The Fangirl Verdict

Completely biased reviews and fangirling

Dear kfangurl: What is it about bromances that make a kdrama great?

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Today’s question is brought to us by Bakazen, who asks:

Dear kfangurl,

What is it about bromances that make a kdrama great? I just recently finished watching Doctor Stranger and realized 2 things: LJS is a good actor and I really didn’t like this drama. So why did I finish it? Because I was hooked by the bromance tease between LJS and PHJ.

My personal theory is they work well as substitutes for the sometimes overwhelming lack of affection we see between couples. Guys in bromances show affection, love, solidarity, joy, connection & (dare I say it) skinship! Nothing warms my heart like one of the F4s coming to a bros rescue, the F44s teasing each other or the leads in School 2013 (LJS & Woobie) saying how much they missed each other’s friendship. Besides, I rarely get that hooked into the female friendships (major exception, Noh Eun-seol & Lee Myung Ran from Protect the Boss). What do you think?

Bakazen

O Bromance, why do I love thee so?

Dear Bakazen,

You ask an intriguing question indeed. I think many of us love bromance in our kdramas – and a heckuva lot too! – without really understanding why it is that we love it, and why it helps to amp up our kdramas to such enjoyably dizzying heights.

Because you asked – yes, before you asked, I never really did stop to think about it! – I’m going to try to break it down and figure out why I love bromance in my kdramas. Hopefully that will sync with why everyone else loves ’em too, and we can all understand ourselves and our love for bromance better.

WAIT, WHAT IS A BROMANCE?

Just so that we’re all clear, in its common usage around the dramaverse, the word “bromance” refers to a deep, platonic relationship between men.

Although  dramaland is becoming a little more daring with its inclusion of gay characters in dramas, we’re not talking about gay couples. Even if one of the parties in a bromance happens to be gay, the bromantic relationship between the guys is platonic, not romantic.

What elevates a friendship between men to bromance? It’s essentially the feels; the intensity. A bromance is born when the emotional bond between the men is so deep and so strong that it might rival a romance. Except that, as we already established, it remains platonic.

SO WHY DO WE LOVE BROMANCE?

Although this may not cover everything, I think there are 3 main reasons why we love bromance.

1. It tops up the feels

Vampire Prosecutor had precious little romance, but made up for it with a solid bromance

Bromance never used to be on my radar as the main reason to watch kdrama. In fact, when I first got on the kdrama train, I was all about the romance. Escaping into the world of kdrama, and the romance that came with it, helped me to find soothing respite from what was, at the time, a tough reality in my world.

As you very rightly pointed out, though, not all kdramas are generous with the romance. In fact, there are some dramas that, despite their titles and premises, have hardly any romance in them (Romance Town, I’m giving you the side-eye).

That’s when bromance can potentially come to the rescue, handily filling any emotional gap in our drama experience with demonstrations of affection, love and loyalty between the boys, if not between the OTP.

I think viewers have fairly simple needs, when it comes down to it. At least, I think I have fairly simple needs, as a viewer. A show can let me down on multiple fronts, but if it manages to establish some kind of emotional engagement with me, I’m willing to stick with it and forgive its (sometimes huge) flaws. And when the drama’s OTP fails to fill that emotional space, that’s when bromance can step in to save the day.

2. It offers a peek at the other side of the fence

I also happen to think that human beings are curious creatures, and that bromance offers a fascinating peek at how things work on the other side of the fence, and on more than one level too.

A. Female vs. Male

Although more male viewers are joining the ranks of drama fans (yay enlightened male viewers who love kdrama!), a large proportion of drama fans are women.

For us women, I think bromances offer a novel peek at the workings of male friendship. Seeing how men in close friendships interact with one another gives us a different way of understanding men in general, coz the workings of a close friendship between men is different from the workings of a close friendship between women.

At the same time, observing the workings of a bromance can also help to give us insight to the inner workings of a particular man (in this case, a character in a drama). A guy who’s all macho around women might show his boyish, playful side with his close friends, for example. Or a guy who’s shy around women might be much stronger about voicing his opinions around his close friends.

On both of these levels, getting a vicarious experience on the private workings of the other team can be very fascinating indeed.

B. Rest of the world vs. Korea

Hand-holding in bromance is perfectly normal, we swears!

Over time, I’ve come to realize that male friendships in Korea have some rather unique characteristics when compared with male friendships in many other parts of the world.

One big piece of this puzzle is the widely accepted notion of skinship between male friends in Korea. Not to say that norms in other cultures don’t allow for skinship between male friends, but I’d venture to say that the degree to which that skinship extends in most other cultures is probably quite different when compared to Korea.

For example, in Korea, it’s a norm for men to go to the public bath (mogyogtang) together and scrub one another’s backs. It’s a very common bonding activity in Korea, to get stark naked together in a communal bath and scrub one another’s backs. Most other cultures don’t have similar practices. The closest thing in most cultures is communal showers in some places – like prison, for example – and even then, people don’t scrub one another’s backs. They pretty much keep their showers to themselves.

