More than a TV drama, “SKY Castle” is a social commentary on the stringent education system in South Korea, which distorts the mindsets of both parents and students alike. In the drama, SKY Castle is built as a townhouse where families of elite doctors and professionals live. But what happens when the créme de la créme of society are put together in one space? Competition, jealousy, and cattiness ensue as moms and dads not only act condescending against each other but also brag about their kids. All of the parents believe that getting their children accepted in Seoul National University is the be-all and end-all of success. Through the stories and unique situations of each family, viewers get to see different perspectives about life, love, and what it truly means to be on top.
With its touching, thrilling, and relatable plot, it’s no wonder why many viewers kept tuning in. Now that the series has ended, here are some takeaways from the story that got everyone hooked:
Warning: Minor spoilers for the drama ahead.
A study group and a little help can make a difference.
The families in the “castle” form a study group with parents and children where they discuss books and lessons together regularly. This is a great idea because it eliminates procrastination, breaks the monotony of studying alone, and opens the table for opinions of both young and old on a particular subject. Each person can learn a new thing or two.
But in the drama, Professor Cha Min Hyuk often dominates the conversations, imposes his own views, and plays favorites. For a study group to be effective, there should be equal opportunities for everyone to speak up and ask questions, as well as for everyone to have good listening ears to welcome varying ideas.
Another helpful tip is to ask a senior in school for help. Because they have gone through almost the same lessons and probably know more ways to study, they might be able to make studying just a bit more fun. Ye Bin, who’s been having problems improving her level, enlists the help of high schooler Hye Na who explains lessons in a simpler, more active way.
Mock exams and timed problem solving sessions can help you improve.
Sometimes, the worst enemy of exam takers is not the test questions — it’s the ticking time limit that also tests nerves. Taking a mock exam with a timer can help train a student to answer more precisely and with more composure. It can also help one to identify their strengths and weaknesses. Best of all, students can learn how to manage their time properly.
Of course, this exercise will only work well if there’s no domineering, frightening person behind you who makes you lose your concentration.
Don’t give in to peer pressure.
Perhaps as a way to get her parents’ attention, Ye Bin resorts to skipping classes and stealing items from a convenience store with her friends. While her reasons are far more deeper than being in a rebellious phase, peer pressure and wanting to be “cool” with a group have contributed to her behavior. You don’t have to compromise what’s right and wrong just to fit in or be liked!
Never, ever cheat!
Expert student coach Kim Yoo Jung will stop at nothing to get her mentees accepted into their desired schools. She will lie, cheat, bribe, and even damage families to make it. She even pays a teacher in Ye Suh’s school so she can get a copy of the exams and change them a little so as not to get noticed. Clueless about the cheating,Ye Suh achieves perfect scores and becomes number one in her class. Her mom finds out and keeps it to herself to save Ye Suh’s future and their family’s reputation! It might seem like a good intention, but cheating will always be cheating no matter what. Real triumph is earned through hard work, honesty, and determination.
Meditation not manipulation can be good for study.
One of Yoo Jung’s unique methods is that she does meditation sessions with Ye Suh to keep her mind focused and motivate her before big exams. But what she really does is try to control her mind and make her do everything she says, even if it means crushing others along the way. Meditation (without Kim Yoo Jung’s evil mind manipulation) is known to be good for studying because it helps reduce stress, calms the body, controls anxiety, and encourages self-awareness.
Engage in friendly competition, not fierce rivalry.
Ye Suh may be smart, but with her perfectionist and competitive personality, she often makes the wrong choices and considers everyone her rival. The result is that she doesn’t have friends. She treats Hye Na as her enemy and provokes her where it hurts her the most: by mocking her family background. A friendly competition can get a student excited to study but being a good sport about the possibility of losing is also an important trait to learn.
Never rely too much on your tutor.
In the drama, the families seem to rely too much on the tutor. Whenever their child’s grades fall, the blame immediately lies on the tutor and nothing else. They don’t consider other factors like the mental and emotional health of the students. While to some extent, tutors and coaches can help improve a student’s performance, it’s the student who has to put in the real work in the end. There should be a balance between support and individual effort.
Parents should not be obsessive and force their kids to become top students.
Cha Min Hyuk is a tyrant father who believes that his twin sons Seo Joon and Ki Joon should be on top of the “pyramid” to be successful. But in reality, it’s his way of compensating for his modest background, failures, and insecurities in life. Good thing the boys have a more understanding mother, Seung Hye, who builds up the courage to fight with her husband and demand him to free their children from his overly strict and suffocating ways.
Grades and acknowledgement are not everything.
The twins’ sister, Se Ri, offers a different way of thinking about what it means to be successful. She pretended to be in Harvard to fulfill her parents’ wishes, but she finally decides to stay true to herself, find her identity, and do what she really wants to do. While not a lot of parents may agree to this, it’s also important to consider the children’s opinions and just like the lesson above, not to impose their dreams on their kids.
Studying is different from learning.
Though an impressive resume may help you land a big job and get ahead of others, it’s no use if you’re a dishonest, corrupt person. There’s more to life outside the school grounds, and “SKY Castle” shows that what the big world needs is not good grades — but a good heart!
Catch the first episode of “SKY Castle” here:
Hey Soompiers! What lessons have you learned from watching “SKY Castle?” Let us know in the comments below!
DianneP_Kim is an English magazine and online editor and stylist based in South Korea. Follow her adventures in Korea on instagram.com/dianne_panda.
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