Drinking Solo was another one of the recommended dramas, that I managed to watch recently. My second motivation to watch it was Key from Shinee; he’s never been my favourite member from the group but I ended up watching some of his recent live streams on Facebook in which he spoke pretty well in English and most of the people commenting remarked how good he was in Drinking Solo.
Now, for the drama: It’s a light romantic comedy about a civil services academy where our leads are working. There is the pretentious and arrogant Professor Jin Jeong Seok (played by Ha Seok Jin), who has made a lot of money being successful at his job, having graduated from the prestigious Seoul National University. He is obsessed with the word ‘quality’, and has set up strict standards regarding what he considers of quality and what lacks quality, be it in his private interactions with people, or his professional life. He never settles for anything lesser than what he visualizes to be perfect for himself, and hence always keeps himself emotionally distant from the world around him. His one passion in life, which makes him appear more human to the audience is his love for good food and alcohol even though he indulges in it all alone, hence the title of the show: Drinking Solo.
On the other hand, we have Park Ha Na (played by Park Ha Sun), a young professor in the same academy, who has graduated from some small university outside of Seoul and is also from a very poor, underprivileged family. While she struggles to make her own space at her new job, she is faced by the constant criticisms, bordering on insults at the hands of the much experienced Jeong Seok. She does not fit into his criteria of who a person of quality is, which is why he treats her extremely rudely, making her sink into an inferiority complex when she is around him. The thing that both of them have in common is: Drinking Solo.
The other people around these two are also of utmost importance, such as their colleagues, Professor Hwang Jin Yi (played by Hwang Woo Seul Hye), Professor Min Jin Woong and the owner of the academy, Kim Won Hae, all three have their own stories of loneliness and isolation which they fight off by drinking solo. Alcohol is treated as a friend that helps one in times of trouble, in ways that no other human possibly could. It also saves one the trouble of opening up to a stranger and burdening them or giving them more incentive to pick on you.
The last group of characters in the show are the trio of friends studying at this academy: Jin Gong Myung (Jin Jeong Seok’s baby brother, played by Gong Myung), Kim Ki Bum (played by Key from Shinee), and Kim Dong Young. A female perspective is added by bringing in Jung Chae Yeon of IOI 호as ‘the beauty of Noryangjin’, who is mean to everyone who tries to flirt with her by suggesting that they focus on passing their Civil Services examinations instead. All three of the boys are at an age where they should ideally have jobs and not be living off of their parents’ money, but since the exams are so competitive, making the cut isn’t as easy as it appears. In all of the stress and frustration, the one companion to them all is: Drinking Solo.
The way in which this drama deals with isolation and loneliness hits you right in the gut, making you mourn that state of life for the characters. The truth is, we all experience it, at least once in our lives, when we’re left alone without any companionship. I personally found Hwang Jin Yi’s story most moving because I could relate to every bit of what she goes through in her relationship with her partner. The loneliness of having a companion and still feeling isolated is real and it’s a dark and depressing road to travel on.
Furthermore, even though the base of the show was the romance of Jin Jeong Seok and Park Ha Na, I saw myself rooting for the supporting actors more than the lead roles, though Ha Seok Jin was so adorable playing the shy and cautious boyfriend. Other than Hwang Jin Yi, I have to give props to Key for his amazing acting. His accent, his quick-witted comebacks as Ki Bum and that tune that he would sing every time he had to make those comebacks was hilarious. I had never thought he would have this much talent, and I had honestly never been able to distinctly hear his voice on Shinee songs until he sang in Drinking Solo. I am impressed, Key! 😉