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I finally finished watching KBS2’s Dream High, and ended up having a blast watching the show. I honestly had no expectations when I started this, and was planning on skipping it until I read the recaps on Dramabeans’ website and thought to give it a try. I’m glad that I decided to watch it.
Dream High tells the story of six students at Kirin Art High School who work to achieve their dreams of becoming music stars in the Korean music industry. Go Hye Mi is a student who had majored in classical music but has to give up her dream by entering Kirin Art High School to pay off her father’s debt. However, she needs to get two other students to also come to the school in order for her to enroll in the school conditionally. These two students are Song Sam Dong, who lives in the countryside, and Jin Guk, whom she accidentally meets while trying to escape from a loan shark. Yoon Baek Hee, formerly Hyemi’s sidekick, becomes her rival in school because Hye Mi betrays her during an audition to enter the school.
The drama begins in the year 2018, where we are told that the Korean musician, K, may just be the first Korean to win the album of the year at the Grammy awards. While we are shown scenes of the concert that is about to start, the identity of K is not revealed. All that is shown is that K may be one of six students that attended Kirin Academy, and a picture is shown of those six. In the picture, we have Go Hye Mi, Song Sam Dong, Jin Gook, Yoon Baek Hee, Jason and Pil Suk. The drama details the growth of each of these characters, and the trials and tribulations they faced over their years at Kirin Academy. Their journeys ultimately lead to one of them becoming K.
Suzy plays the character of Go Hye Mi, the star of this show. She is a girl that has studied classical music for ten years, and has an inflated sense of her own self-worth. When her world comes crashing down around her, and she is forced to try for Kirin Academy to pay off the debt her father incurred, she realizes that she doesn’t have what it takes to get into an academy that she previously looked down upon. When she begs for a chance to get into the academy, she is told to bring back two students, Song Sam Dong and Jin Gook if she wants to attend Kirin.
Over the course of the drama, Hye Mi first becomes an outcast, then a determined student, a good friend to everyone in the group except for Jason, who she likes to tease, and then an idol. Hye Mi learns how to care about others over herself. She learns how to be truly happy for someone when they triumph, and she learns to be happy with her own accomplishments, even if her efforts do not garner her the coveted first place. In learning to become a social being, Hye Mi also finds her dream of being a pop idol on the Korean scene, and the love of one person.
Kim Soo Hyun plays Song Sam Dong, a country bumpkin that is beguiled by Hye Mi into leaving his small town to come to the big city. Sam Dong loves music and we are shown that he has a great talent for composing. Sam Dong also loves Hye Mi, and has hope that Hye Mi will one day return his feelings. When Sam Dong sees Hye Mi and Jin Gook kissing one night, his world comes crashing down around him. At the same time, he discovers that he has a hearing problem, which may one day lead to hearing loss if he does not take care of himself. Currently, the problem is that Sam Dong may sometimes be unable to hear what is going on around him, which can seriously endanger any kind of stage career.
When Sam Dong drops into a pool of depression, Hye Mi and his teacher, Kang Oh Hyuk (a wonderfully earnest performance by Uhm Ki Joon), pull him out by showing him that there is a way for him to perform without his hearing. While Sam Dong helps finds his way back to music, he learns to let go of Hye Mi, who has fallen in love with Jin Gook in front of his eyes. When Sam Dong thinks that Hye Mi is leaving the company to continue her studies at Julliard, he comes to realize that he doesn’t need Hye Mi’s love; all he needs is for Hye Mi to be near him.
Taecyeon plays Jin Gook/Hyun Shi Hyuk. Jin Gook is a seemingly carefree individual that only likes to cause trouble and get into fights. Only, as the story progresses, do we realize that Jin Gook is the illegitimate child of a politician, who has kept him hidden away for years. Jin Gook has spent a lifetime in the shadows, and music is the motivation that brings him out of those shadows and pushes him to make his own identity, so that his father will not be able to keep him hidden away.
When he meets Hye Mi for the first time, he helps her out. Over the course of their relationship, he helps her multiple times, and makes it possible for her to shed her tears in secret when she needs to break down. Jin Gook is the protector; not only does he help Hye Mi, but he also helps Yoon Baek Hee, Hye Mi’s rival, often to his own detriment. While Yoon Baek Hee has feelings for him, Jin Gook cannot return those feelings. Jin Gook loves Hye Mi, and when he sees Hye Mi pulling away, he is heartbroken, yet noble in defeat. He lets her go, and forges his own path to a successful musical career.
Ham Eun Jung (T-ara) plays Yoon Baek Hee, a former best friend and current rival of Hye Mi. Yoon Baek Hee is the product of a single-parent home, and has a mother who always puts her down. Because of that, she lacks the courage to forge a path of her own, and she idealizes Hye Mi. One day she pushes herself to apply for Kirin Academy, and persuades Hye Mi to go along with her. Surprisingly, Yoon Baek Hee is accepted and given the K pendant, instead of Go Hye Mi. Hearing Hye Mi’s derisive words at the audition, Baek Hee pushes herself to become the best so that she can prove to Hye Mi that her acceptance was the right decision.
