroyi introduces himself to a new class, (the same way all beginner Korean speakers learn early in their new language journey!! I was so excited).

This k-drama also contains loads of simple and practical words to copy and practice, along with more complex sentences for the more advanced learners.

Too many inspirational quotes to mention them all, but just a few to look out for;

  • “You don’t set my values”-"내 가치를 네가 정하지 마"
  • I really want my bitter night and my life to be sweet - 그냥 조금만 더 쓰린 밤이, 내 삶이 달달했으면 했어.
  • You don’t need to be on anyone’s side but your own. - 너는 니 편이면 돼.
  • My mind and heart are both filled with you. - 내 머릿속이, 내 마음이 너로 가득해.
  • Happiness. The warmth I share with you. - 행복, 너와 나누는 온기.

But the winner is, my favourite, the poem written by Gwang Jin (series writer), called “I am a diamond.”  

Listen to it here  

I’m told that a diamond is just a rock under pressure and so, aren’t we all diamonds?  Let me know what you think.


Happy learning everyone.   I hope you love Itaewon Class.

Check out the OST. -  Itaewon Class OST –  V (BTS) Track 14- Another example of the Wooga Squad friendship?      



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My first try at reading a book in Korean, not a short passage or text like the one teachers assign during class, was a short children’s book called <안읽어 씨 가족과 책 요리점>; it's a book about this funny oddball family and their relationship with books. I cannot remember what site I bought it from (probably TTMIK?), but I remember that I chose it because I thought it would be perfect for my level at that time. Boy, was I ever so wrong. It has been over four years, if not five, and I still have not finished that book. I pick it up every year saying, “This will be the year I finish this.” But something is just not clicking. 

Reading is one of the best ways to build your knowledge base in a language. And when you do decide to try it, it is very important that you find the right book. Whatever you choose, it has to be interesting: if it is boring, it could put you off reading for a while. It has to be the right mix of easy and challenging, so that you can practise, but also learn something new. To a lesser extent, there might also be an element of time and place (I believe that there are specific times when it is best to read a book and others that are less ideal). I tried to find all these factors in fiction, at first. I bought quite a number of novels, many that I still haven’t opened. There was even an autobiography I bought. But none of these were right for me to start with. It was poetry that gave me an inning. And specifically the two poetry collections I will share with you today!

If you use KakaoTalk, then you probably know about Kakao Friends (카카오 프렌즈): it is a set of characters based on the emoticons you find on the app. Someone had the idea to write books based on the different characters. I have been able to find six on Yes24 (maybe there are more). But the two that I have are the books for Ryan (라이언) and Neo (네오), both of which were published in 2019. They are <라이언, 내 곁에 있어줘> (Ryan, Stay With Me, written by Jeon Seung-hwan) and <네오, 너보다 나를 더 사랑해> (Neo, I Love Me More Than You Do, written by Hada). Now, these books are not “the height of literature”, but they are written to be fun and comforting for readers. And for us learners, the poems and mini-essays are perfect. Not only are they heartwarming, but they are also of varying difficulties so that learners, from upper beginner to advanced learners, can enjoy reading them. They also do not require heavy analysis and interpretation like many poems do. This allows you to just focus on reading and learning, while enjoying the poem. 


Here are some of my favourites from the two books (and a poor translation): 

How was your day?

How was your day?
Nothing special, you say?
It was okay?
I think I get it.
How you try to act like it was nothing,
How you hide your heavy heart.
And so you hurt.
Because you think no one understands

I will cheer you on quietly from behind.
When you think it's time to start but can't see the way forward,
When you're hanging on with all your might but suddenly fall,
Instead of the words, "keep going",
I will send you my heart filled with strength.

It's not that the journey is endless;
You just can't see (the way forward).
Today I'll quietly look at your day.
Today, I'll listen to those hidden thoughts of yours. 
On True Self-Pride

Loving myself doesn't mean
That I just think I'm the best in the world.
It's that I believe
That I am good, even if I am not all that.

Even on days when I too feel that I am inadequate,
I know I am just as okay as I ever was. 



Here are some things I found really helpful while reading in Korean: they might work for you too!

