“Why don’t you just move to South Korea?!”
Just imagine this in a high-pitched 67-year-old Gujarati woman’s voice aka my mother’s!
That’s what the start of the pandemic was like for me. I guess everyone had their phases dealing with the unprecedented lockdown. Some were celebrating all the free time they had to make themselves better. Some were harrowed by the fact they had to actually live with their family or spouse or themselves 24x7. Some like me were horizontal on their bed like a human burrito with a laptop in front of them consuming an unhealthy amount of content.
Rough. I know.
Much like all things love, without any prior notice, I fell in love with Korean dramas. I mean ‘binge-watching’ 86 of them along with a 50- episode Chinese drama, plus maybe 14 Korean movies’ kind of love. Yes. It’s true. I have an account on a website called ‘my drama list’ which keeps track of all this, along with information like ratings, if I dropped it or if I finished it, etc.
Exciting, isn’t it?
Welcome to the magical land of Korean dramas! I will be your guide through this wonderland of beautiful men and even more beautiful storylines.
Why Korean dramas, you ask?
I’ll tell you why. They’re the best.
No, honestly. South Korea depends on the entertainment industry very heavily, The government actually funds many production houses and idol training institutes. It’s a legitimate career path. Hence, every year they produce thousands of Korean dramas.
The K-drama industry is so big that Netflix actually has a dedicated section in the foreign language section and produces multiple Netflix originals as well.
Korean dramas are mostly targeted at women. Wow! Isn’t that crazy? But there’s something for everyone. South Korea was best-known for its depiction of horror, gore, and zombies with films like The Host (2006) in the early ’90s and 2000s but there was a gradual change in the content as the Hallyu-wave hit planet Earth and all eyes were on South Korea.
Korean dramas have it all – from intense period romances to falling in love with a hologram. The range is truly infinite with genres bending and moving more into personal preferences like strong female leads, family politics, court battles, time-travel to what not. But more importantly, Korean dramas have the most good looking men ever, no, really. They have the most perfect symmetrical faces with prominent chest muscles and perky buttocks. It was a strange transition for me where major Bollywood, as well as Hollywood, is ruled by promiscuous Bond girls and heroines wearing bikini-tops to college.
Men are the eye candy or might I say ‘oppas’ rule the industry. ‘Oppa’ actually means big brother but it’s used teasingly to call one’s boyfriend. It was oddly comforting. Gender equality?
I have always dabbled in South East Asian content a lot because of my obsession with Japanese culture, reading Mangas, watching anime, fashion-wise being in love with the Harajuku aesthetic and kawaii everything but it was the first time I found myself so deeply smitten with Korean dramas. As someone who gets very easily distracted, I was hooked for good. I started making lists of dramas I needed to watch, kept changing genres to keep it interesting and slowly understanding the language obviously with the help of subtitles as well. It was all-consuming to learn so many different things about a foreign culture to the point it wasn’t very foreign anymore.
They provided me with the distraction I needed and the much-needed escape from the grim realities of 2020. Also, where else would you find a male lead who is an alien and a female lead who is a mermaid? It felt like a warm hug, a safe place for me to just transport myself.
With an unnecessarily long insight into my life, Here are my top 10 picks to get you hooked Oppa fever.
I. Guardian: The Lonely and Great God
Genre: Fantasy, Romance, Drama
This was my first Korean Drama and the production quality was just top-notch. The undeniable charm of Gong Yoo and hilarious comradery with Lee-dong Wook were the highlights for me.
II. Hospital Playlist
Genre: Medical, Friendship, Comedy
I love medical dramas. This one is about friends from medical college to start practising as a band. Amazing chemistry and every episode has a song played by the cast.
III. Crash Landing On You
Genre: Comedy, Romance
Their chemistry!!! Hyunbin and Seo Yeji really make this drama irresistible with the dramatic background of a love story across the border
IV. Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo
Genre: Historical, Melodrama, Fantasy
I have literally cried buckets watching this one. Beautifully shot, Korean period dramas are a visual treat. This one really hit me hard in the feels with gut-wrenching twists and turns in the plot.
V. My Mister
For the ones who aren’t into slow, real-life tragedies, you can skip this one. This was one of my favourite series of any language. The attention to detail and overlapping storylines following 3 middle-aged men struggling through life wrapped with life lessons. It’s a different take on love, where a 20-something-year-old girl and a 40-year-old man help each other navigate through life.
VI. Melo Is My Nature
Genre: Youth; Romantic comedy
I absolutely loved the premise, how three best friends navigate the entertainment industry – the first-person narrative along with the quirky depictions of real women, none of that girl gang candy floss repeat is awe-inspiring.
VII. Where Your Eyes Linger
Genre: Teen drama, Coming of age.
Let me introduce you to the sweetest small web-series depicting Boy Love aka BL. This is a huge industry though predominantly Thai, it’s slowly creeping into mainstream Korean dramas. It’s very normal to show ‘fan service’ aka chemistry between male idols, this was a refreshing and cute romance of a chaebol heir and his bodyguard.
VIII. Itaewon Class
I love a good underdog/revenge drama. This one has great cast chemistry, OST and storyline. It really dwells deep into what it takes to become successful against all odds.
The OST is just phenomenal! I used to play it as a lullaby for my cat Appo. Beautiful storytelling with layers of multiple storylines and the full spectrum of human emotions.
X. Money Game
Yes, you read it right, it’s finance. I am the last person to ever pick up an economic conspiracy storyline but I was hooked. A lot of insight into South Korea’s economic crisis of 1997, gripping! Also special mention of Yoo Teo’s breakout performance, I was smitten by his character and how.
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