posted at Saturday, March 2nd, 2013 at 5:00 AM | Uncategorized
Most of you probably don’t know this, unless you follow me on Twitter, but I am super obsessed with kdrama right now. Since I’ve just finished my tenth one, I thought I would do a post about the ones I’ve watched and why I love it so hard.
Kdrama gets a lot of flack for being incredibly melodramatic, and I see that, but I really don’t think it’s THAT dramatic most of the time. Even the most incredibly over-the-top dramatic kdrama I’ve watched was way less absurdly dramatic than the show One Tree Hill. If you can watch American teen shows, you can probably handle kdrama.
You can find kdrama to watch on Netflix, Hulu or Dramafever if you’re in the US. I have no idea where to find things in other countries, sorry. There are more on the internet, but these are the places to go for a high quality image and the most accurate subtitles. Obviously, you have to be cool with subtitles.
- The roles of men and women. If you’re familiar with manga, this probably won’t require much adjustment. It makes me sad that the guys generally are always in the position of power in a relationship, and the girls are always blushing and innocent, but that’s just how it is. Oh, and the girls will cry A LOT. But the guys generally do some crying too. In general, the guys are not as nice to their crushes or girlfriends as I feel they ought to be.
- The lack of romantic action. Don’t go into kdrama for hot makeout or sex scenes, okay? You won’t find them very often. Most of the kissing is about as passionate as the ones in classic American movies, by which I mean it just involves mashing together of faces. It’s no good. I’ve seen a couple with decent kissing, but mostly you’re left disappointed. However, there is TONS of swoon, but it’s more about the little things. Oh, and sex will rarely be shown or hinted at, though I’ve seen a couple with under-the-sheets movement or them waking up together in the morning.
- The handholding. This is related to the second point, but I want to stress two things about handholding in kdramas. First of all, holding hands is a BIG deal. If a guy grabs a girl’s wrist (this is a bit annoying sometimes and goes back to the gender roles in my first point) or takes her hand, this means a lot. Koreans are a lot less into PDA than Americans, so holding hands in public is a serious statement. Secondly, when a couple holds hands, they never interlace their fingers. I have yet to see this once.
- The clothing, particularly for the guys. Prepare to see a lot of skinny jeans, earrings, sparkles and crazy hair. Plus, t-shirts that say nonsense things in English. Rarely does it stop the hotness. Oh, the guys will also be a lot more physically affectionate with each other than male best friends would be in the US.
- The portrayal of Americans or Koreans raised in America. Basically, they think we’re all loud, obnoxious assholes who kiss everyone. The same is true in manga.
- How bad most of them are at English. In every drama it seems, there’s at least one scene where a character tries to show off their intelligence by speaking English. This might be impressive to a Korean audience, but I usually end up laughing my ass off.
- Long epidodes. Kdrama episodes are generally around the one hour mark, not 1 hour minus twenty minutes of commercials like we’re used to in the US.
- There’s something you need to know if you’re going to watch kdrama: be prepared for it to suck you in completely and mess with your emotions. Even though the devices by which it does so are generally SO obvious, nothing makes me as emotional as a good kdrama. This is where to go for ALL THE FEELS.
- The set length. Unlike most American shows, kdramas are generally don’t run for seasons. They have a set number of episodes with planned plots, and they run their course. Obviously, I often want more, but I appreciate that things don’t run until they’re terrible.
- Most importantly, Asian guys are HOT, especially Korean men if the dramas are any indication. For any male readers, yes, there are gorgeous girls too, but this the next two pics are for the straight ladies and gay dudes. Deal with it.
|Gong Yoo in Coffee Prince
|Lee Ki Woo in Flower Boy Ramyun Shop|
I watched kdrama for the first time, because I saw one on Hulu and it sounded cute and I was just like whatever let’s try this. One of my favorite things in manga (for some odd reason) is a gender bender plot line, and that’s what Coffee Prince has and why I was lured in. Click on the drama’s title to check it out on DramaFever, which is my favorite place to watch kdrama (since Netflix did some weird things to the captions).
1. Coffee Prince (2007)
Plot: Go Eun Chan (Yoon Eun Hye) lives with her mother and younger sister. She does a lot of odd jobs so that the family will have enough money. Working as a delivery girl one night, she meets Choi Han Kyul (Gong Yoo), a playboy and heir, whose grandmother wants him to settle down and get married. He mistakes Eun Chan for a boy and hires her to pretend to be his gay lover to ruin his dates arranged by his grandmother. She’s so hard-up for money that she agrees to this ridiculous plan. Grandma then assigns Han Kyul the task of bringing a disgusting coffee shop into a money-making venture. He puts together a coffee shop where princes (hot guys) work, and Eun Chan is one of the employees.
