If you didn’t already know, we’ve got a special series to kick off the new year! Guests posts, by patrons on Patreon, sharing their personal drama stories, mostly around the topic of “How did you get into dramas?” and “What does your first drama mean to you?” – with flexibility to go off on personal tangents, of course. 😁 Feel free to share your stories too, in the comments!
This guest series is MC‘s brainchild (thanks MC! ❤️). You can check out the earlier posts in this series as follows: MC, Sean, Shahz, JJ, Martina, Beth & Uyen. After today’s post, there will be two more guest posts by mystery guest writers, whose identities will be revealed when their various posts go live. Woot! 🥳
Today’s post is brought to you by Ella, whom you may have seen around the blog, and on Patreon as well. I just love how effusive Ella is, in her drama love, and I’m so glad she’s taken this bold step, of introducing herself properly to us, through this guest post!
I hope you guys enjoy!
~ KFG ❤️
Hello KFG family!
My name is Ella and I’ve been watching Kdramas since February 2020.
What an honour it is to feature on the blog! I’ve been keeping this blog in my back pocket as I steadily navigate Kdrama land. It is therefore my absolute pleasure to give back through producing content too. Well, I hope this 1 post counts!
Shout-out to Kfangurl for such an awesome platform that graduates one’s novice viewing lens into a well-seasoned lens. I’m particularly grateful for this blog as it often helps me navigate which drama to watch next (I absolutely love the short verdicts), or serves as a form of closure once I’ve watched a show I need to dissect and digest.
Whether that’s by theme or character, KFG always sorts me out, so thank you! I’ve also found a great friend on here who goes by H, through our mutual love for Crash Landing On You. Special shout-out to H, and of course KFG, who has provided a space for people across the world to connect!
Getting into kdramas
So, how did I get into Kdrama you ask? In an unconventional way I’d say.
Many people that I have introduced to Kdrama (about 20 and counting, yes – I can be very persuasive), come aboard because I’ve recommended a show.
My own “conversion”, however, was not that amicable. A friend of mine had very much fallen in love with the storytelling and the culture itself, and knew I would too. I’m all about relationships, romance, family, intimate bonds and food, so she was very convinced that I’d lap it all up. This friend therefore, made it her mission to get me on board for weeks as she knew I would be absolutely smitten by it all.
However, I simply wasn’t interested. “I don’t want to read subtitles” and “Why would I watch similar content/story lines from the West in a different language?” were my top 2 pushbacks.
On one fateful day though, she invited me over for a catch-up which included food (all my catch-ups include food), and strategically turned Netflix on, just as I was about to get stuck into my meal, with nowhere to run. Tactical I tell ya!
The first episode of Strong Woman Do Bong Soon started, and just like that, I found myself exploring Seoul. While I was fighting the urge to enjoy it, it became apparent (15 mins in) that this was a losing battle.
By the end of the week, I had completed the entire season and was ready to watch it all over again! That my friends, is how I started my Kdrama journey.
1. What was your gateway drama and why / what did it mean to you?
As mentioned above, my gateway drama was Strong Woman Do Bong Soon (SWDBS).
Watching this drama was a cultural shift for me. Having been born in Europe and being of African heritage, the closest I’ve been to Korean culture, was through food. When I stepped into this world, however, it truly felt as if a new world had opened. Kinda like walking through the door in “The Lion, The witch and The Wardrobe.” (Can you tell I’m British? Ha!)
I definitely think that SWDBS was the perfect gateway drama for me.
As a new citizen to Kdrama land, I swooned at every trope that was served. I loved the romance, the love triangle, the (clean) humour, and the cuteness. What did take a while to get used to, though, was the slapstick humour, the massive contrast in story, where one part was super cute and fluffy, versus a very dark theme, where a kidnapper and attacker was out on the loose.
Without spoiling it further, please have a look at KFG’s review here.
My thoughts whilst watching the drama was “How can an adult (Park Bo Young) look and sound so darn cute?,” “Who is that handsome man (Park Hyung Sik!)?” and “How have the writers balanced family life, humour, fantasy and reality so well?”
