Gangnam Project Review: A Canadian Show For K-Pop Fans

CBC's latest original is a heartwarming story infused with catchy K-Pop.

K-pop, short for Korean popular music, has become one of the most significant sectors of the global music industry. Over the past few years, it has made its way from South Korea into mainstream conciseness and shows no signs of slowing down. CBC Gem’s latest original series, Gangnam Project, follows Hannah Shin (Julia Kim Caldwell), a young Korean/Canadian K-pop mega-fan who receives a dream opportunity to teach English for one of Korea’s top entertainment companies, One Mile Entertainment (OME).

After arriving at OME’s state-of-the-art training facility in South Korea with her brother, Leo (Taran Kim), she’s assigned to tutor rising star Chan-Mi (Brianna Kim), who is more complex than Hannah naively anticipates. As Hannah finds herself increasingly desperate to earn Chan-Mi’s approval and cooperation, she comes to understand how her passion for music is what she can use to help the two of them bond.

Within just one episode, it’s evident Gangnam Project is a heartwarming story about new friendships, culture shock, and learning to adapt without losing oneself. It may sometimes skew young, which makes sense as it’s a coming-of-age series, but that never detracts from its enjoyability, especially with its wholesome and encouraging tone.

To everyone’s surprise, Chan-Mi opens up just enough for Hannah to make an impression on the closed-off singer, her fellow tutors, and the attention of OME’s president— a good start for Hannah’s first week in a new country. She may even have what it takes to become a K-pop trainee herself.

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K-pop fans are sure to get a lot out of the series, as it has many bright and colourful musical numbers that are surprisingly catchy. Gangnam Project will also be the perfect watch for fans of the Canadian mockumentary dance series The Next Step. It makes sense that the two have similarities as Gangnam Project’s creator, Sarah Haasz, also had a hand in that show’s success. Haasz served as a Broadcast Executive at networks such as YTV, Disney XD Canada, and Family Channel for over two decades. She is now bringing her expertise and creativity to an original project. While this isn’t a mockumentary like The Next Step, the two appeal to younger and mature audiences, and both explore growing up as a young artist in high-pressure environments.

One of the Gangnam Project’s more distinctive elements is its themes and messaging. The show features an essential commentary on the complicated feelings of growing up with two nationalities. Hannah has only ever lived in Canada and isn’t as connected with her Korean heritage. Acclimating to her new environment is difficult, but getting the approval of the people she meets in Korea proves to be even more challenging.

She eventually finds common ground with her new friends and family, but it takes understanding and flexibility, a necessary lesson for younger audiences to see on screen. Likewise, Gangnam Project emphasizes how it’s okay to be a work in progress, a message everyone should remember when the world expects perfection.

All episodes of Gangnam Project are available to stream now on CBC Gem. 

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