YA Meets Kimchi

You likely didn't realize there are several YA/MG writers who also happen to be K-drama addicts, but it's important do, because we are totally willing to make you one of us . . . Kdramas are awesome, and personally I've always felt one of the reasons so many YA authors love them has to do with the basic traits most Kdramas have. Love story (usually a triangle)? Check. Angst? Check. Overcoming obstacles? Check. Hot boys and pretty girls (your tastes as they apply)? Check. FEELS-filled first kisses? Almost always. Even in the Kdramas geared more toward adults the kisses come few and far between, but when they come you fall over from all the darling.

Actually, because we are weird, and addicted, and contagious, a group of YA writers has gone so far as to fan-cast Korean actors and actresses for either film adaptations or reboots of  YA/MG novels we love, and I get to be play, too. (Laura said so!) 
The YA Meets Kimchi series has included recasts by authors like Rachel Carter, Laura J. Moss, Corey Wright, Katie M Stout, and book reviewer Christina over at A Reader of Fictions.
I've chosen my favorite book of all time, which just happens to be a teen read having existed before the term "young adult" as applied to books existed (think 1967).

The Outsiders, by S. E. Hinton

I've been in love with the (sadly) fictional Ponyboy Curtis since I was four years old. Yeah: four. I've been in love with Hinton's novel about him since age thirteen. Hinton was only sixteen years old when she wrote about a group of rough neighborhood kids in Tulsa, OK (my birthplace), and the fallout from one of them accidentally killing a rich kid, or "Soc"--short for "socialite"--while trying to save narrator Ponyboy, as said Soc is actively trying to drown him at the time.
Told from Ponyboy's first-person reverie in the form of an essay assignment, The Outsiders is a somber, pensive, and sometimes brutal social commentary on the class system within late-60's Tulsa, but it isn't without its brighter moments between the dark.

 I sob like a like a hired mourner every time I read it.
So, without further ado, a Korean recasting of S.E. Hinton's The Outsiders.


Ponyboy Curtis, played by the ridiculously talented and versatile Yoo Seung Ho

Ponyboy Curtis. Fourteen, but looks older. He's the youngest Curtis brother, runs track and smokes, considered very bright by his teachers, feels bullied by his oldest brother, Darry, but adores the middle Curtis brother, Sodapop. More introspective than most "greasers" (or kids from the wrong side of the tracks), Pony sees people, including his fellow greasers, from a more objective angle. He's isn't na├»ve, but he isn't hard like some of the other guys with whom he hangs out. When Johnny Cade unintentionally kills a Soc one night while trying to protect Pony from a drowning, Pony runs away with Johnny to evade retribution and jail time.


Played by Lee Hyun-Jae, a perfect actor for a character described as “movie star good-looking”.

Sodapop is, as are most middle children, the peace-maker and intermediary between Ponyboy and Darry, not to mention the rest of the greasers. While not the smartest kid on the block (he's dropped out of high school already), Soda is charming to a T, upbeat, and intuitive regarding others. Soda’s laugh can usually cool down most hot tempers, and of course girls everywhere swoon over him . . . but he doesn't seem to notice, because he’s devoted to his long-time girlfriend Sandy.

Played by Philip Lee, a man who can move in ways that pay homage to previous Darry, Patrick Swayze

Darry is the eldest Curtis brother. He’s built like a ton of bricks, but has trouble showing affection. Having had to take on the role of mom and dad since the Curtis boys’ parents died a car crash a few years before, he often appears harsh, but his motivations are brought about by fraternal concern. In a rare show of denseness, Pony interprets Darry's criticisms as resentment and dislike for his youngest brother, however, all the other guys in their group insist just the opposite it true: Darry is hard on Pony because he sees Pony’s potential, and he feels guilty for not being able to give Pony more advantages.


Song Joong-ki, a kid so gorgeously baby-faced you’d never peg him to play such an impossibly tragic character as Johnny, but trust me and the people who cast him in Werewolf Boy, he CAN.
Johnny Cade, aged sixteen, but described as looking like a scared puppy that’s been kicked too many times. Fragile, skittish, vulnerable, Johnny is not only the kid most likely to be found hanging out with Ponyboy (often to avoid being screamed at or beaten by his own dad), but also the recent victim of a serious bludgeoning by a group of rich boys with nothing better to do. Something about Johnny engenders a sense of protectiveness in all the guys in Pony’s group, even the street-hardened Dally. However, Johnny is not without his own brand of Zen. In a certain exchange with Pony, Johnny makes Pony promise to “stay gold”, a reference to Robert Frost’s poem Nothing Gold Can Stay. He wants Pony to never let himself get so bitter he loses the “gold” or young part of himself.

