Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Kat's K-Dramas: Korean Dramas for Beginners

Korean Dramas are awesome stories. They're great for lovers of YA because they have all of the love, drama, angst, and intrigue of a YA book. But it's all in Korean. Also, there are some fun story-telling tropes thrown in that are distinctly K-Drama.

K-Drama Basics:

1. Korean Dramas are only one season long - I know, this is horribly depressing when you find characters and a story that you just love. But I've come to realize that it's also super satisfying, you get a true ending and not that horrible fizzle out that (unfortunately) happens with some of our favorite English-language series. Some seasons are only 12 episodes, some are over 100 (saeguks run very long)

2. They have a lot of Korean Cultural references that non-eastern audiences might get confused about - like smashing a hard-boiled egg against your head to break the shell. Or asking someone their age and getting mad when younger people talk informally to you. Or public bath houses. These are just a few things that might be odd or weird to a western audience. But it's something you just have to go with and then one day you'll think it's totally normal.
3. Types: Melodramas/melo, Rom Com/Romance, Saeguk (historical drama), Makjang (intense melodrama)
4. Drinking Culture is...different...and also the same: People in Korea enjoy their drinking and the culture that surrounds it. For example, they will go to these little tents (rain or shine) and drink soju and eat fried food out of a food cart at tiny plastic tables that look like kid's tables while sitting on tiny plastic chairs. This is totally normal, young 20-somethings do this and older businessmen do this.
Also, there are things in the shows that help cater to safe drinking, like calling a hired driver who comes and drives you home in your own car because you're too drunk.
5. Western culture is shown in an...interesting way: This can be seen in the American scenes in Heirs. If it were up to me, I would fastforward through those, but it does add important plot stuff. So just roll with the awkward English and awkward/bad white actors.
6. Eating scenes (Mokbang) will make you crave food: Even if it's food you've never heard of before, you will want to eat it.
7. Idol = K-pop star
8. Aegyo = acting cute/adorable.
9. Time Jump: sometimes a drama will fast forward a few months, a year, four years. This is normal, it happens a lot (sometimes in the middle of the drama sometimes as late as the last episode).
10. Piggyback rides are considered adorable and sweet: when a guy gives a girl a piggyback ride that means something.
11. School/work Culture is different (they test for everything): High schools have uniforms. Teachers are usually well-respected in Korean society. Testing scores are a huge deal and it is not abnormal to have the whole class's scores displayed for the world to see (in a drama). Also, they test for everything, even if you're not in school. They test people who are applying for jobs, they test people who want to see if they can be government workers/reporters/scientists/hair dressers. People are often studying to become something for like half of their life in Korea.
12. BROMANCE! Some of the best bromances I've ever seen have been in K-Dramas. Swoon.

Good Dramas for Beginners:

꽃보다 남자
Genre: Comedy, Rom/Com
Episodes: 25
Aired: 2009
Network: KBS

For Lovers of: Coming of Age, Cinderella Stories, Strong Heroines, Love Triangles, Chaebol (rich heirs with mean families), forbidden love, and teenage angst.

Summary: Hardworking Geum Jan-di (Ku Hye-sun) attends the exclusive Shinhwa High School by a scholarship. She finds her shallow, privileged classmates unbearable, especially the notorious F4. Rich, handsome, and arrogant, Gu Jun-pyo (Lee Min-ho), Yoon Ji-hoo (Kim Hyun-joong), So Yi-jeong (Kim Bum), and Song Woo-bin (Kim Joon) are the kings of the school and no one, not even the teachers, dare challenge them. No one, that is, except Jan-di.

Kat's Take: You guys, this is a classic. It has all of the K-Drama tropes (like when Jan Di loses her home and has to work side jobs to take care of her brother). Or the random comedy moments where the usually cool Jun Pyo has a freak out. Or the long, drawn out hugs that mean so much more than the hottest make-out scene in an American Drama (just trust me on this). It has all of the wide-eyed innocence of a first love story and some extra wide-eyed sweetness thrown in. Also, there is the required cast makeover about midway through and the flash forward in time (don't worry it's only a little bit as corny as it sounds). This show is super addicting and a great intro into all that is K-Drama.

Available on: NetflixDramaFeverViki

Eye Candy:
F4: Kim Beom, Lee Min Ho, Kim Hyun Joong, Kim Jun

왕관을 쓰려는자, 그무게를 견뎌라-상속자들
Genre: Romantic Comedy, Melodrama
Episodes: 20
Aired: 2013
Network: SBS

For Lovers of: Coming of Age, Cinderella Stories, Strong Heroines, Birth secrets (i.e. baby-daddy/baby-mama secrets), Chaebol (rich heirs with mean families), High School drama, forbidden love, and teenage angst.