1. Read in chunks and not word by word: Remember what Helena 쌤’s gospel is? The predicate for Korean sentences is at the end of the sentence. If you read word for word and try to interpret each one, you will get confused and most likely lose the meaning of the sentence before you even finish. That was exactly what I did when I first started, and it made reading in Korean such a chore for me. Instead, try to read the sentence till the end, even if you don't understand every single word: see if you can get a general feel for the sentence. This will give you a basis on which to work when you read the sentence again. 

2. Read once, read twice, read multiple times: It is okay to not understand what you are reading the first time, because you can always go back! Just like with studying any subject, it requires multiple active read-throughs for you to truly comprehend. That is also the beauty of reading these short poems: each poem is stand-alone, so there is no long plot that you have to follow and remember. You can read the same poem multiple times until you understand it thoroughly. 

a. Bonus tip: Read out loud (Like 쌤 recommends). This can help you better catch the flow of a sentence, and is also a good way to practice your pronunciation. 

3. Identify grammar pointsInstead of just identifying new vocab that you find while reading, I think it is even more important to understand what grammar points are being used each sentence. Learning new vocab will never end; I am sure that even in your mother tongue, there are words you do not know. So don't focus too much on the words at first. Look for what kind of ending the sentence has. Are there any connectors anywhere in the sentence? What are about negators? etc. Below is an example I did using one of the poems I shared earlier (again, not expert! I just hope Helena 쌤 isn't too disappointed with my explanations   ). 

4. Effectively study your new vocab: After you have done all of the above, it is finally time to study any new words you find. But how to do so? I used to just write them down in a notebook. But then I would either lose the notebook or it would finish and then I would have to find a new one. In the end, I had multiple books with vocab that I had to study, lying all over the place: just too confusing. Instead, to efficiently study vocab, I recommend that you use a memorisation/flashcard app such as Anki or Quizlet. Write the words you don't know on once side, and on the other side, write the definition AND a few example sentences. With this, you have all the vocab in one place, and you can constantly add to it. Choose whichever app you like. But make sure to add notifications to remind you to go on it everyday. I prefer Anki because it portions out words for you to learn, based on how many you have set for it. Here is an example: 

So there you have it! There is quite a bit of information in this post. But I really hope that it proves helpful, allowing you to reach your Korean learning goals. If you have any questions, do not hesitates to ask in the comments below. If you are currently reading in Korean, what are you reading? Do you like it? If so, please recommend it to the us! 

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Hello Everyone!!!

I’m sure plenty of people like me love to listen to K-Pop and at times wonder what some words mean.

Or do you want to learn some new Korean vocabulary but in a fun way?

Well, I have a suggestion! How about we try to learn some new words from some K-pop songs?!

Today, I’m going to share 2 songs that I studied a lot and jammed out to!

One is a little harder and one is a lot easier.

Surfin’- Stray Kids

Replay- SHINee (classic of course!)

I find it easier to learn with songs that are a bit repetitive or catchy so that it makes it easier to memorize the words that you learn!

So, I won’t be going over the songs entirely, just the Chorus and I’ll put the words that I didn’t know or that I wrote as a reminder under the translations!  

Let’s get started~!

                                                                                       (Lyrics timestamp -00:54-1:03)

Surfin’- Stray Kids 

Go ahead and pinch yourself

얼른 볼 꼬집어 봐 (eolleun bol kkojib-eo bwa)

얼른= quickly

꼬집다= to pinch (S: This is actually a word that I had lots of trouble with pronouncing ㅠㅠ)

It’s not a dream, don’t worry

꿈이 아냐 걱정 마 (kum-i anya geogjeong ma)

꿈= dream

걱정=worry, concern (걱정하다= to worry)

Rub your sleepy eyes wake up wake up

졸린 눈을 깨워 wake up, wake up  (joll-in nun-eul kkaewo wake up, wake up)

졸리다= be sleepy

깨우다= to wake up (S: for some reason, no matter how much I saw this word I could never remember until the 20th time seeing the word haha)

Boost your energy way up way up

텐션을 더 높여 way up, way up (tensyeon-eul deo nop-yeo way up, way up)

텐션= tension (konglish), (In this particular lyrics, it would be) energy/mood

높이다= increase, higher

더= more


                                                                                            (Lyrics timestamp 00:57- 1:07)

Replay- SHINee

(S: This song will forever be one of my favorite songs EVER.)

