How my obsession with K-Dramas actually turned into life lessons
I believe Korean dramas (aka K-Dramas) offer guiding principles for my life. I honestly think everyone could benefit from watching K-dramas. They are usually 16-24 episodes and are often fanciful and imaginative. Extraterrestrial/human relationships, multiple personality disorders, body switching, vengeance, and heart-wrenching romance are popular themes. But despite the somewhat unrealistic plot lines, the dramas offer great life lessons.
For example, one of my favorite k-dramas is Secret Garden, about a third generation wealthy man who falls in love with an impoverished stuntwoman. Somewhat standard plot but with the added twist of the heroine’s dead father mucking the waters and causing them to switch bodies. This plot device causes a lot of amusing hi-jinks. There are a few plot holes and an awful lot of designer coats worn by our desperately poor heroine, but the characters do an amazing job of showing two people from opposite ends of the socio-economic spectrum gradually falling in love and overcoming almost overwhelming obstacles for the sake of their relationship. What are the life lessons for me from this drama? There are at least five.
The first lesson is to know your worth as a person. In Secret Garden, the extremely arrogant male protagonist says “A woman with no decent family background, no money, no good looks is someone very special to someone who has everything. Isn’t that a miracle?” Our strong heroine’s response? “From now on, why don’t you trust your own taste? I am the type of woman that Kim Joo Won, a man who has everything, would want to be with.” It is so refreshing seeing a female lead who truly values herself.
The second lesson is that family is important. In the last episode of Secret Garden, our two leads have three somewhat rambunctious kids, a hostile mother/mother-in-law, and busy working lives since the male protagonist has been basically disinherited. After putting their resistant to sleep kids to bed, our couple steps outside the house and we hear the female lead’s thoughts, “Being in love may be the same as culturing a garden. May your garden bloom with pretty flowers.” I think sometimes we think love is something that just happens or that you fall into or out of it by random chance. While that may be partially true, there is an aspect of love that requires self-sacrifice and nurturing that lies within our control.
The third lesson is that I have a lot of not fully articulated gender assumptions. When the characters switch bodies they maintain their female / male identity and they have to learn to take on characteristics of the other sex in order to deceive others. Also, there is a cringe-inducing assault scene with the main characters that generated a lot of online discussions. In my worldview, the male character totally crossed the line and the scene didn’t really fit with the rest of the storyline. But the scene raised awareness in me that I need to discuss with my kids that sometimes what’s viewed as romance in media can also be viewed as assault in real life.
The fourth lesson is that I should try to deal with major life issues as they arise. Our male protagonist has amnesia about parts of his life and a major psychological phobia that significantly impacts his life. His doctor is on speed dial. No one is willing to reveal the truth of what happened to him and after too many years he finally figures out that it is important for him to remember. When he remembers, it is a pivotal point in the drama and ties a lot of different threads together. In life sometimes, you just have to squarely face the trials in order to move on.
The final and fifth lesson is that in Secret Garden, as in a lot of K-dramas, mothers and mothers-in-law are some of the most devious, Machiavellian characters. I always appreciate my mother-in-law more after watching a K-drama.
So I hope through the example of one drama I was able to show you that K-dramas can offer many life lessons. I don’t think I am alone in this instance. Viki.com has over 40 million monthly active users. Netflix now offers Korean Dramas as well (https://www.bbc.com/news/business-44453310). Surprisingly, there are also a number of sites dedicated to recapping k-dramas, such as the hugely popular Dramabeans site (www.dramabeans.com). K-dramas are frequently subbed in English. I like watching dramas on www.viki.com because the site allows watchers to comment during the drama. Sometimes the comments compete with the drama for entertainment value!
If you’re new to watching K-dramas and want to watch the ones with the best lessons I recommend Goblin, Bad Guys, Descendants of the Sun, City Hunter, Secret (not to be confused with Secret Garden), and Healer. My favorite of these dramas is Healer, which shows that no matter how rough life gets, one can generally manage if one has, and values, genuinely caring family and friends. This I believe.