So why do I love K-dramas? Let me count the ways. One..
American television has lost its appeal to me, for one simple reason, the storytelling pales in comparison to Korean dramas. The stories in K-dramas go from stomach hurting, laugh-out-loud humor one minute to gut-wrenching, tear-inducing heartache the next.
K-drama writers are experts (I bow to you, Hong Sisters) at creating complicated storylines, of taking a character from their everyday life, throwing a gauntlet of challenges at them to the point that they are nearly beaten, and then giving them the strength and courage to overcome all the challenges they face so they survive and thrive in a life they’ve come to take charge of. It’s something we all wish we had the strength to do. After each show, I inevitably find myself wishing I possessed just a little bit of the gumption the characters showed (some more than others) as they made their journey to find their true selves. Yes, some of the situations and actions initially don’t make sense to someone raised outside of Korean culture, but after watching several shows the underlying themes are something we can all relate to – commitment to family, the strength and power of love, belief in self, and so on.
Another thing, unlike American television – which banks on continuing a show for 5-10 seasons – Korean dramas always have an ending and the entire show works towards that end. As a viewer, you know that by the last episode (there’s typically 16-20) the story will come to a conclusion (good or bad), but it will end. It’s done. There are rarely second seasons. The main conflict will have been resolved, love will have won (most of the time) and the bad guys will have met their just end. Yes, sounds very much like a romance novel, but that’s OK! Romances are the biggest selling genre for a reason. We all want romance and everlasting love – whether we admit it out loud or not.
The Pitfalls of American Television
With American television, which drags shows out for years on end, I’m usually bored by season three. The story has slowed down, overstretching the storyline to the point where I’ve lost interest. The love story is taking too long or has happened but everything is all peaches and roses, or even worse the love has fizzled and the characters have moved on to yet another love interest. Or the bad guy just can’t seem to be caught or has been replaced three times over with someone even eviler. I want an ENDING, preferably a happy one. I want everything tied up in a need a little bow. Don’t get me wrong, I still love The Big Bang Theory (gotta get my geek fix), but I’m not dying of anticipation while waiting for the next episode, like I am with K-dramas. There’s a reason I binge watch these shows, I can’t get enough of the characters and their stories.
Novels Set to Music and Moving Pictures
So yes, in a way K-dramas are soap operas. But for me, I like to think of them as novels or 16-hour movies. They have a beginning, middle, and an end – a satisfying end. I may not agree with how some shows end (pointing an accusing finger at the shows that leave me in gut-wrenching tears), but I follow the story’s logic. It’s the ending that the show was working toward. Its what comes from what proceeds, just like any good book, any good story, does. And like a novel, each episode ends with a cliffhanger (a dozy if its an even numbered episode – in Korea, prime-time shows air twice a week so the second night has a bigger cliffhanger to lead into the first episode of the following week). The serialized nature of the series makes it easy to draw viewers in and keep them hooked from episode to episode, which is standard practice for Korean dramas. They get me hooked, and keep me hooked, leaving me unable to breathe (or sleep) until the show ends.
The Hallyu Wave is not coming… it is HERE, taking America, and the world, by storm. Don’t believe me? Check out Netflix and Hulu, see just how many Korean dramas are available to watch from just these two platforms. Oh, and tune in to The Good Doctor (airing now on CBS), a remake of the 2013 Korean drama of the same name starring the always adorable Joo Won. But be warned, K-dramas are addictive, but they’re worth every hour of lost sleep.
Interested in some of my favorite K-dramas?
(disclaimer: my favorites may change with each new show I watch, hehe)