Tuesday, May 14, 2013

A not terribly long list of short latter-day lists

When I first started this blog I was exploding with Kdrama commentary, but everyone in my life greeted the concept of Korean television with a raised eyebrow and a deep sigh. So of course I took to the Internet, the world’s greatest bastion of geekish obsession.

Many of my early posts here were in the form of lists, because everything about Kdrama was sensory overload—so new and astonishingly different that I could barely synthesize my thoughts into actual articles. It recently occurred to me that it has been a long time since I put together one of those lists—which of course inspired this today’s post.

Song Joon Ki, all groomed up with nobody to marry. Take care of that problem for him, will you?

Three difficult but rewarding ways to get more hits for your Kdrama blog
1. Move to Korea. (750 hits. Who doesn’t love a fish-out-of-water blog post?)

2. Once you’re there, be cast as the token Westerner in a drama party scene. (2,000 hits. Behind-the-scenes gossip always draws crowds.)

3. After meeting Song Joon Ki while filming said party scene, marry him. (10,000 hits. Wedding pics!)

Three shockingly unshocking Kdrama plot twists
1. Amnesia. If real life is anything like dramaland, Koreans should be required by law to wear helmets at all times.

2. Birth secrets. While most Kdrama leads can barely manage a kiss, their parents tend to be randy libertines who leave trails of illegitimate children in their wake. (This usually includes the person the lead is trying to kiss, so maybe it’s just as well.)

3. The return of the first love. As soon as a lost love is mentioned, it’s only a matter of time until he or she shows up on screen.

Pretty actors, pretty flowers: Kdramas have it all.

Three scenic vistas every Kdrama director covets
1. The seasonal pleasure of cherry blossoms, which are featured in so many dramas that I suspect there must be a sign-up sheet at City Hall to prevent the violent fallout of more than one production team arriving to film them at the same time. See When a Man Loves, That Winter the Wind Blows, Lie to Me, and Hello, My Teacher, among many, many others

2. Any high place with sprawling city views. Hills, rooftops, helicopters...the Drama Overlords will use any excuse to show urban Seoul from above. See the almost-suicide scene in Shining Inheritance for an especially terrifying example.

3. The glittery sea. Although it’s a bit of a ride from Seoul, drama types are always making time in their brutal filming schedules to haul cast and crew to the seashore. See Nice Guy, Padam Padam, Flower Boy Next Door, Autumn in My Heart, and so on ad infinitum.

Three Korean idioms dramas have taught me
1. “I’ll take responsibility.”—What’s Up Fox
Usually said by a man who wants to make a serious commitment to a romantic relationship, often by marrying his sweetheart. (Or ball and chain. You be the judge.)

2. “You can come down from the mountain.”—Ojakygo Family
Indicates that someone is very skilled at something and has nothing left to learn. (I imagine it has something to do with all those mountain-dwelling wise men in Buddhist lore?)

3. “Don’t poke me in the belly button when I come home late.” —Flower Boy Next Door
A roommate’s request for the front door to be left unlocked so he can enter when he gets home. (Presumably because the doorknob of a locked door might hit you in the stomach when you tried to go inside.)

Psst...your soul is showing, Gong Yoo.

Three wildly romantic lines from Asian Dramas
1. “I’ll say this just once, so listen to me. I like you. Whether you’re a man, or an alien.... I don’t care anymore. I tried getting rid of my feelings, but I couldn’t. So let’s go, as far as we can go.”—Choi Han Gyul, Coffee Prince

2. “I’m sorry I didn’t come find you sooner. Thank you for letting me love you. Ajumma, I love you.”—Enrique Geum, Flower Boy Boy Next Door

3. “Possession is the beginning of losing. . . . Having youth is actually the beginning of losing youth. Having a marriage is actually the beginning of losing the marriage. Having reputation, it can also be lost. Having wealth is also the same. Health is also the same. Even raising a dog is the same. Possession of love . . . losing a loved one is harder to accept. Why is it that everything I pursue in life, I start losing it as soon as I gain possession of it? If I don’t have it, then I won’t have anything to lose. Now do you know the reason I don’t love you? Because possession is the beginning of losing.”—Chen You Qing, In Time with You

Three reasons why I could never be a Kdrama character
1. I prefer to avoid hard work whenever possible.