Compare that to the Korean norm, where scrubbing one another’s backs is the general standard. It seems only natural that skinship in general between guys can get very up-close-and-personal (think hands on thighs, hand-holding and even ball-grabbing. See this post for more details and insight on skinship norms between Korean males).

When contrasted to general norms in other cultures, where most men tend to avoid engaging in gestures that can be misunderstood as romantic (eg. handholding) when with their mates, Korean male friendship culture can be a fascinating study for those of us on the outside of that fence.

On a related tangent, all that skinship and overt affection can make a very solid substitute for muted OTP affection indeed.

3. It offers a peek at the characters’ potential

F44: Trouble committing to a single woman, but committed to one another since forever, until forever

With all the I-got-your-back fierce loyalty that comes with bromantic territory, some of the characters’ best traits get to be on display. They’re shown to be affectionate, loyal, committed, thoughtful, considerate and sensitive. All the kinds of traits that one might hope for in a romantic hero.

Even if we don’t get to see these traits at play in the characters’ interactions with women, we see that they are in possession of these positive qualities, and that gives us comfort and hope.

This is particularly true of the playboys / commitment-phobes / womanizers. Sure, they can’t seem to commit to a single woman, but since they do display these desirable qualities in their bromances, it probably means that they just haven’t met the right woman yet. Right?

On a slight tangent, there’s also a purity in bromance that casts a favorable light on the characters. In romance, there’s almost always an element of “Can s/he be mine” about it, whereas in bromance, it’s almost always uncalculated and pure.

That purity is very attractive, and, I think, ups the appeal of the bromance.

DEGREES OF BROMANCE

As with romances, not all bromances are created equal. Some are cuter, while others are swoonier. In my head, there are 3 main levels when it comes to bromance.

Level 1: Bromance Lite

Cuties being cute

In Level 1 of the Bromance Scale, the bromance is mostly portrayed as cute, fun and amusing.

Yes, there’s an assumed emotional connection, but the script doesn’t make it overt, and the bromantic screentime is spent mostly on bickering, joking and horsing around.

These bromances are designed to bring on the laughs, but not quite the tears.

Examples of Level 1 Bromances

A Gentleman’s Dignity, Witch’s Romance, Dream High.

Sam Dong and Jin Gook fighting over underwear rights in Dream High just never gets old

Level 2: Good, Solid Bromance 

VP43

I got yo back, Vampy

Level 2 on the Bromance Scale goes beyond the chummy fun times to bring some solid feels to the table.

Often, the feels come through when the characters demonstrate their love for one another in acts of sacrifice and loyalty. Another big player in this arena, is love demonstrated through unflinching, unconditional acceptance. When encountering Level 2 Bromance, be prepared for the lump that rises to your throat while your heartstrings get tugged.

[SPOILER ALERT]

Think Soon Bum (Lee Won Jong) worrying over Tae Yeon (Yun Jung Hoon) in Vampire Prosecutor, and offering Tae Yeon his own blood to drink.

Think Answer Me 1997, where Yoon Jae (Seo In Guk) doesn’t waver even for a second in his friendship with Joon Hee (Hoya), even when faced with the bombshell that Joon Hee is gay and nurses a crush on him.

And think Gook Soo (Kim Bum) in Padam Padam, who dedicates his life to protecting Kang Chil (Jung Woo Sung).

[END SPOILER]

Level 2 Bromances are meaty and solid in their own right, and can give the OTP romance a decent run for their money.

Examples of Level 2 Bromances

Vampire Prosecutor 1 & 2, The King 2 Hearts, Answer Me 1997, Shut Up Flower Boy Band, Padam Padam, Misaeng.

AM15

So much said, with nothing said at all. THUD.

Level 3: Breathtaking, Awe-Inspiring, Amazing Bromance

I love you, man. I mean, I really, REALLY love you, man.

The Level 3 Bromance is the one that brings flail-inducing, emotionally potent, right-in-the-heart feels to the table.

Emotional potency in bromances is not always portrayed nor explored in dramas, but when it is, get ready for a serious deluge of feels. These bromances will grab you by the heart and refuse to let go.

A Level 3 Bromance literally takes over its drama world; your drama world will begin and end with that bromance. Why? Coz for the players in a Level 3 Bromance, their world begins and ends with each other. For them, it’s a matter of life or death – sometimes literally.

The emotional potency of a Level 3 Bromance is so strong, so intense and so overt, that it will rival – and trump! – many an onscreen romance. It’s cracky, addictive, emotionally-consuming goodness, and will invariably leave you wanting more.

Moar, I say!

[SPOILER ALERT]

Think Sungkyunkwan Scandal, when Yeo Rim (Song Joong Ki) sobs in desperation when Geol Oh (Yoo Ah In) puts his life in real danger.

