Kdrama Review: White Christmas
While the title sounds like it should be a warm and fuzzy holiday drama, this short drama series, part of KBS’s Drama Specials, is anything but. Located in the mountains of Gangwando is Soo Sin High School, an elite private school where the top 0.1% students of the country matriculate. The only break the students get is for 8 days starting on Christmas Eve. This year, 7 students and 1 teacher remain. What should be a relaxing 8 days turns into a nightmare.
I really did enjoy this drama. There was suspense and it was a psychological drama where our character’s heads and limits are tested. Of course, even with some suspense, it was kind of obvious where certain plot points were going and it was fairly easy to predict some things, but not everything, so that made it worthwhile. Plus…it’s only 8 episodes! A quick 8-hour watch on New Year’s day (for me).
The epitome of a well-brought up honor student, Park Mu Yeol (Baek Sung Hyun) receives a mysterious black letter and decides to remain at Soo Sin over the Christmas break. Staying with him is troublemaker (unaffectionately called The Plague) Jo Young Jae (Kim Young Kwang), every guy’s first crush Yoon Eun Sung (Esom), student cameraman Yang Kang Mo (Kwak Jung Wook), the wealthy longer Yoon Soo (Lee Soo Hyuk), the genius Choi Ji Hoon (Sung Joon), and the quiet Lee Jae Kyu (Hong Jong Hyun). Supervising them is the PE teacher Yoon Jong Il (Jung Suk Won).
It is quickly discovered by the students that they all received the same letter from a mysterious student saying that they have made him insignificant and that in 8 days, some one will die. The question is who sent the letters and why? They are interrupted by the arrival of Kim Yo Han (Kim Sang Kyung), a psychologist stranded during the snow storm due to a car accident. Mu Yeol asks Yo Han’s advice about the letter and Yo Han says that the writer is definitely someone to be worried about. However, the kids are still reluctant to show their teacher.
Besides Yo Han, there is another unexpected guest. Student Kang Mi Reu (Kim Woo Bin) has secretly stayed behind and even hacked the security cameras to keep an eye on everyone so he can move about freely. Our gang of students quickly conclude that Yoon Soo (known as “angel” due to all the money his parents shell out and donate to the school) must have sent the letter and wants revenge. They call him that dirty nickname to his face and behind his back and it’s obvious he suffers from depression. However, Mu Yeol isn’t certain and he does his best to decode the meaning behind the letter. There are 8 sins addressed, but only 7 students. They do later learn that their teacher had also received a note. While they figure out who each phrase applies to, they cannot figure out the writer.
Unfortunately, this is not the only mystery and problem the kids are faced with. Kang Mi Reu is on the hunt for the student who got him expelled (he thinks is Young Jae, but it turns out that it was Yoon Soo’s revenge), and then their teacher winds up dead in a snow bank. The identity of the original letter writer is discovered and that brings the hearing disabled Yang Kang Mo under suspicion and the students hunt him all over the school with weapons (i.e. baseball bat, metal pipe, etc.). Oh…and to top it off, there is also a serial killer on the loose.
It turns out the serial killer is none other than the psychologist they took in and even worked hard to save (when he had a horribly high fever and nearly died). The psychologist decides to take these students and put them to the test—are monsters born or are they made. The goal is to find the one amongst them who sent the letter in place of the student who committed suicide. If Yo Han cannot find the sender, then the kids win and no one dies. If he does find the sender, he kills the one with the most sin (thus labeled by the sender).
Obviously there’s breakdowns, misunderstandings, selfishness, etc. One thing repeated at the beginning of each episode for like the first 4 or so is that this is a story of how they had to become monsters to catch a monster. Over all, I did like the drama and it was interesting to see how the students reacted, bonded together, or completely fell apart. You learned how their family history turned them into what they are, what tortured them at school, who they liked, and ultimately everything that shaped them. Well…I suppose not everything, but you get the gist of it all.
One thing I didn’t like, but I suppose it was to be expected, was the witch hunt for Kang Mo. They didn’t even try to listen to his story. Granted, their teacher was discovered dead and the student who committed suicide named him as his best friend…but they were too quick to arm themselves and go on the hunt. Jae Kyu just seemed to be following the crowd which was being led by Young Jae and Yoon Soo…hard to say why he joined in. Eun Sung had no idea what was going on, Ji Hoon really couldn’t be bothered with the hunt, but it was surprising that Mu Yeol armed up and followed suit. Him doing that hurt Kang Mo the most. Whether or not Mu Yeol would have done anything is hard to say. But still. I felt bad for Kang Mo and hoped he’d live to the end.
Another issue I had was with Yo Han and his gun. There were seven students. Sure, he had a gun. But he was injured, so it seemed odd that the kids didn’t try to jump him or get the gun accept for that one failed attempt. And then there was Yo Han’s crazy stalker whom he lured to the school to help him. Poor girl. She was so messed up in the head. Her presence seemed a bit unnecessary and she wasn’t there for very long. I also didn’t like the part at the end where Yo Han runs off with Mu Yeol because he learns the police secretly entered the building and then the cops somehow think he’s the teacher. How the heck did that even make sense? But whatever. The police were very incompetent.
So Yo Han has escaped death several times, but no so at the end. The seven students out of the original 8 (Mi Reu didn’t get to play the game, but did get caught up in everything at the end and even helped the others to escape Yo Han once) band together to stop him. When they heard he was still alive and that after Yoon Soo received a call from Yo Han before committing suicide, they decided it was time to act. They knew Yo Han would be watching them to see how the experiment progressed and they set a trap and threw him off the hospital roof. To Yo Han, this was proof that he had one, but I like to think it was a necessary evil. The kids knew Yo Han’s devil’s luck and they knew he would not stop at just this one experiment. He would keep conducting it and keep hurting and killing people. Sure…in that one moment they may have been monsters, but I don’t think they’d stay that way.
Despite a few drawbacks, it was a great drama and the pacing went well with the 8 episodes and ending. I would really like to know how the kids turned out once they officially graduated, but who knows, if they did that, they’d probably ruin what you imagine.