Tuesday, February 28, 2012

State of the Obsession Address (with Links!)

I’m prone to intemperate fits of obsession, so my reaction to Korean drama isn’t entirely without precedent. It’s the way I’m built: just as some people are good at sports or math or learning foreign languages, I’m good at loving random things far beyond sense or logic. This may seem like a bad thing, but I’ve actually come to pity the rest of the world, the middle-of-the-road-masses who don’t even know what it’s like to be utterly, irrationally swept up in something.

From bubblegum pop to food porn to the Harry Potter books to the movie Inception, I’ve spent the past decade enmeshed in one fleeting, geekish passion after another. For however brief a window, these things have shaped not only how I spent my free time, but also how I viewed the world. Kdrama is no exception: I’m in the process of reading the Insight Guide to South Korea from cover to cover. Every time I experience a negative emotion, I find myself doing the patented Kdrama sneer. No matter how bizarre a scenario may be, I can always come up with a drama-inspired platitude. (“You’re stressed about selling your house? Well, like Baek Seung Jo’s mom said in Playful Kiss, Every pot has a lid. You just need to find the right buyer.”) And whenever I go out with friends I agitate for a trip to the local Korean restaurant. (I’m a big fan of japchae, but dukboki is so spicy that one bite made me want to amputate my tongue.)

The most insane of my obsessions have always had an online component. I created my first webpage in 1997, and I’ve been involved with the Internet in one way or another ever since. First there was Hometown AOL, then my own fannish domain, then Livejournal, then fanfiction.net, and then a series of short-lived, not particularly interesting or successful blogs—like the one you’re reading right now.

Jumping into Kdrama fandom with both feet has been a pleasure; it’s a whole new world to discover, and I love reading people’s commentary about Korean drama just as much as I love watching the shows themselves. The weird thing, though, is how little commentary I’ve been able to find. The fandoms I’ve been involved with in the past have been incredibly active and thrived worldwide; any one of them has inspired much, much more commentary than you could possibly read in a lifetime, most of it in English. On the other hand, I usually devote one lunch hour a week to reading about Korean drama—and I often run out of new posts on my old standby sites long before that hour is up.

I think this is partially because I’ve missed the boat—the peak of Korean drama fanishness on the Internet seems to have lasted from about 2007 to 2009. The blogs and websites I’ve been able to dig up during the past few months have mostly been survivors from this time, and often on their last legs: they’re rarely updated and most of the new material they post feels more like habit than excitement. Sites like soompi and allkpop may be going strong, but they’re just too overwhelming for me, and their focus tends to be on kpop, not drama.

It could just be that I’m looking in all the wrong places. Back in the early days of Internet fandom no webpage was considered complete without an exhaustive list of links to other sites of interest. Today’s excellent search engines have made this less common, and most blogs I visit only link to a few other places. So could it be that Kdrama commentary Shangri-la exists out there, and I’m missing it by a Google search?

All this is not to say that I haven’t found any essential reading when it comes to Korean drama. Because I have—and here’s an alphabetical, annotated list.

(A few notes: I’ve only posted sites that update at least a few times a month. There are lots of dead blogs out there worth visiting for specific information or discussion of older shows, but I haven’t bothered with them here. Also, I’m not a great fan of straight-up show recaps, so no sites focused on them are included here.)

Couch Kimchi. Celebrity news; drama talk, pics, and videos; and helpful tips about resources for online drama watchers.

Dodo’s Bell Jar. News and commentary along with exploration of kdrama as a life changing event. (My favorite part.)

Dramabeans. The ne plus ultra of Korean drama on the web. Clearly, everyone even remotely interested in Kdrama has been here, and for good reason: it’s frequently updated with pertinent news, funny commentary, great recaps, and cultural insight. Its community of like-minded commenters gets the spotlight every Friday in a fun open thread that’s great for figuring out what other people are watching and why.

DramaTic. A graduate-level course on Kdrama production, history, and culture. Fascinating, even though the webmaster has very, very different taste in dramas than I do.

Electric Ground. A great resource for cultural information, although recent updates have been slow.

Idle Revelry. Smart and insightful analysis of characters, scenes, and dramas that will make you see even old favorites in a new light.

Kaede + Jun. A fun selection of news, drama reviews, and commentary. (The video of Park Shi Ho and kittens currently on the main page is not to be missed.)

Mad Dino Asylum. Lots of recaps, but I come here for the short, to-the-point drama reviews that include helpful lists of similar shows.

Silky Jade. Thoughtful, in-depth discussion and reviews of selected shows.
So thats what Ive found in the course of my Kdrama obsession. Any other sites or blogs I should be visiting?


  1. I think this is a sign that I need to write more reviews...

    I'm not sure if you found this list:


    You probably have since it's already on your list.

    1. D'oh! I've been to Electric Ground a thousand times but never thought to click that "resources" link. Yay for new sources of Kdrama commentary!

      And yes, you do need to write more reviews, because they're awesome ;) I love how you include shows on the same theme and (often amusing) pros and cons. It turns every review into an invaluable index of Korean dramas, especially for newbies like me. (I've been on the wagon all of 6 months and counting.)

    2. I don't think you've "missed the boat." There is still lots of spazzing going on. But I think people in general are not that into keeping blogs like in the late 2000s. And gems like the ones you have on your list are a bit harder to find.

      I like reading Raine's stuff: http://raine0211.wordpress.com/ Her musical sensibilities add to the conversation.

      Unnichan with http://withsubsplease.wordpress.com/ writes about lots of other things besides Kdrama such as Jdorama and Bollywood, but I love her insights. I stumbled upon her when I was scouring the web for ANYthing on the Japanese drama Nagareboshi. I was so into the story, and I wanted to hear other people's thoughts, but there was barely anything on it. She was a godsend to me. Anyway, I thought I'd share some more links.

    3. I'm feeling like less and less of a n00b. I started watching about a year ago. I plan to link all the reviews together once I get a decent amount going.

      I'm happy to help you find more sites. Blogs need love and there are a lot of them out there.

    4. Thanks for the links, Gail! I see that the first entry on Raine's blog is about one of recent favorites—What's Up. A good sign :) And it's only a matter of time before I start watching non-Korean Asian dramas. I didn't think about the fact that blogging is less in vogue than it was in the heady oughts, but you're definitely right.

  2. http://thundiesprattle.com/ has very slow updates, but their backlog is fantastic.

    http://koalasplayground.com/ covers Korean, Taiwanese and Chinese dramas.

  3. Hello! I'm glad to inform you that this blog just earned another avid reader! I really love your blog that I have to put you on my blogroll immediately. Hihi :D I spent an hour exploring and reading your previous posts. I especially like the "A Not-so-short List of Short Kdrama Lists", I'm thinking of making my own version in my corner (if you allow). Hehe :)

    Since you're a newbie in dramaland, maybe I could help you by offering my own Asian drama list packed with my personal ratings and bite-sized opinions :


    Lurk around my corner if you have time! ^^ And pleaaaaaase, keep on blogging! You have a fabulous follower right over here! ;)

    1. Thanks for commenting! Whenever I'm about to give up this blog because I'm sure nobody is bothering to read it, someone posts something nice like this.

      I'm psyched to see your drama list—it includes lots of shows I've never heard of, and I really love finding lesser-known gems. I think I agree with all your ratings, too. (Although for some reason I can't love City Hunter, even though literally everyone else does.) I've added your blog to my bookmarks and will absolutely check back.

      Also, you should definitely do your own "not-so-short list of short Kdrama Lists"; I'd love to read it.

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