My reaction: I LOVED this. Yoon Eun Hye is adorable, so cute in fact that I chose my second drama because she was in it. Actually, I really loved all of the main actors, because Gong Yoo is wonderful and Lee Sun Gyun, who plays Han Kyul’s best friend, is oddly appealing to me. The crossdressing thing is more believable than in most, and Yoon Eun Hye does a good job playing a tomboy. This drama has a lot of humor, as people slowly catch on to Eun Chan’s gender and hijinks ensue.
2. Goong (2006)
Plot: Goong is based on the manhwa of the same name, and is also known as Princess Hours. This series is set in an alternate universe where Korea still has a monarchy. When the king dies suddenly, the powers that be decide that the prince Lee Shin (Joo Ji Hoon) should be wed as soon as possible for an upswing in public relations, because mourning is sad and people haven’t been all that happy with the monarchy. Turns out Shin’s grandfather plotted with a friend and arranged for their grandchildren to marry, so Shin finds himself betrothed to commoner Shin Chae Kyung (Yoon Eun Hye).
My reaction: This one is PAINFUL. I really liked it, but I’m not entirely sure if I could rewatch this one, because Shin is such a jerk for SO long. He intentionally hurts Chae Kyung’s feelings a whole lot, and encourages his girlfriend (who wouldn’t marry him because she wants to be a ballerina) in her bullying of Chae Kyung. Also, pretty much everything that happens with Lee Yul, Shin’s cousin and potential rival for the crown, is upsetting. It is awesome to see Yoon Eun Hye in such a different role, though. In the manhwa, it’s obvious earlier on that Shin has real feelings for Chae Kyung but is just super awkward and reserved (think Linus in Sabrina), but in the kdrama he definitely just comes off as an asshole for most of it.
3. Heading to the Ground (2009)
Plot: Cha Bong Gun (Jung Yun Ho) dreams of being a pro soccer player, especially since his family struggles to get by. Kang Hae Bin (Go Ah Ra) wants to live her life her way and not have to listen to her wealthy father. She pursues her dream of being a sports agent, and takes on Bong Gun as her first client.
My reaction: Of all of the ones that I’ve watched, this is probably the last one I would recommend it. I mean, I enjoyed it, because the main guy’s cute and it has funny moments, but it’s also the craziest one I’ve seen. Most of it is straightforward sports drama, but there’s this story arc in the middle with amnesia, accidentally being taken into a crooked mental hospital, a fire, and surprise inheritance that was just unnecessary. I definitely would not watch this one again.
4. Oh! My Lady (2010)
Plot: Housewife Yoon Gae Hwa (Chae Rim), through a series of misadventures, becomes the manager of spoiled brat top star Sung Min Woo (Choi Si Won), so that she can earn enough money to regain custody of her daughter.
My reaction: When I was trying to put together the list of kdrama I’d watched, I almost forgot this one, because it’s pretty forgettable. I definitely don’t remember most of the plot points. It was fun, and has one of the hottest actors (Choi Sin Won is GORGEOUS), but had way too many moments about kids for me to be too interested.
5. On Air (2008)
Plot: We’re getting meta in this drama about the production of a kdrama. On Air follows four main characters, all involved in different pars of the production: actress Oh Seung Ah (Kim Ha Neul), manager Jang Ki Joon (Lee Bum Soo), director Lee Kyung Min (Park Yong Ha), and writer Seo Young Eun (Song Yoon Ah).
My reaction: I don’t think this one has been hugely popular, but I actually really liked it. The interplay of the four characters is more complex than the other romance plots I’ve encountered up to this point, and the behind the scenes look at a drama is a whole lot of fun. I ended up caring about all of the main characters, though Oh Seung Ah was definitely my least favorite of the bunch.
6. Pasta (2010)
Plot: The dramas of being a chef in a pasta restaurant. Seo Yoo Kyung (Gong Hyo Jin) has been a kitchen assistant for a long time and dreams of being a chef. Choi Hun Wook (Lee Sun Gyun) is brought in to be the head chef of the restaurant where she works. He bosses her around and they fall in love.
My reaction: I have never wanted to eat pasta more in my entire life. This drama made me SO. HUNGRY. For the whole two weeks I was watching this, I wanted nothing so much in the world as pasta…for every meal. This one would have been a lot more enjoyable of Lee Sun Gyun’s character wasn’t such a jerk. I mean, he’s supposed to be, because chefs are very bossy – that’s the nature of the job – but I wish he didn’t treat Yoo Kyung the same way in their personal lives. It was nice to see that Lee Sun Gyun could play a very different role, since his character in Coffee Prince was pretty indecisive and friendly.
