The most attractive thing about Korean dramas is the one season-only attachment. If you have the tenacity and no job, you could finish one within days. No endless waiting for the long vacation to be over before your favorite show comes back on air. They are pretty to look at; the characters, the clothes, the country itself.
They also have a lot in common with silhouette/harlequin books.
There is the *Chaebol, the arrogant, cold and rich male lead whose main aim is to first convince you of his jerk status before little by little over a series of unfortunate events, he falls for the girl and proceeds to maul her till she is convinced of his affections. Yes Gun Jun Pyo. You.
*Candy, the cute, fresh faced and poor Cinderella-like heroine who because of her weird klutziness catches the attention of the male lead and through a series of some other unfortunate and sometimes unbelievable events, has her wrist and heart captured.
Then there’s the Sunbae who is proof that even in Korea, nice guys finish last. The Sunbae is the sweet considerate second lead who loves the girl (and should get her) but is simultaneously brother and friend zoned such that he is ever only going to be a shoulder to cry on or be the lender of numerous jackets/towels. The Sunbae is usually a sweet eyed fellow. Very sweet eyed.
And while you’re rooting for Sunbae and Cinderella to get together, you get to see beautiful South Korea; the islands, the city, the food, the people, the saunas (where you eat boiled eggs without worrying about calories). The dramas are a tourist attraction tool themselves and a hands-on learning of some Korean norms. You learn that seaweed soup is served to a birthday celebrant; that you take your leave politely before taking your leave, bowing slightly as a sign of greeting. Like Nigeria, there are different terms used to address different people (Hyung for an older male, Noona an older female (used by males), Oppa for an older male (sometimes one you have romantic feelings for), Unni for older female).
Korean dramas however, can be misogynistic and sexist in subtle ways. The man is depicted as the alpha male while the woman is the hapless rose that needs saving. And God help that female when two alpha males are interested in her, it’s full on testosterone madness with her as a pawn in the middle.
Even when she is demeaned and ignored by the male (but really for her own good), she sticks around and doesn’t grow a spine (Yes Oh Ha Ni. You). The most disturbing bit is when violence is seen as a romantic gesture. In secret garden, the male lead forces himself into the heroine’s room and despite her protests, cuddles up with her. This scene ruined what was a reasonably good watch for me because it depicted a pro-rape situation as being romantic. The guy grabs the girl’s wrist and pulls her along like she’s a doll or grabs her shoulder and shoves her against something to make her listen to his heartfelt declarations. These are not romantic gestures, they are chauvinistic cavemen behavior. Dramas like this may sensitize people into accepting what should be frowned against. Hold my hand, hear when I say “no” and do not grab my shoulders and shove me against walls. My clavicle is really delicate.
That being said, I have enjoyed more, than abhorred Korean dramas. I’ve seen awesome ones like City Hunter in which my fiancé acted in (pictured below) and My girlfriend is a nine-tailed fox starring the awesome super cool heroine who kicked ass (literally). I also loved Boys over flowers (this is a rite of passage of sorts), Personal taste, lie to me, Alice in wonderland, Heartstrings, Brilliant legacy, Cain and Abel, Scent of a Woman.
And the reason why I cannot forget all things Korean even if I tried? I have a living breathing fanatic who lives in my house, shares a bathroom with me and has a Korean song as her alarm tone.
She can also name all of these people: