So here I am struggling to come up with a topic for my post yet again. The Paul Ryan VP pick? Gay “marriage”? A plea for video game tournaments in the Olympics? There are so many things to write about that I’m experiencing writer’s block! Like a cold hand around my neck the pressure of my deadline closes in. Can’t…breathe.
Then, like a lightning bolt out of the blue, an inspiration! Korean Dramas!
Now you may be thinking, “Poor Colin. The stress of the deadline finally made him crack.” And you’d be right in a sense. But if you would be so kind as to hear me out I think you will have found it worth your time. And I think we could all use a break from all the seriousness around here.
My wife is Korean. Not Korean-American. Korean as in stepped off the plane from Busan, Korea seven years ago to study for a PhD in Microbiology. So Korean culture and customs form a good chunk of our lifestyle, and this includes our entertainment options as well.
I’ve had Korea on the brain lately. Most of this is due to my pending trip back to that lovely country in late August. Here in the tiny Republic of Koreaca (aka, the Gormley household) we have been preparing by buying presents for in-laws and for myself brushing up on the language that I’m terrible at. One of the ways we have sought to improve my language skills is to watch various Korean TV shows, or at least that is our excuse for watching hours upon hours of Netflix.
Korean dramas are ridiculously popular in Asia. If you sit with native Chinese and/or Filipino women and start talking about Korean dramas, chances are they will have some favorites. They have also found some fans in American circles as well. Granted it is still a niche market here as most Americans have issues reading subtitles, but if you are willing to look past that, you will find some quality entertainment.
What appeals to me as a Catholic are the themes that run through a lot of these dramas. The good dramas revolve around a set idea or ideas and use the story to illustrate those points. As modern day parables, Korean Dramas meditate on a theme and view the lives of characters through the lens of that theme.
To illustrate let me share with you a few of our favorites:
Protect the Boss – A comedy about one No Eun-Suel who is your average girl from the school of hard knocks. Korean style. Graduating from a third-rate school and struggling to find a job after deciding to turn her life around, she finally lands it after some unusual circumstances propel her. Her boss, the infantile Cha Ji Heon, makes her life miserable, yet finds her oddly appealing. This ultimately leads to romance. In America, this would have led to a sexual harassment suit. The major theme running through this drama revolves around people attempting to escape their pasts and how, no matter what one’s station in life, one will find struggles to overcome.
Secret Garden – Another comedy with some fantasy elements focusing on one Kim Joo Won, an arrogant CEO who falls for a poor stunt woman named Gil Ra Im after meeting her by accident. This disturbs him given the contrast in their situations in life, and is complicated further by a strange turn of events when they swap bodies. The major theme for this drama is how different the lives of the main protagonists are and how difficult it is for others to see the world through different eyes.
Shining Inheritance – A riches-to-rags-back to riches story about Go Eun Sung, a pure hearted girl who is cheated out of everything by an evil stepmother. This occurs shortly her father who was mistaken as a victim of a gas explosion decides it is for the best to disappear so his family can inherit the insurance money as his company is going bankrupt. The major theme running through this drama is the power and terror of money and the effects of possessing, coveting, or otherwise pursuing money and how it can distort a person’s life in the blink of an eye.
I was very entertained watching these and the best part was that, unlike some American television, I didn’t feel like I needed to go to Reconciliation afterward. Korean Dramas have a charm that American Primetime television lacks these days. If you have a streaming account, don’t mind subtitles, and have some patience for cross-culture confusion, I recommend spending time with one of these short series.