Kdrama 101 : What to expect when watching Kdramas


***Disclamer: Contains minor spoilers.***

If you're new to kdramas, then it is very beneficial to read this post to avoid severe show culture shock. For most of us who are used to western shows with lots of drugs and sex, watching Korean dramas can be very refreshing. Or frustrating. Depends on how you will look at it.

Below are a few of the most common drama tropes that you will encounter while watching kdramas.

1. The hero/heroine can have some sort of terminal illness or they can die.

 It's not always a happy ending in kdramaland.

In Iris (2009), I was so perplexed when Kim Hyun-jun (Lee Byung-hun's character) was killed at the end. I was lulled into believing he actually have a future with Kim Tae Hee's character Choi Seung-hee. And then at the episode finale, boom!  He was killed by a sniper and I don't know who and I don't know why. In fact, everyone that were left alive in Iris were killed in Iris 2. Arghhh!


Padam Padam... The Sound of His and Her Heartbeats (2011) Yang Kang-chil (Jung Woo-sung) struggled to adjust in society after he was falsely incarcerated for 16 years. He escaped three near-death experiences, already made peace with his mom and found the love of his life. You'd think he will finally get his well-deserved happiness. Nope! He was diagnosed with terminal liver cancer. Ahh! I cried at the unfairness of it all!

2. Contract Marriages and MIL from Hell. 

Arranged marriages are still rampant in kdramaland. So if the heroine is not chosen by the parents and is not a chaebol's daughter, expect the mother-in-law to hate her (to the bone) and will do anything and everything to separate the OTP / throw her out of the house. And there's always that sister-in-law that you'll want to throw your remote (or mouse) at.

3. There are a lot of amnesia-related plots.

Think Master's Sun's Joo Jоong-won (So Ji-sub) where Tae Gong-shil made a deal with the scary-eyed shamanness to get him back to life. Joo Jоong-won loses his memory in the process.

If you've watched Boys Over Flowers, then you know selective amnesia works. After the accident, Jun-pyo (Lee Min-ho) remembers everyone except Geum Jan-Di (Ku Hye-sun). I have to convince myself that it's possible. I don't know much about amnesia, but hell, yeah, okay. Whatever.

4. Corporate Takeovers.

If the male lead character is a chaebol, then expect corporate takeovers and ruthless, greedy relatives to come out and put their hands in the coffers.

5. Disguises.

Just wear shades and no one will ever, ever recognize you.
Disguises
Birth of A Beauty
Extreme disguise tactic?

(Kill Me Heal Me) Oh Ri-jin during her brother's book reading session
And don't make go into gender-bender roles where the heroine cross-dresses to hide her identity because that's a whole new post. :)

6. Birth Secrets

Long lost twin/sibling. Exchanged babies at birth. The hero/heroine grew up dirt-poor but is actually the richest kid in the whole of Korea. A lot of pretend-brothers or sisters.  The mom/dad is not the real mom/dad.

7. Bahair

Once upon a time in the life the hero/heroine, they have to (literally) have bad hair days with terrible permed hair or tacky bowl-cuts, normally paired with glasses, to reflect their current dire circumstances. Don't worry, they will be beautifully transformed into fashionable swans either by life-changing experience or if someone gives them a makeover following a shopping spree.

Before & After hair (Pinocchio)

8. Shower scenes

I'm sure no one wears that towel while in the shower in real life!
My Love From Another Star (Kim Soo-hyun)

Even sageuk / historical dramas have them. Ohlalala!
The Slave Hunters (Chuno)

9. Minimal PDA

Steamy shower scenes are a dime a dozen in kdramas but kisses are few and far between.  Kdrama fans may be awarded with a kissing scene only after a few episodes. Chaste kisses only, mind you! The close-mouthed ones. No tongues, please. And if they ever got to do it, you'll only see ex post facto. They wake up to a  perfect white setting, like the bed would be washed with sunlight and everything is in white. 

So there.

I hope I have given you a  glimpse of what is's like to watch kdramas. I have a continuation of this list, but I'll be posting it on another day. Real life intervenes.

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