Monday, March 31, 2014

8 Essential Elements of a Stereotypical Korean Drama

I am a big fan of Korean dramas and I am excited that there are growing numbers of non-Korean fans that watch them. It's always a good thing to have greater exposure to media and arts from around the world, as opposed to just from the United States or the West.

In loving tribute, the following is just a playful summary of the most familiar and overdone tropes in a very stereotypical Korean drama. Not all dramas are like this, and not all the dramas referenced here are bad. Furthermore, there are some very intriguing and creative shows that deviate from the formulaic.

That being said, here are some of the most essential elements of a typical Korean drama:

1) Hard-Working Heroine

Yoon Eun Hye from "The First Shop of Coffee Prince"

Often juggles multiple part-time jobs, or "albas." She's pretty, but made to look more "real world pretty" than "TV pretty." Friends and parents may criticize her for being fat even though she's only a size 3 or something. Often has a brazenly outspoken personality that gradually evaporates when she finds herself literally in the middle as the two male leads gaze intensely at her, wondering whom she will allow to take her home. Cue signature ballad from drama soundtrack.

2) Hot Sociopathic First Male Lead

Lee Min Ho from "Boys Over Flowers"
This guy gets so much female attention that he'll actually get angry when a supermodel type wastes his time with declarations of her unending admiration and love. Often has convoluted relationship with parents because his mother has an out-of-control Elektra Complex and his father is a cold-hearted tycoon that makes Daniel Plainview seem like that Costco CEO. Takes it out on hapless world population. He may have a serial killer's personality, but it's okay because he's just too hot to live.

3) Dreamy Puppy Second Male Lead

Jung Yong Hwa from "You're Beautiful"

Sometimes, the best friend of the first male lead. Childhood friends, or some other long-standing bond. Other times, they're adversaries from rival schools or companies. Also handsome and wealthy. May have a much younger sibling whom he dotes over, probably an adorable little sister. He may be heavenly, but he's merely really hot, as opposed to just too hot to live. And that's a deal breaker. Doomed to be alone forever.

4) Vicious Mean Rich Girl

Kim Ji Won from "Heirs"

Though she and Hard-Working Heroine come from vastly different social spheres, their pasts are always somehow intertwined. Perhaps Hard-Working Heroine's parents and Vicious Mean Rich Girl's parents were friends long ago. Or one's parents work for the other's. Always wears heels and has a different designer handbag in every scene, signifying up-to-no-goodness. This girl has had the tragic misfortune of being born gorgeous and wealthy, and she's not going to let the world get away with it.

5) Debt-Ridden Father

Park Sang Myun from "Mary Stayed Out All Night"

Perpetual financial troubles means that Debt-Ridden Father is always away and forcing the heroine into conveniently compromising situations, such as having to get into a contractual relationship with the Hot Sociopathic First Male Lead, which segues nicely into...

6) Outlandish Contractual Obligations

Yoona and Lee Beom Soo from "The Prime Minister and I"

Sometimes, the guy has to fake being married to the girl. Why? Maybe to throw meddlesome parents off the trail so he won't have to marry Vicious Rich Mean Girl. Maybe for the sake of political appearances. Or maybe they have to live together in order to keep the house or business. Whatever it is, the guy and girl will definitely be totally hating it at first. But by the end, they'll be finding excuses to keep the contract intact while trying to act as if they want to tear it to shreds.

7) School With No Teachers

The rule in Korean dramas seems to be that the more elite and exclusive a school is, the fewer teachers and less adult supervision there are. The popular kids reign supreme with absolute authority. May perhaps be subversive commentary on flaws of Korean education? Stretching?

8) Greek Korean Chorus

The dutiful Chorus from "School 2013"

Follows main characters around, narrating their moves and motives. Helps those audience members who still can't deduce heroine's character arc despite her many soliloquies. Hey, it's the new vocal fry.

1 comment :

  1. Heh heh...second male lead is usually hot and has such a sweet temperament, you can't help but cheer him on, too (To The Beautiful You is one such example). :) Boys Over Flowers was my first intro to k-dramas about 1.5 yrs ago, and I've been addicted ever since.