8 Truths About Korean Dramas
I spent a total of about seven weeks in South Korea between the end of 2012 and early 2013. While there, I discovered a few awesome things like sweet potato lattes, super cute cosmetic stores, and K-pop. The last became one of my guilty pleasures that I still indulge in now and then. The stuff was blasted everywhere you’d go and I’m a sucker for a catchy tune. Girls’ Generation anyone? How about some Miss A?
Thanks to Netflix, I have a new guilty pleasure… the Korean drama. K-dramas come in either historical or contemporary flavours, but I’ve been sticking with the contemporary ones so far, which tend to run for 16 or so 1-hour long episodes and then finish – essentially a long mini-series.
All of the shows have captions, thankfully. Of course, I can hardly understand a word, so watching a K-drama requires my full attention. But I have picked up a few handy, often repeated, phrases should I find myself back in the Land of the Morning Calm. 괜찮아? 진짜. 알았어.
It’s not even that they’re good shows with superb acting and contemplative storylines. They’re cliched as hell but oddly addicting. I’ve often exclaimed to the cat mid-Netflix session, “This show is terrible! … I have to see what happens next.” I can’t quite explain it.
So after watching a handful of shows I’ve come to know these 8 truths about Korean dramas…
1. There will be a love triangle
No love triangle, no K-drama. It will be some combo of rich guy, the best friend, poor unsuitable girl, rich suitable girl, and an old love or two. It might even be a square rather than a triangle. But there will be conflict. Typically, the male and female leads can’t stand each other only to discover one day that they’ve fallen in love.
2. There will be a rich heir and his disapproving family
Someone, usually the male lead, is always stinking rich…and an arse. Without a doubt, a senior family member (usually his mother) will disapprove of whatever poor unsuitable girl he’s taken a shining to and, in turn, try to make her life miserable. This tortue could take the form of lawsuits, rumors, firings, lies, or worse.
3. The soundtrack will get stuck in your head
It seems that whoever is picking out the soundtrack for these shows only has enough budget to get two or three songs and they’ll use them over and over again – each song chosen to enhance a particular mood.
4. They will always go to Jeju
Jeju is a tropical honeymoon island off the south coast of Korea – and every K-drama couple, without fail, ends up there for some convoluted reason or other. You can count on shots of an open top car driving along an ocean side road as much as you can count on Jeju being a turning point in the budding I hate you/I love you relationship.
5. There will be an overly dramatized but boring kiss
The build up to any kiss in a Korean drama is monumental and when it finally happens it’ll be drawn out with lots of different camera angles and slow pans. The thing is, it’s boring. The kiss itself often has as much heat and intensity as tomato sauce. Lips firmly closed, arms pressed against her sides, sometimes her eyes are wide open, which makes it all super awkward.
6. There will be a wrist grab
As sure as kimchi is spicy, at some point, the dude will grab the girl’s wrist to either keep her from leaving or to take her someplace else. This often happens after a lovers’ fight. It can sometimes lead to an awkward hug, maybe the above awkward kiss.
7. There will be a piggyback / carrying scene
Koreans are very fragile creatures I’m led to believe – prone to passing out or otherwise being unable to get themselves home. Without fail, someone will have to give the helpless soul a piggyback. Reasons for this may include a sprained ankle, drunkenness, or exhaustion. This is also the perfect time for the drunk girl to start saying things about male lead that she wouldn’t say if she was sober. Sometimes this will lead to my last truth…
8. Someone will end up in the hospital
As mentioned above, the characters in Korean dramas are a fragile folk. They faint for no good reason and always end up in the hospital. Usually, all they need is an IV bag and a night’s sleep and they’re good as gold. If it’s not simple stress (I’ve never known anyone personally to have passed out from just stress) it’ll be the ever popular amnesia / blindness / cancer story line. There are even more hospital scenes shot than airport scenes…and trust me, that’s a lot.
