High School - Love On
(하이스쿨 - 러브온) 2014 KBS 20 Episodes
Melodrama, Romance, Comedy, Grade: A

Korean Drama Review by Jill, USA

I hate to admit this but I stumbled upon this lovely Korean drama by mistake! I was looking to watch a film called Love On Air and I clicked on the ROKU remote to High School - Love On (2014) instead, and then realized I was watching a 20 episode drama (with episodes only airing one night a week!), not a film. I watched a few scenes and then had to make a decision: do I stay on this cute show aimed at teenagers (when I'm MUCH older than that!), or do I press the back button and find the movie I wanted to watch? When I saw that this drama had story elements similar to one of my top favorite K-dramas of all time, 49 Days (2011), I decided to stay on it, and of course then I was hooked! When I finally got around to watching the film Love On Air I was completely bored, and went right back to High School - Love On.

Seul Bi and Woo Hyun become
fast friends after a bumpy start

This is a really adorable drama with a lovely heroine, played by 14 year old child star Sae Ron Kim, one of Korea's best child actors, whom I had previously seen in serious films including The Man From Nowhere with Won Bin and A Brand New Life, where she played a traumatized abandoned child who tried to bury herself alive. I had bought that one on DVD. So I already knew how smart an actress this girl was from these powerful earlier performances.

Full OST

However, I loved all the young actors, including the two main male actors, Woo Hyun Nam (who looks so much like a young Hyun Bin) and his friend in real life, Sung Yeol Lee, who were both 24 and in the same musical group called Infinite. The adult actors were all perfect for their roles as well, whether they had to play serious scenes or comic scenes. The show is just irresistible, no matter how old you are, and I can strongly recommend it to anyone who wants to watch something delightful and profound at the same time, focusing on friendships, family, school, the afterlife, and just plain life in general.

Saving Woo Hyun's life seems to give a girl angel a
chance to be human and angel at the same time

The Story: A girl angel (Sae Ron Kim) is given a job to escort newly dead people to the afterlife, sort of like a female grim reaper. Her superior, whom she calls Sunbae (senior), played well by actor Chang Joo Lee, watches out over her when she experiences any troubles - like when people can't see her and walk right through her, which weakens her considerably.

One day her "Black Note" book, which tells her the next person to die, shows a picture of a high school student Woo Hyun Shin (Woo Hyun Nam); she had already run into him previously and now he's going to die? He tries saving a young girl classmate who is on a rooftop and about to jump to her death in a suicide attempt, but he goes over the building instead when he reaches to grab her. The girl angel saves his life, and then becomes part human and part angel, and she can now be seen by human beings.

Sing Along Waltz

When she and Woo Hyun wake up from the trauma, she pretends she is a human girl with no memories of her past, and Woo Hyun takes her home to his grandmother who had raised him, Mal Sook Gong (Jae Soon Jung). He and his grandmother live in an apartment above the rice cake restaurant they run, and they hope by taking her in that she will soon remember her identity. When asked what her name is she quickly reads a newspaper and a can of food nearby and comes up with the name Seul Bi Lee. They try and do a trace on her with the police but no one by that name has been reported missing.

Seul Bi and the three guys who love her:
Woo Hyun, Sung Yeol, and Sunbae

Living together throws Seul Bi and Woo Hyun together and after some bumpy moments they start to become fond of each other. Meanwhile, Woo Hyun, having to change schools because the mother of the suicidal girl demanded it, starts to get to know a whole new group of classmates, all with their own idiosyncrasies; some have poor home lives, some are bullies, some are girls who flirt with him, etc. Sunbae gives Seul Bi a set of documents that are needed so she can go to school too, so she starts to attend the same class as Woo Hyun.

Seul Bi learns how to drive a car with Sung Yeol,
only he had invited her to tea
(the Korean word for car and tea are the same)

It's obvious Seul Bi is very different than other students. She is nice to everyone, even when they mistreat her. When she is bullied she doesn't even understand that she is being bullied and just stands there and takes it, reasoning that "human beings are very strange." (Oh yes, they are!). She also strikes up a friendship with fellow student
Sung Yeol Hwang (Sung Yeol Lee) and due to his own unhappiness with his home life (his cop father - played by Yeon Woo Jo - re-married and he never sees his biological mother) he is only too happy to meet a friendly girl who doesn't put any pressure on him. It's a nice escape for him from the constant tension at home since he does NOT get along with his new step-mother - played by pretty Soo Rin Choi - at all, no matter how nice she is to him. 

All too quickly though, being a boy, Sung Yeol perhaps reads too much into her friendly attitude and he starts to fall for her. When she tells him she lost a necklace (which really belongs to Woo Hyun) he thinks it's hers and finds it in the school pool and delivers it to her, which earns him her gratitude.

Meanwhile, Sung Yeol is also becoming close to Woo Hyun and they become like brothers, and at first Sung Yeol doesn't know that Seul Bi actually lives with Woo Hyun and his grandmother. When the connection is made, the first sparks of jealousy arise in Sung Yeol, setting up a fierce rivalry between them for Seul Bi's loyalty and affection. When Sung Yeol sees Woo Hyun and Seul Bi exchanging a "bubble gum kiss" at a sauna he is hurt and tries to figure out ways to lash out at them.

Tragedy awaits Woo Hyun when the grandmother who raised him dies, leaving only Seul Bi to comfort him. Because of the necklace connection (his biological mother had given it to him when he was a child) his mother reveals herself to him at a dramatic moment when he is grieving the loss of his grandmother, and his mother ends up being Sung Yeol's stepmother, as well as the "Ethics Teacher" in their high school. ("It's A Small World After All!"). Woo Hyun is shocked and angry at her at first and won't take any help she offers to him, even financial; he becomes determined to finish high school while keeping the rice cake business running and successful. Seul Bi rounds up support for him in this endeavor through their true friends at the school, and even some of the bully kids are moved to help out, thereby becoming reformed.

However, the school authorities step in and try to separate Seul Bi from Woo Hyun, saying it's not appropriate for two teenagers, a boy and a girl, to live together without an adult present. All the revelations and the angst begin to fray Sung Yeol's father's second marriage to Woo Hyun's biological mom, and Sung Yeol blames Woo Hyun for their troubles. The whole situation becomes a huge mess -- and the adults meddling in their lives only seem to make the situation worse. Sunbae interferes as well, jealous over the affection Seul Bi feels for all the humans, despite their flaws.

Then some students at the school begin to solve the puzzle of Seul Bi's incredible origins, because of the strange things that take place when they are around her. Each time she uses her powers she weakens even more, risking her own human life. Will anyone rally around her, or will she be destroyed?

High School - Love On was incredibly popular on the online sites. It even surpassed its competition in the teen department at the time, Pinocchio. I think it deals with issues that are universal to kids today: bullying, broken homes, divorce, financial stress, romantic rivalries, school struggles, friendships, and the death of a loved one which leaves a void in a kid's life. Although it is focused primarily on teenagers I found the show incredibly meaningful and beautiful. It's also pretty wholesome; the fact that the two male leads in real life were twenty-four years old, and the female lead was only fourteen years old, guaranteed that parents wouldn't have to be concerned about any hanky-panky scenes. The soundtrack is also darling, I especially loved the little waltz tune that Seul Bi danced to in Episode One!

The drama has something for both young people and older people to enjoy. The characters are unforgettable.