Back on … March 10, 2011 (link) I wrote during a week long tribute of Korean Film and Culture, including an article on Korean Dramas and why they were popular.
For the first time since I started this blog, I actually got a dissenter. It’s nice to have a contrasting opinion.
The reader, named Rick, wrote:
Korean dramas are mostly crap….almost all the same plots, mostly plastic people, that Koreans envy unduely, and budget casting/filming. If Korean dramas are so popular, it’s surprising that so little filming skill/real acting goes into them. Yes, some of the segments of acting can be quite realistic, but most of the character profiles/personalities are so flaky and void of any true color.
I’ve lived in Korea for over 10 years, and lived among Koreans before that, since 1994. Korean dramas are mostly just injected with some gas/puff and arrogance/showiness that doesn’t reflect much at all about how 99% of Koreans live in Korea. This last aspect is getting worse.
Finally, the screaming, hysterical women, (quite common here) and flowery guys are quite off-putting/annoying to watch/listen to….there’s enough noise and disorder in daily life here, to tolerate more noise pollution at home.
Like so many expats living in Korea…very unimpressed with Korean dramas!
Now, I am not posting this to inspire negative attention towards Rick by any KDrama fans, but I wanted to share an opposing opinion. For a lot of us, we will never get a chance to visit Korea. In addition, it is entertainment and whether it is good or not is subject to opinion. There are many people who enjoy KDrama for a variety for reasons. However, the majority of us recognize – this isn’t exactly Korea. It is a world that is distorted for the art of entertaining. Doesn’t mean there are not nuggets of truth within the programming.
The best way to debunk such distortions is to watch programs about Korea and to see Korea through the eyes of not only ex-pats but locals as well. Perspective is key.
Yes, it is true. Korean dramas will re-hash plots but this is not uncharacteristic of any entertainment industry – see Hollywood for reference. It’s really hard to be original after all the time that has passed in the civilization of mankind. What we do have is our perspective through which we filter such plots – our spin, right?
I do believe there are still Korean Dramas that have intelligent writing – even though some of them are flawed. Great example of a recent drama was: 49 Days. Yes, it had it’s soap operish aspects, but I found it a neat concept (made me think of Heaven Can Wait, starring Warren Beatty) and it made me think more about how I live my life. What could be better than entertainment that inspires you to think? Scent of a Woman was a drama that tackled Cancer – I believe in a rather honest and revealing way. I have found a lot of inspiring wisdom within certain KDramas as well.
But seriously, one of the fun things about watching a lot of KDramas is being able to pick on the obvious rehashing of certain events, themes, etc.
This is why I love this blog called – KDrama Laws. It’s pretty funny and at times accurate.
On a closing note, when I wrote my initial blog post, I really never went into why I actually like KDramas…
- Actor/Actress Chemistry - I find a lot of Korean Actors and Actresses have an onscreen chemistry with the character that is very alluring and sucks me in. Kim Sun-Ah, Park Shin Hye, Gong Yoo, and Yoon Eun Hye are some of my favorite actors and actresses. They are all four very good at tapping into their characters and giving them life with little habits and a subtlety of reaction.
- Story Lines – Yes, some stories suck me right in. I like feel good stories. I like stories of transformation. I like stories that provoke me to examine humanity and my existence as a human being – 49 Days and Scent of A Woman.I also like comedies and romance like with My Lovely Sam Soon – which examines taking control of one’s destiny, discovering oneself, and love as well as aging.
- Culture and Language - As I mentioned, Korean Dramas are a distorted version of reality and you just have to use some common sense. I think that the social aspects such as drinking soju and beer are probably spot on. I think the depictions of Korean family life, eating together, going to the sauna and singing at Noraebang are probably realistic as well. I am sure a lot of the touristy places look like they do in dramas, but most of us know, like in any other country, there are poor places in Korea as well – which I think dramas tend to ignore of course.
- Music – I enjoy a lot of the music used in various dramas like the piano work in Winter Sonata and various ballads like Kim Bum Soo’s “Bogoshipda” from Stairway to Heaven.
- Quirk – I like a lot of KDramas for their quirks or rather what I see happen in so many of them in terms of certain scenes (i.e. kimchi making, soju drinking) and the behavioral habits of some of the actors and actresses (i.e. facial expressions, interactions, etc.).
- Innocence - A drama would not be a drama if there were no conflict. In life there is conflict. However, there is also innocence. Something that creeps up in a lot of dramas is innocence. Yes, some of it is a little utopian but other forms are truthful and do happen. I appreciate these pockets of innocence. They remind me of things to appreciate…especially the small things and the little gestures.
As much as I do like Korean Dramas, there is a darker side to it all: