I confess I’ve developed an addiction to Korean Drama. For a long time I have enjoyed movies produced or set in foreign countries. I suppose it gives me a bit of a travel fix while I’m at home. So when my daughter moved to Seoul, she suggested I watch a Korean drama to see a bit of what her new city was like. I started watching “The Coffee Prince,” and soon I was hooked.
The Korean Wave (also known as Hallyu) refers to the massive popularity of South Korean dramas (and Korean pop music/K-pop) since about 2000. This global wave has spread across Asia, into Latin America, the Middle East, Africa, Eastern Europe and to at least a couple of baby boomers I know in the Western world.
Korean TV dramas are usually around 20 episodes, which allows time to develop the story and characters, but there is a conclusion in sight, unlike most North American TV dramas. There are a variety of genres, but the ones I’ve watched are romantic comedies. They reflect everyday Korean life in the same way Hollywood movies reflect life in the west, but still, for an outsider they do provide a glimpse into Korean society.
I started out watching dramas on Viki.com, but there are other online options, and several are showing now on Netflix. The drama images below link to the official sites, but if you want to watch with English subtitles you will need to watch on a secondary site such as Netflix or Viki.
If you enjoy romantic comedy and are looking for a fun escape with a touch of foreign culture, here are a few of my recommendations.
17 episodes | MBC | 2007
Genre: Romantic comedy
Starring: Yoon Eun-hye and Gong Yoo
Go Eun Chan (Yoon Eun-hye) is a young woman supporting her mother and sister. With her short, no nonsense hair, clothes and manner, she is often mistaken for a boy. Wealthy Choi Han Kyul (Gong Yoo) hires her to pretend to be his “gay lover,” to scare away the blind dates set up by his grandmother. When Han Kyul is ordered by his grandmother to manage a coffee shop, Eun Chan maintains her false male identity to become a “Coffee Prince” employee. Eventually she falls in love with her boss, who is confused by his romantic feelings towards this “young man.”
20 episodes | SBS | 2010
Genre: Romance, comedy, fantasy, melodrama, action
Starring: Hyun Bin and Ha Ji Won
Kim Joo Won (Hyun Bin), the handsome but arrogant CEO of a luxury department store doesn’t care about romance; he’s looking for a marriage that will increase his power and connections. Gil Ra-im (Ha Ji Won) is not a beautiful heiress, but a stuntwoman dedicated to her craft. She’s not impressed by Kim Joo Won’s money or position, and thinks he’s a pest. After a strange sequence of events, they find they have switched bodies leading to a complicated relationship.
Part of this drama takes place on Jeju Island, which we visited when we were in Korea, so it was fun to see those places in the drama.
My Love from Another Star
21 episodes | SBS | 2013
Genre: Romance, comedy, fantasy
Starring: Kim Soo Hyun and Gianna Jun
“My Love from Another Star” is a fantasy romance about an alien, Do Min Joon (Kim Soo Hyun) who landed on Earth in the Joseon Dynasty. His superpowers and 400 years of earthly experience lead him to feel superior over humans, until he falls in love with a top actress in the modern era, Cheon Song Yi (Gianna Jun).
As a recent example of cultural impact, when Cheon Song Yi ordered chicken and beer on an episode of “My Love From Another Star,” Korean beer exports rose by over 200 percent.
If you’re looking for something fun and foreign to watch, I recommend giving one of these dramas a try.
Warning: They are addictive!
Have you watched any Korean dramas?