[Scene stealers] The Shining Star of Noryangjin

By wondeuk-ah

I have to admit, this isn’t exactly the Theme of the Month I ever pictured myself writing for (and I’ve pictured it many times), but when I read the post, I instantly felt like it was finally time for me to give it a shot. Maybe it’s because just minutes ago, I was telling a friend how much I want a season 2 of Drinking Solo, or maybe it’s because I’m a huge SHINee fan, and Key is making his solo debut this year, but when I think “scene stealer,” my mind instantly goes to our beloved Noryangjin Idiot, Kim Ki-bum.

To me, a scene stealer isn’t a just a character that stands out – a scene stealer is an experience, and Ki-bum’s journey in Drinking Solo was just that for me. His journey is what I remember most, above the main ins-and-outs of the drama, and it is the storyline that was the most relatable and compelling for me.

It’s easy in the beginning to see Ki-bum as a caricature– he comes across as an immature coaster with no real ambition or respect for the other students in Noryangjin. He doesn’t even seem to respect his very own best friend Dong-young, who is literally giving it everything he’s got to pass the Civil Service exam, which has been the central goal of all our student characters.

Though Ki-bum’s striking bowl cut and myriad designer tracksuits were irreplaceable key (pardon the pun) features of his seemingly larger than life character, what really made him so lovable was how incredibly human he felt to me at so many points throughout the drama. There were so many times where I watched Ki-bum — with his monopoly over the Norgyangjin video game high scores and his up-to-date dramaland knowledge — and thought, “Thank god, I’m not the only one having some trouble finding my way.”

The truth is, student life is difficult and tiring for everyone. Sometimes, trying to muster the motivation to settle down and do what needs to be done can be such a painful thing. The future is looming and you’re made to be hyperaware of scary adult things like getting left behind by your peers. It’s so easy to see why someone might want to give up. I really felt that Ki-bum represents those of us out there who know we should be trying harder and doing better, but can’t seem to figure out how to fit ourselves into the equation.

While I have no doubt that hard work does earn success, I often find myself feeling that there’s more to it than that. It’s a real challenge to live life with nothing but focus and discipline. There might be a moment where you give up for a while and go clean your refrigerator because even that beats reading your textbook. There’s always something on the side that throws you off a little. It could be it’s dating, friendships, finances, or having to go through the heartbreak of finding out that the people whom you expected unconditional love from are actually just as embarrassed of your situation as you are yourself.

I cried buckets watching Ki-bum get drunk on the goshiwon roof the day he felt too ashamed to attend his grandmother’s birthday party. My heart ached with understanding because I know too well what it’s like to feel like you’ve truly let your family down, with no one else to blame but yourself and your poor choices. In that moment, he wasn’t just the comic relief character with the dorky sound effect catchphrase– he was me, and it was almost impossible to decipher if I was crying for him or for myself.

The majority of us learn from an early age that if we want to have good things and go places in life, we have to do our part to get there. Drinking Solo and its characters all serve to remind us of this life lesson. We have to work hard, and sometimes that means having to sleep a little less, study a little harder and stop checking Dramabeans so much when we have papers to write and deadlines to meet.

But what really made this drama one that I will always look back on when school has me down and the days feel a little too difficult, is the shining star of Noryangjin: loud, quirky and fiercely charming Kim Ki-bum. He showed us that sometimes, part of the process is taking time off to go to an all-you-can-eat buffet, or clean your already-clean refrigerator; to go crazy on some swings and sing some karaoke; to go to a baseball game with your best friends, or drunk cry on a rooftop in the middle of a storm until you’re ready to try again.


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