Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The 2nd Annual Go Dok Mi Memorial Wish List

Dear Drama Overlords,

Another year has passed, and once again I spent an absurd amount of time watching and writing about your mighty works. In this light, I feel entitled to make a few small requests this holiday season. So here’s my 2014 wish list, which should be considered a supplement to the 2013 wish list you essentially ignored. (Although I suppose that it’s possible the character of Young Do was created specifically to punish me for requesting that the second lead get the girl for a change?)

Produce a show that I’ll love as much as I love Coffee Prince. This is a tall order, and may in fact be impossible. To paraphrase a line from Edward Cullen, Coffee Prince is like my own personal brand of heroin. I’ve watched it again and again, and written reams about its various types of perfection—its premise, script, cast, and production values add up to a gem of a show that I will literally never forget. Making me feel that way again won’t be as simple as just replicating Coffee Prince; if you do that, I’ll spend all my time comparing the two shows. But you could borrow some general things, like the drama’s low-key, everyday vibe. I like a show that feels lived in, and that’s just what Coffee Prince’s quiet moments and no-fuss settings achieved. Also, give me a heroine I can love, someone funny and real who doesn’t need six pounds of makeup, a brand-name bag, and a sky-high skirt to to be happy. Another key ingredient is a hero who’s cute and sweet without being a Kim Eun Sook-style jerk. (And don’t forget the great skinship! A lip butt can really ruin a drama for someone with Western, tongue-kissing sensibilities.)

Make the American reboot of Nine great. Tumblr is abuzz with the incredibly dreadful Hana Yori Dango remake, and appropriately so. It’s so amateurishly done that it doesn’t even merit discussion—it’s like watching a dog try to drive a car. It may be a momentary distraction, but you know it will never work out in the end. I’m sure you would love to see one of your shows succeed in the States just as much as I would, but it definitely won’t be this one. (Unless Mystery Science Theater 3000 makes a comeback. In that case you might just have a cult hit on your hands.) There is some hope, though: the possible American version of Nine actually sounds promising. Although this show is technically out of your purview, could you please use whatever sway you may have to make it watchable? Everyone I know thinks I’m odd for loving Korean drama. What a delight it would be to say, “That series you like on Tuesday nights? It’s based on a Kdrama I watched last year. The original was better, of course.” (Then I’d probably spoil them just out of spite.) I’m a little suspicious about the involvement of the production company behind The O.C. and The Carrie Diaries, but on the bright side Chuck Lorre isn’t on the team and the show is under consideration by ABC, which means it might involve something more sophisticated than teen wank.

Cast Kim Woo Bin as a romantic lead. Thanks to his treacherously charming performance in Heirs, Kim Woo Bin is all the rage on the Internet right now. If there’s anything his newfound fans can agree on, it would be that it’s time for him to become an on-screen man—he’s paid his dues as an ensemble player and second lead, and is ready to tackle a starring role. At twenty-four, he’s just old enough to play a true grownup in a romantic comedy. (Although that’s perilous waters; as his Heirs castmate Lee Min Ho taught us, it’s hard to go back to high school once you start taking on adult roles.) Typecasting is bad and all, but I’d love to see our Kim Woo Bin as another snarky bad boy who eventually develops a heart of gold—but whatever role he plays, just make sure he gets the girl this time around.

Visit the countryside. I know that there’s a huge movement toward city dwelling in Asia, but does that really mean that Korea’s rural areas are as utterly vacant as they seem on TV? Nowadays, most dramas focus on cosmopolitan city folks who are rich enough to provide product placement opportunities for big-ticket items like cars and the latest tech devices. But once upon a time, you told stories about regular people with regular means living in regular places, and that made the drama landscape all the more varied and appealing. Would it kill you to set a drama somewhere other than Seoul or Busan? (I guess it probably would, as it might require shooting on location away from your production facilities. With your tendency toward live-shoots, this must be pretty difficult. Still. Give it a try!)

Encourage new voices in the English-language Kdrama community. When I started Outside Seoul in 2011, I was part of a new wave of international drama bloggers. Most of us had been exposed to your work via Netflix streaming, and we quickly became passionate consumers of all your programming. But this wave has pretty much subsided, and I rarely come across new drama blogs these days. This is probably because the newness of Korean drama has worn off for a lot of people, and also because blogging is actually really hard (if rewarding) work. Another possible reason? When a site like Dramabeans—the bible of the international Kdrama community—is threatened with legal action for posting some images, people can get pretty spooked. And that’s on you, Drama Overlords, for not policing your minions in the States. We Western fans are only a small piece of the puzzle when it comes to marketing your shows, but we do contribute to your bottom line and will continue to do so as long as you make us welcome. I’d especially love to see more bloggers with alternate veiwpoints, like Black Cat from The Vault. In spite of our many differences, we Kdrama fans are actually a pretty homogenous lot when it comes to our tastes in television. We need someone to challenge us and shake us up, even if we don’t always agree with them.

