Turning Points in My K-drama History

(I WON’T be talking about Winter Sonata in this post btw. I just selected that picture because it had falling snow!)

I love winter, I really do. I love stepping outside my humble abode to be greeted by a chill in the air. The family gatherings, holidays, potlucks, present-giving, and drama marathons tend to all occur during my favorite time of the year. It’s also during this time that I start reflecting and pondering about the past. When I’m hiding under the covers of my big quilt, I take the time to think. To wonder about anything and everything. Yeah, I’m that kind of girl. I can’t recall the number of times I’ve stayed up late just to think for hours. I assure you that it’s quite normal for me, although over-thinking has gotten me into trouble too. Anyway, I was thinking about what to write for my inauguratory post last night. I tossed and turned until it dawned on me that I should write about the dramas that were pivotal in my growth as a K-drama watcher. It’s a good place to start, right? Especially since there are a few notable K-dramas that were my turning points as a viewer. Ready to join me on a trip down memory lane? 

When I reminisce about my K-drama past, I realize that I do have years of history as a viewer. I began to watch K-dramas the summer after middle school, when there were big changes in my life.  I was moving to another city, to a place I now love. Back then, it was a big deal for a little dodo like me. But instead of talking about my personal struggles and getting off topic, I want to briefly mention — I mean it when I say briefly –some dramas that viewers today either disdain, belittle, or love — yet these are the very dramas that aid in my insomnia by keeping me up late at night. These dramas may not be exceptional in terms of substantial quality, however, it doesn’t really matter because these dramas hold a special place in my heart.

Dae Jang Geum starring Lee Young Ae and Ji Jin Hee was not only the first Korean sageuk drama I’ve seen, but my very first love. Similar to a lot of first impressions that I have with dramas nowadays, I was unimpressed with the first episode and I didn’t think that I would finish it. I couldn’t believe that my parents were sucked into this unfamiliar genre for hours a day. I was like, hello, we’ve got things other more “important” things to do right now? And wait, mommy is going to put off making lunch because she wants to watch another episode? Boo, dramas are lame! You could say that I was this______________close to watching Dae Jang Geum as I was going to eat a bowl of green onions. Which is not bloody likely. However, as you may guess, I eventually caved.  I don’t really know why. One day, I suppose I thought to myself that I should just join in on the fun. And that I should just have a freaking good time while I’m at it too. You could say that I watched it just to spite my parents, since I was at a rebellious age — which, wasn’t even a rebellious thing to do, per se, because it wasn’t like my parents were banning me from watching K-dramas. I obviously was lacking some functioning brain cells that day. I digress. I caught up on the episodes and… I was completely swept away into the Joseon Dynasty. I was completely hungover on this drama, minus the headaches and y’know, other stuff. I stayed up until past midnight, slept, then woke up to watch more episodes. For a month of my life, that’s all I did — or all that I could remember. And by the time it was over, when I had been hoping to wish K-dramas goodbye, I got started watching more. I wouldn’t say that it was the start of an addiction, but that I definitely started liking K-dramas a lot.

Only time could tell if it’s love or infatuation

If this drama were to air today, I probably wouldn’t touch it. I wouldn’t go near it. A historical drama that has a total of 54 episodes and more than an hour long apiece? No, there’s definitely no way in Antarctica that I’m going to watch it. Not unless it’s a gem that’s so radiant that it would render me into a state of complete incoherency. Even if a drama like this turned out to be said gem, I would still somehow need to find time to fit 54+ hours into my life.

So what was so darn special about Dae Jang Geum? Was it the cast? How about the directing or writing or the score? As with most, if not all dramas, there were some great moments and flaws in this drama. Yet when I re-watch a few scenes or when I listen to the soundtrack, my heart overflows with happiness. I can’t help but start smiling like a lunatic and giggling to myself. It’s the same feeling as reuniting with a beloved friend that you haven’t seen for a long times — a sort of overwhelming, bubbly happiness. Since I get attached to people easily, it’s hard not to be attached to a drama and its characters when you’ve spent hours of your life connecting and relating to them, even if it turns out to be the biggest dud in the world. Well, wait a minute! If it’s a poop like <insert your most hated drama here> then uh, that’s an exception.

Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the evilest of them all?

