Extracurricular is a South Korean streaming television series directed by Kim Jin-min, starring Kim Dong-hee, Park Ju-hyun, Jung Da-bin, Nam Yoon-su, Choi Min-soo, Park Hyuk-kwon and Kim Yeo-jin. It was released on Netflix on April 29, 2020.

Plot

Oh Ji-soo (Kim Dong-hee) is a top student in his class. He runs an illegal business to earn money since he lives separately from his father.

Bae Gyu-ri (Park Ju-hyun) comes from a wealthy family. She is pressured by her parents who want her to take over the family business.

When Gyu-ri learns about Ji-soo’s secret, he has no choice but to let her join in. Everything is going well until Seo Min-hee (Jung Da-bin), one of their classmates who is also in the business, gets caught by the police.

South Korea sends us the best TV series on the subject of child prostitution. Carried by Kim Dong Hee and Park Joo Hyun, Extracurricular won’t leave you unscathed and it’s available on Netflix.

  • Titre alternatif : Human Class / Human Lessons / Human 101
  • Title original : Ingansueob / Human Class
  • Country: South Korea South Korea
  • Episodes: 10 x 50 min
  • Broadcast Ended : 04/29/2020
  • Season: Spring 2020
  • Broadcaster: Netflix
  • Streaming / VOD (France): Netflix
  • Genres: Action – Drama – School – Thriller

Review : by stillindenial (link)

I recently binged watched Extracurricular and it absolutely blew my mind away. It really highlighted how a platform like Netflix can help to reinvent the decade-old Kdrama formula, and pave the way for an exciting new beginning for the genre.

At Netflix, the makers of Extracurricular are able to introduce darker themes and experiment with more novel and outrageous methods of storytelling and film making; while the platform can also leverage on the Korean TV industry’s mastery in creating captivating characters performed by incredibly talented actors. At the same time, the full season release format of the platform gave the filmmakers a lot more freedom in how the story plays out and world building, without the pressure of ratings engineering pure chaos towards the end of the drama (as is the case for many promising Kdramas).

Some of the things i loved, or the areas that I felt were cutting-edge for a kdrama:

1) world building

This was one of the aspects of the show which really demonstrated how a non ratings based platform like Netflix can improve the production values of a drama, One of the issues with Kdramas is that, with many channels competing aggressively for the same viewer ratings, kdramas tend to be way overproduced. As a result, to outdo each other, most kdramas are based in unrealistically polished utopias, which means that the high production costs necessitates ridiculous product placements (i.e. Suzy carrying a Dior bag in Startup).

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In Extracurricular, the story unfolds in a more naturalistic and somewhat grittier Seoul. Ji Soo’s apartment, wardrobe, belongings and surroundings are all incredibly realistic and consistent with his character’s background. The environment becomes a credible extension of the character and deeply immerses the viewer into his perspective. I especially loved the depiction of the trash pile outside the convenience store, the homeless people in the tunnels, and grimey subways, the hollow luxury of city motels, which are things that you will never see in a typical korean drama, but nevertheless a more realistic portrayal of Seoul. In my experience, it is easier to produce a film that is polished, and a lot harder to depict a world on film that is realistic, therefore i really appreciated the dedication to build a realistic world in Extracurricular.

2) the acting:

Initially I wasn’t sold on the story, while watching episode 1, i kept having the nagging feeling that this was just a high school meet cute disguised as an edgy social commentary. And then came the scene where Jisoo tears up in the middle of a conversation with Gyuri at the cafe. To me, that scene was so brilliantly acted out by Kim Dong Hee. The slow release of emotions gave us a glimpse into the character’s depth and complexity, and stirred up a well of conflicting emotions in the viewer. And from there onwards I was irreversibly sucked into the story.

3) experimental symbolism

There were some trippy sequences in the show that would never have seen the light of day in mainstream TV. for example the scene where Jisoo is dragging Minhee’s body into a cave would not feel out of place in a park chan wook movie It’s not only beautiful to see, but the dream like quality creatively foreshadows and also builds your tolerance for the terrible sequence of events that happen in the later part of the story.

I also heavily suspect that the show is strongly influenced by Hideaki Anno and Neon Genesis Evangelion. Ji Soo is a dead ringer for Shinji Ikari and the dream sequences where Ji Soo projects his mind on the different people in his life (i.e. teacher, father, gyuri) is a direct call back to some of the trippy dream sequences which depicts Shinji Ikari’s (and Hideaki Anno’s own) mental collapse. As a fan of NGE, I really really enjoyed the reference.

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I also felt that in the last scene where the landscape view of the sprawling Seoul skyline gradually narrows into a vertical image, the show was trying make a very “Parasite”-like point. Although a city feels like an open land of opportunities, in reality that is just an illusion. It’s a claustrophobic hell where people are stacked vertically in a hierarchy with no means to go anywhere except where they are now.

4) fearless storytelling

I was really impressed by how the writer was willing to cover shocking topics and make bold statements about humanity and morality through these issues. From the get go, we know that there is no clear definition of what’s right or wrong, and this is the central theme of the story. A key example of this is the way Jisoo views his business vs. how others view it, this argument is presented quite early in the show where Gyuri thinks Ji soo is a pimp while Ji soo argues that he instead runs a security service for prostitutes , there are always 2 sides to the coin, no matter how wrong or irredeemable things get. The writer brings us to both ends of the spectrum, then presents meaningful points that land us somewhere in the middle. However, the spectrum keeps expanding and the circumstances get more and more extreme as the story progresses, and this creates a constant tension in the viewer as you start to struggle to align what’s happening in the show to your own moral values.

Most typical Korean dramas are written to make the viewer support its central characters, so that you can make a nice clean judgement about the character and stick with them until the end. Extracurricular is a bit different in that aspect, one minute it is making you empathize with the character’s struggles and then the next making you question your support for them. For example, I fell in love with Ji Soo’s character, but I am also equally disgusted by some of his actions. This inability to make clean judgements on the characters makes the drama somewhat unpredictable and exhilarating. Again, typical korean dramas would have just taken the story to where the viewers wanted for the sake of ratings. But Extracurricular sucks you in with a different method, they never give you what you wanted, but then you just cannot stop watching because the show keeps questioning what you wanted in the first place.

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5) letting the viewer play god

While watching the drama, i had the distinct feeling that the writer was speaking to me directly, making me feel sorry for Ji Soo, and then subsequently mocking my empathy by showing what an asshole Ji Soo can be. The story expands the viewers’ limits and stretches our understanding of morality. At the end, as Jisoo is bleeding out from his wounds and lying in the stairwell he looks directly at us as if asking us what we thought his fate should be. In that scene, Kim Dong hee’s expression is complex, somewhere between a smile and a plead. Do they escape, did they die? The answer is both yes and no, because it is up to you. If you feel that their actions are irredeemable, you can let them get caught by the policewoman. If you still have sympathy for them, you let them go Notice in the last few minutes of the show, both scenarios were showed. The ending is an incredibly stylish schrodinger’s cat/choose your own adventure sequence that would have never happened in network television.

The director, Kim Jimin is an experienced kdrama director with classics like time between dog and wolf under his belt. Using netflix as the platform, he was able to show us a different type of film-making, something a bit more voyeuristic and out of the box. The writer is also a rookie, whom perhaps will not be able to get as much freedom or write the script as mischieviously as he did if it were network television. All in all Extracurricular is like a dreamy blend of a kdrama and kmovie, basically the best of both worlds. And the marriage of a korean network studio and netflix is just like the partnership between the naive and idealistic Jisoo and the commercially savvy and free Gyuri, its impossible not to love.

5/5 - (2 votes)

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