Every once in a while I run across a Kdrama that, after about 30 minutes into it, I decide hasn’t grabbed by attention enough so I give up, turn it off, and choose another show. I came very close to doing that with High School King of Savvy (aka King of High School Life Conduct) but am so very, very glad I persevered through that first hour. About halfway through the second episode they had me – hook, line, and sinker. Why? Because I fell for the characters. They were entertaining, spontaneous, real people I genuinely cared about.
Lee Min-Seok is an 18 year old hockey ace, the star of his high school team. His brother Hyung-Seok, who has been living in Germany, recently got a job with a company in Korea and his family is anxious for his return. But on the day he is scheduled to arrive, he never shows up. Instead, late that night, Min-Seok gets a call from Hyung-Seok asking him to go to the company that hired him and take his place until he can get there. What? Why? It seems crazy but it just might work because, aside from the large age gap, Hyung-Seok and Min-Seok look so much alike they could be mistaken for twins. And no one at the new company has ever worked with Hyung-Seok before so they have no idea what he’s like. With his brother’s desperate pleas still ringing in his head, Min-Seok decides to go along with Hyung-Seok’s ridiculous plan. But even though Min-Seok’s outer appearance could pass for a director of a large company, he’s still just an 18 year old on the inside. Will the high school hockey champ be able to pull off the masquerade until his older brother comes back or will his lack of corporate-world knowledge give him away?
Lee Min-Seok is a typical high school junior. Studying and grades take a backseat to his first love, hockey, and he is, without question, the best player on the school team. He has a hot temper and lives by the motto “act first, think later.”
Jung Soo-Young is a sweet, shy woman who works as a contracted employee for the Comfo company. She is a conscientious worker and has had a secret crush on one of the company’s directors, Yoo Jin-Woo, for two years. (Since Soo-Young is drunk and has a bag off popcorn with her when she and Min-Seok first run into each other, he affectionately refers to her as “Popped Corn Lady” throughout the show.)
Director Yoo Jin-Woo is the illegitimate son of Yoo Jae-Gok, Comfo’s president, although no one knows they’re related. He has been pushed aside by his emotionally distant father all his life and only wants the man’s love and respect. Jin-Woo is an astute businessman and very much a loner.
Jung Soo-Young lives with and takes care of her little sister, Jung Yoo-Ah. She is a tough girl who is so enamored with hockey star Min-Seok, she calls him “hubby”, although Min-Seok has no interest in her, whatsoever, and refers to her as his “stalker”.
Min-Seok has two close friends, Jo Deok-Hwan and Oh Tae-Seok. They are also on the school hockey team and come to Min-Seok’s aid as he desperately tries to balance his school/hockey life and his fake corporate one.
Kim Chang-Soo and Han Young-Seok are both directors at Comfo. Even though they’d rather not be, they’re in on the whole fake Hyung-Seok scam and are slowly going crazy and developing ulcers because of the stress that knowledge brings.
Min-Seok lives with Choi Jang-Ho, the man he refers to as “father”. Jang-Ho took Min-Seok and Hyung-Seok in when their parents died and raised them like they were his own boys. His father, Choi Man-Seok, who Min-Seok calls Grandfather, has dementia and lives with them.
Yoo Jae-Guk is the president of Comfo. Status, money and his company are the only things that really matter to him. He committed his alcoholic mistress to a rehabilitation center in order to get rid of her and resents the fact that Jin-Woo was even born.
The acting in this Kdrama is fantastic…
Lee Min-Seok and Lee Hyung-Seok are played by Seo In-Guk. I can’t imagin anyone else in those roles. He is perfect. At 10 years old he decided he wanted to be a singer and later went to a music university. Because he was rejected at talent agency auditions, because they said he needed “to loose weight,” he suffered with bulimia for awhile which temporarily ruined his vocal cords. Sad that his obvious talent was almost ruined because of his appearance! Anyway, his entertainment career as a singer began, after winning a talent show, and then he went on to acting three years later.
Lee Ha-Na began her career in the entertainment industry through a commercial and then made her acting debut in the Kdrama Alone in Love. I’ve seen her in two other dramas, Merry Mary (not liking her character and the show) and Triple (which, even though the show is on my top 20 favorite Korean dramas list, I didn’t care much for the character she portrayed). But she was cast perfectly in this show, bringing warmth and depth to a shy and slightly backward but sweet and darling Jung Soo-Young.
The aloof Director Yoo Jin-Woo is brought to life by Lee Soo-Hyuk. He is an award winning model (I didn’t even know there were awards for models) who went on to acting and received his first acting award for his portrayal of the evil vampire in The Scholar Who Walks the Night.
A big shout out goes to the wonderful screenwriters who made this show possible, Jo Sung-Hee and Yang Hee-Seung. What a great team! Because I enjoyed High School King of Savvy so much I checked to see what else the writers had done and found that Jo Sung-Hee was the screenwriter for the recently released She Was Pretty, an enjoyable drama, and Yang Hee-Seung also wrote Oh, My Ghostess, which is on my top 20 favorite Korean dramas list.
You wouldn’t guess it from the plot synopsis but there’s quite a lot of wonderful romance tucked away in this drama, two love triangles worth, in fact – both Min-Seok and Jin-Woo like Soo-Young, while Soo-Young and Yoo-Ah like Min-Seok. And there’s a decent amount of kissing too, real kisses, the kind where lips move and mouths open. High School King of Savvy gets an easy A+ in the romance department!
This show is 17 episodes long. That’s a bit unusual since a typical Kdrama is over in 16 or 20 episodes. But this drama did something I really appreciated- it gave the audience a decent ending with that 17th episode. The whole Min-Seok/Hyung-Seok fake-out is pretty much concluded by the end of the 16th hour. So why have another episode? That last one wraps up the personal lives of the characters we’ve grown to care about, giving the show a full and proper ending. Yippee! But wait, if you really enjoy the show you can even go further and see episode 18, the one that shows “the making of” High School King of Savvy. It’s a fun behind the scenes look at the hidden things that went on behind the scenes. The characters are explained with a bit more detail, some deleted scenes and bloopers are shown, and quite a bit of information is given that we wouldn’t have known otherwise. They said lots of ad-libbing was done which, looking back, is probably one reason I loved these characters so much – they were real – not following the script 100% but reacting how their character would have truly acted. I guess that’s why I used the word “spontaneous” to describe the characters in my opening paragraph.
The soundtrack has a wonderful ballad called Finding Myself. Aside from it being a really pretty song, Seo In-Guk, who plays Min-Seok, is the vocal soloist. That’s the first time I’ve ever heard him sing and I think his voice is awesome. The rest of the music is okay but pales in comparison.
The drama takes us to some fun and different places. The Comfo employees go on a retreat to a nice spot in the mountains, Min-Seok takes his grandfather and Soo-Young to the aquarium, Soo-Young and Min-Seok go to a skating rink, and they also go on a day trip to Nami Island – home of the Kdrama Winter Sonata. Watch carefully and you can see them taking pictures by the statue of Joon-Sang and Yoo-Jin (the lovers in Winter Sonata). It’s kind of fun.
I really can’t praise this show enough. The actors are perfectly cast, the characters are absolutely lovable, the acting is superb, the comedy is fun, the scenery is nice, and the writing and ad-libbing are super. It’s one of those dramas that makes you wish it wouldn’t end. For sheer entertainment value, High School King of Savvy rates a 10+… truly worthy of using King in its title!
Note: I would have put this on my top 20 favorite Korean dramas list but I didn’t find something I was willing to kick off the list to make room for this one. But it definitely would rank number 21.
Wonderful realistic characters
Lots of amazing, real kisses
Song Finding Myself sung by Seo In-Guk
Full ending for characters personal lives
Bonus “the making of” episode
A slow start