Not the sobbing scene; but look at the awesome skinship!

And think the Shirtless Brothers in Chuno (Jang Hyuk, Han Jung Soo & Kim Ji Suk), whose bromantic bonds run so strong that when push comes to shove, they would literally die for one another.

And think Nam Soon (Lee Jong Suk) and Heung Soo (Kim Woo Bin), whose bromance runs so intense and so deep, that without each other, their lives are literally in shambles and hardly worth living.

[END SPOILER]

I love me a Level 3 Bromance so much that when I encounter one, I am glued to my screen, breathless with anticipation, and weak from the awesome. These bromances are so compelling and potent that nothing else in that drama world matters. Forget the romance, just give me bromance!

Examples of Level 3 Bromance

I’ve mentioned them already, but in case you avoided the spoilers, here are my top 3 Level 3 bromances again:

School 2013ChunoSungkyunkwan Scandal.

Level 3+: Reel to Real

You know how awesome it is when reel gets real, right?

On the romance front, we have Ji Hyun Woo and Yoo In Na falling in love for realz on the set of Queen In-hyun’s Man (ok, so they broke up eventually, but still. It was awesome while it lasted). Netizens went wild when Ji Hyun Woo confessed his love for Yoo In Na at the screening of the final episode.

And there was Lee Min Ho and Park Min Young dating for real off the set of City Hunter. They, too, eventually broke up, but fans had a field day when they admitted that they were dating.

More recently, there was Kim Bum and Moon Geun Young, who fell in love on the set of Jung Yi, Goddess of Fire, and proceeded to date publicly (albeit briefly). Again, while it lasted, fans were practically delirious with joy.

Similarly, when bromance goes from reel to real, it can be SO. FREAKING. AWESOME.

Closest to my heart is the reel to real bromance between Kim Woo Bin and Lee Jong Suk. That they became actual besties while filming School 2013 just makes me dizzy with pleasure.

And their real-life rapport totally comes through in their onscreen bromance; their chemistry is so real and sparky that it leaps off the screen to knock you right over. FLAIL.

I just can’t get enough of this bromance, and I hope-wish-pray that these two will share the screen in another bromance again. Hopefully in the not-too-distant future.

I really, really, REALLY love you, man. ❤

And that, in a not-so-little nutshell, is why I love bromances, and why I think they make our kdramas awesome.

I hope that helps to answer your question, Bakazen!

Love! ❤

~kfangurl

POST-SCRIPT:

1. Dya have thoughts to share with Bakazen? Have insight into your favorite bromance and why you love it? Share with us in the comments!

2. Do you have a question of your own? Drop me a comment below, or on the Dear kfangurl page, or send me an email!

Author: kfangurl

Proud to be a k-fangirl since 2007. Main diet of kdramas with movies and kpop on the side.

46 thoughts on “Dear kfangurl: What is it about bromances that make a kdrama great?

  1. First, first, me first! *hands up, hands up* So first of all thank you for mentioning bibi and mimi’s bromance (Dong Ha and Soo Cheol). If you had not talked about them I’d have turned wild and god knows that it’s not apretty sight^^. Secondly I agree with your bromance’s ranking. But I can’t say that the third one is my favourite…It’s hard to choose in fact. And you’re going to hit me but I’m going to say it nonetheless…I don’t really like the bromance in Chuno. I don’t know. It seems sometimes a bit fake (?). Maybe it’s the performance of the actors (not you Jang Hyuk, you’re too perfect to be criticized :3 ) or just the writing of the character. Sometimes it seems a bit too overdo. Oh it hurts my heart to say that but what can I say it’s how I feel. And therefore I would not have put the Chuno’s bromance on the same level of School 2013’s one.

    Anyway existential question: can we consider Kangto and Shinji as a bromance which turned badly? ( you know before the all “I hate you” relationship. Were they in a bromance? or was it just a great friendship…there haven’t any true skinship but personally their relation glued me! so…what was it?)

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    • Oh, I would so count Kangto and Shinji! Gaksital was good but about twice too long AND I cared nothing about the romance. But the chaotic bromance kept me interested. Theirs was a complicated relationship that evolved (not in a good way) over the course of the drama and the intensity we saw was grounded in the original bromance. Great mention!!

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    • Well, of course I had to mention Dong Ha and Soo Cheol’s bromance! It’s Bromance Lite, but it’s still bromance, and they were cute. 🙂

      Aw, I’m sad that you don’t love the bromance in Chuno, cineclique. Have you finished the show? I genuinely enjoyed the bromance in Chuno, and didn’t find it fake. Perhaps it’s because it’s a sageuk, I found the touches of overdone acceptable. Like how fierce eyebrows are normal in sagueks, but would be OTT in a modern drama? Might it be something like that? But yes, Jang Hyuk as Daegil can absolutely do no wrong. ❤ Sexy, amazing man.