Interestingly enough, the most memorable character in this drama wasn’t the female protagonist Jang Geum but evil Lady Choi Sung Geum, who was wonderfully played by Kyun Mi Ri. This lady gave me goose bumps whenever she was busy plotting against her enemies. Perhaps it was because I was awaiting her downfall and I loved seeing her demise, but to this day, she remains . My favorite villain to hate, that is. However, I wouldn’t say that she was completely a heartless witch. There were subtle moments within the drama that showed her vulnerability and I loved that there were times when she wavered, when she questioned herself. It was rare, but that’s what made her fall from grace all the more interesting. In the end, she still chose the path of vengeance and power. So do I pity her? No, not really. With every choice comes a consequence, whether it be a positive or negative one.

I also loved how both sides — good vs. bad, of course –were always trying to outsmart the other. Each side was betting high stakes in order to win, with fate deciding the winner, which is good because it gets boring mightily fast when the good team always wins. Despite getting draggy in the end and some plot recycling, this easily became my first love. As the saying goes, you never forget your first love. Or at least I don’t.

There’s no such thing as a happy ending here.

So here I was, a newbie K-drama watcher (and I still consider myself to be a neophyte viewer today) who was suddenly immersed into a different world and a genre that was new to me. Out of another sheer coincidence, I was introduced to Glass Slippers starring So Ji Sub and Kim Hyun Joo. There’s a reason why I haven’t re-watched this — and it’s not because I didn’t like it. My memory is a bit hazy on this one because so many years have passed since I’ve finished this. If my hippocampus is still functioning properly, then I can still recall the basic storyline and characters. One thing I do remember quite vividly is that GS brought me into a state of emotional turmoil. It was so different from Dae Jang Geum and the dramas that I saw after that. This was THE melodrama back in the day, with so much angst for one person that you could deliver the leftovers to your parents, grandparents, friends, your friend’s friends, dogs…. you get my drift.

Although I lost more than forty hours of my life on this baby, I discovered one actor that I have come to appreciate and love. Despite this being one of his earlier performances and pre-MISA (I’m Sorry, but I Love You) days, So Ji Sub delivered when he needed to. He brought PARK CHUL WOONG to life and made me a fan forever. This isn’t his best work — but it’s so much better than his recent drama, Road No. 1. Maybe it was his eyes (or everything about him) that did me in, all I know is that I LOVE YOU, SO JI SUB!

Watch it, and Weep.

I don’t know what I can say besides that this drama made me cry so much that days later, I could taste the saltiness of tears on my face. (Ew!) Even to this day, I tear up a teeny, tiny bit when I think about Park Chul Woong. It was a turning point because I discovered what a drama could do to me besides getting me all excited and fangirly. GS was a drama that connected with my heart, twisted it, and then left me wondering about its thematic messages. What does sacrifice mean? Was it simply dying in a loved one’s place, and putting them above yourself or was it something else? Is sacrifice equivalent to love? As of now, I’m still trying to figure that out.

Some time later, again by chance (do you see a recurring pattern here?), I checked out Full House. However many toes and fingers you have (assuming y’all have a total of ten fingers & ten toes — but if you have more or less than the norm, that’s extra cool), multiply that by three and that will be about the number of times I have watched the ending. Then divide by two and that’s how much I have watched the drama itself. Since math and science are the bane of my life, that will be the last time I require anybody to do math on this blog. Can I get an Amen! on that?

Upping the Crazy!

Full House is a drama that I consider to be one of my guilty pleasures. It’s a guilty pleasure because I know it’s gets crazy towards the end with numerous logical loopholes. I don’t disregard the flaws within this drama but at the same time, it’s a drama that makes me happy. I’m sure I could come up with some very logical reasons (har har) for liking it, but the main reason would be pretty superficial. I liked Rain. I liked Song Hye Gyo. Maybe both are overrated yet I thought that their chemistry was adorable in Full House, almost addicting to watch.  It’s a drama that most of my friends hated, but one that I obsessed over for months, er, years. This was the obsession that took my fangirling to new heights. I started buying Rain CDs and the Full House OSTs in addition to decorating my room with anything related to that drama. In fact, I think I still have some of those handmade posters in my closet…

It really wasn’t until Full House that I began to broadcast my love of Korean dramas publicly in my life. At this point, I was still watching perhaps two to three dramas per year, so Full House increased my addiction for a while. This drama was a feel-good drama, a drama that made me cry and laugh; a drama filled with cute and emotional beats, however cliche they were. I liked the humor, however OTT it was sometimes. I don’t deny that I watched this purely for Rain and Song Hye Gyo. They were also probably why I enjoyed the drama so much and why the logical flaws in this drama never bothered me, such as how the best friends of Song Hye Gyo’s Han Ji Eun were somehow able to rip her off, sell her house, and take away all her money. Oh reallys? Even to this day, I have to scratch my head a bit and wonder why they were never sued for fraud. Plus, what crappy best friends they are. Anyway, many ridiculous set-ups like that in the plot, I tend to always choose Full House when I direly need a fluffy rom-com to watch. I’ll pull out my old DVD set of Full House because I know it’s a drama that will bring a smile to my face. In fact, I may even catch up on a couple of scenes when I’m done writing this.

