5 years ago, I had to stop watching Korean dramas (K-dramas) because of the amount of time I was spending not sleeping and barely being able to concentrate on anything else other than what I was caught up watching. It’s a good thing, considering my life has gotten so much busier and to be honest, I didn’t enjoy how emotionally invested I was becoming that I didn’t want to leave the house. So now, no more staying up until 3 am on a ridiculously early Saturday morning, convincing myself to watch “just one more episode”. No more buying boxed sets of subtitled dramas. Nope, that’s it. Don’t get me wrong, I do miss a good drama every now and then, but now I can only minimally commit, which means, I start a few episodes and once I decide I’d like to see how it ends, I head over to Drama Beans to finish the series by reading episode summaries.
I also watch Korean movies, or an episode of my favorite Korean variety show, Running Man, instead. The time commitment is 2 hours, which I can live with. What I love about K-programming is watching how culture plays out on the small screen. Do I believe everyone in Korea is the son or daughter of a business conglomerate like the ones portrayed on TV? Absolutely not, but the things I find most fascinating cross the strata of Korean society, like food, language, behaviors, expectations, and cultural mores, which tend to be less exaggerated than other drama storylines and pique my interest to learn more about them on my own. What helped me to kick the habit was plots were becoming too predictable:
Incorrigible male lead almost always gets the girl. Nice girl meets guy and he first, doesn’t acknowledge her, then makes her life hell. As time passes, he begins to show some vulnerability and develop feelings for her, and pretty soon, we’re rooting for them to get together. She manages to break down his asshole façade and he becomes somebody who can love and be loved.
Forget Love Triangle. Try Love Rhombus. What are relationships without a little drama? Sometimes the main couple’s relationship is jolted and stalled by the brief or long-standing presence of other people who are viable alternatives, like the guy’s beautiful ex or the girl’s good friend who begins to fall for her. Distractions and confessions from these new people are either quick and persistent or painfully slow, all the while wreaking havoc on the blossoming relationship.
Contracts. In the case of romantic comedies, if the main couple fights like cats and dogs, a contract outlining the conditions of a “truce” emerges. Most of the time, the guy is in power and hoping to keep the girl close, but outlining the conditions of their professional and/or living relationship. The contract is broken and revised a series of times as they begin to fall in love.
Girl impersonating a guy. Whether set in the Joseon dynasty or in modern times, a girl dressing up or acting like a guy through most of the drama is pretty standard these days. It portrays women trying to infiltrate the privilege and prestige in the male realm. What also ensues is a pseudo-homosexual storyline, where the girl will finally admit she is a girl and they’ll fall in love, but not before making the guy question his sexuality as he falls for his “friend”.
Good looking guy posse. Need I say more?
Looking for a gateway watch? I suggest the movie “200 Pound Beauty“, a romantic comedy focused on the definition of beauty and plastic surgery in South Korean society. When you’re ready to take the plunge, here’s a list of my top 10 favorite dramas:
- Full House
- My Lovely Sam Soon
- Sungkyunkwan Scandal
- Coffee Prince
- You are Beautiful
- Cinderella’s Sister
- Autumn in my Heart
- Reply 1997
- Bad Love