I like watching for the fashions. Leading men in Korean dramas are usually sharp dressers – even their loungewear has a stylish edge. Skinny pants and mini skirts are the uniform for female characters under 40. I love how they can successfully pair just about anything with a pair of high heels.
Bonus Truth: The characters drive me nuts
Otherwise smart, independent women seem to lose their minds and turn into simpering idiots when in the presence of the handsome, rich dude – who is almost without fail a complete self-absorbed arsehole when they meet. When faced with a problem, the female drama lead mutters, on the verge of tears “어떻게? 어떻게?” (“What do I do? What do I do?”) instead of just solving the damn problem. There is also much hiding from people…and bad hiding. Shoddy disguises and obvious peeking around corners. The typical K-drama heroine would make a terrible spy. As for that arsehole male lead, don’t worry too much about him staying a terrible person – he’s going to change thanks to the muttering mess of a girl he currently can’t stand. So predictable. Instead of saying what’s on their mind, characters will often lie and backpedal and unnecessarily throw themselves on the sword for their love, when it was never needed in the first place. 아이고!
December 22nd, 2014 at 2:20 pm (#)
LOL at the wrist grab pic. All these points are so true!
January 31st, 2015 at 4:41 pm (#)
The wrist grabs always drive me! If a guy ever did that to me he’d get a smack. lol
December 29th, 2014 at 1:49 pm (#)
really good post Melissa…really funny!
January 31st, 2015 at 4:41 pm (#)
Thanks. I’m glad you enjoyed. I had to cut myself off at 8… there are so many other cliched things I’ve noticed. It’s crazy.
January 4th, 2015 at 1:55 pm (#)
Hahaha! Very true list, you can also find a lot of Korean dramas on Hulu if you need more of a fix than Netflix offers
January 31st, 2015 at 4:39 pm (#)
Thanks for the tip! I still have almost a dozen shows queued up in Netflix. I’ll be speaking Korean before I’m done with them all!
January 30th, 2015 at 9:13 pm (#)
Lol totally spot on and too funny!
January 31st, 2015 at 4:42 pm (#)
Thanks – glad you enjoyed. :)
February 1st, 2015 at 1:04 am (#)
Korean Dramas :) I love it so much.
June 27th, 2015 at 10:58 am (#)
Welcome to the kdrama world:). It is indeed crazy, fun and addictive. Instead of Netflix, check out these sites for a comprehensive list of all that kdrama has to offer (with subtitles) : Viki.com , Dramafever.com, and if you don’t have time in your busy schedule to watch, Dramabeans.com gives a thorough recap of nearly all popular dramas ( it’s a great blog).
June 27th, 2015 at 12:15 pm (#)
Netflix has been great, though all the shows are a few years old so it’s hardly up to date. Still, time for me to dive into another series…
February 12th, 2016 at 4:40 pm (#)
You’re article was spot on :D . K drama is oddly fascinating , especially the terrible ones . I think it’s like a train wreck , I know its bad and stupid , but I just can’t seem to tear myself away.
Although , recently I watched a K drama called I remember you. they defied almost all the 8 , except for the OST , which is now stuck in my head .:P
August 1st, 2016 at 9:41 pm (#)
I’m watching one now called Full House: Take 2 and surprisingly it’s 9 episodes in and the female lead hasn’t fallen for either of the rich guys yet. It’s going to happen but I’m a bit surprised she’s made it this long.
Though it does have wrist grabs, hospital (and airport!) scenes, love triangles (it’s brewing), poor unsuitable matches, fainting, lots of yelling, and a predictable OST. :)
May 25th, 2017 at 11:36 pm (#)
i enjoyed reading this post. it was indeed a spot on. you forgot to mention, most often the male lead and the female lead always almost seem to end up living in together in one house like the following: full house, goblin, personal taste, legend of the blue sea :)
October 30th, 2017 at 10:31 am (#)
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April 16th, 2018 at 3:13 pm (#)
Oaaaw!..This post is just awesome!
July 26th, 2022 at 1:42 pm (#)
Do not forget the umbrella scenes!