      To answer your Gaksital question, yes, I do consider that a bromance. They were clearly closer than brothers, and they had a deep love for each other, until the whole vengeance thing came into the picture. And yes, there was some skinship in there. I remember how Kang To would go sleep over at Shunji’s house, and then there’s how they would horse around after sparring with each other. And then there’s that fateful bike ride of tears. In that sense, I always felt like they were the star-crossed lovers of the show, rather than Kang To and Mok Dan. 🙂

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      • I’ve finished it! And I have to go read your review! (I just don’t have the time this week end T-T). Because I didn’t experienced the drama like you (my bilan is less enthusiastic than yours, I’m pretty sure of it) so I’m kind of impatient to see how you felt it. I don’t know I don’t really like when characters are too overdone either it is in sagueks or in modern dramas^^ But yeh…Chuno was a splendid adventure! I really don’t regret your advise! even if I thought it a bit too long. I had a hard time putting a grade on this drama cause in my head it was a 9 but some episodes and characters bored me too much for me to put such grade (like really bored…I still can’t explain why and that’s a point that annoys me a lot).

        Oh god I had forgotten the skinship btw those two! this “bike scene” is one of the most touching scene I’ve ever seen in dramaland. Anyway you put an end to one of the longest reflexion I’ve ever had in my life: “is Kangto and Shunji in a bromance?” (such existential question I know XDD)

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        • Aw, you know what cineclique, I only really appreciated Chuno in a more rounded, full way on my second watch. Your description of your experience reminds me of how I felt during my first watch. The first time, I found various plot lines and characters uber boring and even irritating. I also got upset with the show for the way that it ended for Dae Gil. On my second watch, though, I began to appreciate everything a lot more, and that’s what inspired me to write an Epic Review for the show. Hopefully reading it will help to add some of my 2nd watch experience to your 1st!

          Joo Won and Park Ki Woong both did amazing jobs in Gaksital! Both so full-on immersed in their roles, and both brilliant in their own ways. SUCH a great watch, truly. 🙂

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  2. Bromances are amaaaaazeballs. I haven’t seen a lot of the dramas you mention but I’ve seen other dramas that have had similar relationships. Totally agree, sometimes the bromances are better than the actual romance between the two leads.

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    • You haven’t seen many of these dramas? Do consider checking at least some of them out! I enjoyed almost all the shows I mention (ok, I didn’t love AGD so much, but I liked pretty much everything else), and that’s not only coz of the bromance 🙂

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  3. Oh! I love love love this question! Thanks for asking Bakazen, and of course, thanks for such an awesome post, unni ^^

    Bromance is really one of my favorite things from k-dramas, and when done right, can just me as much feels as romance! It’s really the constant “I’ve got your back” thing that really does me in. To be honest, undying loyalty and friendship move me more than those grandiose love declarations (though I’d argue that HeungSoon reconciliation scene in the rain is one of those grandiose declaration scene ^^ ). Like you said, it seems more pure and in no way calculating: I’m not being good to that person because I need something in return, I’m just being good to him because we’ve been buds forever and I know he’d do the same for me. And that selflessness is really more swoon-worthy than any fancy proposal in k-dramaland.

    Perhaps it’s because male characters always tend to be more developed – or maybe it’s just because female friendship is different – but I find it sad that there are not a lot of awesome female friends pairs that I can think of.

    Anyway, let’s pray for more awesome bromantic pairs to come! My very first and favorite bromance for a long time were the SKKS bros, until HeungSoon from School 2013 popped up on my screen. I’m not sure who I like more, so I’ll just still love them both because the context was different anyway ^^ But I also have a super soft spot for Joon Hee and Yoon Jae (AM1997), and of course Shi Kyung and Jae Ha *sobs*

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    • sorry, now i can’t resist to post a quote i like very much:

      Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.

      to which i’d add: ” … and that’s why we, all too often, fail to recognize (and cherish) it (love).”

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    • Yay that you enjoyed this post, Mawiie! 😀 And yes, that HeungSoon reconciliation totally counts as a grandiose love declaration. It got me right in the gut, that scene. I couldn’t help crying right along with them. ❤

      Yes, we don’t see many strong female friendships being portrayed on our screens. I was just mentioning to INTJ that perhaps it’s because there’s often a competitive edge in female friendships. We get frenemy-ships between women on our screens a lot more, and perhaps that’s just how many women are wired. Like IHYV, we had a pretty great pair of frenemies in that show. I guess men and women are wired so differently that our same-gender friendships just work differently..

      That said, yes, I’m rooting for more awesome bromance on my screen! I’d love, love, LOVE for Woob and Jong Suk to be in another amazing bromance together. That Real Life chemistry is just too good not to be milked 😉

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  4. Yeahhhh! I’ve only seen School 2013 so of course I know the history there 😉 love their friendship. And while there are a lot of stereotypically Asian qualities, the gentle, tender, sensitive side of (usually) younger men gets more visibility in Kdramas than I see elsewhere, making Kdrama even more attractive… Hence the noona thing. 😉

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    • You’ve only seen School 2013 from all the dramas I’ve mentioned?? Oh my. At least put Chuno on your list, pretty please? It’s a masterpiece, and very worthy of a watch. And that’s before I take the bromance into account, even!

