December 18, 2012

Holiday Gifts for the Kdrama Heroine

full forearm gauntlet in pink leather completely covered with with gold spike studs;A stack of different colored leather bracelets with spikesOr, for a fashionable stacked effect…

파이팅!

June 23, 2012

10 Obstacles to Love in Korean Drama

Wherever there is romance in Korean drama, there are obstacles, and lots of them. Here are 10 common (but temporary) obstacles to love in Korean drama:

1). Your Dad Killed My Dad. Rarely fazes determined young lovers, but is a real deal-breaker for their families. Luckily, the murder always turns out to be an unfortunate accident, or was actually committed by somebody else. Sometimes dad even turns out not to be dead.

2). Your Dad IS my Dad. AKA “Omo, you’re my half-sibling!”
Usually (but not always) the audience knows all along that the apparent incest is a misunderstanding, or a plot by an opponent of the romance. However, it gives the lovers a few episodes of severe angst and guilt, since they either refuse to believe it despite apparently strong evidence, or can’t keep away from each other even if they do believe it. Incest scares are very, very common in Korean drama (why?).
unhappy lovers stares at each other, as the man reaches out to the woman but does not touch her

“Why did you have to be my sister?”
Chun Jung Myung to Park Min Young in Glory Jane
(aka Man of Honor or Young Love Jae In)

3). Your Parents Hate Me. Completely over-the-top alcoholic single mothers are a particular favorite.

4). Your Ex Won’t Let You Go. So ruthless and malicious that we wonder what the Hero/ine ever saw in them.

5). Alternate Suitors. Alternate female suitors are either conniving, obsessed control freaks, or clingy, immature surrogate daughters to above-mentioned binge mom. Alternate male suitors, on the other hand, are typically rich, handsome, and nicer than the Hero.

6). You’re a Criminal/Player/Immature Jerk/Non-Human. Heroines are obstinately confident that past performance is no indication of future results.

7). I Have a Life-Threatening Illness. Terminal self-effacement, usually. I don’t want to be a burden, so I’m breaking up without telling you why, because that won’t hurt you.

8). You’re Rich, I’m Poor. Resolved by overnight career success or revelation of previously unsuspected wealth for the poor partner, or financial catastrophe for the rich one. Can happen to either gender, but if a poor girl becomes richer than her BF, she loses the money in a plot, or spends it in a worthy cause.

9). My Friend/Sibling Likes You. You don’t like them, but better that I renounce you so we can all be miserable.

10). Our Parents Are Involved. OK, double-dating would be weird, but is this really a reason to break up?? In Korea, yes. In-law incest is not illegal, but it is taboo, since families are considered merged upon marriage, therefore your in-laws are your own relations. Up-and-coming as a substitute for half-sibling incest scares, which is a great relief to western viewers!

NOT an Obstacle to Love in Korean Drama

You’re My Boss/Employee. Sexual harassment policies? What’s that? Korean drama contrives the most unnatural plot twists to throw romantic partners together, frequently involving the workplace. Koreans work long hours, and are expected to socialize after hours with co-workers in the interest of group cohesion. Heavy drinking is often involved. You’d think this would make workplace romances even more problematic, but not in Kdramaland.

You Have No Interest in Me. Stalking? What’s that? Again, this is gender-neutral. No matter how often an object of desire may reject, insult or shun the would-be lover, the truly determined Kdrama suitor never gives up. There’s a hideous double-standard where conniving exes or alternate suitors who do this are highly unsympathetic characters, while lead characters in the very same drama engaging in the very same behavior are portrayed as passionate and courageous, and get the girl/guy in the end.

We Have Nothing in Common Except Attraction. Compatibility? What’s that? First the drama highlights all the reasons these people should not be together. Most of these reasons do not change, but by the end of the drama they are together anyway, and we are to believe they live happily ever after. This is not particularly Korean. We see it all the time in US movies, and in long-running will-they/won’t-they TV series, where they eventually have to, because we’ve waited for it for so long, but they really shouldn’t.


It’s pretty obvious that the target audience of Kdrama romances is women. With some life experience and a robust grasp of the distinction between fantasy and reality, the unlikeliness of romance plots and characters is all in good fun. I wonder about girls and women who lack one or the other, however. Is this story about a Japanese woman husband-hunting for the kind of Korean man she sees on TV a rarity? Let’s hope so.


