10 Things I Love About KDrama (Part Two)

And now for Part Two of 10 Things I Love About KDrama!

Wherein I consider the last 5 things that I love about KDrama….

Character Redemption (aka, Bad Guys are People Too)

There’s not much I hate worse than watching a movie or T.V. series with a villain who’s evil Just Because They’re Evil. Unfortunately, it’s something I come across horribly, horribly often. This is partly because I watch a lot of older T.V., and character writing has evolved a lot over the years, but it’s by no means a bygone phenomenon. It’s still something that continues to annoy me in modern T.V.

KDrama has some seriously evil characters, from the absolutely terrifying schoolgirl bullies who rule the school to the murderous gangster bosses who beat people to death with golf clubs in the comfort of their own homes. Some of them are laughably evil, but the vast majority I’ve seen now have been nuanced, complete characters in their own right.

Not only have they been nuanced, but in a few cases, they have almost overshadowed the main leads in complexity. This is because in KDrama, there is a very good chance that the villain can be redeemed. There are points in the narrative at which the villain is faced with two courses of action: the right, and the wrong. They way he/she reacts to that choice begins to determine the possibility of their redemption, and their path begins either to slowly slide toward the irredeemable or to climb painfully toward a new life.

In KDrama, you can never be certain that your main villain will not change completely–just like a regular person. Not only is this spectacularly good writing, it adds an extra dimension to the entire story. Not every villain is redeemed, but every villain has at least one chance to do so. The mindset this displays is delightful. Redemption as a theme is a very precious one to me, and to see it in T.V. series (and used in such a general way) is a huge breath of fresh air.

Here are a couple of the most poignant villains I’ve come across in KDrama so far:

Lee Joon-Hee (Falling for Innocence) Is he a murderer, or isn't he? Either way, he's a fully 3-dimensional character that you can't help caring for or relating to. A beautiful, driven individual with a hidden dark side that begins to emerge slowly but surely, Joon-Hee is a character I was thinking about for weeks after I watched Falling For Innocence.
Lee Joon-Hee (Falling for Innocence) Is he a murderer, or isn’t he? Either way, he’s a fully 3-dimensional character that you can’t help caring for or relating to. A beautiful, driven individual with a hidden dark side that begins to emerge slowly but surely, Joon-Hee is a character I was thinking about for weeks after I watched Falling For Innocence.
Kwan Soo-Ah (Sassy Go Go) Will she continue in her venomous ways, poisoned irretrievably by her mother and her own desires, or will she seize onto the tiny, budding sprays of right that have sprouted in her heart and cling to them? Her mother has taken care of her grades and hidden her wrongdoing, but what about Soo-Ah's soul?
Kwan Soo-Ah (Sassy Go Go) Will she continue in her venomous ways, poisoned irretrievably by her mother and her own desires, or will she seize onto the tiny, budding sprays of right that have sprouted in her heart and cling to them? Her mother has taken care of her grades and hidden her wrongdoing, but what about Soo-Ah’s soul?

2nd Boys

This is another item that is on both my Hate and Love list. It leads on a bit from Character Redemption, and has a lot to do with how well (or how badly) characters in a show are written. However, it also seems to be a thing done very well as a whole in KDrama. I get rather tired of badly drawn love triangles in fiction (I actually don’t care much for the love triangle as a form of story anyway, but when well done I can quite enjoy it) and it’s refreshing to see it done right.

In too many movies and series that I’ve seen, the main female lead falls for the main male lead, with a side love interest who is either never well developed, or there only so the main male lead can be jealous and/or warn her about the side love interest’s bad motives. More annoyingly, when it’s the latter, this side love interest almost always turns out to be a bad guy.

Seriously, though, what the heck is wrong with having a side love interest who is actually good and nice? He shouldn’t be there simply to excite the main male lead’s jealousy and then be dismissed with the easy excuse that he was a bad guy all along. Sometimes good guys lose out, too. (Ironically, this is also a thing I will discuss in my two part post on the 10 Things I Hate About KDrama). There is absolutely no excuse to skimp on character building simply because the 2nd boy doesn’t get the girl.

Tae-Gwang
There is absolutely no excuse to skimp on character building simply because the 2nd boy doesn’t get the girl. The best execution of this rule that I’ve yet seen is from Who Are You? where my favourite character, a crazy, delightful little boy called Tae-Gwang, doesn’t get the girl, but gets a lot more from his storyline. He’s a character who grows and matures and learns to connect with the world despite the fact that he hasn’t been lucky in love (and the more important fact that his father has shut him up in a mental ward). He actually stole the show from the main male lead, leading me to wonder exactly how he didn’t get the girl (apart from a complete lack of mental capacity on the part of the girl). But his journey is more important than his love life, and that really comes out.

