Tuesday, April 29, 2014

K-Dramas 101

File:Coffee Prince.jpg

This was the very first Korean drama I ever saw (for which I'm very grateful, because the next two I watched would have turned me off them forever if I'd seen them first).  It's also my favourite drama of all time, and is one of my favourite tv shows (it's up there with OUAT) ever.  Admittedly, I definitely have a thing for gender benders (where a character, in this case the main one, has to dress up as someone of the opposite gender for some reason), probably due to my childhood diet of Tamora Pierce and Mulan haha.  The basic premise for the show is that Eun-chan, the female lead, is very poor and through a series of circumstances runs into Han-kyul, the male lead, who thinks she is also a guy.  He's put in charge of running a coffee shop, and decides that having all males will attract more people to the cafe (hence it being a "prince" cafe). Eun-chan is desperate for a job, so she never corrects his misconception and pretends to be a boy so that she can support her family.  It's obviously more complex than just this, and there are two more main leads, as well as all the story lines for the other "coffee princes", but that would get too complicated to explain haha.

Yoo Gong
 And I can't say that the main guy lead is not a huge part of the reason why I love this show haha.  I'm not going to lie - I think Gong Yoo is mad sexy, but that's not the main reason I'm completely in love with him.  He's simply put, just an amazing actor.  In fact, I really thought the whole cast did a really great job - I just thought his acting in particular stood out the most.  He's in my top 10 favourite actors for sure.  I also think that the soundtrack for this show is by far the best I've come across so far (Although I'm watching You're Beautiful right now and I think it will give the OST for this show a run for its money).  There's a song in particular that still gives me chills:

I know in part my emotions that are tied to this song are because of THE SCENE.  And anyone who has watched the song KNOWS what scene I'm talking about (and if they didn't, they'd know as soon as they heard the song).  It is my favourite scene in all of tv and movie moments ever.  The acting is amazing, this song...I actually can't listen to this song unless I'm having an intense emotional moment because it affects me so much. (But I think that might just be the musician in me).  The scene is an incredibly powerful few minutes, and I would recommend this show solely so you can watch this scene.  But obviously it's amazing for a kajillion other reasons, so I'm recommending it for all of those reasons haha.

Basically, if you are looking to start watching K-dramas, I would absolutely recommend starting with this one.  If you're looking for the next one to watch, I would recommend this one.  If you don't have an interest in K-dramas I would recommend watching this before you decide whether or not K-dramas are for you.  Don't trust me?  Here's some thoughts from two other book bloggers you probably already know and love:

Christina @ A Reader of Fictions - She actually has a lot of great recommendations even if we have slightly different tastes.  This is a really fantastic post about getting into K-dramas which I highly recommend reading before you start!

Gillian @ Writer of Wrongs - Gillian and I are 100% on the same page about gender bending haha! And she also includes a gif from THE SCENE. 


 I was starting to believe that Coffee Prince was a mythical being amongst K-dramas because I hadn't found anything I loved nearly as much.  Part of this was because I was being a good musician and student and hadn't watched a K-drama in almost a whole year.  A WHOLE YEAR GUYS! K-dramas are so freaking addicting and once I start them...I can't focus on anything else until they're done.  Which you know...not great for productivity.  But I've been fangirling over K-dramas, (and their super sexy actors) with a friend of mine...and she broke me.  I succumbed to the urge to watch a K-drama after a whole year of holding out....and I'm addicted again.  Particularly because this show was AWESOME.

A lot of the reason I've had some trouble with other K-dramas is a big cultural difference (and it may be only a tv cultural difference. You'd think dating a Korean would help make me an authority but he's pretty terrible at explaining things).  The men are very authoritative and the women extremely passive when it comes to relationships.  A lot of this pans out as the men treating the women terribly. And I have a hard time excusing most of that.  

This show completely bypasses most of that by having the lead character work as a stunt woman.  
A. This makes for TOTALLY awesome action scenes 
B. I'm pretty sure the actress did a lot of the stunt work herself because she's done most of her own stunts in other films
C. Gives her power.

