Where it all began...
I love Korean dramas. It's a closet obsession I've carried with me since college. It all began with my crappy dorm TV that boasted only 4 channels, the clearest being KBC-TV (Chicago). I remember stumbling upon Love Letter one day and becoming instantly hooked on this gripping tale of orphan Andrea's struggle to choose between love and the priesthood. Yeah…
Thanks to the internet, I can watch hundreds of dramas. I usually watch at least 2 series at a time. I've kept this schedule up now for about 5 years. That equals like...a hundred Korean dramas. And considering each one has 5 different titles, that's like...a million Korean dramas. I could write one, I swear, as they stick to a pretty simple formula. Let's examine a few types:

"I'm getting the AIDS all over this man's neck!"
1. The Tearjerker - Example: Thank You (aka We Were There or There We Were) Overview: An arrogant rich doctor travels to this poor island to fulfill his dead girlfriend's last wish to apologize to a struggling single mother for accidentally infecting her young daughter with AIDS during medical treatment. This single mom also cares for her elderly father, who suffers from Alzheimer’s, eats only Choco Pies, and calls everyone "Poop." If you read that without reaching for a Kleenex, you're a soulless bastard.

Grab a mug and get gay.
2. Insane but Endearing - Example: The 1st Shop of Coffee Prince (aka Coffee Prince) Overview: Eun Chan, a poor girl, must work odd jobs to take care of her mother and sister. Rich food company heir, Han Kyul, mistakes Eun Chan for a boy and employs heshe as his gay lover to evade the blind dates arranged by his grandmother. Han Kyul later inherits a crappy coffee shop, renovates it, and hires 4 "princes", including heshe Eun Chan. Sparks fly between Han Kyul and heshe Eun Chan, whose financial dilemma forces heher to hide her true identity. Wrought with confusion over his sudden gayness, Han Kyul professes his love for Eun Chan, dong be damned. Other insane shit unfolds, but you get the gist. (I recently watched this drama, and I must say it's one of my absolute favorites! Go Eun Chan FIGHTING!)

Grab a mug and get gay.
3. Dramas starring Bi (Rain) - Example: Sang-doo, Let's Go to School! (aka Let's Go to School, Sang-doo!) I thought pop phenom Bi deserved his own category. But perhaps I'm being unfair, cuz then I should give props to the fellas from Shinhwa too, right? Nah, I'll save that teeny-bopper meltdown for another post. Overview: Sang-doo is best childhood pals with Eun Hwan, whose family runs away after being cleaned out by loan sharks. Sang-doo attacks one of the ruffians and sends him flying over the side of a bridge and into a coma. Sang-doo goes to jail. Years go by - Sang-doo becomes a male escort to cover the hospital bills of a sick child who may or may not be his. He's reunited with Eun Hwan by chance, who is now a high school math teacher. Comical hijinx ensue when Sang-doo returns to high school, is placed in Eun Hwan's class, and vows to reclaim her heart!
(ALSO – check out Full House, another Bi-drama favorite!)

Pop-Locking our way to obscurity!
4. The Road to Fame - Example: Over the Rainbow (aka Dance Battle) This show totally rules. Overview: If you guess the plot, you're probably right. Aspiring dancers aspire to become singers and then sorta fail at everything. Just watch this for the cheesefest dancing and bad singing (To be fair, megapopstar "Rex" is actually a good singer). Try to contain your nausea as Sang-mi learns how to do a body roll. It's mind-blowing.

Think he's got a gun to his back?
South Korea's miniature Raven Simone!
5. Wacky Romantic Comedy - Examples: Delightful Girl, Chun-Hyang (aka Sassy Girl, Pleasurable Girl, or Heroine Chun-hyang) and Hello! Miss (aka Hello! Baby or Hello! My Lady) I had to clump this one together, as Korean dramas are saturated by romantic comedy, and the plots are pretty generically crazy. Expect goofier music, lots of falling over, and cartoony thought bubbles.