2. I hate spicy things and cower in fear at the sight of any red-tinted Korean food. The first time I tried spicy rice cakes I genuinely considered cutting my tongue out to stop the pain.

3. I’ve worn high heels four times in my life, and fallen down both publicly and spectacularly each and every one of them.

Three ways I am like a Kdrama character
1. I freak out when people wear shoes in my house. (What else is a girl who hates housework to do? Shoes = dirt.)

2. In Amandaland, Ramen constitutes a key food group.

3. I’m always falling in love with unsuitable boys. (Unfortunately, they rarely fall in love back.)

Lee Min Ho and Park Shin Hye, soon to appear together in Heirs, have shared the screen before. This Etude House ad featured Lee Min Ho getting no action whatsoever from his female lead. I can only imagine this will be good practice for any kissing scenes that may be included in their new drama.

Three Four dramas I can’t wait to watch
1. Goddess of Fire, starring Moon Geun Young and Kim Bum. This historical series about a Korean potter sounds a lot like Moon Geun Young’s Painter of the Wind, one of my favorite shows ever. On the one hand, I want it to be a drama of substance that explores the meaning and value of art, not some trifle that focuses on the geometry of the same old Kdrama love triangle. On the other hand, I want to spend its entire run squeeing fangirl-style at the lovely, boyish Kim Bum, who’s signed on to be show’s male lead. Will the show satisfy my inner Jekyll/Hyde dichotomy? We’ll see. Begins in July

2. I Hear Your Voice. Even Dramawiki’s Google-translate-level description of this show leaves me drooling:
“Jang Hye Sung (Lee Bo Young) is a bold, sassy, thick-faced, comical female lawyer. She is a prickly edge, sharp tongue who doesn’t have a bit of concept or manners and finds it hard to be enthusiastic about what she does. Cha Kwan Woo (Yoon Sang Hyun) is a serious, passionate and macho former police officer who becomes a government lawyer. Meanwhile, Park Soo Ha (Lee Jong Suk) is a 19 years old boy who has the ability or superpower to read the people's minds. Together they will team up to solve the cases no one else wants, cases that only have a one percent chance of being found innocent.”
I could live without the police procedural angle, but the characters have promise. Is it wrong that I hope the female lead ditches Yoon Sang Hyun in favor of a steamy noona romance with eternal boy/man Lee Jong Suk? (It’s definitely wrong that I’d also be down with Yoon Sang Hyun and Lee Jong Suk ditching her in favor of their own epic romance. As far as I’m concerned, their flirty, frustrated chemistry was the hottest thing about Secret Garden.Begins in June

3. Heirs. I’m prepared to hate this show from the writer behind two of my least favorite dramas, Secret Garden and Gentleman’s Dignity. And yet...Lee Min Ho? And Park Shin Hye? That I could love. (I’m probably also the only person on planet Earth who was disappointed when Jugn Yong-hwa backed out after being cast as the show’s second lead.)

All that’s really known about this show at this point is its setting—a posh high school. Based on the track record of its writer, I can guess where it’s going, though: Park Shin Hye’s role will be reminiscent of her turn as You’re Beautiful’s ineffectual, slightly dim-witted Go Mi Nyu, while Lee Min Ho will play a snotty chaebol with a chip on his shoulder, stepping back into Jun Pyo’s bespoke shoes from Boys over Flowers. Whether this show will be good or bad, I’m not sure sure. Either way, it will doubtlessly be memorable. (It aired four years ago, but I still can’t shut up about Secret Garden, after all.) Begins in October

4 Monstar. This teen-centric show sounds as if it’s going to be a mashup of Heartstrings, Dream High, and Ma Boy (only without the cross-dressing, unfortunately). According to its dramawiki synopsis, the action will revolve around a misbehaving Kpop idol who’s sent back to high school and becomes part of the school’s band, which is full of broken, psychologically wounded misfits. (Um. It’s high school band. Doesn’t that go without saying?) Monstar even has a decent pedigree: it’s written by the screenwriter behind Arang and the Magistrate and directed by the same guy as Sungkyunkwan Scandal. Here’s hoping this show’s comparable lack of buzz in the English-language dramaweb doesn’t mean it won’t get subbed. (I only wish the male lead was a little hotter. Sorry for being shallow and superficial, but it’s true. I guess the fact that he’s a member of the boy band Beast means he has great abs, though?) Begins this Friday, May 17