Increase the streaming availability of older dramas. It’s great that streaming sites are carrying so many new shows these days, but I also want them to keep acquiring older ones. Classics probably don’t drive traffic the way currently airing series do, but hosting them is still a service to the wider drama community and a good enticement for us to sign up for premium memberships. There are lots of great shows out there that are hard to find because their availability is so limited—Time between Dog and Wolf and White Christmas spring immediately to mind. Instead of letting something rot on a site like Mvibo that’s never going to promote it properly, spread the love around. (And your YouTube channels don’t count. It’s through no real fault of your own, but they’re horribly organized and all but impossible to use.)

Allow I Need Romance 3 to bring back the original’s edgy charm. While its sequel was a slightly sexier take on the standard drama, the first installment of I Need Romance actually had something to say about the lives of empowered women. I’m eagerly anticipating the third title in this series, especially because it stars Sung Joon as a besotted puppy in the midst of a romance with an older woman. Speaking of which, I don’t want this to be one of the silly pseudo-noona romances you’ve been cooking up lately. He’s not a 400-year-old alien and he can’t read her mind—let the power differential tilt in her favor for a change. She’s a grown up who has already figured out how to live life and he’s a young buck still sorting out the details; it’s only right that she should be the one to take the lead. (And maybe lust after his hot young bod while she’s doing it. Because we all know that you’re eternally kowtowing to female desire, even if you never acknowledge that such a thing exists.)


We spent 2013 laughing and crying together, my sweet Overlords. I look forward to another year basking in your glittery world of hot boys, melodramatic plot twists, and fated loves. 

Still fighting,


  1. I liked your points.

    My only concern with dramas set in small towns or the country is that there seems to be a tendency to portray the inhabitants as the Korean Cleetus and Brandine. Although I too would like to see stories set in a wider range of venues (even though as a city dweller, I look askance at such places irl :)), I worry that the shows would be more about mocking the less cosmopolitan than interested in telling stories about other experiences.

    My wishes for the new season are: 1. More solid noir like Heartless City, it makes a nice change from all romance all the time. 2. Cool it with the doctor shows, either find yourself a new ER and then staff it with rotating stars or else pick another profession. 3. (And this is a personal plea) Stop trying to make VVIP a thing, followed closely by, dear translators "staffs" is an abomination,when you are talking about a single group, either say staff members, or remember that Staff is a collective noun. 4. The ten episode length is perfect if you've got an idea that's going to head into wtfery, continue that trend. It's just long enough to sit through so you can find out that your main character's been a gumiho all along or whatever fresh hell you will unleash on us. 5. The last one is personal to one show, as you head into the new year "Let's Eat," please pick a mood, your current schizophrenic jumps between assault mystery and food porn is distracting.

    Have a great new year Amanda!

  2. My k-drama wishes for 2014:

    1. Please produce a proper mystery series, something non-procedural and preferable fair play. The closest I've seen thus far is the first half of White Christmas. I realize plotting a good mystery is hard, especially given the crazy live shoot conditions, so a cable series is more likely. I need more of my favorite genre in k-drama!

    2. That said, please do something about said crazy live shoot conditions. Quality could only increase if your writers aren't scrambling to come up with last minute plot twists and resolutions, and your actors and shooting staff will be much healthier and thus capable of better work.

    3. In line with #2, I would be happy if I never see another extension again. And if your series is over 16 eps, please make sure there's actually enough plot to fill out the episode count. Again, quality over quantity.

    4. I really liked the increase in variety of female leads and characters this year. I Hear Your Voice, Two Weeks, Empire of Gold, Queen's Classroom, Heartless City etc. all had interesting and well written non-stereotypical female characters. Please keep it up.

    5. As Amanda said, I'd love to see more older dramas subbed and available for streaming. Ditto for those hard-to-find cable dramas (*cough* I live in cheongdam-dong *cough*).

  3. Great post. #5-YES, and for Asian Dramas in general. As we know, we are seeing more and more k dramas available, because of the demand in the West. It's great, but it's a bit of a culture shock to realize that we are going to be paying to see them. It's very weird not to be hunting and pecking for them anymore! I turned on Netflix tonight and bam, a new bunch was up, but they took Flower Boy Ramyun Shop down and I was bummed over that.

    We definitely are starving for Coffee Prince quality of drama.

    i am embarrassed that our fellow drama fans around the globe think that silly horrible show is a mainstream production, an American version of HYD. Just to be clear fellow international drama friends, it's not. it's not on mainstream tv-it's a private production from some fans of HYD. No one in the U.S. outside of Asian drama lovers knows it exists. I feel like we American drama fans need to take out disclaimer advertisements lol.