Summary: The series follows a group of rich, privileged, and elite high school students as they are groomed to take over their families' business empires. These wealthy students seem to have everything under control, except their love lives. Kim Tan (Lee Min-ho) is a handsome and wealthy heir to a large Korean conglomerate who is sent to study abroad in the U.S. But in reality, it's a form of exile, as his elder half-brother back home, Kim Won (Choi Jin-hyuk) schemes to take over the family business. While in the States, Kim Tan bumps into Cha Eun-sang (Park Shin-hye), who has arrived from Korea in search of her older sister. Both Eun-sang and Kim Tan return to Korea, only to meet again. Slowly, he finds himself falling for her, later realizing that she's the daughter of his family's mute housekeeper.

Kat's Take: For the more modern take on the Chaebol (heir to the throne) tropes watch this show. It's like Gossip Girl (but like the first seasons not the bad last seasons). Also, the guys are hot, but also emotional at the same time. I also have a soft spot in my heart for Park Shin Hye, I love her as a heroine. And Krystal shines in one of her first roles in a drama. All in all, this show has some great drama and great angst. (Oh and GREAT romance!)

Available on: DramaFeverViki

Eye Candy:
Lee Min Ho, Kim Woo Bin, Kang Min Hyuk, Choi Jin Hyuk

별에서 온 그대
Genre: Romantic Comedy, Melodrama
Episodes: 20
Aired: 2013
Network: SBS

For Lovers of: Science Fiction, secret Childhood connections, Love Triangles (kind of), Paranormal Romance, Mystery (murder-mystery), Main Heroine who started on top and has to start all over, secret identities, and forbidden love.

Summary: an alien who landed on Earth in the Joseon Dynasty and, 400 years later, falls in love with a top actress in the modern era.

Kat's Take: For something a little more sci-fi fantasy, you gotta watch this show. Kim Soo Hyun and Gianna Jun are AWESOME actors. Also, the love story is sweet and well developed. And it doesn't hurt that there is a big over-arching mystery during the whole series.

Available on: DramaFever, Viki

Eye Candy:
Kim Soo Hyun, Park Hae Jin, Shin Sung Rok, Ahn Jae Hyeon

Genre: Musical, Romantic Comedy
Episodes: 16
Aired: 2011
Network: KBS

For Lovers of: Coming of Age, Strong Heroines, secret Childhood connections, Main Heroine who started on top and has to start all over, High School drama, musicals, teenagers with a dream, underdogs, K-Pop, and teenage angst.

Summary: Six students at Kirin High School have the dream of becoming K-pop idols. During their school years, they learn how to develop their singing, songwriting and dancing skills while undergoing personal growth. They also go through their love life and start to develop feelings for each other. Each one of the students has his or her own strengths and weaknesses, but they strive to debut with the support and guidance of each other.

Kat's Take: For people that love a high school musical, you can watch Dream High. It is corny in all the right places, sweet, and full of drama. It is the ultimate high school drama musical, cute boy, romance extravaganza. It was the dream child of J.Y. Park who is the CEO of JYP, one of the top entertainment companies in South Korea. He cast a bunch of well-known K-Pop Idols in the show so it is also a good introduction into the world of K-Pop and the cuteness that comes with it.

Available on: DramaFever, Viki

Eye Candy:
Kim Soo Hyun, Ok Taecyeon, Wooyoung


  1. Aah, K-dramas;) Loved them so much! I use to watch a tone before I grew out of them:P I think I've seen 19 all the way through, but I started a ton but quit halfway throughXD I've seen BOF and Dream High! I loved SamDong sooooo much<333 My favorite actor is Jung Il Woo though! Have you seen any of his work? Flower Boy Ramyun Shop is my favorite! So funny! I've never seen The Heirs or My Love From Another Star.

    1. I meant a ton *shakes head* that's what I get for writing really fast:P

    2. I meant a ton *shakes head* that's what I get for writing really fast:P

    3. I have seen Flower Boy Ramyun Shop, it was so adorable. And I love that it was the first in the "Flower Boy" Series. I loved Shut Up Flower Boy Band, which was the next show they made (but it's a little grittier and different). Also, Have you seen The Moon that Embraces the Sun? It's different than Flower Boy Ramyun Shop since it's more of a melodrama and historical but Jung Il Woo is in it.

      You should totally watch Heirs if you like High School dramas. it's not as Cutesy as Boys Over Flowers of Flower Boy Ramyun Shop, but it's still pretty good and Lee Minho is in it.