A travel site celebrating women of color who wanderlust

Cultural Curosities: New Love for Korean Dramas

We firmly believe that travel begins long before you research a locale, look up itineraries, or board the flight.  It’s about cultivating the spirit of cultural curiosity and developing a healthy appetite for the history, the art, the tastes, the sounds, the joys and pains of a place other than the one you call home.  That’s where my obsession with film festivals, global television, international literature and ethnic dining comes in.  The latest object of my cultural affection? Korean soap operas!

 
For weeks now, Hulu, my beloved purveyor of online television has been hitting me with commercials for a Korean show called Coffee Prince.  The first few times I saw the commercial, I ignored it.  The next time, I was curious what about my online watching activities made them recommend it to me. Finally, I watched the trailer and realized the premise was cute. So I decided to add it to my favorites list. By the second installment, I was fiending for more like a crackhead between hits, and over the next week, I indulged in a Hulu binge until I finished all 17 episodes.

I loved the Coffee Prince because it reminded me of my favorite Mozart opera, Le Nozze Di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro).  Filled with cross-dressing, mistaken identities and layers of love triangles, both are satisfyingly-dramatic comedies of error.  Here’s a brief synopsis of the Coffee Prince (modified from Wikipedia):

The "male" staff in the coffee. Which one is a girl named Eun Chan?Choi Han Kyul is the cocky son of a very rich family who runs a food corporation. He has never had a job and doesn’t care for responsibility. Han Kyul is hung up on his first crush and certainly doesn’t want to get married despite his family’s requests.

Go Eun Chan is a 24-year-old tomboyish female who is often mistaken for a guy. She takes up every job possible and has the responsibility of taking care of her shopping-happy mother and her younger sister.

Han Kyul and Eun Chan accidentally meet twice but  he never realizes she’s really a girl.  So, when he’s looking to get rid of the blind dates his grandmother  arranged and help Eun Chan earn some extra cash, Han Kyul hires her to be his pretend male lover.

When Han Kyul later takes over and revitalizes the Coffee Prince, a cafe run only by good-looking men as a marketing ploy to attract more female patrons, Eun Chan must continue to hide her gender to land a job there. Before long, feelings start to fly between Eun Chan and Han Kyul. Because he’s unaware that Eun Chan is a girl, Han Kyul starts to question his  sexuality.

It takes 12 of the 17 episodes to start to unravel the complicated love polygons and until the end of the series to satisfy the growing tension between the two characters on the brink of love.  But, I loved every dramatic moment.

 

Along the way, I learned ….

  • A few Korean words like “Geuraeyo” (ok/alright) and “Halmoni” (grandma)
  • That there is a global fascination with K-Dramas. Fans spread from Korea all across the modern world, as far away as Japan, Israel, Zimbabwe, Europe and Hawaii. It’s slowly taking off here in the mainland US
  • That K-Dramas tend to be highly dramatic with storylines that seem totally infeasible in real life. Sometimes, you have to make it past the first 1-2 episodes to get used to the dramatic style, then you’re hooked
  • That affection and explicit sexuality are often muted or referenced more subtly in K-Dramas (i.e.  when a character becomes pregnant, you’re left to fill in the blanks) and this is very much in line with Korean cultural norms minimizing PDA — although there are 1 or 2 scenes in Coffee Prince that break the mold
  • That I started with a particularly good K-Drama.  This one has won all kinds of awards.

 

Hmmm, this makes me reflect on our post from last year, Musings: Is Brown The New Korean? Maybe my “Seoul-food mama” was right about me having a Korean soul.  LOL!

If you’re curious about the K-Drama that captured my affection, you can watch it on Hulu or on DramaFever (where you can stream any K-Drama dating back to 1972).

If subtitled television is not for you, that’s ok.  Just shake your head, laugh at my obsession and start thinking about what cultural curiosity you can personally indulge.

 

Stay Fly!

 

12 Comments
  1. Tracy says

    I’m ADDICTED to K-dramas! I’m happy to find more Brown girls that are interested. I think my friends don’t want to be bothered with reading the subtitles. However, I watch so much and get so caught in the drama, that I sometimes find myself not reading, as if I know what they are saying! lol! They may seem “cheesy” at times, but they are lighthearted entertainment… even the more dramatic ones. It got so bad for me that I even considered teaching abroad in South Korea so I could learn the language/culture!! My favorites are Palace, Boys Before Flowers, City Hall and What’s Up, Fox. I need to find a new series to watch.