누난 너무 예뻐 (nuna neo-mu yeppeo)

Noona is so pretty

누나= older sister (honorific used by males towards females who are older than them. not always directly meaning a sibling.)

너무= too much, very

예쁘다=  to be pretty

그 그녀를 보는 나는 미쳐 (geu geu-nyo-reul boh-neun na-neun mi-chyeo)

Looking at her I go crazy

그녀= She, her

보다= to look

미치다= to be insane

하지만 이젠 지쳐 (haji-mahn ijen ji-chyeo)

But now I’m getting tired


하지만= but

이제= now

지치다= to be tired (S: this word is veryyy useful to know! It's an everyday feeling for me hahaha!!)

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Helena 쌤

Hello, everyone.

This is Helena.


As COVID-19 is coming to an end, many people went on a picnic or gathering on the weekend and heard the news of the reunion these days. There is also my student who come to Korea one by one. I'll meet an American student this Friday. It's not happened to me for about two years. Before COVID, there used to be such students every year. Now I feel like I'm going back to my former daily life.


But of course, it’s not the exactly same as before. Personally, I started a lot of challenges this month. I decided to do the exercise that I did twice a week again every day, and I practice speaking English every day while reading English conversation books. And I am looking for a language exchange partner who can practice English in person. I heard that this method is really helpful for successful learners. I decided to focus more on English because I think I can help Korean learners more effectively only if I go to the level where I can speak a foreign language fluently.


In the second half of this year, I plan to publish AKC's first paper book. It will be a basic Korean-speaking book. I applied for government subsidies to get more funds. Currently, I have passed the document review and I am waiting for the interview review. I hope I can tell you good news soon.



Video lessons

I couldn't upload a lot of YouTube content because I had a lot to prepare for this month. However, I have carefully made some tips to help you improve your Korean speaking, so I hope you watch it and get help.

How to practice speaking in Korean - for beginners

Korean Language Exchange in Korea or Online

Oh, and everyone, have you seen Pachinko? I didn't do it on purpose, but Chris and I both reviewed Pachinko. Check it out.

Korean Podcast(100% Korean, Eng Sub) + Reveiw

(ENG)[Korean Podcast] ep.3 - 재미있게 읽은 책 Book 📕 파친코 Pachinko💰 + 아몬드 Amond

[K-Drama] Pachinko(2022)


[K-Pop] Jessi (제시) - 'ZOOM' MV

[K-Pop] Psy- 'That That (prod. & feat. SUGA of BTS)'

[K-Literature] My Brilliant Life by Kim Ae-Ran

[K-Drama] It's Okay to not be Okay (2020)

Latest Video Lessons

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I did not expect to like this as much as I do! I've had the song on repeat today and Yoongi's dancing has gotten so much better!!!! I'm so proud! It's such a fun song! .... If only I could dance hahahaha!

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여러분 안녕하세요! 오늘 노래 두 개를 추천해 드리고 싶었어요. 요즘 계속 밤복해서 듣고 있는 거에요. 올해는 임인년인데 우연히 둘 다 범에 대한 노래예요. 하나는 아주 명랑하고 밝고 춤 추게 하기도 하고요. 다른 곡은 어두우면서 좀 무서워요. 하지만 둘 다 너무 창의적이에요. 그리고 가수가 판소리의 바탕으로 이 노래를 만들어서 한국 전통 음악의 매력을 즐겁게 느낄 수도 있어요. 재미있게 보세요!

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It’s Okay to not be Okay (2020)

Writer: Jo Yong

Director: Park Shin-woo

Main Cast:  Kim Soo-hyun, Seo Ye-ji, Oh Jeong-se

Settle in for a crazy ride with this k-drama series which was voted as one of the top ten to watch in 2020. ‘It’s Okay to not be Okay’ is about three lovable, but completely dysfunctional characters, each living lonely and unfulfilled lives, who come together at the OK Psychiatric Hospital in their hometown. Toss in the old male friend, the female unrequited love interest, the long-suffering publisher, his assistant, and a whole ward full of psychiatric patients and there you have a fascinating and chaotic storyline.