      And yes, those bromances really do bring out the lovely qualities in our male characters – no wonder we are all head over heels in love! 😉

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  5. Hey…Bakazen here (sorry, I can’t keep up with my online identities!). I really like the idea that good bromance qualities help to show the possibilities under a rough exterior (I’m looking at you Jun Pyo) and help us hang on…especially when I’m the first to say, he can’t be worth all that trouble (ugh, chaebols)!

    I also find it interesting that while skinship between males and females in kdramas is still in its awkward phase the same goes on without comment between (straight) males. Specifically coming from my American pov.

    Thanks for a fantastic analysis!

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    • Glad you enjoyed the post, Bakazen! Thanks for asking such a thought-provoking question 🙂

      Yes, aren’t the skinship norms between Korean men quite fascinating? The more I understand about these norms, the more I begin to see certain scenes in dramas differently. Like, how Kim Bum’s character in Padam Padam was always holding hands with Jung Woo Sung’s character. I used to think him a little clingy and odd, but now, I totally get that it was just bromance in action 🙂

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  6. for me, as a man. bromances in kdramas only depict how strong the friendship between two (or more) males is and thus help to better understand the characters. it’s nothing new/unusual to me.

    women, imo, find them very appealing simply because they desire similar (long-term) relationships/bonds. as far as i know, even though they exist, they are kinda rare between women. why? i think that can be narrowed down to how human sexuality works: men react stronger to visual cues, but women react to many other cues too. therefore “a nerd” and “a jock” can easily be good friends (the nerd knows that even though he’s not “the alpha male”, he still has about 50% chances since girls don’t make important decisions on looks only) … but the friendship between “a quircky & nerdy girl” and “a beauty” has less chances to last (the first one knows that men will ALWAYS look at her friend first, then very probably based on looks only will get involved with her friend … and she’ll only get to pick up what her friend didn’t treasure/want, aka “leftovers”). both sexes are competitive (it’s natural/instinctual) … but the outcome (of our reproductive instinct) is much more important for women. thus friendships between males can (and do) evolve with time, bonds get stronger and, allthough few men would admit it, platonic love is born.

    this all may sound very freudian but even love needs time … to be recodnized/catalogued a such. without time (and it’s representation: memories) there’s only (momentary) feeling. in fact, just a few days ago i had a very good example: a good friend of mine had her second child a month ago and i asked her the seemingly stupid question “which child do you love more?” she replied “actually, when i’m looking at the second child, i look for the first child in it. i guess that’s because i’m so used with the first one … but i still love it with ALL my heart”. we both laughed and i told her “i know for sure you love them all, your husband included , with ALL your heart … each and every one of them, separately and together.”

    … in the end, our quest for love never ends and we all want more of it (even though we know it’s not a sum).

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    • You bring up a very astute point, INTJ. It’s true that men are generally more visual, and therefore, they are more immediately drawn to the girls that they find aesthetically pleasing. Perhaps that’s why friendships between women in film/TV are often depicted more as frenemy-ship than pure friendship. There’s often at least some element of competition between the women, and that’s something that we don’t see portrayed in bromances. That’s probably why we have a pattern of strong bromances on our screens, but no strong equivalent with the women.

      And perhaps that’s part of the reason that women enjoy bromances so much; we desire that kind of deep friendship too, without the element of competition.

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  7. The reunion of the Chuno brothers is my favorite scene of that drama. Any scene between General Choi and Daegil was precious. Crazy Horse and SJK character also way up there in my favorite bromances. Interesting article, as usual.

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    • Thanks DF, I’m glad you enjoyed the post! The reunion scene in Chuno is one of my favorites as well. It’s just so full of raw, sincere heart, and it’s just so clear that the boys love one another deeply. I think I will always have a soft spot for those Chuno boys ❤

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  8. Anyone ever watched the bromance in ‘Warrior Baek Dong Soo’? Strong enough to even rival the one from School 2013. Their chemistry sparkled on screen and seriously dwarfed the romance lines in the drama. Highly recommended.

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    • Thanks for the recommendation 🙂 I haven’t watched Warrior Baek Dong Soo, but I do like Yoo Seung Ho, so I might check it out sometime. It’s a bonus to know that there’s a solid bromance in there, so thanks for that!

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  9. As I prefer stories of friendship over anything romantic…. 😉

    Great post! I think you hit the nail right on the head as of why bromances are so popular.

