Eldest Daughter caught me watching it and scolded me horribly, because she'd tried before to get me to watch some K-drama with her and I wasn't interested. I don't even remember her asking me about it. After the conversation, I vaguely remembered knowing that she'd watched some Korean shows (along with Japanese ones), and I knew she liked Korean pop music (along with Japanese), but honestly. I'm sure my take on it at the time was, "That's nice, dear." My only excuse is that a positive review by one of my peers carried more influence than a positive review by my own offspring. I have since learned that my daughter was raised well enough that I can trust her taste, not only in books, but also in entertainment. Go figure.
I've watched a little over two dozen of them, which is an embarrassing thing to say, because these shows tend to run sixteen to twenty one-hour episodes (and I've watched some of them more than once). But last winter I was sick in bed for several days and watched several hours during that time. Also I've been devouring K-drama instead of books. But in my defense I'll say that their stories are so well-told and complex that you're not going to have your brains melt by watching them, unlike with most American television shows. Really. The plots are positively Dickensian.
So, what do I love about K-drama?
First, how important family is. This was the reason I watched the first drama. In that show, the parents die in a car accident and the oldest daughter, who is twenty-five and amazingly irresponsible, has to grow up fast so she can take care of her five adopted siblings. On one occasion the oldest boy scolds her for her bad behavior and she listens to him and promises to do better, and she really does. That may sound disrespectful of an older relative, but he is the oldest boy after all, which carries a lot of responsibility, so even though he's only twelve years old, he's the man of the family.
Second, how shy they are about physical contact between the sexes. This makes the love stories very sweet, for the most part, and so much more romantic than shows that convey the couple's feeling for each other by, well, physical contact. I'll just point out here that even though these shows are very clean by American standards, I don't let my younger children watch many of them, because romance is such a big part of the stories and I don't want them feeding very much on that fare.
Then there's the music. Faith, aka The Great Doctor has gorgeous music, some of it classical-style soundtrack stuff like you'd expect, but also a lot of music by pop stars, which I didn't expect in a drama set in the 1300s. The first time this particular bit was played during the first episode, Number One Son came out of his room to listen and was hooked on the drama ever after.
I'm testing a hypothesis of mine -- if I love the music, I'm going to love the show. If the music is bad, or forgettable, the show will be too.
I also love listening to the language. Korean is structured so very differently than English, and that difference fascinates me. Where we would say, "I'm sorry for being rude," or "Thank you for giving me a ride," in Korean it's something like "For being rude, I'm sorry," or "For giving me a ride, I thank you." That's not a literal translation because I don't speak Korean -- it's just what I've noticed from picking up a few words here and there. I love listening for the ways people address each other, the honorifics and endearments, the way old people are all called grandfather or grandmother, even by strangers. I love the fact that they have informal or comfortable speech for family and close friends and formal speech for everyone else. I love listening for when two characters transition from formal to informal words because of what it means in their relationship. It kills me that I don't know Korean. In some of these shows I love the characters so much and want to know their language so I can know them better.
This is closely related to loving the language difference -- I love seeing the world through a different culture's eyes, seeing what they value and how they go about solving their problems.
A big attraction for me is how they create their characters and tell their stories. For example, in American movies and TV shows, generally the characters are non-religious and they live in a world where religion doesn't exist, unless it's necessary to the plot. But in Korean dramas, characters are Christian or Buddhist or non-religious in the same way that people are in real life -- it's a part of their being and doesn't necessarily have anything to do with the plot. It's just the way people are. Characters are generally well-rounded with strengths and weaknesses that tend to go hand-in-hand in real life. There are exceptions to this, of course, notably the cartoon villain who is evil just because he loves being evil. There are also stock characters who aren't realistic at all -- the evil girl who does everything in her power to break up the main couple just because... well, the plot needs some conflict, right? Preferably several layers of conflict. The evil mom or mother-in-law is another common one. But the main characters are usually believable individuals.
There's more, but I'll stop here since this is getting pretty long. This was just meant as fair warning: I'm going to be blogging about some of the shows I've watched.
Currently, my two oldest girls and I are watching one called Master's Sun. Today episode 8 was aired and I'm liking this show more and more as it goes on. It's about a girl who had some unspecified accident a few years earlier and has been able to see ghosts ever since. Of course, since she can see them they harass her, wanting her to give messages to loved ones, or buy coffee for them to drink, or various other things, and some of them are really scary. She's exhausted because she can hardly sleep at night and then one night, running away from a scary ghost, she bumps into a man and the ghost vanishes. She's so excited to have a refuge and wants to hang around him all the time just to keep the ghosts at bay, but of course the man doesn't want a weird girl hanging onto him. Until he discovers that someone who can see ghosts can be very useful. And then he falls for her. It so cute, and creepy in a campy way. The title sequence conveys the feeling of the show perfectly.