I became an addict in the course of 48 hours. I visited a best friend and we sat down to watch a DVD. It was a Korean television show, called My Girl, and there was no going back. We devoured almost all of the 16 episodes in one weekend, and since then Korean dramas have been my go-to drug for when I need a lift, a distraction, or just if I have some free time.
If you’re at all like me – and if you’re here, you probably are – then sometimes you look to the media for those things too. You should try Korean dramas. All the cool kids are doing it.
You obviously can find a bit of everything on Korean television, but Korean drama, or “kdrama,” usually refers to a show of an average of 20 hour-long episodes with a contained story arc. Think of them as lengthy mini-series. They’re perfect because they last longer than movies but are still less of a commitment than starting a television show with multiple seasons. You know you’ll be free before too long (especially if you’re like me and you get so sucked in you knock out a 16-episode show in 4 days).
Within the specified world of kdramas there are still a handful of genres which I’ll outline for you. There’s the most popular, and the one that drew me in, the trendy romantic comedy. Boy meets girl, boy and girl start off hating each other, circumstances keep throwing boy and girl together, boy and girl fall in love, boy and girl versus the world.
Those of us used to American romantic comedies might think that sounds dragged out. Twenty hours to watch two people fall in love? But the good ones have more to them than that; they contain multiple story arcs, zany hijinks, and casts of developed secondary characters that relate to the primaries but sometimes have their own sub-stories. If you stick with me I’ll lead you to the best.
Try anything by the Hong Sisters (they’re the ones who did My Girl.). In You’re Beautiful, a nun-in-training poses as her twin brother when he’s incapacitated, so he won’t lose his chance to join Korea’s hottest boy band. It sounds corny, but it’s actually adorable.
Or consider My Girlfriend is a Gumiho. Here the Hong Sisters retake the patriarchal roots of a Korean myth—the gumiho is a nine-tailed fox-woman who seduces and devours men—and turn into a supernatural comedy romance. The gumiho is given positive control of her own sexuality and she falls in love with the man who tries to teach her how to live in the modern world. Stick around for scenes where she digs through the trash to find enough coupons for a free chicken dinner, much to the horror of the neighborhood busybodies.
If you want even more depth along with your romance, try The Greatest Love. The D-list celebrity Korea loves to hate tries to carry on a relationship with the country’s biggest action movie star. When the leading man isn’t hamming it up like a ridiculous goof, the show turns into a fascinating examination of the cult of celebrity in the Internet age. It posits that a famous person’s image can actually take on a life of its own and become almost a separate entity to who that person actually is.
Sometimes you just don’t want to think that much. You want something to laugh at, a good story, or possibly some eye candy. If that’s the case Korea has the perfect trend with several shows based around it: flower boys. The term’s used to describe good-looking men who are usually on the more metrosexual end of the spectrum.
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