Hello. I am a Korean drama addict. It used to be much worse than it is now. I used to hole myself in my room with the tv and video player and only pause to get something to eat or use the bathroom. I'd watch until the wee hours of the morning and wake the next day with a significant headache, a Korean drama hangover. The final month before my first child was born, I had just graduated from law school and because of the impending birth, I wasn't planning on taking the bar right away like the rest of my law school buds. With the nursery done and the birthing plan written (i was so incredibly naive) I beached myself like a whale on our couch armed with all the dramas I didn't get to watch while in law school. They all had been recommended, so they were all good. It was gluttony in full glory. I watched until my eyes and head hurt and watched some more. sigh. Good times.
Since the birth of Noah however, I've had to take my Korean drama viewing down a few notches. I only watch when the kids are either napping or asleep, and only if most of my chores are done. It's a more moderate level of viewing now, but I think that's for the better anyway.
I know that there are those who roll their eyes at the mere mention of a Korean soap opera. They may even look down on the likes of me and wonder why I would waste my time. Well, I don't think it's a waste of time. Here is my case.
- It's a way for me to keep up my language skills. I prefer to watch them straight from the Korean video store without subtitles because the subtitles only distract me. That said, I also don't understand 100% of what's said. If the vocabulary or situation gets too difficult, I try to figure things out from the context. There are times when I have to ask my mom, and those are the times I learn new words and phrases.
- I see the subtle expectations and social rules of Korean culture in action. I notice how the people eat. I notice what to bring when visiting, what to expect when visiting and what to give as gifts. There's still a lot for me to learn, but it still helps for me to see it in action.
- Which also helps me to see what's "normal" in my parent's world. I don't mean that it's normal for people to frequently go around collapsing in a heap of sadness in the middle of the street, or get hit by a car and lose their memory. But that it's normal for them to give gifts of money in white envelopes or buy paper bags of sweet potatoes roasted by street vendors in the cold of winter. It helps me relate to them, and to know where they come from. And to understand why they don't understand what may be "normal" for me having grown up in America.
- But times are changing and so is how Korea things. Sometimes, there are dramas that help my parents understand new issues, but from a Korean perspective. Some great topics that my mom has become aware of recently are how having HIV does or doesn't affect someone's life and how being Gay doesn't make a person any different.
- Having watched since my teen hood, I also credit them as a big reason why I never had issues about the way I looked. I had people I admired who didn't have the deep set eyes, had my complexion and kind of hair. I thought Shim Eun Ha and Ha Yi Ra were beautiful. I understood that Nicole Kidman and Nikki Taylor were beautiful too, just a different kind of beauty.
- More than my looks, it's helped me to be proud of my ethnic and cultural roots. Especially so in Hawaii where Korean dramas aren't only enjoyed by Koreans. Little Filipino grandmothers are known to scoot out of mass early so they won't miss the latest episode. My Japanese co workers couldn't wait to talk about that jerk who cheated on the poor girl. The local Hawaiian culture fully embraced Korean food. Besides my parents occasionally not being able to communicate without my help, I never felt ashamed of my Koreanness.
Finally, they are just darn good. The good ones anyway. In fact, I think whatever formula those Korean writers have figured out to make them so good has been discovered by the author of Twilight and it's the reason for her success. Bella and Edward are SOOOOO meant to be together and they sacrifice themselves for the other and would be so happy together if it wasn't for just one little obstacle. He wants to drink her blood.
In any case, these are some of the reasons why, when I think Natalie will be old enough to appreciate them, I plan to introduce her to Korean Dramas. It might be a waste of time for kids in Korean, but for my Korean American daughter, I see it as an educational thing for her to watch. It'll expand her horizons and help her to become familiar with more than one way of living. I can just see us someday. Three generations, my mom, me and Natalie sitting together intently watching a series, gasping together when something surprising happens.
If you haven't watched one in awhile because you found them cheesy when you tried to watch one years ago, you should try one again. They've evolved. No longer is the girl perfectly angelic. Now the lead female is usually someone who is a bit clumsy or quirky. She is more outspoken and feisty. She might even be older than her love interest. One of my favorites was even a bit overweight. And still, she celebrates herself and usually finds herself some really good loving in the end.
Some recommendations: (You've probably read these favorites of mine in a comment in the past. And if you have any favorites of your own, please feel free to share.)
Thank You, Coffee Prince, Lovers in Paris, Full House, My Lovely Samsoon, My Girl, First Wives Club, Mom is Dead Upset.
Mind you, I don't really like the ones with sad endings and dying people. I like the ones that really explore a character's life in the context of living in Korea.
I have a new one called Beethoven Virus on deck. My mom promised it was a short one and that it was good. I love it.