    1. Michael says

      Tracy,

      Here are a few of my favorites (If you have netflix some are avaliable on there)

      Protect the boss (This one had me laughing throughout the first half of the drama)

      Lie to Me

      My Girlfriend is a Nine tail fox (AKA My Girlfriend is a Gumiho)

      Secret Garden

      Dream High

      Scent of a Woman

      Full House

      BIG (Inspired by the hollywood movie BIG)

      Accidental Couple

      Couple Trouble (AKA Fantasy Couple – By the way this was a remake of the Hollywood film OVERBOARD but they made it into a Drama)

      Hope that helps.

      1. Chelle says

        Michael,

        Thanks for sharing this list … more great options!!

    2. Chelle says

      Hey Tracy! I hear you. Once you get into the storyline, it’s like an addictive runaway train that you can’t get off of. LOL!

      I’ll have to check out the ones you mentioned. 😉

  2. Senia says

    I love kdramas. Coffee prince was my foray in them 2 years ago when I moved back from Italy. I must have come across it on hulu. To date, one of the best. Also checkout Iris and now watching fashion king. Warning: they addictive and take one on a whirlwind of emotions. Get frustrated but can’t stop watching.
    The thing is, I can just relate to them. Also check out some k movie gems on YouTube. Fanatics choices.

    1. Chelle says

      Hey Senia,

      Thanks for sharing your experience. I don’t know why they’re so addictive but they definitely are. I was so sad when Coffee Prince ended, as it was the end of characters who felt like they’d become my friends and I’d never see them again. LOL! Thanks for the tips. I’ve been trying to figure out which one to try next.

      Enjoy!

  3. Carola C. Reuben says

    I deeply identify with your reasons for traveling and for “traveling” where you live through TV, film festivals, and cuisine.

    I never delved into Korean soap operas, but I catch a glimpse of them in the lounge of a Korean bathhouse on Buford Highway in the Atlanta area ( in the US). I enjoy being the only white woman among the naked Korean women soaking in hot and frigid tubs, and sitting in steam rooms and saunas with mineral rock salts.

    1. Chelle says

      Hi Carola,

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts. We totally agree with you. There’s something so cool about trying something different, living outside the boundaries if you will — and experiencing another culture in an authentic way. I have yet to try a Korean bath, but there’s one close to where I live and it’s on my TODO list. I’ll let you know how it goes 😉

  4. ukweli wetu says

    annyeonghaseyo.

    this is how bad i have it. everytime i want to say thank you.. in my head im like im like Kamsahamnida..Kamsahamnida…Kamsahamnida and bowing my head simultaneously as i say it…

    hahaha.

    for me it began by watching ( the housemaid) on netflix..which lead me to city hunter and the rest literally in history..its so bad that i have had to cancel drs appointments and such so that i can watch the next episode online..

    & yes, dramafever is the bomb!!!! try mysoju.com and dramacrazy.net

    this began late november of last year and i feel that through these dramas and movie i am glimpsing into another way of being. which, for me, is very similar to the kenyan/african culture i grew up in.

    it is not an exaggeration in saying that these dramas have saved me. & you are right that before one steps foot in anew land, there are this visits of imagination.
    i felt the same way before coming to america and inshallah ( god willing), i hope i can have Dolsot bibimbap in downtown seoul during the summer..

    1. Chelle says

      Hey Ukweli,

      Thanks for sharing tour own kdrama experiences… Sorry for the delayed response. Not sure how I missed your comment when it first came through.

      So, how is the planning for your trip to Seoul this summer? I’m super excited for you!

  5. Yumefulfilled says

    I was first exposed to Korean dramas by some Korean American friends when I was a sophomore in college. I became reacquainted with them when I recently visited my mom and she was caught up in several of them aired on her local PBS station. I found it funny that a 50+ year old black woman was shushing me so she could find out what was happening on her show. Between my mom and her Korean dramas and other friends with their Ghanaian and Nigerian flix on YouTube I am constantly entertained. Hilarious stuff!

    1. Chelle says

      Hey Girl! I thought I replied to your comment months ago. I guess I did only in my head but my fingertips didn’t follow through.

      Your story is so funny. I guess the KDramas really do have universal appeal. So, what’s up with the Ghanaian and Nigerian flix? Maybe I should check them out too. LOL!

      #NoMoreAddictions

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.