Barring a move to the international space station, I could not possibly live further from Korea than I do. (It’s so far, in fact, that to the best of my knowledge I’ve never once met someone who’s actually set foot in the country.) And unlike many established bloggers, my family heritage is as un-Asian as it gets: I’m a third-generation American descended from French-speaking Canadians. If my grandmother had ever seen kimchi, she would probably have wrinkled her nose and thrown it out, sure it was leftover boiled dinner forgotten in the refrigerator for far, far too long. I don’t speak Korean or have any profound insight into Korean culture beyond what I gleaned from reading a few books on Asian business etiquette for a previous job.
Yet here I am, presuming to post on the Internet about a topic I barely understand. (Of course, one might make the argument that this describes everything on the Internet, but still.) That topic? Korean drama, a diversion that has essentially eaten my life for the past six months.
My first exposure to Kdrama was like falling down the rabbit hole, or swallowing the red pill; it opened my eyes to an entire world I had long overlooked, one that was completely foreign and yet familiar in a lot of fundamental ways. I hold Netflix responsible: If they hadn’t offered Boys over Flowers on their streaming service, I might have lived my entire life without staying up all night to see whether Jan Di would chose Ji Hoo or Jun Pyo, without scouring the internet for information about mandatory military service in Korea, without yearning to call someone “oppa.”
What sold me at first was the realization that, unlike American TV shows, Kdramas have beginnings, middles, and ends. They are not specifically created to draw storylines out over multiple seasons and hundreds of episodes: some degree of satisfying closure is essentially guaranteed for every single drama. True, the shows are sometimes extended or shortened by a few episodes in the middle of their runs, but that’s nothing compared to coming to love a television show only to have it forever yanked off the air after two underperforming episodes. (I’m talking about you, Wonderfalls.)
These finite runs allow for the other thing that initially drove my obsession with Korean drama: love stories. When you need to plan ahead for season 7 from day one of your show’s run, as in America, it’s just not possible to focus on two lovers the way you can in a 16-episode Kdrama. Other than repugnant, Katherine Heigl-starring chick flicks, American culture isn’t something that gets a lot of mileage out of love. Romance is ghettoized onto channels providing “television for women” or serves as a temporary plot point on sitcoms—it’s not something our entertainment is built around the way Korean dramas are. Kdramas are stuffed to the gills with the things we Miss-Independent-style American girls dream of in our secret heart of hearts: big, unredeemably cheesy romantic moments, professions of undying love, and the kind of true gentleman who will piggyback a drunk girl for miles, no questions asked.
As far as I can tell from dramas, Korean culture is different from American culture in a lot other key ways. For one, it values cheerful, smart, hardworking types in a way that’s antithetical to modern America, where “smart” means “geeky” (see Big Bang Theory) and “hardworking” means “too dumb to know better” (see Office Space). In America, we hunger for coolness and independence and freedom, all of which can be great things—but not when they come at the expense of genuineness, and appreciating joy and beauty wherever they appear—all common themes in Korean drama.
Add these things to the sheer number of Korean dramas available for viewing online (7,000 hours worth on Drama Fever alone), and you have the perfect storm for an OCD-level completeist like myself. My motto has become a simple one: I want to watch Korean dramas now, and I want to watch them all—the old, the new, the classic, the trash.
I also don’t want to shut up about them and their cracktacular fabulousness, which is one of the reasons why I’m here, littering the Internet with still more nothing-special ramblings about something pretty special. Another reason? Much to my dismay, there just don't seem to be that many English-language blogs about Korean drama. The few I've found are fabulous beyond measure, but it feels like there's room for one more.