Related posts:
5 signs that you are watching a Korean drama
7 familiar characters in Korean drama
10 Common Kdrama Phrases, and What They Really Mean
Love Rain: Romance vs. Family in Korean Drama

February 24, 2012

7 familiar characters in Korean drama

Even fledgling Korean drama addicts will soon start to recognize certain characters that appear in nearly every drama. Here are a few you may know:

The Spunky Heroine

Energetic, outspoken, very pretty, and under 35. There is often a secret about her birth, and one or both of her parents are dead. She is optimistic in the face of adversity, and courageous in the face of injustice. Although she may be the smartest character in the drama, her desire to believe the best of people causes her to initially overlook villainous acts right under her nose. Defying obstacles and personal risk, she sticks to her goals. Through persistence sometimes bordering on stalking, she overcomes rejection, and shames good people who are behaving badly into changing their ways. She is flawed, but that saves us from hating her.

The Damaged Villain

Handsome, and under 35, he wears an expressionless mask most of the time, yet manages to be the most charismatic character in the drama. We rarely see him smile, and when we do, it’s an unpleasant smirk. He is an arch manipulator whose motives are never what they seem, but may show flashes of honorability, which are usually as unsung as his villainy. He has a traumatic backstory. We see his inner loneliness and despair, and want him to turn out to be a good guy in the end, even after he commits irretrievably evil acts. Female viewers may yearn to personally reform him. We always see him shirtless at least once, and are better for it.

The Slightly Above Average Hero

Any age (though typically under 35), attractive, personable, uncomplicated and underachieving. He has talents, but not necessarily intellectual ones, and they may not be immediately apparent. When we first meet him, he shows signs of immaturity, but soon we see that he is deeply loyal and can (motivated by The Spunky Heroine) discover unsuspected reserves of honorability, perseverance and capability in himself, and turn into a real hero, deserving of The Spunky Heroine’s love.

The Opposing Woman

Any age, this woman creates obstacles for the hero and heroine, and may be the primary villain or a sometime co-conspirator with The Damaged Villain or The Abusive Father Figure (but only for as long as it benefits her). She is often loved by a weaker but better man, who has little influence over her. She may be a conniving businesswoman with a hidden agenda, a mother or grandmother stuck on an irrationally negative notion, or a former love interest of the hero. Her rigidity is a key plot device, and can take the form of utter self-repression, ruthless abusiveness, or relentless scheming. Colleagues, family members and friends try to intervene unsuccessfully. She may have secret allies, usually an alternate love interest, jealous relative, or competitive colleague of the hero or heroine. If her power is in the home sphere, she probably repents by the end of the drama. If in business, however, not so much. She may end by suicide.

The Abusive Father Figure

Over 40, in a leadership role, single-mindedly ambitious, and remorselessly violent. Usually travels with an entourage of lackeys. A classic bully personality, charming in public and brutal in private. Often involved in political conspiracies to enhance his business opportunities. Sees good people as weak, and his worst behavior as completely justifiable. Since he can’t repent, he must end badly.

The Spoiled Brat

Female, and under 40. Attractive, but with such a petulant expression on her face most of the time that we hardly notice. She has a whopping sense of entitlement, and is hostile and arbitrary when she feels it has been violated (usually by the heroine, through no fault of her own). She is often competing with the heroine for motherly love, and refuses to accept that they can both receive that love. She may lose the hero to the heroine through her mean behavior. She matures during the drama and grudgingly accepts the heroine in the end. Sometimes The Spoiled Brat becomes The Spunky Heroine!

The Clown

Usually (though not always) male, any age, and in a position with some influence. This character usually provides comic relief with unexpected or silly behavior. He may be a major or a minor character. When he is a major player (The Wily Clown), he is a conscious trickster, manipulating the hero or heroine into growth experiences without fully revealing his motives until later. When his character is minor, the story may turn (for better or worse) on his actions. He is usually regarded with respect or affection by the hero or heroine. Even when his errors or bad behavior cause harm, it is understood to be inadvertent (if it comes to light at all), and he is rarely punished.

Did I miss anyone?


Related posts:
5 signs that you are watching a Korean drama
10 Obstacles to Love in Korean Drama
10 Common Kdrama Phrases, and What They Really Mean

February 16, 2012

5 Signs That You Are Watching a Korean Drama

If you’re not up on your Asian languages, and aren’t quite sure whether the drama you’re watching is Korean, check first for the ubiquitous presence of food. If there aren’t at least 5 scenes involving food in a one-hour episode, it’s definitely NOT a Korean drama. Here are five more telltale signs: MORE…

February 12, 2012

Gag Concert Review

Gag Concert is a Saturday night comedy program on KBS World. It’s a little off-topic for a blog about Korean drama and learning Korean, but it’s my blog, and I’ll digress if I want to.

As I’ve mentioned before, KBS is government-owned, and some of its programming – documentaries on culture and Korean life, for example – are reasonably analogous to programming on US public TV.

Not Gag Concert, however. Gag Concert might be more comparable to Saturday Night Live. MORE…