As growing up in Vietnam, one of the country under the effect of Korean Wave or Hallyu Stars, I have been watching a lot of Korean dramas. I still remembered the first time I watched Korean drama: The Winter Sonata in 2004. It first broadcasted in South Korea in 2002 and became regionally famous when crossing Asian borders to reach Japan, China, Vietnam and Thailand. The drama is a romantic melodrama about a guy who has a painful childhood and suffers from amnesia with his first love after ten years of separation. The drama is the first milestone to introduce to Korean Wave to Asian and to the world. In this blog post, I want to specifically talk about Korean dramas, especially romance in Korean dramas.
After reading Ellis et al, I have learned that autoethnography is an analysis and research to provide a thick description or value of a particular culture. I have thought again and again about this and decided to step into the same topic ‘Korea Wave’ but deeper as ‘Korean drama’. In this post, I am going to point out my key findings while watching Korean dramas, along with research and interviews with my friends to strengthen my viewpoint or question the previous stereotype. Then I will finish with a case study of ‘The Descendants of the Sun’ to demonstrate about different points that I have made.
chasingskyorstars.wordpress.com/2015/02/01/how-do-girls-generation-snsd-members-workout/ (SNSD Girls’ Generation)
Firstly, the first thing I realised about Korean dramas is that all actors and actresses are extremely beautiful. When mentioning about ‘beautiful’ here, I am talking about Asian beauty: white skin, slim, high nose, red heart- shaped lips, etc. In every single drama I have watched so far, there are absolutely no leading characters not possessing these physical appearance. As I grow up, I have known that Korea is the origin of cosmetic surgery. Moreover, Korea is known for having one of the most purchased cosmetics brands.
As you can see from the chart above, Korea’ ranks are really high comparing to other countries in guaranteed quality, choice and price points, promotional offers and attractive packaging. I still remembered my one trip in Seoul, South Korea. I got very surprised at the popularity of cosmetics products in Korea. Wherever I go, there are cosmetics shops everywhere. They offer variety of products along with attractive promotional offers and completely difficult to avoid buying. But while staying in Korea, I have learned a lot of how much value they put on for physical appearance. From my Korean friends, I learn it is unacceptable or sometimes offensive to look at someone when they don’t put make up on. In Wheeler’s weblog (2012), it is claimed that “anyone who has visited Korea or is familiar with its cultural practices will tell you that Korea is obsessed with image”. For a girl who rarely put make up on like me, Korean cosmetics culture is like a different but attractive candy. Growing up in a family who never make up, I think make- up is like putting on a mask which covers all of the marks on your face and make you no longer a natural beauty. But then, one of the most interesting things about Korean make- up culture is that men have their own make- up brands for themselves. I believe this is quite novel for the global community. It is common knowledge for me to see guy using perfume but while staying in Korea, it was quite a shocking fact for me when I realise that there is a whole section for male make- up products such as washing cream, moisturizers, essences and toners.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8bLYquTvcuQ (Korean guy before and after putting make- up on)
In conclusion, make- up is a part of Korean culture. It can be something new or even weird to some countries but it is a normal part of the culture.
Secondly, while interviewing Jessie David, my DIGC330 teammate and classmate, we both share the same view about Korean drama’s story: couples in dramas always face with extreme bad situation to make them realise that how important they are for each other. I have bear the idea that Korean drama always ends by one of the leading character having cancer or terminally ill. For example, in the drama ‘Winter Sonata’ at the end of the drama the leading male character has a tumour in the brain which makes him either die during operation or lose his eyesight and die after a few months. Moreover, there are a range of Korean dramas with an extreme sad ending such as the glass slipper, autumn in my heart, sorry I love you. Moreover, it is also very typical for me to see Korean couples in dramas have a happy ending after fighting against ‘the whole world’. It is very highlighted or repeatedly for Korean drama couples to face with the objection of their parents, the emergence of the third person in the relationship, the misunderstanding due to ‘too much care and love’ for each other. For instance, in the drama ‘Boys over flower’ in 2009, the couple Jan Di, a very poor girl and Jun Pyo, the chaebol of a rich family, have faced a strong objection from Jun Pyo’s mother, who believes her son deserve a more beautiful, smarter and richer lady. The drama reaches its peak in viewers rating as the beauty of the main casts but also because of their love story. To complete her goals, Jun Pyo’s mother doesn’t mind doing anything. She firstly pays Jan Di an enormous amount of money, then buys her house, makes her whole family not have a place to live, hires people to destroy her small street vendor, and multiple other things. However, Jun Pyo and Jan Di have hold hands so strongly until the end and proved to Jun Pyo’s mother that position and money don’t have anything to do with their love. The drama is a happy ending but as an audience, I have to say that it is so impossible to have such a tragedy in life and can find someone to overcome with.