I seriously love KDrama’s secondary love interests (aka, 2nd boys). In fact, I usually prefer the 2nd boys to the main love interests. This is because 2nd boys are, as a general rule, kind, thoughtful, and very beautiful–while main male lead are crazy, annoying, and almost always arrogant (which, while making a hilarious and fun character, would be no fun at all to live with in real life).

Anthony Trollope-esque Politics (whether School or Company Politics, oh my! So many political storylines)

Can you believe that I’d never heard of spec-stacking before? That could be because I’m not actually that academically gifted and also because we could never afford to go to college anyway, but seriously. The political underworld of KDrama’s schools is vast and intricately twined.

Of course, you’ve already heard me rave about Falling for Innocence, which has such a complicated, over-arching theme of business machinations and by-plays along with its murder, medical, and romance plot-lines.

If a T.V. series or movie is well-written, it will have those sorts of things in it, anyway. But there seems to be a definite focus on twisty plots in KDrama, and as a lover of Anthony Trollope, those twisty plot-lines make my little heart sing for joy.

Facilitators

This is another character thing (which will not surprise anyone who knows my obsession with Character in Story). Facilitators are rarely seen in the wild in Western films, which makes me sad because I flamin’ love Facilitators. One of the first MCs I ever wrote was a Facilitator.

The Facilitator sees things from the outside, whether from boredom, superior intellect, or just plain crazy. He (and in rare cases, she) will cultivate characters and plot-lines sometimes to a point that almost-but-not-quite breaks the fourth wall (see especially Jin-Rak in Flower Boys Next Door). Facilitators almost always end up getting sucked into the story they’re trying to direct, and/or falling in love with the girl they were helping out.

Five of my favourite Facilitators to date (in order of most to least favourite):

Shinwoo from He's Beautiful. My all-time fave Facilitator and 2nd boy
Shin-Woo from He’s Beautiful. Bored and mischievous and unaware of how badly he’s about to fall, Shin-Woo is my all-time fave Facilitator and 2nd boy. Shin-Woo is kind, thoughtful, and patient, with a deeply mischievous sense of humour and a love for playing games with the people around him. When he begins to know what he wants, it’s an amusing surprise to him. This 2nd boy dug a hole in my heart with the way he brought the heroine tea and selflessly cared for her behind the scenes. Tea. He brought her tea. How could I not love this one?
Kkae-Geum. Again, from Flower Boys Next Door (can you tell I loved it??) This guy is hilarious and sweet and just plain lovable. Actually, he should be my top favourite, but isn't for these two reasons: 1.) 2nd Boy Syndrome, and 2.) Wounded Seagull Syndrome. Clear as mud? Don't worry, I'll explain it later.
Kkae-Geum/Enrique from Flower Boys Next Door.
This guy is hilarious and sweet and just plain lovable. He is REMARKABLY unsquashable. Actually, he should be my top favourite, but Shin-Woo still wins for these two reasons: 1.) 2nd Boy Syndrome, and 2.) Wounded Seagull Syndrome. Clear as mud? Don’t worry, I’ll explain it in my next two-parter blog post.
Jin-Rak from Flower Boys Next Door. This Facilitator takes the back of a hammer to the fourth wall in the most delightful way possible. Again, a 2nd boy, but he didn't break my heart 'cos I was too busy laughing at him and his saggy pants.
Jin-Rak. Again, from Flower Boys Next Door (can you tell I loved it??)  Okay, he’s technically not really a Facilitator, since he doesn’t ever exactly facilitate: but his outlook and his presence in this series is that of the outsider. He never even quite feels as if he’s a part of the story proper. I love that! So. Jin-Rak. This Facilitator takes the back of a hammer to the fourth wall in the most delightful way possible. Again, a 2nd boy, but he didn’t break my heart ‘cos I was too busy laughing at him and his saggy pants. Also, he’s a writer, so what’s not to like about this guy? Constantly delightful.
Shin-Hyuk from She Was Pretty. This guy is just flamin' HILARIOUS.
Shin-Hyuk from She Was Pretty. I didn’t love She Was Pretty (spent too long wanting to grab the male lead by his hair and bash his face into the desk) but this guy is just flamin’ HILARIOUS. Pretty much every scene with him is a riot, especially the one where he realises that he’s crushing on a certain someone, because Shin-Hyuk does seem to know his place as a Facilitator and to be quite comfortable in the role. It’s really, REALLY hard not to laugh until you cry when you see him chasing his uptight boss and yelling about underwear every time he sees him…
Nebi (or Navi) from Love Cells. The only female Facilitator I've seen (thus far). Her character--and in fact, the whole execution--of the Love Cells series, was not what I expect. It was so much better. She's fun, and funky, and mischievous.
Nebi (or Navi) from Love Cells. The only female Facilitator I’ve seen (thus far) in KDrama. Her character–and in fact, the whole execution–of the Love Cells series, was not what I expected. It was so much better. Both Love Cells and Nebi are fun, funky, and mischievous, with an unexpected dose of heart.

