Recently Entertainment Weekly posted an article about a Beginner's Guide to Korean dramas. On the list the oft recommended Boys [Preposition] Flowers (hereafter BOF) made its appearance and I facetiously commented, "I would recommend avoiding that one actually," and I instead I recommended other dramas such as Answer Me 1997. Needless to say, my distaste for BOF was not exactly appreciated, and Answer Me 1997 was deemed "too Korean", apparently because of the screeching in it (?). It got me thinking (and I voiced some things about it on Twitter) and some of the Twitterpeeps and I got to chatting. Why did we start and continue to watch drama? Why when we could tell that the drama was bad, did we continue watching? Would we watch those dramas now? What is it about Korean drama that makes it so addicting and compelling to watch?
Perhaps it's the innocence of watching some incredibly handsome Korean actor charm you to death *cough* Hyun Bin *cough* for the first time, or perhaps we just stumbled onto Korean dramas because we loved other foreign genre and Netflix or Hulu recommended them, and adventurers we are, we decided to try them, or maybe a roommate or friend was being so enthusiastic about them, we got curious and tried them out. In my case, a friend who knew I loved and watched Bollywood recommended My Name Is Kim Samsoon to me. That was in August 2011, and I didn't even watch it until November of that year. I remember devouring it, and then searching for more. I stumbled on Secret Garden and there was just something about that Ha Ji Won and Hyun Bin chemistry that completely sealed the deal. Oh Hyun Bin, my first K-drama love. I can't fully remember the order of dramas I watched next, I started a bunch: Sungkyunkwan Scandal, City Hunter, and then Boys Over Flowers. That one quickly took the desire to watch another Korean drama right out of my sails. I might have started it before City Hunter, I can't even remember. I was watching dramas on Hulu because I had no idea that there were other places to watch drama - and I was just flailing around not knowing what I was doing - and Hulu kept on suggesting BOF. To this day I still can't understand why it's so popular and famous? And I watched it because I didn't know any better. Because Lee Min Ho maybe? And I had loved him in City Hunter. He certainly enticed me to watch plenty of dramas with him in it that's for sure. The only thing that saved my continuing addiction was that I watched Flower Boy Ramyun Shop at the same time as BOF. When the angst and makjang and everything bad in the entire universe was happening to Geum Jan Di, and I wanted to punch someone, I would watch the next episode of FBRS. It was just finishing up its run, so I watched the last several episodes as it was airing. Sometimes I wonder what my life would have been like if I had just stopped watching drama because of BOF. I am glad I didn't, but I will wonder. I ended up watching Playful Kiss though because I adored Kim Hyun Joong so much *sigh* - what was I thinking?! Anyway, this paragraph ended up being way too stream of consciousness for my taste. Thank you if you're still reading. End story, we all might have different ways and reasons why we started watching, but why are we still here?
I guess what I'm trying to get at is that we have all had experiences watching bad dramas and yet we still keep watching. We make Twitter accounts and aliases and join Soompi and visit Dramabeans to read recaps and start blogging and using words like "swoon" and "squee" all because there is something intangible and delightful and addicting about Korean dramas that keeps up watching and compelling us to say something, anything about something we all love. Sometimes I wonder what it is about Korean dramas that has brought out the teenager in me that I never was as an actual teenager. Maybe it's those magical moments where we fall in love with bromances so deeply that we couldn't care if the main leads ever get together. Or because we start sobbing uncontrollably as Prosecutors start their hero walks out the hospital, or we stay up all night - bleary eyed - because we just have to know what happened to that person hanging off of a cliff. Maybe it's that moment Jeremy sings on the bus and our hearts break and we fall in love with Lee Hong Ki and his squishable cuteness.
Maybe it's that moment we can't stop starting at Yoo Ah In in all his gruff tenderness and we start to understand second lead syndrome. Maybe it's because we'll endure boring plot developments just to catch the next moment Rain smiles while wearing a cat apron. Or maybe it's because we discover that Song Joong Ki can act so beautifully, you want to cry. Maybe it's that moment when Kim Soo Hyun cries for the first time on your screen and realize he can cry so prettily, and you fall in love with Sam Dong and get all choked up when watching "Dreaming" as Hye Mi helps him. Maybe it's because you fall in love with Gong Yoo and cross-dressing hijinks and watch all of Big just because Gong Yoo is so fabulous. Maybe it's because whenever someone says, "Game Over" you think of that steamy kiss and smile a little to yourself. Maybe it's because you fall in love with the gorgeous OSTs that adorn sageuk and root for the Princess' Man to find love and justice and for the suffering and heartache to stop. Maybe it's because we see a real live romance start to unfold on our screen and wish we could all meet our own Kim Boong Do. Maybe it's because we fall for Yoo Seung Ho's boyish charms and can't wait to see him smile. Sometimes we just ache at the loveliness of beautifulness in the form of Song Hye Gyo or Kim Sun Ah. Maybe it's because Cha Seung Won is just so funny or Lee Dong Wook so charming. Maybe it's because Shin Min Ah is so beautiful and lovely and delightful that we'd be willing to watch whatever she's in just to see her bright smile and laughing eyes. Maybe we fall for the charm of Jung Kyung Ho and our hearts start to beat wildly at the thought of our beloved Paksa and you realize you are witnessing the performance of a lifetime.