    There really have been several memorable bromances in k-dramas over the years. The ones in School 2013 and VP are one of my faves. I also loved the Yoon Jae (Lee Sung Jae )/Sang Hoo (UTW) one in Stranger than Paradise to bits. And let us not forget uri Paksa/Cutie Soo in Cruel City. 🙂

    It’s sad there are not more memorable female friendships depicted in k-dramas.

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    • Thanks Timescout – it was a question that I hadn’t quite put thought into before, so finding a way to articulate it was rather enlightening for me too! I’m glad you enjoyed the post 🙂

      I think the S2013 bromance will forever be my top pick. I mean, it’s Woob. ❤ With his real life bestie. There is no beating that, in my books! 😉 I have yet to get around to watching Stranger in Paradise, but it’s great to know that there’s a good bromance in there waiting for me! I am indefinitely stalled on Heartless City, but yes, I do remember Paksa and Soo being quite the intense bromantic pair. I like intense bromances ^^

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      • Oh, the StP bromance is great and quite central to the story, even with a girl in the middle. Especially when one thinks how it all starts. It fair overshadows the romance at times. 🙂 StP is one of those feelgood dramas I periodically re-watch. It’s not perfect but it does have loads of heart and I loved the ending too.

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        • Loads of heart AND a solid bromance? You’ve just nudged StP up my list, Timescout! I’ll probably make that my next retro watch. I’m still on Baker King atm, and you’re right, it does get makjang, especially towards the end. At first it was good makjang, the kind that I felt like I could eat with a spoon. The later episodes kinda slid a little too much towards not-so-great makjang for me though, which is a pity. At least glowering Joo Won is sexy, in spite of his character’s Daddy issues. 😉

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          • Yes please! *makes puppy eyes* I’d love it to be your next retro drama as it’d be awesome to finally be able to talk about it with someone. 😉 It’s one of those dramas that never got much love. I’ve actually made a rec post on it that shouldn’t be too spoilery if one doesn’t go beyond the character descriptions. ^^

            Baker Kind would really have benefitted of a lower episode count. Just sayin’.

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  10. I’d like to write that bromance does nothing for me but actually it slightly annoys me. I see it just as another commercial for the Old Boys Ruling The World Club. We (women) have to struggle (and suffer !) with phallocracy in most of everyday life aspects so to have to watch it glamorized (glamored ?) is something I can do without. Especially when it’s as bad as in School 2013 when every time the two male leads appear you want to shout “just make out already!” (I know I’m not making any friend saying so but gosh I want those 16 hours back !)
    You just need to look around you to realize that real life women experience as great friendship between themselves as men. The thing is that it’s just rarely portrayed in fiction (one I can think of is of course “Sex In The City” and the bound between those 4 women is solid as rock!) because well, it’s not women but men who have the key (and wallet) of the house and they have no interest whatsoever to make women backing up each other and ensued empowerment look good. This is the bottom line, no need of a Man are from Mars Women from Venus-bullsh*t. As far as science knows, the brain has no gender (and I for one knows A LOT of women who are pretty visual-and only visual- when it comes to chose a mate and, breaking news, I’m one of them !)
    That being said, I loved Shut Up Flower Boy Band which is all about bromance, hardly counterbalanced by the friendship the girl lead has with one of her classmates (but at least they bothered to scenarize it).

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    • I think one of the main reasons I appreciate bromance is the hard line typical masculinity (especially in the US) draws around male relationships. Instead of being subjected to male friendships that can only be realized within the confines of macho-testoterone filled sports/war related examples, bromances often present deep, emotional tender connections between males that in most of the west would only be accepted if the guys were gay. Also, they serve to soften the impact of arrogant chaebols. That said, do I miss the same kind of closeness among females in kdrama? Yes. Do I think some layered female friendships (like in Protect the Boss) would help balance the overabundance of enfantilized female characters? Definitely yes!

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    • Aw. I’m sad that bromance in general rubs you the wrong way, asotss! I never knew that I’d enjoy bromances until I saw School 2013, and now they are totally a welcome thing for me, when they’re done right. And I don’t feel that giving a bromance the spotlight necessarily implies that women don’t have solid friendships. Those female friendships just aren’t the focus of that story, and although it would be nice to have some solid female friendships in our dramas, the lack of it is not going to stop me from appreciating the bromance that we do get on our screens. 🙂 That would be akin to punishing myself by denying myself the good thing that IS available, in protest of the other good thing that isn’t. In the same way, the focus on female friendships in Sex and the City doesn’t necessarily mean that the show’s makers are saying that men don’t have solid friendships.

      Having said all that, I do understand that as viewers, we all have unique and varied tastes, and that one man’s (or in this case, woman’s!) meat can definitely be another’s poison. And who knows, there may come a day when a drama just manages to change your mind about bromance. With the various sneak-attacks that I’ve experienced on the k-love front, I’m learning to never say never! 😉

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  11. This is the post for “Bromance in K-Dramas 101”.