That chick in the white dress has the right idea.
6. Crime Action Drama - Example: Invincible Parachute Agent (aka Korea Secret Agency or Master of String Pulling) I actually haven't watched this one, but after seeing the title - I'm all over it! Overview: Non-stop RAD!

I think this is a good start. Next, let's highlight a few characteristics that normally pop up in every drama:

Here's the annual report, Sajangnim.
1. There is always a generic corporate subplot. And it's such a watered-down attempt to add dimension to the story, you wonder why the writers even waste their ink... "Seoul Global International bought shares in Lee, Kim & Partners, but the executive files have been stolen! Quick, get me that fax - I must calculate the figures before the presentation!" Riveting.

2. This one makes my skin crawl. When 2 enemies meet in a Korean drama, they always go to the nearest cafe to duke it out over tea. It doesn't matter where they are, they ain't talking until they've been seated and served at Starbucks. I don't get it...What's happening on the way there, Mr. Director? Are they in separate taxis? Have they agreed to take different routes? Are they walking together - making small talk? Or glaring icily ahead? THEN, when they get these beverages so vital to the confrontation, no one takes a sip! Ahh, so it WAS all very pointless and stupid, just as I'd predicted! (Note: In Coffee Prince, where the whole story revolves around a coffee shop, these encounters all take place...in different damn coffee shops. They leave the coffee shop to bicker in another coffee shop! Wrap your head around that.)

Too hot for TV!
3. My favorite thing about Kdramas is the way love is treated with such innocence and purity. Where American television obliterates my faith in true love, Kdramas restore that childlike hope (though dangerous to indulge...more on that later). This is clear in every Kdrama's pivotal first kiss scene. And it's always the most boring kiss ever. Picture it - guy and girl embrace uncomfortably (if at all), touch lips at a slight angle (don't press), and just stand. Stand as the camera swirls dramatically around your heads and the whiny ballad plays...hold that pose for 15 seconds. I challenge you to try it with your significant other. My BF and I barely got through it without a chuckle, which messes it all up cuz then your lips are moving. Or we start to make out, which messes it all up cuz then we're really kissing. But I must say, kdramas are getting racier these days...kisses are done with open mouths, smacking and rubbing around. They even fade out kissing sessions on the bed....implying full-on SEX! Can you believe it?! I couldn't at first...I felt uncomfortable and strangely self-aware the first time I witnessed this...as though I'd been deflowered all over again...

Tell your Grandma to bring the car around, punk...
4. For reasons unknown, most kdramas will include a random fight scene. It's usually stupid and way over-the-top. You're busy falling in love - Suddenly, you're caught in a foggy alley with burning metal trash cans on all sides and the local gang closing in. Cue the Mortal Kombat music. “Oh well, guess it’s time to use my 20 years of Tae Kwon Do training!” Turn on the motion blur and watch ‘em go - you know, all those flying kicks and flashy spins that have no application in real life self defense. But it's not a cutesy schoolyard fight - somehow these people manage to really get their asses kicked. Bloody noses, black eyes, swollen purple lips. Niggaz be straight jacked. Excuse me, Niggaz be straight jacked, yo!

5. Most of these budding love stories are stopped short when one person randomly decides to leave the country. There’s always a dramatic scene where lover #1 races through the airport, barely missing lover #2 boarding the plane. Strange – everyone forgets how a cell phone works right around then. Perhaps the flight attendant could relay a very important message to a passenger aboard the plane? Nope? Ok, just an idea…
The remainder of the episode is a mad dash towards resolution and it completely frays any emotional attachment you may have had to the story. Suddenly, 3 years have passed and the couple reunites awkwardly. Then there’s a spaztastic montage where all the subplots are joyously settled and the couple lives happily ever after. The end…?

Just finished.
Well, I think that’s a good start. Think you may give one a try? If you do, email me and let me know which one! Or you could suggest one for me to watch! I just finished Dal Ja’s Spring (highly recommended) and I’m looking for something new!

Currently Watching: Lovers
Just started.
Contact Pixel at pixel@pixelgamemusic.com

All rights reserved. (c) 2008