Exploring Korean Drama: I Need Romance

i need romance featured image

Almost every description of kdrama I Need Romance references Sex and the City.  Even the drama itself draws the connection, at least through its similar jazzy credits.  I can’t attest to much likeness between the two shows, given that I only saw a couple episodes of the latter, but I Need Romance certainly feels more familiar to American fans than other kdrama romcoms.

One of the frustrating things in kdramas is that the women, even when they’re kickass in other functions, are left to be blushing and coy when it comes to any romantic matters, let alone sexual.  I’m glad it happens some of the time – American television would have us believe that everyone is romantically and sexually experienced by the end of high school, which just isn’t true.  There’s nothing wrong with that.  Everyone’s own experience is right and normal, and I’m glad that kdramas reflect another type of normalcy than what we’re used to seeing in America.

i need romance three friends

L-R: In Young, Seo Yeon, and Hyun Joo.

But kdramas would often have us believing the exact opposite.  It gets frustrating to see so many successful women, often well into their 30s, almost infantilized when it comes to romantic and sexual matters.  The rejection of that trope was one of the many things I loved so much about Kim Sam Soon.  And it’s one of the things that makes I Need Romance such a great drama.

I Need Romance revolves around the close friendship of three successful career women in their 30s: In Young, Seo Yeon, and Hyun Joo.  They represent a common spectrum of romantic experience: In Young has been in a committed, monogamous, relationship for 10 years.  Her boyfriend’s the only one she’s ever been with.  Seo Yeon is, at this point in her life, only interested in casual encounters, or at least not in long-term relationships.  Hyun Joo is a virgin with little experience, and she resists Seo Yeon’s gentle ribbing to do something about that until she feels ready.

Our three main characters’ different approaches to relationships and sex were all presented as equal and normal.  That’s one of the things I loved best about the drama.  There’s no “one right way” for anyone, and that was reflected in the series.  Top that off with a show that kicks the Bechdel test in the butt – even as it still has a heavy focus on romance – and it’s got a top vote in my book.

i need romance satc style creditsFor all that Seo Yeon and Hyun Joo are integral parts of In Young’s life, however, this is still a kdrama and the show’s focus is still predominantly on our primary female lead and her romantic entanglements.  Her long-term boyfriend Sung Soo cheats on her, and she has to decide whether she wants to forgive him (again; this isn’t the first incident in the 10 years they’ve been together), or ditch him for good.

In Young hesitates for as long as she does because she’s been with Sung Soo since her early 20s.  He’s the only real relationship she’s ever had, and he’s been a fundamental part of her adult life.  She has her own friends and job separate from him, but it’s still scary and difficult for her to face the prospect of life without him.  In fact, she’s not very good at it: even after she breaks up with Sung Soo, he’s still a frequent presence in her life.

I said it above and I’ll say it again: one of I Need Romance’s greatest strengths is its realism.  In Young can’t just cut Sung Soo out of her life, or at least, the process isn’t easy.  She isn’t entirely blameless in the breakup, either; she spends an episode or two constantly accusing Sung Soo of cheating before he actually does it.  Their two indiscretions aren’t at all the same, but there were things she needed to work on in their relationship as well.

1 2
Tags: ,