The premise of the show is that Joo-won is the CEO of a company and Ra-im is a stunt woman, and through THINGS, they change bodies when it rains.  This concept could have been completely corny (and ok, I guess it is.  But good corny!), but the acting was fantastic! It's not that they just acted like the other person, or they just acted like the opposite character - I mean, it was really like they were the other person!  We've all seen movies (haven't we?) where some version of this happens, but this is definitely the best version I've seen of the situation.  And I also liked that in general it was a very light-hearted show - a lot of the tropes they use often become suuuuper angsty (and yes, it does have some of that too.  It is a K-drama, after all).  I really loved all the characters - particularly the side ones. I think Oska might have actually been my favourite...but I also loved her roommate and his assistant and AGHGHASD!! This show was great.  It also gets the distinction of having the best ending so far.  Slightly bittersweet + mostly fluffy = A very happy Elizabeth.  (It also gets the distinction of having one of the most hilarious soundtracks though haha)

File:You're Beautiful - promotional picture.jpg

Ok, technically I'm halfway through the series, so I'm not finished and might completely change my mind.  And I'm 100% shipping the wrong guy with the lead, like way harder than I have EVER shipped the wrong couple.  Even though I already know he won't get the girl! I do have a tendency ship the wrong guy in almost every drama though.  Usually I come around eventually, but I think this show will be the one that makes me a little bit angry at the outcome haha.  BUT there's a lot of great things going for this show.  Once again it's a gender bender!  Go Mi-nyeo is studying to become a nun, but when her brother has a botched surgery and has to go to America, he needs her to pretend to be him so he doesn't get kicked out of a famous band he's just joined.  Needless to say, what follows is hilarious!  And Park Shin-hye is so adorable as the lead character.  I've loved the storyline so far, and mostly it's been about all the crazy antics the cast gets up to so that her gender isn't revealed.  And it's got a great soundtrack.  I've recently come to realize just how much that can affect my willingness to like something, but there you are.  Great soundtrack (despite the tendency to use lots of overdramatic electric guitar Moonlight Sonata), lots of cute boys, hilarious shenannigans...what's not to like?

(Or really, I should say the not so bad)

File:Boys Over Flowers (TV series) poster.jpg

 This show is such a guilty pleasure for me!  It is an adaptation of a very popular manga - I've read the manga, watched the anime, and watched this show...despite the fact that I loathe the storyline.  This is one of those examples about abusive relationships, and this one definitely takes it to the extreme for me.  Despite that, the show remains absolutely addicting.  At its heart it's a rich boy/poor girl scenario set in the backdrop of a very rich school.  Ricki is watching this with her daughter, and she said that she gets to enjoy it for everything it is, and at the same time use it as a way to open up a dialogue about relationships which I think is a brilliant idea!


I honestly don't remember much from this series.  I picked this one up because it stars Yoon Eun-hye (the leading lady in Coffee Prince), and I remember thinking the series was a lot of fun.  Basically, Eun-hye's character lies about being married and it completely snowballs into a sort of national event because it turns out she's lied about being married to the president of the most famous hotel in Korea.
I don't remember how passionately I felt about their relationship, but it was definitely a fun series to watch!

 File:Oh! My Lady-poster.jpg

This was a really cute story where an older woman and a younger man fall in love.  She starts as his housekeeper, but she ends up transforming his acting abilities and helping him when he suddenly discovers he has an illegitimate child.  I remember this story being really sweet, and that the leading lady's character had a lot of strength.  Again, this wasn't one I fell passionately in love with, but I did think the show was well worth watching.


