Although it’s a little embarrassing to admit it, I am just going to come right out and confess: I am a Korean Drama addict. I told myself it was harmless – that I had worked hard all day and just needed a little brain floss at night, that I was learning about another culture, and that I could quit any time.
But who am I kidding? I’m pretty sure that living on 4 hours of sleep a night isn’t healthy. And as far as cultural education goes, I mean, sure, they have subtitles, but I doubt these shows are giving me an accurate picture of daily life in Korea. I bet if I went to Seoul right now and stood on a street corner, I probably wouldn’t see a whole lot of piggyback rides,
couples running hand in hand,
or sudden U-turns.
I get annoyed when my husband or children refer to my shows as “soap operas”. I’ll admit the background music is cheesy and the production value can be low budget. And it’s true that some stories have been known to involve amnesia, birth secrets, hit-and-run accidents, characters in comas, and love triangles. But they’re not trashy like American soap operas – there’s hardly even any kissing, and when there is… (Honest question here – do Koreans know how to kiss? I want to give them the benefit of the doubt and assume it’s because of decency standards, but sometimes I wonder if they just don’t know how kissing works.)
I’ll admit, there are some elements of KDramas that don’t sit well with me. Stories often center around a relationship between someone in power and his or her subordinate – employer/employee, president/citizen, prince/servant, etc., which makes me uncomfortable. And some shows are about 30-year-olds falling in love with 18-year-olds in school uniforms, which makes me even more uncomfortable. The obvious prevalence of plastic surgery can also be distracting – mostly because I spend the whole time trying to guess whether this actor’s eyelids or that actress’s nose are original parts. And yet, for the most part, I just can’t stop watching.
I do have some standards. I’m not a big fan of historical dramas because I get tired of the extensive Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon-style martial arts scenes after about ten seconds. I steer clear of the high school dramas, revenge stories, gangster shows, or anything with the phrase “Flower Boy” in the title. I also can’t commit to any show that’s longer than 20 episodes. Actually, 16 episodes is the ideal length for my attention span.
If you’re new to Korean Dramas, allow me to give a brief overview of what you might expect. First, any given episode might include one or more of the following: arranged marriage plans, contract marriages to avoid arranged marriages, obvious product placement for hiking/outdoor wear, sons of CEOs going all Undercover Boss, sons of CEOs wearing ascots, K-Pop singers dressed like the Golden Girls, temporary homelessness solved by sleeping at a sauna and eating boiled eggs, indigestion solved by pricking an index finger with a straight pin, tender scenes involving one person watching the other sleep, or tender scenes involving the application of a bandaid. Also, apparently there is something in Korea’s climate that causes one to spike a fever after having to stand alone in the rain, especially when combined with excessive weeping.
Also important to know, it is an unwritten rule that every Korean Drama must include:
If you think you’d like to give them a try but you don’t know where to start, several KDramas are inspired by American Romantic Comedies like Overboard, Legally Blonde, Bridget Jones’ Diary, and The Princess Diaries. Or, if you prefer your drama to be of the scifi variety, take your pick. They’ve got leading men who are aliens and have superhuman powers, and they have shows about body swapping, time travel, reincarnation, and ghosts.
These shows are literally my comfort zone, the place I go to just watch and feel. I’m completely at home watching how people on the other side of the world live. I can relate to them because I have had similar experiences in my own life and, really, aren’t we all just people? I also like back hugs, I enjoy singing karaoke, and, believe it or not, I even know what it’s like to have diarrhea.
But when I watch those same people cook and eat, I don’t feel that same connection because they are eating food I’ve never tasted. It’s the only time I feel separate and foreign. So this week I decided to try Korean food for the first time. I’m not sure why I’ve never eaten it before, but I figured since I already have so much second-hand knowledge of Korean cuisine, I should at least know what flavors I should be imagining when I see them on the t.v. screen.
My husband and I went out for lunch at Sam Hawk Korean Restaurant in Provo. We tried Jop Chae, Pork Bulgogi, and Kimchi Fried Rice, all very tasty. Some things were close to what I had imagined, but others, like the sweet noodles in the Jop Chae, were a complete surprise. I’m not sure I’m a fan of straight kimchi (I wanted to like it, since it seems to be central to Korean cuisine) but I enjoyed it mixed into the fried rice.
And while we were eating, I was like:
And then my husband was all:
And then we were both like:
And then when I was too full to walk to the car, he was totally all: