The first Korean Drama I watched was a 2012 production titled "Gentlemen’s Dignity", about 4 middle-aged, longtime friends and their respective love interests. Each episode opened with a glimpse of their younger days, which was always adorable and funny.
Around the same time, I also started watching the first season of Game of Thrones, which had me covering my eyes during gory scenes. Then I realized something. What — we had to wait a whole year to find out what happened next? Well, not me. I continued watching more K-drama titles, and before I knew it, I have left American tv drama for good.
Korean dramas never leave the viewers hanging. Either they conclude the story at episode 16, or lengthen the episodes to respond to high ratings, or cut short the drama completely due to low viewership. Capping the number of episodes to 16–20 gives enough time to develop the narrative, character depth and the love story trajectory. After finishing the drama, you’d never have to wait another year to find out if what would happen.
In Korean drama, you’d understand how someone is feeling through the emotion emanating from their eyes. One of the best K-dramas of all time, Reply 1988, would make you cry and laugh in almost every episode. This drama launched several cast members to stardom status (Park Bo-gum and Go Kyung-pyo). And, if you haven’t watched Kingdom yet, you’d be missing one of the best zombie film productions of all time, and I’m not even a horror movie fan.
The love stories in K-Drama is on another level. In American movies, you could never be sure whether it was lust disguised as love. Actually, I was always pretty sure it was lust. In Korean dramas and films, it might have been already 16 episodes and the two lovebirds haven’t even kissed yet, but you’d never doubt their true love for one another. Case in point: Mr. Sunshine. The male lead made two great sacrifices for his love interest, and he didn’t even kiss her once (at least, not that made it into the screen). They might never say "saranghaeyo" — Korean for "I love you", but the love is evident through their gestures and actions. The Koreans always put their loved ones first. It’s always other people first — instead of the "me" mentality.
One of the best things about Korean Dramas is the cameos. Always highly anticipated, it’s also a way for actors to support a production or fellow actors and directors. An actor doing the cameo might reprise his character from a previous drama, making viewers excited to see him in the same character, but in totally different setting. Everyone reciprocates this gesture, and a result we get famous actors and actresses doing funny antics with each other. As a viewer, I feel really spoiled to see how hard they work to make the fans happy.
It’s probably the culture, but the funny scenes they do never fail to amuse the viewers and make us laugh. I don’t think unplanned love confessions uttered while drunk by a female lead would be as funny if it were an American drama. Or, a bromance situation when two guys bicker with each other over the right way to cook ramen (none of them was right). The way they go out of the way to cover up an embarrassing situation is more often more embarrassing than the embarrassment itself, but so hilarious to watch.
If you’re convinced that K-drama is great, wait until you’ll see the explosive effect when K-pop enters the equation. When Do Kyung-soo (also known as his stage name DO), from the popular K-pop band EXO, starred in 100 Days My Prince, both him and his fellow bandmate Chen contributed original soundtracks for the drama. EXO’s Chen also sang a track for the hugely popular drama Descendant of the Sun, further increasing the popularity of both the band and the drama. K-pop fans would watch the drama, and K-drama fans would be further enticed to the colorful world of K-pop.
Nowadays, when my K-drama loving friends and I catch up with each other, we don’t ask how the other is doing, but rather "what are you watching now?". When Dramafever, one of the biggest streaming K-drama platform, stopped operating, Netflix picked up the slack. Nowadays Netflix boasts a very good selection of K-drama and films. In fact, most of the highly anticipated titles would be in Netflix before anywhere else.
Have you heard? Park Seo-joon, known internationally as the friend who brought the unlucky stone in the movie Parasite, will be joining Brie Larson in the Marvels later this year. Another great Korean actor, Ma Dong-seok, is joining Angelina Jolie and Gemma Chan in Marvel Studios’ Eternals. Now, these would probably be two American movies I’d anticipate to watch in a long time!
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