“Drinking Solo” is a workplace and school drama that deftly depicts two different worlds — that of the teachers and that of the students at a prestigious hagwon, or prep school. The stress of work and studying drives the characters to partake in a cool drink to release the stress and emotions of the day. Gracing our screens is a colorful cast headed by Ha Seok Jin, Park Ha Sun, Gong Myung, and Key. Read on to discover why this delectable drama needs to be in your queue.
Jin Jung Seok (Ha Seok Jin) is a pretentious but highly coveted teacher who enters Noryangjin Academy as a hotshot lecturer. A man who isolates himself from relationships, he revels in an expensive drink, tasty side dishes, and a classy atmosphere at the end of each day. He disdains mingling with others, including the other teachers in his office: newbie Park Ha Na (Park Ha Sun), sexy Hwang Jin Yi (Hwang Woo Seul Hye), and goofy Min Jin Woong (Min Jin Woong). These three are quite the trio, manifesting typical K-drama character archetypes at the beginning, and evolving into beautifully rich characters by the end. Jung Seok falls in love with the awkward but adorable Ha Na. His emotions take him by surprise and Ha Na schools him on relationships as he schools her at teaching. It’s quite the lovely dynamic.
Juxtaposed with the teachers are the equally colorful students. Headed up by Gong Myung (Gong Myung), the carefree younger brother of Jung Seok, the cast of students are a desperate lot. They are studying to pass wretchedly difficult student exams. Lazy, playful Ki Bum (Key) and brooding, serious Dong Young (Kim Dong Young) round out Myung’s group of best friends, while Chae Yeon (Chaeyeon) plays the stony, brilliant love interest. The group suffers through the stress of exams, tackling love, drinking, friendship, and rivalry.
But the cure for each and every hard day? A friendly drink alone.
The Wonderful Key
I wouldn’t be a Shawol without mentioning how utterly delightful it is to see Key on screen using his charming Daegu accent and spouting the merits of a fine tracksuit. Despite my love for Key and for SHINee, I went into “Drinking Solo” as a skeptic: I wasn’t sure if Key would pull off his role. Shame on me. I was so wrong. He was a pleasure to watch, running through emotions and making me laugh and cry within the same scene. Rather than the suave man that Key always plays on stage, his character is a rich, rather clumsy young man who still doesn’t have a grasp on what he wants to do with his life. The show also capitalizes on Key’s SHINee fame by making SHINee jokes and bringing in Minho for a spectacular cameo. In any case, if you weren’t a fan of Key before, you will be after you watch “Drinking Solo”!
The Sidekicks: Min Jin Woong and Hwang Jin Yi
This trusty pair of side kicks is hilarious. Idiosyncratic and warm-hearted, these two are different as night and day on the outside while retaining an inherent sweetness. Jin Yi is a vain, flighty woman who pushes Ha Na around a bit, but really, she’s the type of woman who will drink with you in the middle of the night when your heart is broken and you have no one to turn to. All she wants is someone to do the same. Watching her try to find that someone is half the fun.
Jin Woong is hilarious. He does impressions of famous drama and film characters to try and win over his students. All of his impressions fail and make him seem like more of a fool than a good teacher. But like Jin Yi, there is so much more underneath. As you get to know him, he’s impossible not to love.
A special shoutout to Kim Won Hae as Kim Won Hae for being the most adorable/annoying boss a classroom full of teacher misfits could ever want.
The Trio of Silly Boys
Gong Myung, Ki Bum, and Dong Young have such wonderful chemistry together whether they’re drinking, chatting, fighting, mooning, or pretty much any other ‘ing’ you can think of. They share history, hopes, and dreams together. Never has watching a group of students struggle through school been so entertaining.
Jung Seok and Ha Na seem to be the traditional chaebol-poor girl pairing, and then we learn that Ha Na has gumption. She is innovative and blazes through life with a sass that wins Jung Seok over, much to his chagrin. Jung Seok isn’t your typical jerky chaebol either. He’s an extra jerk, which can be very off-putting. But he has a dark story that goes behind it that must be chipped away by a little love from his friends. And he has them in his co-workers. He just doesn’t realize it for a very, very long time. It’s fun watching him grow.
Gong Myung competes with Jung Seok for Ha Na’s affections and I must say that his love completely transforms him from an immature student into a worldlier, wiser man. Gong Myung does an excellent job with the slow process of growing up.
There is a secondary love triangle between Ki Bum, Chae Yeon, and Gong Myung that is also quite heartfelt. It produces a lot more comedy, mostly because Ki Bum doesn’t realize that he loves Chae Yeon. Eyes that are blind to the heart are oh-such-wonderful comedy fodder.
If you didn’t know what to drink after a long day, just take a cue from this cast of characters. They pair beer and seafood. Wine with cheese platters. They drink over grills and sip over dinner. Froth and bubbles and foam are filmed beautifully and tantalizingly. And amazingly enough, not every drinking scene is full of raging drunks and all the unsavory things that go along with them. Rather, much of the drinking is about the enjoyment of it, both alone and in groups.
While some of the story does drag at times, the small spurts of growth done by our characters are what give “Drinking Solo” its beating heart. It weaves separate plot threads together so that the rather disparate cast of characters doesn’t really seem so disparate after all. Whether you’re in the mood for a marathon of this charming show, or going for slower exposure, head on over to Viki to dive into “Drinking Solo.”
Raine0211 is a lover of all things Korean, especially K-pop, K-drama, and Korean food. When she’s not writing for Soompi, she’s playing the cello and singing. She happily indulges in all kinds of K-pop, but her biases are SHINee, Infinite, and VIXX. She lives with her sister, her roommate Elsa, and her two cats, Timmy and Momo, all of whom also love K-pop and K-drama.