I heard that Korean television was really popular in S.E. Asia before I left for Vietnam. The first time I saw the power of the K-drama was in a beer parlor in Danang. Vietnamese youth soccer tournament finished and the channel was changed to an action drama. I knew immediately what was happening as I watched everyone shift to the edge of their seats and lean toward the TV screen. Cold beers were silently handed out to be noisily opened and deeply slurped as they read the Vietnamese subtitles. It was subtitled in Japanese too.
I fell to the K-drama while staying Thailand. I caught on to VJs on the Scene, Poseidon, and He Who Can’t Marry. English subtitled, Korean television is stylish, creative, new and limited in episodes. It is very conservative and lacks provocative material. They tend to blur the sight of weapons and blood. It’s actually refreshing when I think about it. American culture has become so desensitized by the rapid stream of violent images and stories in the media. I am in love with Korean TV. There is a lot of reading involved, but I am addicted.
HE WHO CAN’T MARRY: A funny story about a 40 year old architect with an eccentric personality. It’s very Monk like. He meets a doctor whose father is trying to marry her off. They have an obvious attraction for one another, but they need to navigate the comedy of errors called poor social skills, obsessive compulsive behavior, and meddling family.
COFFEE PRINCE: I fell in love with this show. It is super sweet. It was this show that hooked me into Korean television. It had a very refreshing story line that I don’t think would have been handled in such a smart way in the United States. I am a sucker for a cute face and there are a lot of them. It has a smart story and was my first peak into Korean culture. It had a slightly queer slant to it.
KIMCHEE FAMILY: This is another heart felt story. Beautiful story of family and family tradition. All of the food looked amazing and it made me even more hungry for Korea.
GOURMET: Reading the story behind the live action show, one could recognize the comic behind it. It is filmed very stylishly resembling comic book panels. It’s a story of sibling rivalry. It is very compelling set in a large kitchen. Again, it will make you hungry. It is set in a famed traditional Korean restaurant. There is a lot of Iron Chef like competition.
HISTORY OF A SALARY MAN: It is a comedy-mystery and one of the funniest shows I’ve seen out of them all. The comedic timing was amazing. The characters were larger that life. They were richly played, on the border of being over done. I laughed out loud a lot.
SIGN: It’s a Korean CSI. The censorship was interesting. Blood and weapons are blurred out. The 20 episodes consisted of a tight story with surprising development. I was sad that there were only 20 episodes and I truly wanted more, but I seem to be able to respect the end of a story and looking for something completely new. There was a nice twist to the story and a surprising ending.
MY ONE AND ONLY: I caught onto this KBS drama in the mornings before heading out to my morning commute. It’s a story about a few families and their drama. This was a daily drama and lasted about five months, maybe shorter. It was about a Korean family that come up against a few challenges as they deal with status difference, ethics, and each other.
MAN OF EQUATOR: It was a frustrating story, yet compelling. It provoked crazy feelings as I watched the deceit play out. It ended like shit, but it is totally worth the watch. Character motivation was confusing, and it made me wonder about Korean culture all the more. Would you remain friends with the man who tried to kill you? Do you think you could be such a friend to a person who would sacrifice your life for their own? What if they didn’t succeed? Would you seek revenge and expose them? Watch and see what happens.
HARVEST VILLA: This show was of my all time favorites. It was a mystery and a comedy. It was stylishly done and it had the best ending of all the K-dramas I have seen to date. There is a fortune hidden somewhere on inherited property and everyone knows about it except for the son, who inherited the property.
BECOMING A BILLIONAIRE: I watched this one because Lee Bo Young was in it. I first watched her in Harvest Villa…listen, she is so beautiful. In this show she plays someone you might not want to get to know, but the character is worth getting to know. There is the main character who grows up believing that his father is a millionaire. He wears a mysterious looking necklace that is suppose to be proof of the notion of his wealth. In his search for his father he meets a billionaire’s daughter with a bad personality…and, well, you can love it or leave it. I watched the whole thing. I can’t help to think that it was making a statement.
A GENTLEMAN’S DIGNITY: This was a romantic comedy I really enjoyed. It was about four guys that have been friends since high school. They are all entering their 40’s and the show has been billed as a male version of Sex in the City. I really love some of the truths about men as they are revealed in a honest sincere way. The characters have endearing flaws and there is great character development.
DR. JIN: This show is about a neurosurgeon who travels back in time to the Joseon Dynasty in 1860. Driven by the Hippocratic Oath he inadvertently changes history’s timeline and has to work to correct all changes so he can return to current day. I love the whole idea of time travel. The period costumes were very interesting. I enjoyed watching some of the actors from …Salary Man…play these different characters. I saw quite a few actors from the different dramas in this one. I appreciate the range that these actors have. In America an actor has season after season to be in a character.
HERO 2012: Set in the near future, bankrupt and corrupt, South Korea. Deported from China, the mayor’s son receives super human strength after being saved from death by an experimental drug. Then he becomes an unlikely super hero. Fighting the corruption he must in the end confront his father and brother, who are the center of all the corruption and violence.
BRIDAL MASK: I am currently watching episodes of this show. It’s a period drama based on a popular Korean manhwa by Hun Young-Man. The setting is Seoul in the 1930’s Japanese colonial era. It’s a story of two brothers who at different times don the Bridal Mask and fight for the independence from the Japanese.
ALL ABOUT MARRIAGE: This is a longer show with 56 episodes instead of the standard 20 or so. I think it has been introduced as a weekend drama to me. It reflects the life of 4 couples who live under the same roof. This drama will depict this generation’s love, marriage, and divorce in a bright and simple way. I am about half way through this drama. It is so eye opening to see the conservative thought on family and marriage. Even when one would think a parent would think this way or that, you become shocked at how strict they can think. Sometimes they are shockingly obvious and honest and I hope I am never scolded by a Korean.
I like that fact that the shows have an ending. I have been able to watch so many different stories instead being bogged down with characters and waiting for character development. I enjoy watching the actors stretch themselves over many different characters and shows. I think it showcases their talent and strength to play so many characters. I have a list of other shows I would like to check out. I think the K-drama is something special. I think Americans could enjoy their format of limited episodes. Every show I have watched on Hulu. Search under genre or type in these titles directly into the search bar. Happy watching.