I took a hiatus from Korean dramas for a period of time, watching a few here and there when I came back from my break. I did find a couple more gems to add to my growing drama collection, yet no matter how much I enjoyed a drama, most were just little infatuations. Then along came You’re Beautiful — a drama that won my soul over and is possibly my greatest drama crack in my history as a viewer.

“Go Mi Nam, From Now On, I Give You Permission To Like Me.” –Hwang Tae Kyung

Do you remember the first drama that got you so addicted that you would watch it raw, without any subs? A drama that made you squeal and spazz to the point that you couldn’t think about anything else? YAB was like that for me, and it permanently renewed my love of Korean dramas. Like I said a few sentences ago, it wasn’t just my drama crack for 2009, but THE drama crack for me . The previous dramas that I’ve listed above all were turning points because they were like high slopes on a roller coaster ride for me, just before the cart plunges downwards. But YAB was the biggest “high” of them all, and I don’t think that’s changed a year later. It’s another drama that I’ve re-watched and re-watched to death, only because I haven’t gotten tired of it yet. There’s another reason why I hold this drama dear in my heart, besides the fact that it made me discover Park Shin Hye and Jang Geun Seok. It’s because of YAB (and google) that I discovered sites like Dramabeans, which have changed the way I view K-dramas.

For me, watching a good Korean drama brings me this indescribable joy, and it’s a breath of much-needed fresh air that I need in my life. My closest friends have recently come to terms that I see dramas as a form of art. For me, it’s not JUST entertainment anymore, but a form of art that should be highly discussed and preserved. A good production is layered and reflects the ideology of its own culture, and K-dramas can become that kind of art. It was also because after You’re Beautiful that I’ve discovered so many other dramas and bloggers that have enhanced my experience as a watcher. It’s also made drama-watching much more delightful and fun!

So that’s just a semi-long (?) blurb on some of the dramas that were turning points in my history as a viewer. I didn’t want to review these dramas, because if I have time, I’ll write up a review for some of them later on this blog.

Thanks for stopping by! And just out of curiosity, what are some of your “turning point” K-dramas? If you have the time, please share! 🙂


6 thoughts on “Turning Points in My K-drama History

  1. My first kdrama, which was also my first subtitled and first Asian drama, was Boys Over Flowers in July 2010. Believe it or not I wasn’t sure if it could get much better than that. THANK GOODNESS it does! Coffee Prince came next. I consumed it in about a week with a worn and grateful heart. Then Goong. I spent so much time plotting Chae Kyung/Shin scenes there’s probably a whole neuro-city in my brain dedicated to them! Over spring break I watched Alone in Love. I think that was definitely a turning point because I made a decision while watching that show. My decision was to be honest in love even if I look stupid. When I think of that AiL a lump still forms in my throat, my head shakes, and I’m glad to have watched it.

  2. Wow I love your blog! It’s now bookmarked next to Dramabeans lol. I think our drama journeys are pretty similar! I remember my parents made me watch Dae Jang Geum and another drama called Sangdo (with Kim Hyun Joo in it) for “educational purposes” haha. But what got me hooked was also Full House! You Are Beautiful likewise holds a special place in my heart , hehe. But I don’t think I have ever re-watched a drama… so I guess I am not quite yet on the same level of fangirl-dom as you 🙂

  3. I love reading your blog. For me the drama I’ve watched raw is “A Wife’s Credentials”, its not your usual korean drama but it was amazing… It will make you think of the realities in life. I recommend it to everyone. thanks for your site!!!

  4. I can relate to your post. I’ve now seen 22 korean HISTORICAL dramas and am watching 3, al with English subtitles. Jewel was my 1st then Dong Yi and Yi San. By then I was decidedly hooked and checking the 3 kingdom, Silla, Baekje history, the kings, invasions, purges, etc. I LOVE them all but Lee Seo jin is my favorite actor.
    Saeguks have introduced me to “old” Korea and made me a huge fan of the culture. I will definately keep on watching and will visit someday just for the pure thrill. Until then, God please bless Seo jin and save him for me.

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