Namhae bridge, the Golden Gate Bridge’s double-teired almost twin.
Three random facts about Korea
1. By population, Seoul is the world’s 11th largest city. It’s home to more people than any city in Europe or North America: Even New York City would need 2 million new residents to catch up.

2. People in Korea really are as obsessed with love as a drama watcher might guess. In addition to Valentine’s and White Day, Korea celebrates a number of other lovey holidays—including Black Day, meant just for sad-sack singles.

3. Namhae bridge, connecting Hadong Noryang and Namhae Noryang, looks like a miniature version of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge

Three dramas that should immigrate
1. How great would a Kdrama version of Gilmore Girls be? Quippy and clever, Lorelei and Rory’s obsession with food would make them a great fit for Korean television. It’s hard to imagine how a Korean show would depict a serious rift in family relationships like the one that separates Lorelei and her parents through most of the series, though—Kdrama kids just don’t disobey the way we American types do.

2. As the magazine Entertainment Weekly pointed out earlier this spring, Answer Me 1997 is ripe for an American remake. (And if they need a technical consultant, I’d be happy to step in—one of my formative life experiences was standing below the windows of MTV’s studio in Times Square, waiting for my favorite boyband to show up.)

3. We Americans have no fun with history, but how about a version of Arang and the Magistrate set in colonial New England? The show’s tension would only be ratcheted up by the possibility of the lead being hanged as a warlock after being spotted talking to thin air.

You can still buy Pig Bunnies. Lots of them include hide recording devices—apparently the Hong sisters demographic has grown up enough to need nanny cams.

Kdrama’s three MVPs (most valuable pigs)
1. Pig Rabbit from You’re Beautiful. A Frankenstein’s monster born of the unholy union between a stuffed pig and rabbit, Pig Rabbit was the turning point in the relationship of one of Kdrama’s greatest OTPs.

2. The stuffed pig from My Lovely Sam Soon. The perfectly flawed love talisman for the perfectly flawed relationship.

3. My Girlfriend is a Gumiho’s boar. Who needs a pricy matchmaker when you can be brought together by a vicious wild animal? That’s a meet-cute you’ll love sharing with your grandchildren someday.


  1. How I wish someone would do Korean Gilmore Girls and American Answer Me 1997. And a colonial New England Arang sounds quite fun too. It would be interesting to see how the Korean elements translate to American/English TV and vice versa. (Only thing is that they would have to be really good remakes that honour the original series', not just an half-assed attempt to make money off the hopeful fans.)

    Song Joong Ki, you're ready for marriage? Call me.

    1. I'd also sort of like to see an American Boys over Flowers =x In some ways, Gossip Girl fits the bill--it's just that I hate the Americanizing changes. Poverty is nixed, sincerity is nixed, and genuine, not back-stabby love is nixed. So hopefully if AM1997 is remade, they'll at least have some respect for its relationships and realistic vibe.

      And if Song Joon Ki is looking for a bride, I'm available, too. Nonna romance is all the rage these days, right?

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  2. Wellz Amanda, this is the first blog of yours I've read and I really like the blog and agree with just about everything you said. But whats so wrong with Secret Garden? I know the ending kind of bombed (not what I wanted to happen) and it made me cry like a baby at times (I became Ha Ji Won character's personal cheerleader), but I still feel it was a good drama. To me it was the first kdrama I saw which pulled me into Korean entertainment so I thought it was pretty good now that I'm like this kdrama zombie now lol.
    I'm just really curious what was it that you didn't like about it since I relate to much about what you stated (Gilmore Girls would be a must).