Friendships

In far too many Western films and T.V. series, when there’s an MC, that’s it. You’ll get bits and pieces of friendship, but there’s not usually a light shone on that unless the whole film is about friendship (which is also reasonably rare). I love the fact that in KDrama, there are WHOLE PLOTLINES about the friendship between two guys (again, Flower Boys Next Door, Sassy Go Go), or two girls (Who Are You?), or a whole group (Sassy Go Go, I’m lookin’ at you). It’s not just about the romance. And yeah, it’s got to do with what’s good writing and what’s not–for instance, there are some VERY badly written KDramas out there, too–but as a whole, friendship seems to be much better explored. I love that. I especially love it when it’s a male/female friendship that doesn’t turn into a love triangle.

Favourite Friendship Pairings:

Kim Yeol and Ha Joon
Kim Yeol and Ha-Joon from Sassy Go Go. You’ll notice a lot of friendship pairings from Sassy Go Go, and this is because Sassy Go Go is brilliant. Ah! These two guys! Their friendship is a breath of fresh air, and a proper thread that runs through this series rather than being simply a thing that’s there in the background. It’s important, and it underpins many parts of the plot.
Yeon Doo and Dong Jae
Yeon-Doo and Dong-Jae from Sassy Go Go. I LOVE THESE GUYS! Dong-Jae has a physical disability where he can’t be touched without going into an almost catatonic state. It’s so delightful to see the way they interact. He always brings her strawberry milk. When she wants to show affection she plays with the zippers on his sleeves and the loose folds of his clothes. It has all the emotional impact of a hug. And guys, they don’t try to turn it into a love triangle! *Happy sigh*
Sassy Go Go Friends
ALL OF THEM. THE WHOLE GROUP FROM SASSY GO GO. These guys make me dance in delight. You watch them fight and grow through the whole series until they’re one cohesive whole, held together at first by Kang Yeon-Doo (and then by their genuine affection for each other). This group makes me very happy.
Jin Rak and Co
Jin-Rak and Dong-Hoon. These guys were SO MUCH FUN. Their friendship is a huge part of Flower Boys Next Door, a delightful and tender growth that ebbs and flows, but most importantly, grows, throughout the entire series. Their misunderstandings and temper tantrums had me continually laughing.

I have so much more I could say, and so many more favourites, but this blog post has already assumed a ridiculous length, so I’m off again to WATCH ALL THE THINGS. And maybe write a little bit…

 

 

4 thought on “10 Things I Love About KDrama (Part Two)”

  1. JJ Sherwood July 5, 2016 at 3:32 amEditReply

    I absolutely love that you did these posts! What are your top KDrama recommendations and where do I get a hold of these beauties?

    • W.R.Gingell Post authorJuly 5, 2016 at 3:54 amEditReply

      I’m glad they’re appreciated! 😀 Top recommendations are Beating Again (aka, Falling for Innocence), Flower Boys Next Door, and Sassy Go Go. There are others, but those are the best I’ve seen. Some of ’em are on Netflix, but the others you can watch on a site called Kissasian, which sounds kinda dodgy but doesn’t seem to be 😀 There’s also apparently a site called Drama Fever that you can buy a cheap subscription to watch heaps of KDramas 🙂
      (Oh, and you can buy most of ’em outright on DVD from Amazon or Ebay, which is where I got the DVDs of all three aforementioned 😀 )

      • JJ Sherwood July 5, 2016 at 10:55 amEditReply

        Thank you!! I am writing these down right now and I’m so going to try to hit all of them by the end of summer! 😀 I’m psyched!

        • W.R.Gingell Post authorJuly 5, 2016 at 11:19 amEditReply

          Oh, you’re gonna enjoy yourself!

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