    I feel I am the only person in drama fan land that is not on the Woo Bin boat. I however would love to see him in a drama with Lee Jong Suk again, it is undeniable that they are pretty magical onscreen together.

    I don't hold out much hope for your wants for INR3, but I totally back you on them.

    Here's to hoping for some cracktastic Coffee Prince style love inducing dramas for 2014.

  4. I can't add much more to what has already been said. During 2013 I introduced my daughter to Coffee Prince and my granddaughter to Goong. Both are now head over heels in love with K-Dramas!

    I wish everyone a Happy New Year and looking forward to what 2014 will offer for us Addicts.

    Thanks Amanda!

  5. Great post. My search for a great drama came up with Shut Up Family. It really touched this jaded heart of mine. It's funny, genuine, and the romance that develops slowly and unexpectedly is sweet and makes you ache in all the right ways. I promise, you will love the drama. The main actress is not the usual pretty girl, and she's amazing in this drama and in her role.

  6. I completely agree on the Coffee Prince-type standpoint. I would love to see another couple with such chemistry like Eun Chan and Han Gyul. I loved how raw it felt; my heart always aches with Eun Chan during the scene where she's crying her heart out to Han Sung, and I always catch myself grinning like a dork during the cute scenes.

    My own wishes for 2014:

    1.To see some more Choi Min Ho. I know he's probably busy with SHINee and whatnot, but I really liked him in The Pianist, and I thought To The Beautiful You was pretty cute. Honestly, I could just stare at his face for a while.

    2. I'm too much of a Kpop fan, but I want to see one the boys from VIXX in a drama. I just love them all, I don't care which member!

    3. I want to see dramas get a little sexier.. I don't mean nudity or anything (although I can never get enough of the chocolate abs), but the Park Shin Hye style lip press just does notthing for me.

    4. I want there to be a show where every side character doesn't need his or her own side plot. I get attatched to my main couple, and I sometimes I don't care about anyone else (I will admit to skipping some Han Sung and Yoo Joo scenes to get to the Eun Chan and Han Gyul ones...)

    5. As long as My Love From Another Star ends well, I think I am happy for now.

  7. Hear, hear!

    If you want a drama set in the countryside, that was one of the things I enjoyed most about City Hall. Then again, I know how you feel about Kim Eun Sook, so...

    Maybe part of the reason for a lull in new kdrama voices is that it's kind of intimidating to start. Once an established set of kdrama bloggers already exists, it seems almost impossible to get your voice out there. Our blog hasn't been up for all that long (relatively speaking), and I remember thinking that no one would ever find it or respond to it--because why would they read it if they could read established blogs instead? I did it anyway because I liked writing enough that I didn't mind if no one other than Coco's mom was reading.

  8. Oh Coffee Prince... It's one of the only few dramas that I've watched more than once which says a lot. That drama has a heap load of charm. The story was great, the cast amazing. You basically need magic to get a Coffee Prince. And Gong Yoo. I can watch him act in anything. Even Big.

    I don't really have any K-drama wish. Well, I do. I want a drama that can grab my attention. A drama that can keep my ADD on the down low, but I suppose that's a tall order. Actually no. Shut Up Flower Boyband was one, so was Reply 1997, and some episodes of 1994. And Can't We Get Married was good. So basically moar good quality cable dramas.

    To which I say I'm really looking forward to I Need Romance 3! I've never watched the previous 2 though. Is that a sin? Also regarding that drama, I want lots of abs. I don't think that's too difficult.

    That is all.

  9. "Then I’d probably spoil them just out of spite."
    Do it!

    I ran into a couple more racist pigs this week who apparently have no better commentary than to drunkenly spout "I hate Asians."

    Not that my experience technically correlates to your hypothetically spoiling what I HOPE is a good and deserving remake but... I just had to complain somewhere about the countrified hicks I ended up spending New Years with. Hmph

    All my hopes this season are on INR-3. Please please please don't waste Sung Joon!!!

  10. "Cast Kim Woo Bin as a romantic lead." This one is an absolute must. I can't wait for Friend 2 to be subbed because I need more of Woo Bin, and seeing how his star is fast on the rise, we'll definitely be seeing more of him this year. To have him in a romantic lead role would be icing on the top. 2014, please gimme it.

    (I'm nae-ireumeun on tumblr, by the way.)

  11. Cast kim woo bin as a lead romance. I am really up to that idea. Make him as charming as young do in your next you produce, ok? Hehe
    And i hope it seriously will be granted. It will be daebak...

    And i also want to INR 3 to bring their previous seasson's charm: friendship.
    Although i am fond of first love, nuna-dongsaeng relationship and cohabiting, i have to say that the show is kinda dry without friendship...

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