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Fifth ‘School’ series too close for comfort?

Actress Jang Nara plays teacher troubled by school violence

Nov. 29, 2012 - 19:40 By Korea Herald
Whenever high school becomes central to a movie or TV series, the work almost certainly features a truckload of angst, puppy love and educational issues.

KBS’ new teen drama, “School 2013” (working title), is no exception.

In “School 2013,” leading lady and rom-com queen Jang Na-ra breaks out of her mold, playing an instructor who struggles to connect with her unruly students.

The teaser unveiled at the drama’s press conference on Wednesday showed Jang shedding the bubbly persona of her previous Korean drama heroines for the vulnerability of high-school teacher Jung In-jae. 
The cast of “School 2013” (working title) — (from left to right) Choi Daniel, Jang Nara, Park Hae-mi, Yoon Joo-sang — pose at the drama’s press conference in Seoul on Wednesday. (Park Hae-mook/The Korea Herald)

In the highlight reel, Jung (Jang) scolds a student for using his cell phone in class. The student resists her attempts to confiscate his phone, then bullies her again at the school cafeteria. Jung winces, unable to stop him.

“This character is very real,” Jang said.

Jang’s protagonist, in fact, may feel a bit too close for comfort.

Press coverage of bullying and cases of assault by students against teachers has recently brought the issue of school violence to the forefront of public concern, making the skirmish between Jang’s heroine and her student an uncanny echo of the current situation at hand.

“There are some unsavory moments,” said co-director Lee Min-hong, acknowledging that “School 2013” will not skirt problems present in today’s classroom ― even if that may cause some viewers discomfort.

“While the series is not 100 percent real, we are trying to make it as real as possible,” Lee added.

“School 2013” represents the fifth installment of the beloved “School” series that first aired in 1999. The previous, fourth installment aired in 2002.

Lee, who directed the first “School,” returns with what he believes will be an even more true-to-life exploration of teen terrain.

“The 1999 drama focused on students,” said Lee. “This time, we put equal weight on the teachers, the students and the students’ parents.”

The upcoming series also promises to touch upon private schooling through “High Kick 2” actor Choi Daniel’s character.

Teaming up with “Baby-faced Beauty” co-star Jang for the second time, Choi plays a top-notch instructor at a Gangnam-based hagwon who leaves his job for a high school post.

Yet Choi warns viewers not to take “School 2013” too much to heart.

“It is not a documentary,” Choi said. “This is a series where one watches an episode lightly at first, then, after the credits roll, one finds himself dwelling over its significance.”

“School 2013” will air Monday and Tuesday nights at 10 p.m starting Dec. 3 on KBS 2 TV.

By Jean Oh (