This post is going to seem a bit random coming from me…
I’ve been watching a lot of Korean television shows lately because I can’t seem to get interested in any American or British television that’s available on Netflix.
Unfortunately, I can’t speak Korean so I have to read subtitles to watch the shows. I don’t mind subtitles, but it makes it hard to multitask. How am I supposed to change clothes or put make-up on or write up a quick response e-mail if I have to be watching the screen and reading all the time?
Some K-dramas (that’s Korean drama) are absolutely ridiculous. My Girlfriend is a Gumiho, for example – a story about a nine-tailed fox spirit that falls in love with a human. Or You’re Beautiful (alternately He’s Beautiful) about a male K-pop (Korean pop music) group that a girl, disguised as her brother, joins and who all three of the other band members fall in love with. Even with ridiculous story lines and situations like in You’re Beautiful when the girl falls for the wrong guy (seriously, Kang Shin Woo was sooo much better than Tae Kyung) the dramas are always entertaining.
One of the best things about K-dramas, in my opinion, is their limited story lines. Unlike in the United States when shows often drag on and on or jump the shark to the land of what-the-hell-were-the-writers-thinking, K-dramas typically last a set number of episodes. Many are 15 or 16 episodes long. Others may be 24 episodes or more. Viewers have time to get to know the characters and even become attached, but usually not enough time is given to create a situation in which we hate characters that we once loved.
Of course, the limited number of episodes doesn’t prevent the dramas from sometimes feeling like they’re dragging on and on. Sometimes the writers throw random plot twists in that make very little sense. Other times it just takes too long to get to the end.
When you look at shows like Alias or Grey’s Anatomy, the K-dramas seem tame. While I loved Alias and still enjoy Grey’s, they both dragged on far longer than they should have. Alias become so far fetched and ridiculous it was hard to watch. Grey’s has moved across the spectrum from medical drama to medical soap opera.
Another thing I like about K-dramas is that the characters don’t engage in a lot of displays of affection so when they do kiss or hug, it actually means something. This is definitely a consequence of culture, but I get really sick of all the sex and allusions to sex in American television. And when Americans do manage to create a show with very little sex? It gets canceled pretty quickly (Better Off Ted or Pushing Daisies, anyone?). The funny thing is that most of the dramas have an over-15 rating (if that screen was translated correctly the one time I saw a translation, that is), but they’re tame enough that I would have no qualms about a child as young as 10 watching them*.
I really love the opportunity these shows give me to learn a little bit about Korean culture. I know they’re television and not very realistic, but there are little things throughout the shows that interest me, and I get to learn about those things by looking them up properly. My boyfriend and I even decided to try jajangmyeon because it was the favorite food of one character (actually, it was the female lead in an adaptation of Overboard called Couple or Trouble).
If you happen to be bored or you’re looking for something interesting to watch, consider browsing the dramas and movies on www.mysoju.com. Be aware, though, that some streaming sites are really horrible. If you become really interested in K-dramas, you might consider downloading a video player that can load soft subs – then you just download the episodes and the English subtitles.
*Younger may or may not be appropriate, but I know for sure that a 10-year-old would be fine