Here is the link for some top Korean meanest mom in drama. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0DKePNmPaGY
So, as you can see, the beautiful and concrete love story in Korean drama normally faces with extreme and severe conditions which we rarely have in our life.
Finally, before coming to my case study ‘The Descendants of the Sun’, I have always wondered if there is actually a love story like Korean Drama in real life. From my own point of view, the love story in K- dramas is too beautiful, too artistic that is so impossible to become the truth in real life. Finding that someone who is willing to hold your hands under any circumstances is extremely difficult, not mentioning that he needs to be super handsome, super gentle and always does everything that ladies dream of. I have interviewed my Vietnamese and international friends. They all share the same answer with me although some of them believe that it is flexible and depends a lot on the person. So, what about you guys? Please leave some comments or your thoughts below my post.
Last but not least, I am going to look at the drama ‘The Descendants of the Sun’ to highlight some of my own viewpoints. The drama is made in 2106 and became a big hit in South Korea where it reached 38.8% of audience share and gained a huge popularity across Asia. I have remembered that when the drama first air, all of my Vietnamese/ Asian friends talk about it all day. They complement handsome Yoo Si- jin (Song Joong Ki), beautiful Kang Mo-yeon (Song Hye- kyo), manly Seo Dae- young (Jin Goo) and attractive but not feminist Yoon Myung- ju. There are two couples in this drama Yoo Si-jin with Kang Mo-yeon and Seo Dae- young with Yoon Myung- ju. Their love stories are a huge success across whole South Korea and Asia, brings up the name of the actors and actresses once again receive the love of thousands new fans internationally. The drama received in total of 6 awards by Baeksang, and Daesang awards.
The drama is not just a simple love story between a guy and a lady but a love story between two people sharing their love to their country, to kids and the elder. It is not just a romantic story with a lot of kissing scenes but a love story that makes my heart flutter because of action scene and the underground battle between North and South Korea. It creates once again a popular Korean wave in Asia and the main casts of the drama have become so much more famous than ever. Wherever they go, they get most of concentration about themselves. With a single search on ‘Descendants of the Sun Fan’, I received 6,370,000 results in 0.65 seconds. If you are a fan of the drama, you can use this website to check official fan page: https://www.pinterest.com.au/xinyue1824/descendants-of-the-sun-official-fan-page/. Song Joong- ki and Song Hye- ko after the success of the drama become one of the most powerful K- biz couple and their fans all around the world have hoped that their idols will be a real couple. In early this year, the couple announced that they were dating and going to get married on 31 October 2017. Their information has been updated every single day since then. The official fan page such as Song Jong- ki Asian fanbase updated regularly about their wedding information. Just with a search on twitter ‘the Descendants of the Sun’ there were a lot of wishes and congratulations from fan locally and globally sending to Song- Song couple.
newburghgazette.com/2017/10/31/marriage-of-song-joong-ki-song-hye-kyo-shrouded-in-complete/ (Song- Song couple on their wedding day 31 October 2017)
The drama ‘Descendants of the Sun’ is a typical but new Korean drama: love stories under extreme severe conditions with beautiful girls and handsome men.
In conclusion, Korean dramas have given me a very good angle to learn about Korean culture. As a girl who growing up in Vietnam, a South East Asian country, the Korean Wave, especially Korean dramas has spread and brought up Korean cultures to introduce with Asia and international community.
Here are a few epiphanies that I have found while watching romantic Korean dramas which is pretty interesting as well:
- The respect towards the elder: in all types of Korean dramas, it is essential and very important to bow down while meeting the older. Unlike English, Korean people use honorifics while talking with the elder and people with higher position to show their respect towards the people. Here is a video giving examples of the situation to use honorifics as well: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SygPSMN3IA4
- Kissing scenes in dramas are too impossible to be real. I have found a very good youtube video to express my meaning: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x2TeAMme4SQ
- It is very funny while I watch some Korean dramas which at the start, the guy is very shy and doesn’t know how to confess his love. But at the end of the drama, the leading male character because of his love for the female character, becomes a very professional and romantic love confessor. While comparing to real life, I found out that guys with the same background like the characters in the dramas would probably do something silly. In Korean dramas, even how bad they are at talking with a girl, they are professional and romantic when it comes to express love.
- Ellis, C., Adams, T.E., & Bochner, A.P. 2011, Autoethnography: An Overview, Qualitative Social Research,
- Wheeler, C. J 2012, The Korean Wave: Multiculturalism, Foreigners and Cultural Backwash, The Korean Movie & Drama Database, weblog 2 June, viewed on 1 November, <http://www.hancinema.net/hancinema-korea-s-diary-the-korean-wave-multiculturalism-foreigners-and-cultural-backwash—43367.html#!prettyPhoto>