In trying to become the best, Yoon Baek Hee takes all the wrong steps. She puts a thumbtack in another student’s shoe, so that she can get the chance to dance on stage. She makes Hye Mi the outcast, and accuses Hye Mi of stealing. When she feels herself losing, she attempts to injure Hye Mi by dropping a flower pot on her head. Additionally, when she can’t compose the way she would like to, she steals another persons work. When she feels her dream slipping away, she begs her agency’s president to not fire her, and is sexually assaulted. Baek Hee learns from her mistakes, and has the courage to speak up and then put her past behind her. With the support of her teacher Shi Kyung Jin (Lee Yoon Ji), she is able to continue her studies and compose music. In the end, she becomes a teacher at Kirin academy, and emulates the teacher she had come to respect.
Wooyoung plays Jason, a guy who has come back from the States, and is a dancer. He is very well-mannered, and his manners lead others to misunderstand him. All we know about Jason’s home life is that he has a sister, whom he loves. Initially in the drama, we are shown that Jason has the talent but lacks the ambition to become successful. He leaves his own showcase to help out Pil Suk, and skips classes and rehearsals. When he realizes that he may have lost the love of the girl he likes because of this lack of ambition, he pushes himself to get better grades and succeed at his musical career. In the end, Jason is famous and married to his high school sweetheart.
IU played Pil Suk, a young girl who comes into Kirin with weight problems. She has two supportive parents, but her looks quickly get her demoted to the college prep classes. Rather than saying goodbye to any chance at a career, Pil Suk works hard in her studies and on herself. While she initially tries to lose the weight for Jason, the guy she loves, in the end she realizes that she can only do this for herself. Pil Suk loses her weight, becomes friends with Hye Mi and Sam Dong, and eventually becomes famous herself. But she isn’t K, because in 2018 we see that Pil Suk is a teacher at a kindergarten, happily married to Jason, and tired of the idol life.
Besides Jason and Pil Suk, we had a quadrangle between Hye Mi, Jin Gook, Song Sam Dong and Yoon Baek Hee. Baek Hee liked Jin Gook, but realized that Jin Gook would never think of her that way. Jin Gook and Sam Dong both liked Hye Mi, and in the end we got to see who Hye Mi actually loved.Both the male leads of this drama were adorable in their love for Hye Mi. Most of the time I don’t get why one character loves another in a drama, and it feels as if the “love” exists to move the story forward. Here, I didn’t understand why the boys loved Hye Mi, but their actions did speak beautifully for them. Both were protective of her, and Sam Dong’s passionate need for her was evident to everyone who saw them together. Jin Gook didn’t have the same opportunity to express his emotions since he was away from Hye Mi for a long while, and when he was around her, his passion wasn’t as readily apparent. Jin Gook wasn’t as open and frank about his need for Hye Mi, and that may have lost him the girl.
Hye Mi initially fell for the bad boy Jin Gook. It was only as she got to be around Sam Dong and helped him through his problems, did Sam Dong gain prominence in her thoughts. I usually hate it when girls flip flop between two great guys, and end up unnecessarily hurting one of them; but here, the transfer of affections seemed really organic and a natural result of what had gone on before. Hye Mi is a young girl, and I find it hard to believe that her first love would be her last love. I found it entirely believable that her heart would be swayed to the guy by her side, the guy who … needed her more and made that need known. And that was Sam Dong. Jin Gook was just too cool, and he ended up getting hurt because of that.
Dream High was a great drama. The writing, story lines of each episode (centering around the different members of the group), and the music made it an enjoyable watch. I especially liked the performances in the show. The flash mob and the Dream High performance in Japan were the two that stand out in my mind. The fact that the show didn’t just focus on the students, but also showed how the teachers changed because of these students, made me enjoy the show even more. I liked how Shi Kyung Jin went from being totally bad ass to revealing her weaknesses in front of Kang Oh Hyuk (the scene where she wonders why her students never thank her, and that crazy hair bow), and to ultimately becoming the woman that would support Baek Hee and the woman that Kang Oh Hyuk could love.
At the end of the drama, we are shown the same scenes from the beginning, and the identity of K is revealed … and it is Sam Dong. We learn that Sam Dong earned the opportunity to go to the United States eight years ago, and Hye Mi pushed him to accept. When Sam Dong tells her that she is the music in his life, she bravely reminds him that he needs to reach the top so that she won’t worry about him anymore. The two share a kiss and Hye Mi gives him the K pendant for luck. In 2018, we have Sam Dong, alone, taking off his hearing aid, as he walks onto the stage.
In Korea, we are at Hye Mi’s 100th concert, and she mentions that she has heard that her friends are here today. That in itself may hint at the lack of communication between herself and her friends, and she mentions a friend (Sam Dong), who couldn’t be here tonight and who she knows is the loneliest out of all of them. Jason, Pil Suk, Kang Oh Hyuk (now married to Shi Kyung Jin), and Jin Gook are all in the audience, listening to her sing. And you have to wonder, as you hear her words, how far apart they may have unwillingly drifted.
When I watch the end of an American show, a show that has been on for years, I get emotional at the end, getting choked up, because I know that I will miss the characters in that show. I will really, really miss them. Watching the end of Dream High brought back that same emotional pull, and the wish that it wasn’t over so soon. I fell in love with Sam Dong and Hye Mi, and I really wished that we could’ve been given a peek into their relationship. I didn’t want to the show to end, but I am glad that I watched it. I highly recommend that anyone who hasn’t seen it to give it a chance.