Jang Dae-Hee (wonderfully played by Yoo Jae Myung), owner of the Jang Group, and the main villain of the Netflix Korean Drama, Itaewon Class lets us in on how an oligarch thinks, based on the current status of our world’s class divide.
I’ll be honest. I’m only on the second episode of this Park Seo-Joon starrer drama. However, it’s like I’ve already completed its episodes and even more. It took me more than a few minutes than its original run to finish because I keep taking notes. For this blog post, I am going to focus on how Jang Dae-Hee, as an oligarch, thinks.
Related: Itaewon Class full Review: Itaewon class is a Korean drama disguised as an arthouse regular
Oligarchs: what are they?
Oligarchs, the 1% rich in every state or country. According to the Oxford Dictionary, an oligarch means “a very rich business leader with a great deal of political influence.” For the past few years, the word “oligarch” or “oligarchy” has been used for a number of times that it ever has. This may be due to the masses’ awareness of the number of destructions they have done to humankind, and the immense inequality we have today.
It’s true, but I’ll try to be unbiased. If you focus on the positives, many of this 1 % are now tech giants who create more opportunities to expand our world. A lot of them started from the bottom and worked their way up. Examples are Jack Ma and Elon Musk. Aside from that, these tech giants also bring in jobs for the rest of the masses, and I have no problem with that.
In spite of the positives I raised above, we all know that human inequality has upsurged more than it ever did. The world pyramid has been getting higher and higher. The universal economic rules always favor the rich (see Inflation), and it’s been set (by the oligarchs themselves), so what we can only do is adjust to it in whatever way we can.
Jang Dae-Hee, the selfish patriarch of Jangga Co.
Jang Dae-Hee seems like a self-made man (again, I’m still on Ep2, so wait ’til I confirm this), based on what he says. He has a huge influence in all of South Korea: in Politics, the Police, and even in the schools where his children go. Because of this, people around him tolerate his elder son’s bullying and other afflictions they may have done to others.
As an oligarch, he may be confident with all his power on people, but it’s obvious that he is threatened by the principles of Saeroyi (the drama’s noble superhero, played by Park Seo-Joon). In the few times that both characters encounter each other, Saeroyi is the only person who resisted the power and influence of the Jang Group. However, as is expected, Saeroyi, with very little power and money he has, fell down the pit after disobeying the Jangs.
Here are some of the crucial quotes of the oligarch Jang Dae-Hee, on Episode 2:
Let’s start with the scene where Dae-Hee speaks with Saeroyi:
“Ambition. They are words used by those who have nothing but their ego. If you gain nothing, that’s just being stubborn and foolish.”
“Don’t let that useless sense of justice get the best of you.”
Dae-Hee is implying that the only way to be on top is to be selfish: to cheat our way up, and not care about other people. This has been his way, and perhaps the way of the world. If you think about it, it seems like all of the good values most of us have learned amount to nothing because we gain nothing out of them. I hope that is not how the rest of the world thinks.
Now, let’s move on to the scene where Dae-Hee is teaching his eldest son, Geun Won, to fight his conscience, after being guilty about “accidentally” killing Saeroyi’s father. I can say that even before I watch the rest of the episodes, this scene stands out (hence, I was able to blog about it).
“You can’t gain anything with your conscience.”
“That Park Saeroyi. You’re half the man he is, but he is just an animal, and you are human.”
“Do not feel sorry when you’re eating pork and chicken (implying to eating people economically lower than them).”
“Saeroyi is just livestock.”
This scene is very straightforward, and I agree with the drama’s writers. These oligarchs operate without empathy (sometimes, even to their own family). Jang Dae-Hee compared their loyal workers and people under them as animals that could just be disposed anytime and be eaten alive. My question is, would you allow those people to treat you like an animal?
I’ll finish the entire drama, write more blog posts about it, and update this particular post. Itaewon Class is underrated, but if you like Parasite, then you would like this drama as well. Here’s the link.