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KOREAN DRAMA

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Korean television dramas, aka K-dramas, debuted in the early sixties in South Korea, and now have been broadcasted on numerous Television channels around the world since the year 2000. Like a tsunami, this phenomenon and its popularity have caught many people willingly by surprise. Recently, this sensational wave had crash landed in the United States, where millions of people, albeit the majority are Asian, have been glued to their TV, laptop, iPad or even Smartphones to catch the latest K-dramas releases, whether they are on Netflix or any other streaming services. The following is a personal story, a private journey disclosed by a self-confessed K-drama addict on why this phenomenon has made such an impact on her life and has been such a hit for many viewers – By Rosalyn Pham

We believe that her view is not unique but shared by countless others. They may not start out for the same reason, but their goal was ultimately to look for an escape from their daily mundane chores, and sometimes distressful obligations.

“How’s your love life these days?”, a friend asked me recently, to which I quickly answered “Oh it’s great! I have a date with a different guy every day!”. Then I started to brag about my new boyfriend, or more specifically, my boyfriends. “They are young, handsome, fit, and very romantic! My favorites are Hyun Bin, Park Seojoon, Lee Byung-hun….”

My friend caught on to my joke. Amused with the fact that my love life was just a series of virtual dates on TV, he smiled, then went on to express his dismay for the global popularity of Korean Dramas of late. “I have better things to do than spending time on that stuff!”. He concluded. I beg to differ. Isn’t there a saying “Time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time”? The time I spend glued to my TV and swooning over Hyun Bin and his fellow actors every evening over the past 2.5 years has been most enjoyable. People binge watch for entertainment and relaxation. I binge watch for survival. I lost my husband to cancer some years ago. He was the love of my life, my supposedly “happily ever after” partner. The condolence cards and Facebook posts said time would heal everything. But how long would that take? I meditated, practiced yoga, walked, exercised, traveled, cooked, read books, wrote my memoir, joined support groups, spent time with family and friends, watched TV – nothing helps. Every night, sitting alone in the dark with the TV remote as my only companion, I flipped erratically from one streaming channel to the next. Some nights, I was able to entertain myself for a few hours.

Nothing truly succeeded in soothing my broken heart for a prolonged period. One day in late 2019, I heard a friend mention a new Korean drama called “Crash Landing on You (CLOY)” on Netflix. She said it was the best drama she had ever seen. In the past I had tried to watch K-dramas on occasion. However, my daytime job wouldn’t allow me to get hooked on TV at night and act like a zombie the next day. But since I retired, I didn’t see why I shouldn’t give it another try. Right after the third episode of CLOY, I knew I had found the antidote to my problem. I also fell head over heels “in love” with the show’s male actor. My devotion to Hyun Bin was notorious among my Facebook friends. I followed him on and off screen, googling about his life and career, mesmerized by his exceptional good looks and charisma, trying to supersede my husband’s image with his, although virtually and only temporarily. I stayed “faithful” to him until he got married to his co-star and girlfriend Son Ye-jin earlier this year. I spent a few days mourning my loss, then licked my wound and proceeded to find new “love” with another handsome actor.

I have officially become hooked on K-dramas. And unabashedly and shamelessly so. After CLOY, I searched for other series, and even signed up with other streaming providers. Thanks to my new pastime, my emotionally disabled self has found a precious crutch to lean on. Instead of crying myself to sleep, I dozed off with the melody of the Korean soundtracks. No amount of sleeping pills could be as effective.

I lost count of how many K-dramas I have watched over the past couple of years. Some are better than others, but overall, they rarely disappoint. There are good reasons why K-dramas have become a global phenomenon, why the movie “Parasite” won so many Academy awards, why “Squid Game ‘’ is on its way to become the most watched non-English show. In my opinion, South Korean film production is simply outstanding. The actors are talented and exceptionally attractive. The costumes and fashions are gorgeous both in period and contemporary series. The plots and storylines are beautifully written and riveting. They give us a glimpse into the South Korean culture, traditions, social issues, family interactions, and personal trials and tribulations that many of us Asians can relate to. Some may find K-dramas too slow, but for charmed fans like me, they touch a chord in us that makes our hearts yearn and weep as well as sing and dance. A pleasure that we should not overanalyze, but simply surrender to.

Other K-Dramas I have seen are “Chocolate”, “Itaewon Class, “Something in the rain”, “Mr. Sunshine”, “Descendants of the Sun”, “My Mister”, “One Spring Night”, “This Winter, the Wind Blows”, “Love, Marriage, Divorce”, “The King’s Affection”, “Sky Castle”, “Misty” … to name a few. One can just Google “Best K-dramas” to find suggestions for the next series to watch. The list is endless, and the content is excellent, in the humble opinion of a true K-drama addict.

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