K-Drama Review: ‘Melancholia’: Lee Do Hyun’s Devoted Romance for Im Soo Jung

korean drama Melancholia review

Edited by Kim Won Hee
Translated by Kim Hoyeun

korean drama Melancholia review
Credit: tvN

Im Soo Jung, who made her comeback two years after Search: WWW, and Lee Do Hyun, who showed solid performance in 18 Again, Sweet Home, and Youth of May, have met. Set in Ahsung High School, tvN’s Melancholia tells the story of math teacher Ji Yoon Su and math genius Baek Seung Yu. Although the ratings have been flat in the 1% range, the harmony the main characters show in the calm atmosphere is appealing. Among them, the relationship between Ji Yoon Su (Im Soo Jung) and Baek Seung Yu (Lee Do Hyun) definitely catches the eye.

Melancholia drew concerns as the storyline includes a relationship between a minor/student and an adult/teacher even before the premiere. But the drama overcomes these worries and avoids the controversy by going at it head-on. The story begins with Yoon Su getting arrested by the police for having an inappropriate relationship with Seung Yu, a high school student, and Seung Yu rushing over to her to tell her that he’ll prove her innocence. Afterwards, the plot goes back in time and unfolds the stories from the first time the two met.

Yumi's Cells

Yoon Su, a newly appointed teacher in Ahsung High School, is a mathematician who loves math and a teacher who cares deeply about her students. She sometimes seems to have special attention for those who see the world through the eyes of mathematics like herself, but she doesn’t favor anyone in particular. Yoon Su wants all students to engage in the joy of exploring math rather than just blindly receiving indoctrinated education for the entrance exam and create an environment where students can study without prejudice and think independently. Seung Yu, who has the worst grades in Ahsung, is actually a math genius who loved mathematics to the extent that he even entered MIT at the age of 10. However, at the time, he witnessed the death of his close friend, who ended his own life for not being able to solve a math problem. Since then, he has built a wall around his heart.

Yoon Su discovers Seung Yu, who sees the world through a mathematical point of view like herself, and finds out that he, who seems to have given up on everything, still loves math. And Seung Yu, who had stopped caring about math and people, feels strangely attracted to Yoon Su, who is similar to him, and joins the math club that she is the advisor of. Afterwards, the two gradually grow closer as they communicate through math. Sung Yu confesses the past incident that he never told anyone to Yoon Su while preparing for the Math Olympics under her guidance. Only after receiving consolation from her that the death of his friend wasn’t his fault, he overcome his trauma.

korean drama Melancholia review
Credit: tvN

Seeing Yoon Su, the only adult who truly peers into his heart and cares for him, Seung Yu’s feelings slowly develop from fondness to love. Naturally, this feeling only flows one-sidedly. Yoon Su also cares for her student Seung Yu, who loves math as much as she does, but her wish to love and care for all students equally as a teacher is more emphasized. Yoon Su unintentionally becomes the advisor for only one of the two students selected to compete in the Math Olympics but continues to show her interest in the other student, Sung Ye Rin, as well. And when she was pointed out for favoring one student over others, she even tried to keep her distance from Seung Yu.

When Seung Yu hears the news of Yoon Su’s wedding and confesses his feelings by using math as an example – “What should I do if I run into a problem that I can’t help but love and want to solve so badly?” – Yoon Su gently pushes him away and draws a line as a teacher. In this process, Im Soo Jung shows the mature and grown-up way of handling the relationship between a minor student and an adult teacher. At the same time, Lee Do Hyun shows the quiet yet desperate acting of a man in unrequited love.

From episode seven, the second part of the plot unfolds as Seung Yu, who now became a famous mathematician, and Yoon Su, who disappeared after being framed, reunite after four years. Even as an adult Seung Yu still has a crush on Yoon Su, but she pushes him away as if trying to escape from her past. As Yoon Su tries to prove her innocence and uncover the corruption, and as Seung Yu tries to prove Yoon Su’s innocence, the two get involved with the school that turned their lives upside down again, ending up facing each other once more. Which direction will their relationship head? I’m looking forward to the captivating story they’ll tell in the future.


Verdict: Their romance begins in earnest now (7/10)


Edited by Kim Won Hee: I am a person who needs more than 24 hours in a day because there are so many things I love. I am amassing various genres in the jewelry box in my heart.

Translator Kim Hoyeun: If you are a fan of K-drama, K-movie, and K-pop, I am your guy. I will continue to provide you with up-to-date K-entertainment news.

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