Under the shadow of the street lights, a handsome, wealthy high school boy falls in love with a girl. She isn’t as wealthy as he is but she values life and discipline. He’s mesmerized by her beauty and values, but they know they can never be together. This is what millions of girls fawn over. This is the premise of Korean dramas. Having watched a number of Korean dramas such as My Love From the Star and The Heirs, I’ve discovered that every single drama starts and ends the same: A poor girl and a wealthy boy fall in love but there are barriers between them so throughout the film, they attempt to overcome these barriers. Even though this cliché plotline is tremendously addictive and dramatic, teenage girls yearn to be the main female protagonist. This leads me to wonder, what’s with youngsters and Korean dramas? And why are they so popular in comparison with Chinese dramas?
With the advent of winter, I could correctly predict that millions of grandmothers would begin purchasing large quilts and prepare to heat their homes with an intense Korean drama. However, what I couldn’t predict were large number of equally fervent young Chinese viewers, such as my female students at Tsinghua International School (THIS). Whenever I spot my friends on their electronics, I can guarantee nine out of ten are watching Korean dramas. Whether they are eating, chilling, or studying, they will always have an episode available on their phones.
A few months ago when a Korean drama called Pinocchio came out, I became obsessed with it to a point I couldn’t focus on my schoolwork. I wanted the life of the main character so badly because she was loved by everyone and was living the life that I’ve always dreamed of: The kind where you wake up in the arms of a handsome man whose face you’ll never get tired of gazing at. The kind of life where you can get lost in an unfamiliar city and your boyfriend finds you in a blink of an eye. This is my dream life, however I realize this dream is destroyed by reality. Girls frequently perceive watching dramas as a way to escape reality. With all the stresses students face in school, life, and in relationships, students use Korean drama as a means to alleviate stress. “Korean drama doesn’t [allow]me think of anything else other than the drama itself and it helps me relax because we get so much homework. I can just focus on the drama and escape to a new world where there’s no stress,” says THIS student Sue Yeom.
Korean dramas are certainly viewed as a form of escapism, however it’s also noteworthy that the number of Chinese viewers dwarf the number of viewers in America, Japan, Canada, and even Korea. What’s the difference between Chinese dramas and Korean dramas then? For starters, Korean dramas have incredibly attractive male protagonists with irresistible personalities whereas Chinese dramas have average looking guys with personalities that fans aren’t really interested in. Secondly, Chinese dramas are copying Korean dramas and the way they do so irritates viewers because the Chinese actors are not able to convey their love as well as the Korean actors. For example, a back hug shown in a Korean drama above seems very spontaneous whereas a back hug in a Chinese drama seems very forced and intentional. Furthermore, the timing of the scenes feel off and the dialogue between the characters seem unrealistic in Chinese dramas. Yoon Jeong, another THIS student agrees. “The theme and the general flow of Korean dramas are more natural in [comparison with]Chinese dramas. The fact that Chinese films attempt to create a Korean style plot makes the entire project meaningless and monotonous because there’s no point of watching it.”
Korean dramas are loved by everyone and they are the topic of numerous conversations. They will one day perhaps be worldwide phenomenon just like Hollywood movies. In fact, if you look at a typical street in China, they already have.
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