Song Jae Lim as Dally, because holy frak, can this man play cynical AND broken.
Dallas "Dally" Winston, survivor of the streets of Manhattan from the time he was ten till now, his early 20’s. He’s the most temperamental, most violent of all the boys, and understandably so. He’s a brute crushed by his own inability to stay out of trouble, so instead of waiting for it to find him, he goes out in search of it.  All the same, when Pony and Johnny run to him first after accidentally killing a Soc, he’s quick to think of the best-case scenario for keeping them at least relatively safe in a pinch, and when Johnny’s fate takes a terrible twist, it’s Dally who goes crazy from the loss.


Yoon Shi Yoon, one of my favorite goof-able actors in the Korean world, just the kid to play a kid always ready to laugh, or pull a switch blade.
Two-Bit Matthews, so named because he always has to put in his two-cents’ worth. Jovial, silly, playful, Two-Bit can steal anything not nailed down, and is too busy joking to take much of anything seriously . . . unless of course his mastery  of knives is needed, in which case he’s ready to back up his friends. Hey, what else is “practically family” for?



Lee Jong-suk, because he isn’t afraid to make a dumbass of himself, and face it, Steve is a dumbass.

Steve, Sodapop’s best friend and co-worker at the garage/gas station where Soda works. There’s honestly not a whole lot to know about Steve outside of that, except boy can shove an enormous piece of chocolate cake in his face in pretty much one go.




Quite possibly the most beautiful man you’ve ever seen playing a smiling, murderous psychopath, No Min-woo.

David the Soc. Not a lot to be said about him, either, except to note he’s the Soc trying to drown Pony at the playground, and whom Johnny subsequently kills in self-defense. As an actor, Min-woo seems pretty fond of cameos, and besides, his schedule is kinda insane right now, so offing him near the beginning of the adaptation really suits.


Kim So-hyun. Don’t even get me started with this guy, just know he’s got just the right charm to make readers/viewers understand what Cherry Valance sees in Bob.

Bob the Soc: owner of a red Corvair and leader of the group of Soc boys getting a ride in it. Bob’s going out with Cherry Valance—at least when he hasn’t pissed her off by being a complete jerk. He wears a large ring on his right hand, a ring that—a few days before—did serious damage to Johnny’s face. Cherry sticks up for Bob during an enlightening conversation with Pony, saying that he isn’t all bad and could even be sweet.



Park Se-young. Isn’t she lovely? And playing a Joseon-era queen, she’s proven she can play a complex, strong, thoughtful woman.

Cherry Valance, the intelligent, non-biased connection between Greaser and Soc. From a wealthy family, but aware that things are “rough all over”, she’s mature, loyal, adamant, and still compassionate enough to grieve for the people lost during the course of the story, people from both sides of the economic median. She defends a cruel-seeming Soc, but also admits she’s not immune to foul-mouthed Dally’s charms, without actually succumbing to them.

Bae Suzy. Highly popular and most often cast as a stoic, self-centered lead or second lead, I like the idea of seeing Bae play the cameo-sized role of Marcia, Cherry’s care-free, bubbly, unself-conscious bestie.
Every popular girl needs a cute, optimistic BFF, right? Marcia’s place as Cherry’s partner in down-time has little screen time, but serves to not only lighten the mood, include a few witty quips, and act as a buffer between increasingly-hot tempers (hello, Cherry vs. Dally!), but she also subtly underscores Cherry’s value as an unprejudiced, atypical pretty girl, because Cherry clearly doesn’t have any part in making herself a Mean Girl with Marcia as her hanger-on. Also, because Marcia doesn’t have any problem hanging out with Greasers—in fact, Dally’s crudity in making a pass slips off her like water off a duck’s back, and she even sort of flirts with Two-Bit in the same sort of silly style to which tends any conversation involving the prankster.
I won’t spoil you on the storyline any more than I have to, but I don’t think it would be wrong to say The Outsiders has the same emotional payoff of Green’s An Abundance of Katherines or Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower.
 . . . And just so you have some basis for comparison, two more photos: a shot of the original cast, and a photo of my own personal copy of the book.
From Left to Right, Emilio Estevez as Two Bit Matthews, Rob Lowe as Sodapop, C. Thomas Howell as Ponyboy, Matt Dillion as Dally, Ralph Machio as Johnny, Patrick Swayze as Darry, and Tom Cruise as Steve.

Diane Lane as Cherry Valance

My much-loved copy.