    Personally, I have a love-hate relationship with bromance. I like it b/c, like you said, in most cultures, men are taught not to show any emotion, especially for one another. So Korean culture being so open about skinship between 2 men without any innuendo that there might be something else going on is always, at least I assume, a good cultural shock.

    Unfortunately, when it comes to women, we’re constantly fed the idea that women are frenemies and they always need to compete to get some recognition. I do think that media do play a very big part it reinforcing this idea to the point we don’t even question it anymore and take it as inherent to what women are or we don’t even see when true friendship between women is portrayed right before our eyes… I see “Protect The Boss” was often used as an example, but I’d like to use “A Gentleman’s Dignity” which was sold as “bromance between 40-something men”… I mean, the title itself says it all. We won’t get into Kim Eun Sook’s writing flaws, BUT I was genuinely surprised and pleased with the friendship between Kim Haneul’s and Yoon Se Ah’s characters b/c it was actually displayed with them supporting each other and giving each other advice and there was no competition. I also enjoyed the friendship between Ha Ji Won and Yoo In Na in “Secret Garden”, although it was more of a one-way street (but then again, Kim Eun Sook * cough *)… And of course there’s the friendship in “I Need Romance 1”. So far, it’s my favorite illustration of friendship between women in a K-drama. But then again, when you read the title, you do see which perspective is used (just like for “sex & the city”), the word “women” isn’t used. It’s from the male perspective that what’s important in the stories of these women is love and sex, not the fact they support each other in their quest for love.

    Sidenote: that’s the reason I was mostly disappointed with “Could We Love?”. I think the writer was really going for the theme “women in their 40’s and their friendship”. It started out as the connection to make the different plots move together and then around episode 5 or 6, it just faded away until we reached the last 2 episodes with a twist that made the friendship aspect cruelly be missed.

    So I think I do enjoy bromance b/c yay for cuteness from guys you wouldn’t think being able to act cute or that they love each other so much (with no sexual attraction involved) that they would die for each other. But on the other hand, media are so into this fanservice to cater to a female audience that

    1) they also give a distorted vision of friendship between men by either putting together handsome men (with different style to have a wide audience) and it’s like the “handsome attracts handsome- no ugly men allowed” club OR if there’s one that would be considered “hotter” than the other one, it never plays a part in the dynamic of their relationship and they just love each other for who they are. When does trouble in bromance paradise happen? When a woman comes into the picture… As if men are always the forgiving, loyal, understanding, ride-or-die friend without making any mistake or hurting each other. Like men’s friendship is foreverrrrr.

    2) on the other hand, they neglect showing strong friendship between women and that’s what I don’t like. And even worse, they mostly use the trope of “hot girl is friend with ugly girl”= “ugly girl leads a pathetic life while hot girl has all men fighting for her and that’s the goal we should envy her and not ugly girl b/c booo ugly girl is ugly so she’s just here to get her feelings hurt and reminds you it’s better to be the hot girl”.

    XD Okay, I’m going too deep. I’d like to finish with two movie examples of friendship between women and how they play with the stereotypes. “Sunny” really portrayed that “ride or die” friendship, despite using the trope of the “two friends liking the same guy” at some point. In the meantime the movie is actually about the memories because this “ride or die” friendship didn’t last… But there’s a glimpse of hope at the end. In “My Black Mini Dress”, which was an okay movie for me, I did appreciate how the friendship theme was constant and it was also about showing that we might think that we’re being a good friend to someone and this said friend doesn’t show enough appreciation, but the friendship that we offer isn’t what this friend needs because we never took the time to figure out who this person is truly is behind the smile and the happy moments. And the movie does show this reality check that sometimes, you can unconsciously be a bad friend and hurt your friends. Once you’re aware of that, you can try to make it better and keep the friendship alive. Basically, the movie shows friendship as something that changes and evolves with time as people change too. It’s not friendship as the constant in one’s life or something established forever in 20 episodes or 90 mins.

    * whisper * if you ever think about updating the list, can we add Misaeng into the mix? It has all kind of bromances. Like Suk Yool/Geu Rae or Team Leader Oh/Assistant Manager Kim or Team Leader Oh/Geu Rae… Jang Baek Ki and his mean boss, Jang Baek Ki and Suk Yool.

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    • Oh, you make a great point about the disparities between how dramas portray friendships among men vs. friendships among women. There are definitely more positive male friendships in our dramas than positive female friendships. Like you, I don’t appreciate the frenemy angle too much. It kinda makes women appear incapable of having good friendships, which I don’t believe to be the case. There are more female friendships coming to the fore, though, and that’s a good thing. One that comes to mind is the friendship between Kang Ja and Gong Joo in Angry Mom. That friendship is so full of loyalty and affection, it’s quite golden, really. Of course, there’s a frenemy in that drama too, in the form of old friend Ae Yeon, but that still doesn’t take away my enjoyment of the endearing scenes between Kang Ja and Gong Joo ❤

      And yes, I do agree that not every show treats the bromance in an engaging or wholly believable manner. I think that really depends on the writers and actors involved. I do admit that Bromance Lite doesn't do a whole lot for me. It often feels like pure fanservice that the bromance is even there. I like a bromance to have solid narrative integrity, so that I can truly believe in why these friends mean so much to each other.

