by Lily Alice, May 13, 2024
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After airing only two episodes, The Midnight Romance in Hagwon, starring Jung Ryeo Won and Wi Ha Joon, finds itself in a controversy over a scene. 

The Midnight Romance in Hagwon tells the story of star lecturer Seo Hye Jin (Jung Ryeo Won) and her cheeky student Lee Jun Ho (Wi Ha Joon), whom she helped get into a prestigious university ten years earlier. Jun Ho quits his job at a prominent company to work as a hagwon teacher.  

The Secondary School Teachers Labor Union of South Korea expressed disappointment regarding a scene from the K-drama. 

The scene in question is from episode 1, where a "re-examination demand" is made by Seo Hye Jin (Jung Ryeo Won) when one of her students is distressed she chose the wrong option for a complicated question. Initially, Hye Jin advises her students and their guardians to raise objections regarding the question, saying it can have two correct answers. However, the student's school teacher insists that there is only one correct answer and refuses to change his stance. 

Seo Hye Jin then calls the school teacher on his personal phone number given by the student's guardian and goes to the school to demand a re-examination, telling the school teacher that he has asked a type of outdated question that has totally disappeared from the college entrance exam. This leads the school to decide on a re-examination considering the numerous complaints that follow.  

The union expressed disappointment regarding the portrayal and setting of the incident.  

On May 13, the Secondary School Teachers Labor Union (Chairman Won Joo Hyun) issued an official statement. The union expressed "considerable disappointment regarding the content related to the 'high school re-examination demand incident' aired in the first episode of tvN's weekend drama The Midnight Romance in Hagwon on May 11. This is what we express. The excessive portrayal and setting of this content in the drama not only lower the morale of teachers who are on the front line of education and are responsible for teaching the young generation, but also could lead to a distorted view of the Korean public education system among viewers not only in Korea but also worldwide." 

They added, "The homepage of The Midnight Romance in Hagwon introduces the intention of the drama as 'to shed light on the lives and love of academy instructors, who have always been around us and in the blind spots, which have never been deeply explored.' It is questionable whether such an excessive setting [in regards to the scene], which could lead to misunderstandings and dichotomous ideology about public education, was necessary in regards to [the drama's] intention of bringing to light the lives and loves of people belonging to a specific occupational group." 

They also said, "Following the broadcast, provocative edits of the content with titles like 'Taking down a (school) teacher who speaks rudely' and such have already been uploaded on platforms like YouTube." They believe that this undermines the morale of public education professionals, especially at a time just before Teacher's Day, celebrated on May 15 in South Korea.

They say that the scenes "fail to reflect the efforts and struggles of secondary school teachers who strive to uphold the essence of the public education curriculum." 

They also expressed concern with "the portrayal of characters, where the male character, who tries to stick to his point of view, but ends up being driven by the circumstances and calls the female protagonist [and the likes of her] 'parasite,' and uses physical force on the protagonist to inflict harm, is depicted as a high school teacher. While the female character who steps up to protect the distressed student, but is unilaterally harmed by the male teacher's use of physical force, is an academy instructor. The depiction of the confrontation between the two provides a dichotomous perspective not only to Korean viewers but also to viewers around the world."

They concluded by expressing hope "that the remaining episodes of the drama The Midnight Romance in Hagwon will provide empathy, comfort, and catharsis to the teachers of public education, and maintain its status as content with a positive and beneficial influence not only in Korea but also to people around the world." 

Meanwhile, tvN is yet to release an official statement on this issue. 

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