Korean dramas have had a solid toe-hold in my life ever since hallyu, the “Korean wave,” swept its way over from East Asia and into North America in 2010. Then, I considered them an escape into my favorite genres and a way to indulge in my appreciation of beautiful people. K-drama has since become so much more to me. I think the very first drama I watched was My Lovely Sam-Soon, the tale of an overweight, loveless patissier who finds herself in a love triangle with her boss and his ex. I loved everything from the music to the food, and quickly fell in love with Kim Sun-Ah and Hyun Bin, who remain two of my favorite Korean actors to date. Over the years, I’ve lost count of just how many dramas I’ve watched. There have been so many good ones.
The Korean film and television industry is estimated to have contributed 18.45 billion won to the country’s GDP in 2018, creating over 315,000 jobs as well. With the recent partnership with Netflix and the growing availability of content on other streaming sites like Amazon Video and Hulu, this industry which already has so many fans around the world, is set to gain even more traction than ever before. This increased visibility brings with it new fans and viewers who will undoubtedly be able to find a show that they like thanks to the huge variety of content available. As a K-drama aficionado, here are the reasons why I watch.
Korean dramas were an escape into my favorite genres and a way to indulge in my appreciation of beautiful people. K-drama has since become so much more to me.
To Be Inspired By Their Creativity
I’ve always been very impressed by the manner in which Korean dramas are produced and aired. It’s so unlike the way things are done in North America, where shows get season after season, expanding the universe that the story is set in as time goes on. Korean dramas typically air a single season of 16, 24, 50, or 100 episodes. Some shows get a sequel depending on their popularity, but that isn’t the norm. I think that it takes an incredible amount of creativity to constantly be able to churn out new ideas. There might be similarities in the themes explored across multiple shows, but the writers always find a way to put a twist in that makes it different from the rest.
To Practice Korean and Learn About Korean Culture
I’ve always wanted to be multilingual, and Korean dramas provide me with that opportunity. Watching with subtitles is great, but I can’t wait for the day when I can watch Korean films and TV shows without them. That’s an advanced level of linguistics that I can’t wait to reach. I practice with Duolingo, and test myself by translating the titles of the dramas I watch, and repeating some of the common phrases in the episodes. I’m always very excited when I find that I can understand dialogue beyond the sometimes abbreviated translations that are provided.
K-dramas are also a great way to learn a little about Korean culture and traditions. I love to learn about the ways of people from other cultures, even when it’s something as simple as how their homes are laid out or which pastimes are usually enjoyed. I hope to visit one day soon for a fully immersive experience.
To Stay Informed of Beauty, Fashion, and Tech Trends
As evidenced by the current popularity of K-pop and K-beauty, South Korea is ahead of the curve when it comes to trendsetting. If you can’t keep up with what’s in vogue through Korean magazines and fashion blogs because you don’t read Hangeul, K-dramas offer a window into the world of current fashion and beauty. All shows have sponsors from a variety of retail industries such as technology, food, beauty, and fashion, which are placed visibly within episodes to influence viewers to buy items used by their favorite characters. I pay attention to things such as what products a hero or heroine has on their vanity, what devices they use, how they wear their makeup, and what they eat or drink. As long as the show is current, it’s an accurate representation of current trends and thus a great way to keep up with the latest.
To Watch My Favorite Actors and Actresses
Everyone has actors whom they love because of their talent and/or personality, and it’s no less different when it comes to Korean cinematography. There are a few actors whose performances I admire and whose acting I seek out. Some of them are Kim Nam-Gil, who I loved since Bad Guy and The Great Queen Seon-Deok; Son Ye-Jin from Personal Taste and Something in the Rain; Gong Hyo-Jin from Pasta and The Greatest Love; international heartthrob Lee Min-Ho from the evergreen Boys Over Flowers; Lee Joon-Ki in everything he’s ever been in; Gong Yoo, who comes across like the loveliest, most sensitive man; also Kim Mi-Kyung and Kim Young-Ok, who always play the most loving maternal figures.
To Torture Myself With Imagery of Delicious Food
In the days before I finally tasted dishes like yuk gae jang (spicy beef stew) or samgyeopsal (grilled pork belly), I would watch as characters tucked into delicious looking food around a family table or at homey restaurants. Even the pojangmacha (roadside street stalls) held a certain allure with their plastic furniture and array of offerings. Korean food certainly lives up to the hype portrayed in dramas, and I’m grateful for having been introduced to such great food.
In addition to discovering new flavors and food items, watching characters in dramas cook also motivates me to hone my culinary abilities by trying to replicate the dishes I see, especially when they look super healthy and nutritious. The current pandemic has robbed me of frequent visits to my favorite Korean BBQ spot, and I’m eager to be able to enjoy good food again while being surrounded by friends and family.