I don’t know how I ended up discovering the webtoon on Naver, but I did and started reading it just last week. It has a slow start, but is somehow so very addicting. I can see why it’s being turned into a drama – there are so many aspects to it that make it play out like a regular rom-com. But it does have a slice-of-life aspect that I hope is retained in the drama.
I’ll summarize what I’ve read so far in the webtoon. There are three seasons with multiple “episodes” (which could be comprised of more than one part). I just got to season 2, and so of course, I haven’t gotten through very deep in the webtoon yet. But now that the drama has been pushed back to December (and Lee Dong Wook and Jung Ryeo Won‘s drama Bubblegum is taking over its October time slot), it gives me more time to read the hundreds of episodes and catch up!
Hong Seol is a college student who works super hard to get good grades in her class and maintain her scholarship. She already took a break from school and is going back to finish up her degree. Seol comes from a middle class family where her parents struggle to pay for both their children’s education; it’s difficult for them to support their son who is studying abroad, so they rely on Seol to be resourceful in working part time jobs and getting scholarship money to pay her way through school.
The year she returned to school, she met Yoo Jung, a popular and incredibly smart classmate who also took a temporary break from school. Jung is known to be very generous because he’s so wealthy, and the object of many girls’ affection. However Seol and Jung start off with a bad impression of each other, with Seol trying to actively avoid him because she thinks that Jung looks down on her. (Meanwhile, Jung thinks Seol looks at him as a joke, so that doesn’t help matters.) She also discovers that hanging around Jung makes her the object of many rumors, and she elicits the ire of Nam Ju Yeon, a fellow classmate who actively tries to become Jung’s girlfriend. Ju Yeon tries to sabotage her so many times in front of Seol, but it ends up backfiring on her.
Seol’s parents go through hard times so she considers dropping out again to earn money. However Jung’s final paper for scholarship money mysteriously disappears, and Seol is able to win the money and continue classes. Eventually the two of them end up int he same class and become closer as they understand each other a little better after their first rough impressions.
Of course, Jung is not your perfect guy – from the start, Seol gets a funny feeling about him because of how cold and aloof he can be while presenting a warm facade. We slowly learn more about his background and understand why he is who he is. There are also a whole host of other characters that come in and out of the webtoon, so much so that in the beginning it was hard to keep track of who was who, and who was friends with whom. We have Seol’s best friends, who are kind of into each other in a Ron-and-Hermione-kind-of-way, Jung’s childhood “friends” who were basically his father’s wards and have become leeches off his family’s wealth, jealous classmates, and useless classmates who can’t even do a group project properly.
Initially I didn’t understand Seol – she was too paranoid and too weirdly attached to Jung even though she insisted she wasn’t interested in him. While the webtoon keeps a “slice-of-life” air to it by showing aspects of college life and placing the characters in boring settings around the campus, the characters are a bit exaggerated in their reactions and actions. I can understand that these emotions and personalities need to translate well on the page, but at the same time I can see exactly how it’ll play out in a live-action drama. You have really bitchy second female lead characters that you can see whine and sneer on your screen, and you have the second male lead who’s supposedly really handsome but a real bad boy. You have the cold and aloof male lead and the clumsy female lead. To the female lead’s credit though, Seol is still quite level-headed even though she does get paranoid about whether the guy likes her or not. She’s not just a klutz who is also emotionally stunted and needs a guy to help her out. And who wasn’t like her when they were in college and got the attention of the cutest boy in class? Seol is also quite independent, though we get to know her a lot better because we know her internal dialogue. But aside from all that, it’s so obvious that this webtoon has the makings of a K-drama.
In some ways, the webtoon reminds me of Heirs, and in a lot of ways it reminds me of Pride and Prejudice (you have the perfect Darcy – Elizabeth – Wickham set up here). I have yet to find the essence that makes this webtoon particularly outstanding, and will thus help make the drama a little different from all the other rom-coms out there. Perhaps I’m just not there yet in the webtoon and need to read more. But the love-hate relationship set in a school is nothing new in the drama world, so we definitely need something that helps make it different from everything else. Cheese in the Trap will probably need to amp up the darkness and the mystery surrounding Jung, while maintaining some semblance of slice-of-life, to make it special. I appreciate even more now that Lee Yoon Jung is the PD of this drama since she did Coffee Prince and Triple, both of which were very special but felt very low-key in their own way. But it really worries me that this webtoon will be adapted “straight up” and everything will be boiled down to the basic “love square rom com set in a college between a chaebol’s son and a Candy girl.”
This webtoon is making me even more antsy for this drama than ever before!