      PS: Thanks to your suggestion, I've now included Misaeng in the list of dramas under Good, Solid Bromance! 😉

      Liked by 1 person

    • She was Pretty had a nice friendship between two women. Tested, and it came out victorious.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. I just discovered this website, and (if it’s anything like this article) I must say – I love love LOVE it!! It’s analytical and intelligent without being presumptuous, all the while being authentic about all the FEELS that we viewers have.

    The people who comment are so well-articulated and friendly, as well…. this article specifically just TOTALLY rocks!

    I am a regular Kdrama viewer (since 2007) and was actually watching a British film last night called “Welcome to the Punch”. The two main characters had a bromance that completely caught me off guard (it being NOT a Korean drama and all). And I was JUST wondering to myself WHY I loved the bromance aspect of the film more than anything else and why I loved bromance in general. Well…my question has certainly been answered, and from the comments I received even MORE food for thought when the topic of the portrayals of female friendships came up.

    Anyway, sorry for rambling, but I just want to say to the blog owners and the awesome commentors who kept the conversation going: Thanks for creating this amazing place on the internet!! ♡

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    • Aw, this has got to be THE sweetest, most encouraging comment of the YEAR! Reading this comment made my day, and totally motivates me to keep on going. 😀 THANK YOU, YTS (sorry, I don’t know what else to call you right now), and welcome to the blog! 🙂

      Yay that this post came in so handy for ya! Bromance has become such a big part of our kdrama experience, and before Bakazen asked the question, I was enjoying all the bromance without actually thinking about WHY I enjoyed it so much. So working on this post was enlightening for me, in quite a delightful way. And as you mentioned, the comments themselves provoked even more thought, and I LOVE when that happens! 🙂

      Credit to the lovely people who keep dropping by this place, to share their thoughts, AND to ask questions, coz sometimes posts like these result. Another post that you might like, I think, is the one where I write about food in Korean culture, which – you guessed it! – was triggered by a question posed by a reader, about whether food is an obsession in kdrama. If that sounds interesting to you, you can find the post here. 🙂

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  13. Pingback: Flash Review: Nirvana In Fire [Chinese Drama] | The Fangirl Verdict

  14. My favourite bromance was in School 2013 too, I rewatched that drama 10 times.’I love you, bastard’ that is drama in 4 words.

    Liked by 1 person

    • HAHA! Your comment made me laugh out loud, Tijana! XD All I can say is, your 4-word summary is absolutely spot on! XD LOVE that show, LOVE those boys together, and I badly wish they’d make a sequel! ❤ ❤

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  15. SJK and Lee Kwang Soo (Running Man, Nice Guy, cameo in DOTS) are besties in real life. Too cute!

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    • Oh yes they are – and it really IS very cute. I read that it was SJK that made Kwang Soo’s DOTS cameo happen. Aw. ❤

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      • I was kind of disappointed SJK isn’t besties with YAI. That would be the world’s best manwich lol… They were so awesome in SKKS!

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        • They WERE awesome together in SKKS! I’m not surprised they ended up winning the Best Couple award that year! XD But well, I guess them being besties in RL is a bit much to ask, heh.

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          • Hmm I might need to rewatch SKKS now that I’ve gone through all of YAI’s work haha… Would be nice to walk down memory lane to the origin of my obsession with YAI 😉 Although I’ll have to FF through all Park Yoochun’s scenes. Even the first time I watched SKKS, I gritted my teeth through his scenes. He just gives off this creepy vibe.

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            • Well I can vouch for SKKS being able to stand up to the rewatch.. I loved it just as much the second time around. Admittedly, when I rewatched it and reviewed it, PYC’s scandal hadn’t broken yet, so I don’t know how I’d feel if I were to try a 3rd watch. Thankfully I’ve no immediate plans for that, so, issue shelved for another day! XD

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              • When I first watched SKKS, I had no idea who PYC was, or any scandal he was involved in. I just really disliked him… but perhaps it’s just his character in the show. I couldn’t figure out why the female lead didn’t just go for Geol Oh. Or even Yeorim. Anyway, I’m watching Deep Rooted Tree and Healer now, so probably after that 🙂

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                • I actually thought PYC did well in the role.. his character was supposed to be stoic and wooden, and I thought he did that well. The little nervous swallows and darty eyes worked well for me, when it came to his interactions with his leading lady. Of course, if I were the one to choose, I must confess that I was most taken with YAI as Geol Oh. So badass swoony ❤ ❤

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  16. One of my favorite Bromance drama’s is Warrior Baek Dong Soo

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