I know this show as Goong for some reason, but I think most people know it has Princess Hours.  This is another show I picted up because of Yoon Eun-hye, and it really wasn't for me.  I do think I'm in the minority on this one - Christina @ A Reader of Fictions definitely enjoyed it, so take what I say with a grain of salt.  This show is set as if Korea still had a monarchy.  The prince has an arranged marriage with a commoner, set by their grandparents (although neither of them knew it).  Obviously this creates all sorts of problems, and there's some royal politics involved, etc.  Part of my lack of enthusiasm probably comes with me shipping the wrong guy, although I sort of came around to Shin (the leading guy) by the end.  There was too much relationship drama, and complete disinterest on his side for too long, so I was so over it by the time the show ended.


Argh! I want to like this SO MUCH.  I mean it's got one of the most adorable leading ladies ever - I loved her in role in Boys Over Flowers (She plays a side character), and of course I want to watch anything that Gong Yoo has ever acted in.  And you get to see Gong Yoo act hilarious and adorable too!  I didn't finish this series - I may come back to it?  Unfortunately the premise creeps me out to much.  Because of THINGS one of Gil Da Ran (leading lady) student's and her fiancee switch bodies, and the fiancee remains in a coma.  I just get creeped out too much by the student/teacher factor, and I looked up spoilers for the rest of the show (because it's me and I can't help myself), and I concluded that I was NOT going to like where this was headed.  So I decided not to waste any time and just stop after the first couple episodes.  I couldn't even handle Flower Boy Ramen Shop (although Christina recommends it, so I might try again) because it starts with the leads as a student teacher and a student, and I just CAN'T.  Maybe it's because I've studied to be a teacher myself, but that just...eww.


THIS SHOW.  I just can't. It seriously enrages me.  The  guy is actually cruel to the girl for the majority of the series, and she just keeps following him around.  Like a friggin puppy!  At least in Boys Over Flowers, which has way worse bullying, the main character was like...this is wrong, leave me alone.  In this she's like...he totally just humiliated me in front of the entire world...but I love him!  Basically earthquake = dumb girl has to move in with smart boy she's in love with and he acts like a total jerk. The whole time.  I ended up slamming my computer shut in frustration and eventually looking up what happens instead of watching the rest of the show because it made me SO. ANGRY.

And that's your basic K-Drama guide on what to watch!  Any recommendations for me? (Or warnings) I am looking to maybe watch a historical one at some point, but they're all so depressing! I know someone recommended one to me a while back that wasn't depressing, but for the life of me I can't remember who or what it was!  I'm leaning towards Empress Ki or Faith (it's got a yummy actor from Secret Garden haha), but if you know a good one to start me on a lifelong love of historical dramas, let me know! (Or if there's any Asian drama you think is worth me checking out)

If movies are more your thing, tune into the next session based on Korean movies!  


  1. I didn't know this was even a thing! I mean I realized that there was probably such a thing as Korean television but I didn't know that it was available with subtitles and that it was awesome! A bunch of these sound fantastic and I'd like to get hooked on them. Thanks for your 101 introduction to this whole new world of TV haha!

  2. You know, I don't know how I knew they were a thing either haha! It wouldn't be from my boyfriend, despite the fact he's Korean, because he doesn't watch them (although I did make him watch Coffee Prince and he really liked them). There's a ton both on Netflix and Hulu (Hulu has the dramas and Netflix has the movies, although they have a few dramas as well). If you're thinking of starting one, I couldn't recommend Coffee Prince more as a starting point (there are definitely some things that you have to get used to culturally, and Coffee Prince was a good introduction to that), although really any of the ones that aren't Playful Kiss I'd recommend haha

  3. I have bookmarked this post. I see a couple on here that I really want to see. I think one of the stars from Oh! My Lady also appeared in Boys Over Flowers. :D

    Have you watched Hana Yori Dango yet (Boys Over Flowers in Japan)? It is sweeter, especially the ending! ;P


  4. You know, I thought I had seen it, but apparently there's at least one version of this story I haven't seen then haha! Kim Bum looks a bit like the leading guy in Oh! My Lady, but he isn't (if that's who you were thinking, because that's totally who I was thinking haha)


Thanks for leaving a comment! You've totally made my day :D

I love talking to you guys, so I always respond to comments. Be sure to check back!