Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Kdrama Couples: A Field Guide

At the heart of every Korean drama is its lead couple. But just what kind of lead couple is it?

This brief guide to some of the most common manifestations will help you know for sure.

The Romeo and Juliet
(Coupleum impedimenticum)

As seen in: That Winter the Wind Blows and I’m Sorry, I Love You

Natural habitat: Verona

Distinguishing features: Longing glances, infrequent kisses, discussion of reincarnation, death

Whether it’s different class backgrounds, an age gap of a few (hundred) years, or the fact that they may actually be siblings, this classic Kdrama couple faces seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Recent evolutionary adaptations, presumably in response to global warming trends, have forever changed this unique species. Nearly all field research since 2006 confirms a remarkable lengthening of their lifespans: Once guaranteed a tragic ending with a high body count, nearly all Kdrama Romeo and Juliets are now managing to survive—together—to old age.

The childhood sweethearts
(Coupleum larvalcum)

As seen in: Jang Ok Jung and I Miss You

Natural habitat: Playgrounds and/or bridges

Distinguishing characteristics: Youth, starry-eyed innocence crushed by the wiles of evil fate

Although extremely rare worldwide, The Childhood Sweethearts are one of the most common Kdrama species. While other children are busying dreaming of adulthoods as ballet dancers, rock stars, or spouses of lesser Kardashians, these couples want nothing more than to be together. Unfortunately, their single-minded determination serves as a lightning rod for misery: they will almost always be torn apart in the most horrible of ways and forced to abandon their hopes of domestic bliss (not to mention underage shagging). But because of the peculiar feng shui of Korean geography, it is inevitable that they will eventually be reunited just in time for a happy ending.

The cohabiters
(Coupleum acrossthehallicum)

As seen in: To the Beautiful You and Personal Taste

Natural habitat: Shared living spaces

Distinguishing characteristics: awkward bathroom encounters, pajamas

For most human beings, excessive exposure to any person or thing leads to annoyance and eventual hatred. A defense mechanism unique to Human beingus spp. Kdramatis, on the other hand, causes a reaction that is closer to adoration. Researchers have confirmed seemingly limitless examples of this response. Whether the subjects start off as best friends, worst enemies, or complete strangers, the time they’re forced to spend together fighting over the TV remote ensures they end up as lovers.

The second lead
(Coupleum unicornicum)

As seen in: Queen of Reversals

Natural Habitat: Myth and legend; widely believed to be cryptozoological

Distinguishing characteristics: Park Shi Hoo

Like those of the Loch Ness Monster and Big Foot, sightings of The Second Lead couple configuration are rare and hotly disputed. The only substantiated case in the modern era is 2010’s Queen of Reversals, although rumored appearances include Baker King, Kim Tak Gu and the original Dream High. No matter how kind, supportive, and genetically preferable second lead males may be, Kdrama females habitually relegate them to the dreaded friendzone. This fundamental flaw is believed to rise from DNA replication errors endemic in the Korean population.

The bickerers
(Coupleum spinkickum)

As seen in: Boys over Flowers and My Lovely Sam Soon

Natural habitat: Dialogue-heavy scripts

Distinguishing characteristics: Strong characters, plots with more fighting than kissing

Nowhere in the animal kingdom is the line between love and hate as permeable as it is for Kdrama Bickerers. Attraction simmering just below the surface of every heated argument leaves all parties unsure just when fighting will turn into making out. Although Bickerers are nearing endangered status, observers are always on the lookout for any resurgence in numbers.

The (b)romance
(Coupleum forbiddenicum)

As seen in: School 2013 and Answer Me, 1997

Natural habitat: Subtext, with occasional surfacings in canon

Distinguishing characteristics: Boys with dreamy expressions on their faces (and no girls in sight), rough-housing that might actually be an excuse for touching

Stemming from a mutation in last year’s bromance trend, Korean drama is now home to a burgeoning population of males displaying an ambiguous love for other males. This variety of sexual chemistry is as yet unconsummated in the mainstream, but School 2013’s boy-on-boy wrestling matches have recently driven temperatures to heights unseen since the sweaty, shirtless volleyball matches of Top Gun. Will this newly observed phenomenon prove hardy enough to last out the year? Will it ever reach full flower in the form of actual kissing? Only time will tell.

