Like a large percentage of Koreans (and Asians, and a growing number of Westerners and Latinos), I too watch Korean drama series. Kdrama has become the Hollywood (or Bollywood) of the Asia-Pacific region, and most of the Indonesians, Chinese, Russians, Mongolians, Kazakhs, Arabs, Malaysians and Latin-Americans that make up my language classes at SNU decided to move to Korea primarily because of the influence of Kpop and Kdrama. It’s gotten to the point where a Chinese state official reportedly said that the fanaticism sparked by the insanely popular show You Who Came from the Stars “hurts our cultural dignity.“
Most Korean drama series are highly addictive, often horribly cheesy and most definitely firmly planted in my “guilty pleasure”-category, but they’re also highly educational if you want to get a feel of what the “Korean dream” is, the same way that The Vampire Diaries and Gossip Girl represents American or Western ideals.
Here are some of the less educational things I’ve learnt from watching a multitude of Korean drama series the last couple of years.
1. Girls can’t handle their alcohol. In Norway, being able to drink a couple of beers and still stick to semi-sobriety is common-place for both men and women. The binge-drinking culture that Norway is somewhat infamous for leads to a high tolerance for alcohol. And while Korea is infamous for their drinking culture as well, apparently the norm here is that girls in particular really can’t hold their liquor. Three shots of soju and they’re wasted, ready to be carried home by the (un)lucky guy who had the pleasure of their company.
2. You don’t want to trust your friends. This applies to girls more than guys. Friends (if you have them) are often conniving, jealous and backstabbing bastards in Korean drama series. Sure, you’ve been friends since preschool, but behind that sweet facade is a psychopath waiting to throw you down and steal your boyfriend/stardom/family/food/life. Korean dramas have perfected the backstabbing bitch, and you’ll hate her.
Photo: Screencap from You Who Came From the Stars, episode 15.
3. You definitely want to end up in the hospital in Korea. You’ve never watched a real Korean drama if one (or several) of the main characters haven’t ended up in the hospital at least once. Usually more than once. And it’s almost always a near-death experience. But what you also learn is that Korean hospitals look like luxury hotels. In You Who Came From the Stars, Song-Yi ends up in the hospital
twice three times, each time staying in rooms larger and better furnished than my apartment. They have even got built-in bookshelves, dining tables and sitting groups. Give me appendicitis now, please!
4. A diet of junk food means clear skin and a skinny figure. Leading ladies always seem to eat junk food like it’s the end of the world. They eat more than the men in their lives, and it’s usually of the greasy variety (think BBQ chicken and loads of instant ramen). And while most of them are rarely (or never) seen working out, they are stick figures with porcelain skin. I’m hoping my Korean “street food/instant ramen”-diet will lead in that general direction, rather than the more predictable other alternative.
This video is pretty much spot on.
5. Always choose the bastard over the nice guy. This is the most important life lesson I’ve picked up so far. In Korean dramas there are always two leading men (known as the first and second male lead), and they are usually equally attractive, only one of them is a mean jerk and the other one is an intelligent, lovable and respectful gentleman. Always choose the jerk.
The fact that the second lead is almost always the more appropriate choice, and oh so perfect has even lead to a widespread “sickness” among Kdrama-fans: Second Lead Syndrom (no kidding). It’s a cruel world.
Also, most people kiss with their eyes open, Korean single girls are almost always poor, while the opposite is the case for guys, amnesia is not an uncommon affliction and most Koreans survive at least one drowning accident in their lifetime. Also shower scenes are for showing off abs, you never see women showering in Kdramas, only men.
Do you watch Kdrama?