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tVn's 'Melancholia' criticised over controversial student-teacher pairing

tVn's Melancholia has invited a lot of criticism over problematic lead relationship (Image via tVn)
tVn's Melancholia has invited a lot of criticism over problematic lead relationship (Image via tVn)

tVn’s latest drama Melancholia, starring Im Soo Jung and Lee Do Hyun, has come under fire after dropping new character posters.

On October 15, Melancholia’s production team revealed the eagerly anticipated main character posters and the synopsis of the drama.

tvN drama <#Melancholia> character posters, broadcast on November 3.#ImSooJung #LeeDoHyun https://t.co/AHvo858AX8

According to the synopsis, Melancholia is described as:

"Taking place against the backdrop of a private high school, where corruption of favoritism is prevalent, a story more beautiful than mathematics goes beyond the conventional wisdom and prejudice against the relationship between a math teacher and a math genius."

Several K-drama viewers on social media called the lead characters' relationship problematic, due to the age gap and the complicated student-teacher power dynamic.


'Melancholia' lands in controversy

Melancholia’s lead characters’ posters feature Im Soo Jung and Lee Do Hyun, as a math teacher and a math genius, respectively. Im Soo Jung’s character is called Ji Yoon Soo, while Loo Do Hyun plays Seung Yoo.

tvN 15th Anniversary Special Wed-Thurs drama #Melancholia starring #LeeDoHyun and #ImSooJung releases new teaser 💚The drama is set to air on November 3. https://t.co/Ncx6VaTKdg

While the actors’ chemistry is evident in Melancholia posters, full of soft glances and intense gazes, several on the Internet have taken offense to the caption on one of the posters. In the poster featuring Lee Do Hyun as the young math genius, the caption read:

"I'm not allowed to like them, neither math or my teacher."

A love story between a teacher and a student is not new, having been a common trope in older shows and movies, in both Korea and Hollywood. Current shows tend to avoid these, due to the implications of grooming that such relationships carry. The power dynamic between a student and teacher often makes these relationships unequal, with one party holding all the power. Given that the Lee Do Hyun’s ‘math genius’ is probably underage, the questionable nature of Melancholia’s main relationship has doubled.

Several people on the internet pointed these out, as soon as the posters and the synopsis were dropped. Many said they felt uncomfortable at the thought of a romance between an underage student and his much older teacher.

I love lee dohyun but melancholia synopsis make me dont want to watch it.Romance between a teacher and a student is no no. I thought this plot will never reappear in kdrama anymore
@allkpop Students often have a crush on their teachers but a teacher should never encourage it ~ don’t make an unhealthy & often illegal relationship romantic Ugh!
@allkpop If this is anything more than him having a crush on her and it is a student/teacher romance… then that’s really creepy and I won’t watch it. I love both actors a lot, but student/teacher romance dramas are so gross and weird. It’s like romanticizing predators. Ew. 😖

Many pointed out how the concept itself felt dated, and did not sound like a drama made in 2021.

Others took to popular online forums to express their feelings about Melancholia, most of them negative.

"Is this another story of 'I'm the teacher you're the student'?"
"This is like a drama caption from 20 years ago,"

Additionally, many have also pointed out the big age gap that exists, not only between the characters of Melancholia but also the actors themselves. Im Soo Jung happens to be 16 years older than Lee Do Hyun.

@allkpop it was already disturbing watching him as 18 y.o. student with 40s women in 18 again and now this again

While the new wave of progressive K-dramas have brought forth several Noona romances like Something in the Rain, Encounter, and Romance is a Bonus Book, none were between a student and his teacher, which is the source of criticism for Melancholia.


The show is set to air on November 3. Melancholia also marks Im Soo Jung's reappearance in K-dramas after a gap of two years, her last drama being Search: WWW. Lee Do Hyun last made an appearance as the lead in the tearjerker Youth of May.

Edited by Siddharth Satish
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