The contract couple
(Couplum dottedlinecum)

As seen in: Ojakygo Brothers and Lie to Me

Natural habitat: A4 92 GSM bond wove

Distinguishing characteristics: unlikely pairings, strict relationship rules that beg to be broken

Many things draw seemingly incompatible Kdrama couples together, but it often takes a contract to keep them that way. These contracts can be fairly simple and straightforward, including only a few basic clauses, or baroquely detailed and spanning many pages of legalese. In truth, Kdrama contracts have only one thing in common: they are quickly and repeatedly violated as the co-singers fall in love.

The me Tarzan, you Jane
(Coupleum chauvinisticum)

As seen in: Gentleman’s Dignity and Secret Garden

Natural habitat: Jungles, 1952

Distinguishing characteristics: Males who tell females what to do, the word eotteohke

Classic Kdrama males are known for their take-charge attitudes and self-confidence, two traits that can sometimes overwhelm the females they hope to mate with. In relatively rare cases, this imbalance of power can form a serious stumbling block to successful communication, frequently leading to physical intimidation. Happy endings are generally achieved, but some researchers find that the ends do not justify the means.

The best friends
(Coupleum togetherforevericum)

As seen in: I Need Romance 2012 and Coffee Prince

Natural habitat: Couches

Distinguishing characteristics: Smiles, shared jokes, entwined personal histories

Are those Kdrama leads having a conversation about something other than how much they love each other? It must be an example of the unusual Best Friends couple configuration, a delightful pairing that genuinely enjoys spending time together even without the promise of romance. Perhaps the most stable and lasting of Kdrama relationships, the Best Friends are sure to provide hours never-ending fascination for viewers and writers alike. 


  1. I was doing a really good job holding myself together while reading this, until I got to to Tarzan... Then I lost it. XDDD

    Now that you mention it, I have noticed a slight decline in the Bickerers. Unless you want to include the wildly more realistic Bickerers/Best Friends from AM97, or the forever Bickerers from Can We Get Married, the standard ones haven't made much of an appearance according to my books... Hmm

  2. I LOVE this list! Especially "The (b)romance
    (Coupleum forbiddenicum", although I don't like to think of them as actually romantic. That would ruin it for me - I just love the banter and competition between these friends and yes, double the cuteness. Two-for-one flower-boy screen time? Thank you dramaland. :) For one great example not mentioned here: Fugitive PlanB with Rain and Lee Jung-Jin. These guys really had the best bromance despite one being a cop trying to arrest the other for murder. Great fight scenes, one-upping, and lots of eye-candy. Must see the pool fight scene! Also, Song Dong-Il and Jo Hie-Bong as arch enemy baddies. They were hilarious!

  3. This was completely and totally awesome.

  4. Hilarious! And true! Hilarious because true! (And also because of the latin. Latin just brings the funny. ;))

  5. He he!! Very funny and all so freaking true!!

    You know, in real life I absolutely hate stuff that is this obvious and cliched but here in Kdrama land I totally love it! Dramas can pretty much get away with anything and I still love them!

    Case in point: Wrist Grabbing in real life? Uncool and controlling.
    Wrist Grabbing in Kdramas? Swoonworthy!

  6. omg, this is absolutely hilarious!

    My favorite scientific name? Coupleum acrossthehallicum.I do have to say that my favorite coupling in practice is the bromance. We definitely more of those in kdramaland. I agree with jensredshoes that they are best as strictly platonic BFFs. Male friendships, even in real life, just get me in the heart.

  7. natural habitat: jungles, 1952?? HAHAHHAHABHAH

  8. OH!in the bromance section, you forgot to include- the bromance in ssks, that between yoo ah in and soong joong ki, the likes of which have never been seen in kdramaland.EVER. SERIOUSLY, you HAVE to watch sungyunkwan if you havent already!

  9. This is great article, hilarious and so true! Have to say that while I found the bromance in School 2013 titillating (....kept saying OMG are they going there?), it was the 3-way bromance in Panda & Hedgehog that blew me away. And come to think of it, there may have been more than 3! It was was very bromantic!

  10. A bit off topic but didn't know how else to contact you. I nominated you for Liebster Award! :)


    1. I too nominated you, Amanda :)


    2. Thank you both! Looks like I have a lot of fun questions to answer :)

    3. If it isn't too late I would like to nominate Amanda also. I went to the site but couldn't figure out how to do it.

  11. I love reading your lists! They always manage to make me smile! Ahahaha, all the species which you have mentioned are so correct! I really love your definition of The (b)romance!

  12. tiga pera o bayong kb? grabe scientific name ah

  13. I'm a bit late, but this is hilarious.

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