Gang-tae (played by Kim Soo-hyun) is a psych nurse employed at the hospital and is known for his calm and gentle nature. He is the ever patient and loving carer of his older brother who is a talented artist living with autism and quirky behaviours. In his selfless role as a carer, Gang-tae forgets to dream and live his own life.

Sang-tae (Oh Jeong-se) is the older brother with autism. He agrees to paint a wall mural on the OK Psychiatric Hospital stairwell. so he can secretly save some money to buy a campervan home for himself and his brother. Sang-tae is obsessed with dinosaurs and a particular children’s author, Ko Moon-young.

Oh Jeong-se won three Best Support Actor awards for his outstanding portrayal of Moon Sang-tae and rightly so. He respectfully captured the mannerisms and behaviours of a person with autism perfectly and encouraged the viewer to step into the complex life of a person who thinks and acts differently.

Moon-young (Seo Ye-ji) is the eccentric children’s writer who doesn’t particularly like children, has an antisocial personality disorder, and a father she also doesn’t like, who is a patient at the hospital. When the director of the hospital asks her to run a workshop on literature for the patients she agrees, only so she can be closer to her romantic obsession, the very handsome psych nurse Gang-tae.

 Moon-young never fails to surprise with her outrageous behaviours and her sense of fashion (look out for something completely gorgeous  in each episode). I can only imagine the impact she has had on the online shopping world.

Each of the sixteen episodes of this k-drama are based on a different fairy-tale, with five of those episodes created around Jo Yong’s own children’s story book titles* (Jo Yong is the writer of this series. Her five children’s books immediately shot to the bestselling list soon after the series was released).

It's a clever way to tell the story of our three main characters, encouraging us to be swept along into that familiar, but intriguing world, then adding a whole roller coaster ride of intense emotions and isn’t that why we watch k-drama? Well, one of the reasons anyway…

Some more conservative viewers made complaints about a couple of the scenes, claiming sexual harassment. In one of the earlier episodes, Moon-young walks into the men’s change room and stares at and touches Gang-tae’s shirtless body without his permission. (I’ve added a picture to save you the trouble of looking it up).

 However, Moon-young’s character traits include impulsive behaviour, no boundaries, and a need for instant gratification so the scene could be a humorous way of highlighting this character’s personality. She’s also quite loud and appears to have a limited filter between her thoughts and what comes out of her mouth.

If I’ve aroused your curiosity, check out this YouTube link to watch the scene 

It’s Okay not to be Okay is a wonderful story complete with all the unimaginable twists and turns, the cringeworthy moments, the snorting, laugh out loud scenes and the painful, gut-wrenching tears. It’s been instrumental in raising awareness around mental health issues and in particular, autism.   

I really loved this k-drama, not only because of the outstanding performances of every single actor involved, (sadly too many to mention here), but because the storyline tends to normalise all those kooky thoughts and feelings that we all might experience in our everyday life. The very title of the drama tells us that It’s Okay to not be Okay, and I think we need to be reminded of that sometimes.


Watch out for the scene where Sang-tae discovers that Moon-Yong has his ‘nightmare catcher’ doll. (It was hand made by Gang-tae and aptly name Mang-tae).

Let me know what you think. You can watch It’s Okay to not be Okay on Netflix.



* Writer: Jo Young’s five children’s story books      

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As usual, I'm always late when it comes to TikTok trends and stuff, but Jessi has been popping up all over my TikTok!! And I understand why! This song is way too catchy but also she looks so fabulous in all of her different outfits in this music video!!

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                                                              Idol Webtoon Part 2 [Series]

Hey Everyone!!

Welcome to Part 2 of the Idol Webtoons Series!

Today, I’m going to be talking about the Webtoon inspired by HYBE Entertainment’s (known as Big Hit Entertainment before changing the company name) male group; BTS! 


Anyone who knows me knows that BTS is the Ultimate group that I follow. So, naturally, I was extremely excited about the release of this Webtoon. Unfortunately, compared to the other Idol webtoon that I reviewed, this one may be a bit shorter because not a lot has really been talked about or revealed despite there being 12 episodes released already.

*Suspenseful music cue* (hehe)

Let’s talk about 7Fates: Chakho!!

 7Fates: Chakhos (BTS) (Ongoing)

The link above will give you more information about this webtoon./ Click the underlined title to go read. 


