“Rise of the Kdramas” By: Umaria Tariq Malik
People usually tend to fear the unknown; never venturing into what they don’t know. This applies to many different aspects of life whether it be a TV show, a new job, or even trying out new cuisines. People still have that initial lasting hesitation to try something new. However, not all changes are necessarily bad and one such change is gripping Pakistan by storm: Korean dramas.
I myself have been in its clutches for a few years now, never suspecting that I wasn’t the only one out there that had been contaminated by the Kdrama trend that was spreading like a virus. My first drama was You’re Beautiful, a drama that had been getting a good reception throughout Korea. I remember instantly falling in love with the female lead, Go Mi Nam, hating/loving the male lead, Hwang Tae Kyung, and crying internally for Kang Shin Woo, the second male lead. At that time I thought I was the only one in Pakistan that watched Korean dramas, and I remember not even being able to openly say that I liked them. I was clearly confused. Why? It was the fear of what people would think of me watching dramas from another country, that too in another language. There is always that fear of being different from other people; fear that they won’t understand.
Now I have come to realize that my fears had been for nothing; my problem had been that I had not even tried giving people a chance. It is a mistake that is often made. My first encounter with a fellow Kdrama addict left me speechless and with a pulse rate pushing 200. My emotions were out of control because I had finally met someone who understood my addiction. Slowly I started to notice things I had been too ignorant to see. It was like I had wrapped myself in a bubble that said “there is no Kdrama fan here except you “. I spent a few years within that cage.
After meeting more people that watched Kdramas, I started to notice them everywhere. There were so many of them, so much so that the Facebook page for Kdrama lovers based in our university had reached 100 followers. That’s when I realized sometimes we are more alike than we think and we should at least give each other a chance.
Korean dramas have a certain charm that has led to their eventual success in countries all over the world. That charm lies in how quintessential they are; the stories, the good looks of the celebrities, and even the romances adhere to this pattern. They have such breathtaking tales to tell, taking the viewers to a world unimaginable and they can’t escape for a very long time even after the drama has finished. The realities of real life can be extremely harsh and Korean dramas are an escape from that reality into a world where anything is possible: even a girl cross dressing as a guy won’t go noticed until the right time has been reached for the grand reveal. The acting itself brings out emotions we couldn’t fathom having. Not only this, the celebrities have such flawless skin that fans around the world are dying to know their secrets.
At first when I started to watch these dramas, I noticed a pattern in their stories. A lot of them left the viewers with the infamous SLS (Second Lead Syndrome), the disease of the heart that craves for the second lead to be the hero. We can’t always get what we want can we? Then there was the pattern of the rude protagonist which was seen in dramas like You’re Beautiful, Full House, Boys Over Flowers, Emergency Couple, Princess Hours, Heartstrings, Playful Kiss, My Love From Another Star, The Master´s Sun and quite recently Hyde, Jekyll, Me. Another common trend in dramas was the depiction of an impoverished female lead ending up with a gorgeous, stunning, and rich hero, which was seen in dramas like the popular Boys Over Flowers, and The Master´s Sun. There is a whole “Chaebol” concept going around in the stories – Chaebol being a large family owned business conglomerate. A Chaebol heir is often depicted in dramas as the hero who has it all: cars, mansion like houses, and anything his money can literally buy. Then there are the heart wrenching OST or drama sound tracks that come in at just the right moment. Even without knowing the language, viewers still find themselves so immersed in the songs that they end up singing along and sometimes the singers sing so passionately that the feelings flow through.
Another thing I noticed was that in recent years, there would be a concept per year with more than one drama being made around that concept. In the year 2012, Rooftop Prince came out starring the popular Han Ji Min and Park Yoo Chun. The plot revolved around time travelling. The same year saw the emergence of Queen In-hyun´s Man and Faith, which also involved time travelling. Then in 2014, Pinocchio and Healer came out which had the element of journalism involved. In 2015, Hyde, Jekyll, Me and Kill Me, Heal Me came out which were both centered on DID (dissociative identity disorder). The most amazing thing about this is that even though an essential element to the plot is the same, the rest of the stories of these dramas are completely different and unique.
One thing I look for in a drama is a good story; I mean the major reason for their success is their amazing stories. It’s not the plain old the main characters meet, fall in love, get married, and live happily ever after. Instead along with the romance, there are other things going on that form an intricate web, which pulls the audience into a trance of ”I am not leaving the screen until I find out everything !” Hyde, Jekyll, Me went as far as portraying DID in such a moving way that I, for one was brought to tears when thinking of Robin disappearing. The emotional states of the 2 protagonists occupying the same body was shown beautifully, making one understand the hardships and difficulties felt by a person with DID. As a medical student, this approach to unraveling DID was intriguing to me.
The fashion trends followed by celebrities are also being copied by fans all over the world. So much so that just a rumor about a YSL lipstick being used by Jun Ji Hyun, heroine of My Love From Another Star, led to reports of it being sold out in many places around the world. Even I have tried to perfect the Gradient lips. The whole look of the female actresses is actually based on being simple and fresh: flawless face, eyeliner, mascara, and a good lip color. They hardly wear a lot of eye shadow, or excessively bold makeup. Rather they prefer to show a natural look that accentuates their features. It’s not just makeup, but also people are indulging in buying the traditional Korean dress: the Hanbok. I, myself saw a girl at function dressed in a Hanbok.
Gradually the dramas are improving: this year they crossed a whole new level. Pakistan is also taking part in this rising Kdrama trend wholeheartedly. Everywhere drama fans are popping up; even people you wouldn’t expect at all. There are varieties ranging from those who just watched one drama, to those that watch a few, to those that can’t live without them. An increase in knowledge about Korea is being facilitated by this trend and people are slowly shouting their “oppas” and their “daebaks” here and there. If you haven’t started a Kdrama yet, and feel alienated after reading this article, go ahead and try it for yourself. You never know, maybe you will come to love Korean dramas too.
By: Umaria Tariq MalikShare