I'm not really sure. I still don't really know or understand why I have come to feel so passionately about Korean T.V. shows and that so many other people do as well. I'm not sure why I want to keep on watching, why I deprive myself of sleep, and write words and words and words until I think there might be a book here. I do know that one reason is you. All of you.
I remember that first moment of realization that there were other people out there who loved them as much as I did. bustered and I had passed each other in the hallways and had barely known each others' names before I posted something on Facebook about Korean drama or K-pop...and then we couldn't stop talking. It's sort of absurd actually to think about all the friendships I have found because of this obsession. Here is the first K-pop video bustered shared with me. SS501's "Love Like This". I still love that song. Seriously, so good!
In a post from earlier this year, I described how I felt about this bloggersphere of ours, and I'll quote from that.
"I live in a city. A city without houses and walls and where I almost never see my neighbours face to face. We speak in typed print and *sighs* and *swoons* and 140 character sentences peppered with Korean, and occasionally meet up for dinner, but rarely so. In our city, while for one the sun might rise, for another, it is setting and we meet somewhere in the middle and say our goodmornings and goodnights. We share our news, and squee, and console, and laugh, and rant, and sometimes swap recipes. Some of us are students, old and young, some of us are parents, or grandparents, some of us are lawyers or teachers, homemakers or experts in an interesting field. We are a varied, interesting, and diverse city, thriving with loves and joys and tears and heartbreak, which we all share and cry on cyber shoulders or laugh together for a moment. And the interesting thing is that despite our disagreeing sometimes, we are friends. Friends who span continents and yet reside in an intimate and sometimes strange community of people who often seem like family. We are a world, a universe unlike any other I have ever encountered. And I love it."
While I was still stumbling around not sure what to watch or where to watch, I discovered you all in the bloggersphere. I discovered epic recaps at Dramabeans. Acerbic and insightful commentary from Mr. X. Beautiful pictorials from Couch Kimchi, and I could go on and on. I have witnessed the birth of the squeecap from the ladies of The Problem of the Unproblematic and devoured anything Queen In-Hyun's Man related from Joonni and DramaTalk. Watched an Eat Your Kimchi video for the first time, taken a road trip to California for a BIGBANG concert, learned more Korean than I ever thought I would, laughed and been moved with the lovely My Korean Husband blog, gone out to dinner and watched Korean movies with Deeno (and made a rather fun excursion to a giant Asian store - hello Korean cosmetics!), had lunch with Shel, chatted and squeed with Twitterpals, had Google hangout squeedates with Kfangurl, Jaime, and Michele to watch Running Man together. I even wrote a poem about a moment in a Korean drama. I've stayed up late at night with bustered to watch Yoo Hee Yeol's Sketchbook and an INFINITE concert live from Seoul. I've shared many a K-pop squee and conversation with Raine and Nelly and laughed out loud at the excellent humour of kakashi, JoAnne, Shuk, and Ricky. I've bought more music than I ever thought I would and I've made huge playlists for friends I have never met in the flesh, talked Lee Soon Shin with KLNoona, gotten excited when Cher met Ji Chang Wook (and also been able to share our Empress Ki love a bit as well). And there's becoming friends with Janey and talking about my newfound EXO love. Oh man, I know I'm going to leave someone out, please don't be sad. If you want a mention, please comment below ^^.
When I think about my life and how it is richer and deeper and more delightfully fun because of watching Korean drama and talking about it with you all, I am so glad that I didn't allow Boys Over Flowers to stop my drama watching. I am glad for bad dramas and being able to get F4 and Aaaaaaalmooooooost Paaaaaradiiiiiiiise jokes. I'm glad I endured those cringeworthy moments because in reality, they have brought me to this place. This crazy, fun, and interesting place where we all have our stories and K-drama loves and obsessions, people we want to meet and idols and actors and actresses we'd love to take a picture with. So please share your K-drama first loves, bad dramas, deep passions, squeeworthy moments, friendships, memories about your life here in the dramaverse. I'd love to hear more about them and how we all got here (and stayed). Here's to many more years of love and craziness!!!
◀ I ❤ Choi Kang Joo: Bride of the Century Episodes 13 & 14