Who would enjoy this read: If you’re like me and you like action and a good storyline that goes along with it, then I recommend this read!

Who wouldn’t enjoy this read: If you’re not into slight blood and violence then this Webtoon might not be your cup of tea.  

Personal Rating: 💜💜💜💜 (Action/Exciting)

Rating on Webtoon: 9.8/10 (6.1 Million Readers) 

Although we haven’t met all of the characters in the webtoon just yet, let’s introduce them first! As I’ve mentioned before, all of the main characters are based on BTS members’ appearance-wise.  

We are first introduced to Haru who is a Deity, his responsibility is to guard the entrance to the Inwang Mountain. This entrance is to the world of the Beom. Beom are beasts who devour human souls and flesh. (So far from what I’ve read, these Beom really do make a sport out of this whole eating humans thing.)

(Haru; Inwang Moutain Deity)

Next, we are introduced to Zeha, who it seems was the reason that the seal to the entrance was broken, and Haru has now turned into a person. (If I’m not mistaken, Haru was the Seal?)


A bit of background on Zeha; his parents were killed by Beom when he was younger, unfortunately making him an orphan.

Zeha’s parents were in a way, a forbidden love. His mother being a Shaman and his father being half (?) Beom. (Because it’s still in the first 12 chapters of this Webtoon, there’s a lot that is still not clear, so I’m merely reviewing what I’m understanding and what I’ve read.)

           (Zehas’ parents)

On the night of his parents' death anniversary, January 16th, Zeha was out walking when a strange man starts talking to him about his parents. Annoyed, he attempts to brush him off as just another person from a cult trying to scout him. That is until the man called him by his name and begins asking questions in detail about his parents. 

The weird man tells Zeha to meet him at Inwang Mountain to find out more about his parent's deaths. Since it was his parents' anniversary, he grew suspicious and did as the man told him. (There's no way a creepy guy could ever get me to do anything but I mean to each his own hahah!!!)

 Zeha wakes up in the hospital 3 days after being found the only survivor at the mountain among 24 dead people.

After that day began many murder cases created by the Beom. Zeha ended up returning to Inwang Moutain where he meets Haru, who explains the whole ordeal of what's going on with the Beom and how he was the reason that the seal was broken.

Another thing to mention here, Haru's character is pretty goofy and mischievous. So far, he seems like a character who would set the mood pretty well as well as become a scary person when serious. 

The next character we meet is in Chapter 4, Do-geon. Now I’m not gonna lie, Do-geons first couple of chapters actually broke me… I cried a lot. 

         (Do-geon                                     RM)

His character is kind of like a stoic super cool big brother, he does whatever he can to protect and take care of his family/ team. We meet his family/ team, Kyungsoo, Gahyeon, Mincheol, and there’s one more person whose name they didn’t show… 

Do-geon and his team were running a bit of a shady business and there was one more job that they were supposed to do on Do-geon’s birthday. Suddenly, Do-geon asked Kyungsoo if they could just not do it. He said that he wants them to live a normal life. 

Kyungsoo gave his word but actually planned with the rest of the team to do the job behind Do-geons back. They wanted to show him that they could be of help and do something for Do-geon as well.

Unfortunately, the job doesn’t go well at all, and Do-geon rushes to his friends but they had been attacked by Beom and died right in front of him. (I was listening to some sad music while reading this, and cried my eyes out… what can I say? I’m a huge cry baby lol)

Although my review doesn't seem to have covered much, other than a few really cool fight scenes in between Do-geons and Zeha's stories, there's still a lot that hasn't been uncovered and talked about.

Throughout the released 12 chapters so far , it mainly follows Do-geon, Zeha and Haru who cross paths while they are hunting Beom. 

It seems that Do-geon is searching for answers and revenge.

Zeha is also searching for answers, about his parents as well as trying to find his own identity.

Haru wants to return the Beom back to where they belong before they completely destroy the human world. 

As I’m following along and reading this webtoon, I can’t help but be completely sucked into the story. There's still soooooo much to this story and I just wish I could know everything at once!! 

Personally, even though I enjoy reading comics, webtoons and manga as much as the next person, there have been many times where I often get confused by the direction of the story. 

However, I’m so invested in this plot and I can’t wait for the next chapter to come out! I'm also extremely excited for the other main characters to be introduced as well!

The only reason I've given this one 4 purple hearts out 5 is because not enough has been revealed yet but still, I highly recommend this read! It’s definitely a favorite of mine so far!

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[K-Literature] My Brilliant Life by Kim Ae-Ran (translated by Chi-young Kim)

One of my favourite genres to read is coming-of-age novels. There is something about the sheer amount of potential that being young holds - it reminds you of how much the world holds, all the things you can do, all the things you can be. Seeing how another’s world unfolds changes you, and because of how young the protagonists of coming-of-age novels usually are, it gives us the sense that there is time, so much of it. But imagine that you are a boy, a teenager at sixteen going on seventeen, on the cusp of adulthood. And your body is ageing. Blurry eyes, brittle bones, hair loss, wrinkly skin, all at sixteen. Your body is waning, and you have not much time left. This is what our protagonist is faced with on author Kim Ae-Ran’s <My Brilliant Life> (original title: <두근두근 내 인생>). It is a coming-of-age novel in every sense of the word, one that breaks the illusion of limitless time. 

<My Brilliant Life> starts with the protagonist, Areum, describing how he came to be. His parents, Daesu and Mira, had him when they were teenagers themselves. They were expelled from school, and got married to raise Areum, while living with Mira’s family. Therefore, Areum lives the first years of his life in a large family, a collective. This theme of family, and the exploration of what it means to be a parent runs through the entire book. Both Mira and Daesu are forced to pick up the mantle of being parents when they themselves need to be taken care of. However, members of their extended family do pitch in when they need help: Mira’s father gives Daesu the money that he needs to start a sporting goods shop (even though that business eventually fails), and Mira’s mother helps her during the first months after Areum is born. And even after Areum is diagnosed with progeria (a disease that causes affected people to age faster than usual) 2 years later, his parents could have decided  that they were not up for it. It might be a callous thing to say, but not all parents would be willing to commit to the time and money that Areum’s condition required. This novel does a wonderful job of showing how their family went through things with grace, even as things worsened increasingly.   

When the novel begins, Areum is sixteen, an age at which many of his peers are preparing to graduate from school and head to college. He decides that instead of a diploma, he will gift his parents a book that he writes, the story of how they got together and had him. Areum is a truly wonderful character to read. He is so well written that you cannot help but fall in love with him. I love when authors write young characters well and do not flatten them. Areum is funny and precocious, but he is also a scared child. The author could have made him come across as pitiful, so down on his luck, because of his illness. But Kim Ae-ran did not do so. That would have been the easy route. It is much harder to write a character in the fullness of their life, even when one thing predominates (in this case, Areum’s illness). We already know how painful things must be for Areum (and his family). Belabouring the point would come across as trauma porn, something that most people with disabilities and chronic illnesses do not want people to do. They don’t want us to glorify their illnesses; they want us to accept that their illnesses are integral to who they are and provide the necessary accommodations.        

The AKC theme for April was “Just Do It”, and I chose <My Brilliant Life> because it reminded me of the immediacy of our existence. That right here, right now, I am, I exist. That time as we know it is a social construct: some people see time as linear, some people see it as circular. We expect so much from the future, and look at the past with rose-coloured glasses. “I will do that when I have time”. “If only I had done that then”.  The past, our remembrance of it, is simply a reiteration in our present, a copy of something we can truly never get back. As for the future, how do we even define that? The future is only a possibility, not a guarantee. What we do know is that there is a now. “Time waits for no man” is a cliche, but cliches are called so because they are true. So I am going to challenge myself to stop living for the future or in the past, and to live and act in the present. I wish the same for you my friends. Carpe diem 💜.

NB 1: <My Brilliant Life> was made into a movie in 2014, starring Song Hye-kyo and Gang Dong-won. I plan to watch it now that I am done with the book. I hope that it is as enjoyable as the book. Let me know if you read the book or watch the movie too!

NB 2: I watched a video in one of my classes on the life of Sam Berns, another teenager who had progeria, and his story is so similar to Areum's story. Though his parents are more privileged economically than Areum's parents, the love and commitment that they gave Sam, and the simple way that Sam lived are the same. Sam Berns died at 17 in 2014 (the same year the movie was released). There is a HBO documentary on his life, and I have put clips below.