There are a tonne of new drama series that one can watch at any time. So… why would you choose a K-drama over all that? Here are three reasons.
#1 TENSION: SEXUAL OR OTHERWISE (but mostly sexual)
Whilst western storytelling obviously includes excellent moments of tension, no one can draw out those moments like the Koreans do. Perhaps they have picked up on an element of satisfaction that viewers derive from doing so and have learnt to capitalise on it for the sake of the story.
The most satisfying pay off for this is when the slow embers of the best of all tensions – sexual tension – ignite in a passionate kiss. Don’t get it wrong – some K-drama kisses can be oddly chaste – but it’s the build up, the longing, that lead up to that moment that is done so well that one realises one doesn’t necessarily have to see a passionate kiss for the experience to be satisfying.
Take “scenting” where a couple are so close they look like they are just smelling each other. Elsewhere, the prolonged act of scenting someone would be seen as creepy and predatory at worst, or kinky and sexually charged at best. In a K-drama, this is an opportunity to have a couple experience proximity and be almost kissing or embracing. These moments can literally last minutes, with intercuts, lush swells of music, heartbeats and deep breaths thrown in. Rain is a plus.
Whilst western shows tend to cut straight to the action, the lingering style of the K-drama addresses a sociocultural issue: by building a longing for one’s own romantic development and heightened feelings of being desired and being desirable – and being able to fulfil one’s purpose in the world with your soul mate by your side. This is an ultimate form of hope – and hope gives one the fuel to endure.
#2 WRITERLY GOODNESS
Some of the best K-dramas continue to resonate within the television industry, with ongoing references, parodies and nostalgia creating a context of historical television sentiment. For the sometimes closeted K-drama-phile outside of Korea, coming across easter eggs, in-industry references and in-jokes is a delight that cannot be described.
Social politicking and relationship sensitivities are explored thoroughly, giving insight into cultural and societal norms we may not necessarily have access to without television.
With the concerted effort by the Korean government to push the Hallyu/Korean Wave through industry support, the production quality is palpable. Productions have travelled overseas for long-term shoots under the helm of their experienced and highly successful production teams and writers. However the true quality is seen in the writing, which keeps viewers coming back for more, and enrols new converts all the time.
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#3 SECOND MALE LEAD (because eye candy)
There is also that other convention which serves the dual purpose of providing eye candy/romantic relief, and challenges/confrontations: the second male lead. SML.
The second male lead is by nature counter to the male lead: he may be wilder, rougher, sexier or he may be gentler, kinder, or more buttoned up. Whatever he is, his purpose is to make the lead character doubt her passion for the first male lead.
Her eyes need to wander first, to “cuci mata”, in order for her to realise that her first choice was after all, the best. And honestly, to make the viewer (you and me, ladies, high five now) doubt our loyalties to the male lead too.
The SML always seems to be there when the male lead isn’t. We start to think the male lead is neglecting his lady’s needs. However very soon we will realise that her love interest was absent because he was working behind the scenes on something that was ultimately for her benefit. It’s Pride and Prejudice all over again – and works so well.
The SML ends up being the bad guy or the guy who never quite made her his own. He comes off being a bit of a loser, but only because he didn’t get her.
How good would this make any girl feel? Put aside any intellectual argument about this, and boil it down to pure good feelings: this is why the romance or trash novel works so well. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from, a guy could love you just because. Also, two guys could love you just because. K-Drama win!
FOR THE K-DRAMA INITIATE (don’t fight the inevitable)
Just suggestions, (we could list a whole lot more than these):
Also: W (Two Worlds), where an artist’s illustrated world intersects with the real world. It’s Okay, That’s Love, seemingly about a love story which is really a foray into the world of bipolar disorder – featuring a poignant performance from Exo’s Do KyungSoo.
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