    1. Thanks!

      I think Secret Garden is one of those shows you really love or you really hate. It was one of my first dramas I had read all these positive reviews of it, so I think my expectations were just too high. I didn't like how the male lead treated Ha Ji Won's character ("Your ugly purse is shameful to me!") or how little the supernatural elements had to do with the plot. They switched bodies for a while there, but I don't think why it happened was satisfactorily explained--or that it was successfully developed for anything other than a few cheap laughs.

      I know that lots of other people loved Secret Garden, but it just didn't work for me. (Maybe even partly because the real Secret Garden was one of my favorite books growing up.)

  3. My first comment also. -waves-

    1. I spit out my ramen laughing at the good practice comment on Heirs.

    2. I totally agree on either ditching scenario for I Hear Your Voice.

    3. Heirs. Writers, ok. LMH, hells yes. PSH, meh. All of these actors are way past playing high school students, just silly, so meh. I keep thinking oooohh, LMH, and then I think about the rest of it and there goes my happy.

    4. Monstar-could be fun. Here's hoping.

    5. The Piggy Bunny creation was the best reason to watch You're Beautiful.

    1. ::waves back::

      I hope PSH and LMH are playing teachers on Heirs. Those drama casting agents seem to sniff a lot of glue on company time, but I just can't imagine anyone would want them to play kids. (I'm sure they'll be the stars of the show in a way the grownups weren't in School 2013, though. They're too well-known to be total bit players like that.)

      And we're going to find out about Monstar very soon! I hope it gets subbed and recapped somewhere...

  4. Yeah I also wasn't a huge fan of Secret Garden so am also a bit worried about Heirs. Hopefully it will even out though because I am a HUGE fan of Lee Min-ho and Park Shin Hye and am way excited to see them together in a drama!
    Not very fussed about the high school setting however.... boo :(

    Also I LOVE the idea of an American Arang and the Magistrate!! How cool would that be? Please make it happen world!

    And lastly, thank you for the swoon worthy drama love quotes!
    and your photo tag below made me giggle heaps.

    'Psst...your soul is showing, Gong Yoo.'

    ... he he.

    1. My love for Lee Min Ho and Park Shin Hye is so strong that I'll watch heirs just for them. Now if only the show is good enough to make me love them even more... ::crosses fingers::

      That Gong Yoo. He just killed me in Coffee Prince, and is definitely my ultimate Kdrama boyfriend.

  5. This was another great list Amanda. I see myself as the director's assistant for one of the dramas running around like a chicken with it's head cut off trying to please everybody and having to move the shoot every night and only getting blasted for everything that goes wrong! I'm reminded of the assistant in The World They Live In, poor girl!! As for making Korean dramas into American shows I think we would royally screw them up. However, I know they get ideas for Korean dramas from American shoes because "Couple or Trouble" was an almost exact remake of Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell's "Overboard", only I think the Korean drama was better!

    The pig in My Lovely Sam Soon has been my favorite pig character so far. I love that drama so much. Of course, I love Kim Sun Ah and Hyun Bin so much too. Speaking of Hyun Bin, as you know, I loved Secret Garden. It was funny, mystical and definitely chauvinistic. So for our newbie, don't listen to Amanda, it was wonderful! LOL

    Got to let you know that I spent a night at my local Jim Ji Bang last weekend. Spent the entire night, after a body scrub and massage, sleeping on a mat and square pillow in a room with strangers! It was truly an experience. Didn't get a lot of sleep due to people whispering to each other but I will do it again. My family is really worried about me!

  6. These lists are great! Especially the three most romantic quotes. Or course, Gong Yoo wins that round hounds down, which is why Coffee Prince is just such a great show! Also, I totally agree with the spicy food thing. I hide under things at the thought of eating spicy food so, alas, I guess that's the reason I can't be a kdrama character...

  7. Aren't Asian Dramas just wonderful for their wildly romantic bits?

    Just watched NINE today, and the facts or fantasy scene really makes me melt:

    "You want to hear the facts or fantasy?

    You want to hear the facts? When I heard that I was going to die soon I had two things on my mind. One was my mother. Who would take care of her when I am gone. 'This is no good'. That's what I thought. That's why I looked for my brother, so that I could ask him to take care of my mother.

