Since its release on Nov. 23, 2018, the Korean drama “SKY Castle” had garnered the attention of many. The 20-episode drama illustrated the story of fictional elite mothers brutally competing against each other to send their children to top national colleges. Although the plot might have seemed cliché at first glance, the drama contained occasional comedic moments along with a distinctive storyline that altogether made it relatable and enjoyable for the viewers. The integration of realistic and fictional elements was perhaps one of the primary factors behind its success.
“This drama is unique in the sense that it does not follow a typical storyline that can be commonly seen in soap operas or K-dramas,” said Meehee Park (11). “Rather, it skillfully employs talented actors and actresses to build an enthralling plot that bears a strong relevance to many Korean students and parents.”
An element that captivated some viewers was the author’s social commentary on the excessively competitive academic nature of modern Korean society, seamlessly layered beneath the drama’s plot. Burdened with overloading pressure from their parents, characters in the drama frequently display unethical behavior such as cheating or lying to satisfy their desires.
“‘SKY Castle’ is a drama that perfectly exemplifies some of the major flaws in the traditional Korean education system,” said Clara Park (10). “When parents demand their children to obtain perfect grades, children sometimes fail to consider ethics, which lead them to constant unhappiness.”
The drama’s novel plot and intricate subtext allowed it to consistently maintain high viewer ratings; according to Nielsen Korea, the drama reached 23.2 percent of viewer ratings. While the drama aired its last episode on Feb. 1, its underlying message continues to make an observable impact on society; according to Asia Times, the Korean Ministry of Education is currently working to inspect private education services for evidence of any illegal practice in order to address the faults in the current education system.
“I believe that ‘SKY Castle’ was able to gain so much popularity because it mirrors Korean society in many ways,” said Rachel Lee (10). “Although some of its aspects were dramatized, many parents and students in Korea are involved in the education system portrayed in the drama. I definitely think the impact of this drama on our society will extend even into the future.”
Despite its fictional elements, the drama addressed critical flaws of the traditional Korean education system, which has allowed many viewers to find its underlying messages relatable and pertinent to modern Korean society. This aspect of the drama has not only led to an explosion in popularity but also initiated legitimate efforts to combat perceived flaws of the Korean education system that are prevalent to this day.