Sunday, July 13, 2014

So You Wanna Watch Some Kdramas? Rules of Korean Dramas.

Or maybe you don't. In which case, you can skip over these when I post them, but for those of you who are wondering what I watch all the time, kdramas are the answer. I use them to pick up some Korean, and as reinforcement for my classes (nothing like hearing phrases you just learned in class and being able to understand them!) 

But mostly, I watch them for their entertainment value.  In the same way that I mention Kpop on my blog, I have decided to occasionally write up some Kdrama recommendations, in case you ever want to watch some. There are hundreds to choose from, so I'm just listing/ranking the ones that I have seen.

Here are some things you need to know before you watch a kdrama. 

1. The stories are usually quite similar and basic
Rich guy meets poor girl. Hates her at first. They fall in love. 
Girl for some reason has to dress up as a guy. Guys fall in love with her and question their sexuality.
Mother in law hates you.
You're engaged or something, but you happen across the love of your life.

When a drama adds a new spin onto these plots, it is definitely more interesting. But sometimes, the tried and true high school drama or rags to riches story is fun, too!

It ain't a rags to riches story til someone gets a makeover

love may also transcend time and space

2. You will inevitably suffer from Second Lead Syndrome
K dramas generally have a love triangle at the core of their story. It's almost exclusively 1 girl and 2 guys, and often, the girl is poor. One of the guys may be a friend from the past, an old fling, or someone new. In lots of dramas, the main lead is usually an ass. He's rich, spoiled, and often picks on the girl before realizing that he likes her. He may or may not actually change his jerk-like behavior in his pursuit of her. 

Second Lead Syndrome happens because there is usually a nicer, sweeter, sometimes better looking, loyal guy that is by the girl's side for most of the drama, and you'll want her to end up with this sweetheart. He's even a gentleman and puts aside his feelings for the leading lady, because he's just that nice. She'll choose the jerk in the end. Just wait. You'll fall for the second lead in about 90% of dramas. 

They usually have cute scenes and then 
they don't end up together...

This drama isn't even over yet
and I KNOW these two won't end up together.
Because he's the second lead.

3. You will come across an amnesia plotline. 
It happens to even the best of dramas. Sometimes it makes a modicum of sense (see Queen In Hyun's Man), but most of the time, it's an add on to make the plot more dramatic. It's often quite contrived and just serves to keep the main couple apart unnecessarily.

Other plot tropes you will see include: terminal illness, forbidden love, inexplicable shower scene (I never complain about these though. In fact, they could have one every episode and I'd be happy), cross dressing, drunk piggybacks, study abroad plots (which will often include poorly spoken English from 'English speakers')  and life cripplingly tragic pasts.

He's like 'Who dis is?"
I dig the superfluous shower scenes though.

4. K drama kisses are not super romantic, even if the situation is.
The situation itself may be super cute romantic, but the actual kiss will most likely be a peck on the lips. It will almost always surprise the girl, who will keep her eyes open in shock for a good while during the kiss. 
Check out Korean dramas that aired on cable TV for better kiss scenes, since the public channels have to keep it tame because their audiences consist of everything from 12 year old girls to housewives and ahjummas.  

American drama kiss
K drama kiss. Her eyes are probably
open, too.

5. You will probably get used to, but not like, wrist grabbing and other forms of male expression.
Feminism has started to have some affect in Korea, but it's still a suuuuper male dominated society, and as such, the lead girl can sometimes come across as flaky or silly, because she gives into the whims of her guy, often forgetting her own self, dreams, and personality in an effort to be with him.  Korean dramas always involve lot of wrist grabbing and dragging. For some reason, this is often seen as romantic, even if, to westerners, it seems pushy and pretentious. The wrist drag is one of my least favorite parts of K dramas, unless used appropriately or effectively.

Yes, there is even a tumblr for wrist grabs

6. You may find yourself falling for Flower Boys.
Flower Boy is a term used often in Korean dramas, as it's a very popular concept these days. There are plenty of dramas with Flower Boy in the name. A 'Flower Boy' is a boy with a great sense of style (a style that many insecure Americans will probably say seems 'gay'), and he can usually be described as pretty. He probably wears tight pants, has swishy hair, and looks like a Korean idol. He may or may not rock the guyliner. In your kdrama adventures, you'll probably end up liking a Flower Boy.

Flower boys from the drama Boys Over Flowers
The earring is really the cherry on top*

*picture captioned above also has the "I have to go abroad/leave for X amount of years, please wait for me" trope.

7. Fear the mother in law
She will reign terror upon your life until you prove yourself worthy of her son's love. She may still reign terror on you after that. Such is the power of the mother-in-law. Beware.

8. There will be a love story.
Even in a completely serious thriller drama, I've yet to come across a drama that doesn't include a love story as one of the focal points. It's occasionally a side plot, but is usually featured prominently for a good portion of the show. This isn't surprising, since most tv shows use sexual tension anyway.

She's totally falling in love with him right now.
He probably wrote a ballad for her.

9. There will only be one season
Korean dramas tend to wrap themselves up neatly by the end of 16-24 episodes. They air all at once, not stretched out over the whole year, like American TV. Generally, they don't have second seasons. If a drama is incredibly popular, they may make something with a similar style or premise, but it usually isn't related to the previous story. The drama I Need Romance was very popular, so the next year, there was I Need Romance 2012, and then, recently, I Need Romance 3. None of them shared characters or plot points other than it was a Sex and the City-esque group of girls struggling with love. This is nice because you're not left waiting for months for the next part of a story, but it also means that if you fall in love with a drama, it will be on for 12 weeks max, and then it will end, and that's it.

 로맨스가 필요해
Romaenseuga Pilyohae= I Need Romance

 로맨스가 필요해 2012
I Need Romance 2012

 로맨스가 필요해 3
I Need Romance 3

10. The songs will be stuck in your head
Korean dramas all have their own Official/Original Sound Track (OST) that usually consists of around 10 songs that are used throughout the drama. Because there are a limited number of songs (of the 10ish, there are usually a few instrumentals), they are often repeated during scenes with heightened emotional intensity. That song they play during all of the romantic scenes will surely get stuck in your head, and soon you'll be scouring the internet to download the songs, and maybe even find out what they mean!

There you have it. Get to watching!
I may be ragging a bit in some of these, but anyone who watches K Dramas will tell you that they're quite ridiculous. And that you still will get addicted. It's inevitable. 


  1. This was good. You just forgot that they will make you hate the 2nd female (when they have one) even if she starts off good at first, because apparently all women go crazy when they lose a guy.

  2. The gif where Jung YongHwa was singing and looking at Park ShinHye wasn't him singing a love ballad he wrote for her. They were on a college class trip and everyone, because YongHwa was the frontman for a famous band in this drama, was cheering him on to sing something. He sang the song "Lucky" and when he sang "Lucky I'm in love with my best friend" he looked at ShinHye because he was in love with her at that point in the drama. The drama is called "Heartstrings" :) Sorry for the lengthy comment, just thought I'd clear that up for anyone who didn't know :)