7. My Sweet City (2008)
Plot: After a one night stand with a younger man, Oh Eun Joo (Choi Kang Hee) embarks on a relationship with him. At 31, Eun Joo is in a whole different place in her life than Yoon Tae Oh (Ji Hyun Woo), who works part-time jobs as he tries to get a job in the film industry. Eun Joo is embarrassed by their age gap and keeps him a secret from her friends. Meanwhile, she has a blind date with a business man closer to her age, Kim Young Soo (Lee Sun Gyun).
My reaction: Okay, my description makes this sound like it’s all about the romance, but, actually, my favorite part was how much focus was on her bond with her two best friends. The three of them are all single and trying to choose between taking the easy route in their careers or trying for something they’re really passionate about. They do a lot of drinking and have sex. It’s definitely the most “risque” drama I’ve seen. It’s another side of Lee Sung Gyun once again. His character was my least favorite though, because, where the rest of the plot was realistic, he gets this crazy back story that ruins the last couple of episodes.
8. Flower Boy Ramyun Shop (2011)
Plot: Yang Eun Bi (Lee Cheung Ah) is preparing for her civil service exam so that she can be a high school teacher. On the morning of her first day as a student teacher, she bumps into an attractive guy she’d seen once or twice before and asks him out, only to discover that he’s a student at her school and in her class. Cha Chi Soo (Jung Il Woo) is a bit of a megolomaniac and plays the awkwardness for all it’s worth. The eventually end up working at a ramen shop (flower boy means pretty boys work there) run by Choi Kang Hyuk, who hopes to make Eun Bi fall for him.
My reaction: This drama is ridiculous, but it’s meant to be. I laughed a lot when I was watching this. Obviously, this might not be the best place to start for those new to kdrama, just because the whole flower boy and teacher-dating-student romance thing is likely to be off-putting. I never did come around to Chi Soo and Eun Bi as a couple. Why would anyone not go with Kang Hyuk, who is super hot and has the best abs that ever were?
9. A Gentleman’s Dignity (2012)
Plot: In a gentleman’s Sex in the City, A Gentlaman’s Dignity focuses on four attractive, wealthy bachelors in their early 40s. The drama follows the relationships of all four, but the most central couple is architect Kim Do Jin (Jang Dong Geun) and teacher Seo Yi Soo (Kim Ha Neul).
My reaction: I really wasn’t expecting to like this much, but I LOVED it so hard. It starts out really funny, though it does get a bit more serious as time goes on. Because there are so many more main characters, the drama can avoid having to throw as many obstacles in the path of a single relationship, so it’s never super depressing, since usually at least one couple is happy at any given time. Do Jin and Yi Soo are freaking cute once they get everything worked out, and I love it. I also have a lot of love for Park Min Sook (Kim Jung Nan), who is the older wife of philandering Lee Jung Rok (Lee Jong Hyuk). My only real issue with this one is that the big climactic conflict is when they learn that one of the four had a son eighteen years ago that he never knew about. Apparently that’s a HUGE deal in Korea and makes him damaged goods, but from an American POV it really didn’t seem that terrible. So you have a young, hot son that’s already grown? There’s no reason to break up over that. It’s not like you cheated or have a young kid that will take up all of your time.
10. Heartstrings (2011)
Plot: Heartstrings is set in an arts university. Lee Shin (Jung Yong Hwa) heads up the popular local band “The Stupid,” and is the most popular guy in school. Lee Gyu Won (Park Shin Hye) has been raised on traditional Korean music and is skilled at the gayageum. Her grandfather, a traditional musician, urges her to practice constantly. The school’s hundredth anniversary celebration is approaching and a director with Broadway experience is brought in. He saw Gyu Won sing and wants her to act in the musical, rather than just play traditional music.
My reaction: This is probably my new favorite kdrama. It is so cute and funny, and Lee Shin is the best kdrama boyfriend I have encountered thus far. He does try to take care of Gyu Won, but he respects her opinions and supports her in what she wants to do. If he puts his foot down about something, he explains why and convinces her it’s the right thing to do, rather than making pointless ultimatums. Plus, he trusts her wholeheartedly and never does anything to make her doubt his feelings for her once they’re together. Of course, who wouldn’t try to be the perfect boyfriend for Gyu Won? She’s freaking adorable. Also, I’m now a HUGE fan of CNBlue. Jung Yong Hwa is the lead guitar and singer in the group (they’re all in the drama and Lee Jung Hyun was in A Gentleman’s Dignity too). Several of there songs are in here, and they’ve now lead me into an obsession with Korean music. Woo!
So have you ever watched any kdrama? If so, do you have some to recommend? If not, are you considering it?