    The other was that I have a hot bed scene with Joo Min Young before I die. Something like that. I was startled too. There are so many beautiful girls in the world. It was not the models in my computer file. It was not the glamorous anchor that was hitting on me. Why do I feel I couldn't close my eyes until I had my chance for a bed scene with Joo Min Young?

    I'm just stating the facts. If you do go out with someone, remember what I tell you. If a man says he will be happy seeing you smile for the rest of his life, he is a liar. If someone is talking like me, marry him. He is an honest man.

    Are you disappointed?

    You want me to tell you the fantasy version?

    For the last 5 years, Joo Min Yong was just a junior at my work who had a lot to learn. But her mind was always fixed on being a girl. When I learned I was going to die, I realized something. That I had loved her for those 5 years. I realized that there was not a moment in those 5 years that I didn't love her. But it was too late. So I wanted to be with her for the remaining months to give her everything I could. If she knew that I was sick, I thought that I would never see the smile of the girl I love again. That's why I wanted to keep it a secret.

    What importance does that smile have? I'm trying my best to be cheerful. But I feel I want to cry multiple times a day. It's not just a smile. It's everything for me.

    If someone tells you fantasies like this, he is a liar. OK. Don't fall for it."

    "Why does the fantasy sound more real?"

    1. I LOVED NINE, but i couldnt make sense of the ending?

  8. That boy from Beast definitely has great abs (it's why I love uh.. Beast so much) xD He also gets cuter the longer you stare at him. Actually, they are one of the few boy groups I don't exactly fangirl over, but adore their music to bits. I'm definitely watching.

    I'm really looking forward to I Hear Your Voice. Though it worries me that I will almost definitely be getting my ships confused. Anything with Lee Jong Suk just... Does that to me.

    Speaking of lover boys, I hear Kim Woo Bin is now in discussion to join Heirs. O_O

  9. Thank you dear Amanda for posting that pic of my Joong Ki. Don't worry about him ladies, he's already happily married to me. ahahaha.

  10. Yay! You're linkies with Dramabeans now. :)

    1. That should be item number four on the list of difficult but rewarding ways to get more hits ;)

      And I think you get the credit for it...I saw that Tweet. Thank you!

  11. I thought i was the only one who is sad when yong hwa withdraw from hiers....im comforted that we shared the same feelings...

  12. I've been following your blog for a while and it's the first time I get the courage to comment. First things first: Amanda, I LOVE your blog and I do depend on your reviews when selecting a drama to watch. (it's because of you that I decided to venture into TW drama and watch In Time With You... Tons of thank u).I even read your Coffee Prince and FBND fan-fics (you should write more of those).
    "Pssst..your soul is showing, Gong Yoo">> can't agree more...No one can act like Gong Yoo.
    If they ever make an American Version of Reply 1997, you should update us on the news. As for Heirs, If they're going with the students thing, I kinda wish that PSH would play a hot-tempered and extremely sexy rich girl while LMH plays a sweet poor guy(I would love me some goofy Min Ho, anyone else?) and I would love him to have a donsang, too. Also, I'm praying that PSH would learn how to kiss before Heirs.

  13. What you wrote is so true!!! I feel like the directors and producers have a checklist to make sure all the Korean cliches are present in a drama . . .

    Clinching of the fist-check
    Romantic interlude under cherry blossom trees-check
    Drunkenness and Vomiting-check
    Road Rage-check

  14. You are not alone! I was also very disappointed when YongHwa dropped the drama but I'm more than alright now since we got Kim Woo Bin instead.
    I cant wait for Heirs.

  15. "3. I’ve worn high heels four times in my life, and fallen down both publicly and spectacularly each and every one of them."

    This would actually make you the perfect character. I just finished watching A Love to Kill, and OMG. OMG. Do not use this drama in a drinking game.

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  17. Amanda you're now on 'my list'. I love your sense of humor, we share some of the same viewpoints. I gave up on Heirs when lead girl became a 'prop', I liked the episodes in America both leads seemed to be more empowered. So I'm not the only one that really didnt like Secret Garden, & thought Gentlemans Dignity was a stinker.

    1. I DID enjoy one scene in GD where the leading lady's dress started to unravel- that was pretty original ☺

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