And the pressing question (for me), “Why am I getting emotional and teary-eyed from watching two people hold hands?” What a stark contract from the West, were skinship is so prevalent and in one’s face.
This truly was refreshing, and made me want to watch more dramas.
The way love is portrayed and shown, is one of the main reasons I decided to delve deeper into dramas. There is so much focus on character development and relationships, that when characters finally confess, or the slightest skinship happens (usually 6-8 episodes in!), one’s heart completely melts.
There’s so much depth and friendship built, and everything therefore feels a lot more believable and meaningful.
In addition to this, I also noticed there to be zero to minimum profanity, unlike so many shows in the West. That, to me, has been a bonus that I highly appreciate.
My final takeaway from my first drama, was how cool South Korea is, as a country.
The food, the advancement in technology (hello, talking rice cookers) and interior decor really stood out for me, and made me even more intrigued to delve deeper into this culture and country. Yes – I’ve got a trip to South Korea planned out in my head.
My most memorable or favourite dramas and the stories behind them.
With my 2 year Kdrama anniversary coming up, I’m at a point where my top 5 most memorable and favourite drama have grounded themselves firmly in my heart.
Swoonworthy, heart-throbbing romance, and slice-of-life dramas that melt one into a puddle, is the hill one can find me on.
It is therefore no surprise then, that the dramas below are my top recommendations, when I get into my persuasive mode. I’ll try and keep it as brief as possible – even though I could probably write a whole entry on each of these shows.
Crash Landing On You (CLOY)
I honestly believe that CLOY will always be my favourite K-drama, and I’m not going to tell you how many times I’ve watched this!
There are 2 main reasons why it has a special place in my heart.
Firstly, I stumbled upon this gem whilst recovering from covid. This was during the first lockdown where the world had just shut, cases were sky-rocketing, people were hoarding toilet paper and flour (in the UK), and it was also a time where one didn’t dare consult Google about symptoms!
CLOY was therefore the perfect drama to delve in and escape it all. And oh, what a joy it was. Whilst it was my 3rd drama, I just knew this was going to rank super high – I was spot on!
The second reason I love CLOY is because of the carefully balanced themes across the board.
[MINOR TO MODERATE HIGH-LEVEL SPOILERS FOR CRASH LANDING ON YOU]
CLOY is about a Seoul-based chaebol heiress who has an unfortunate freak accident that literally crash lands her in the infamous DMZ military zone in North Korea. The wrong side of Korea for her! She attempts to make her way back home but takes the wrong turn and finds herself in a North Korean military village.
Cue a heart-gripping love story, a peek into a highly dysfunctional wealthy family, a kimchi-loving village community, soldiers who turn from strangers to brothers, and a villain who won’t stop at anything. If you would like to take your heart on an emotional rollercoaster, then show certainly delivers on this!
See KFG’s review here.
I was absolutely smitten by how Son Ye-jin brought Yoon Se-ri’s character to life. She beautifully portrayed Se-ri’s witty, sturdy exterior, yet gave us glimpses into the vulnerable and lonely life she lived.
Hyun Bin was no less impressive with his depiction of the handsome, careful, principled-but-troubled Captain Ri. The love story in my opinion was absolutely epic. I revelled in the beauty of two different people from 2 very different worlds coming together. It was nothing short of wholesome, how the whole plot was laid out.
Se-ri’s personal walls, made out of luxury, business and sadness, were gently eroded by Captain Ri’s patience, care and, no doubt, broad shoulders. All of this, cushioned by the funny ahjummas and comrades, made this a delightful show for me.
There was a great balance of angst, funny and sombre moments.
The bonus in this show was the theme of friends becoming family. I really enjoyed how the village ahjummas rallied together when needed, and how the comrades literally became the brothers that Se-ri never had, but deserved.
One does have to suspend disbelief on this one as a whole – something some friends keep reminding me of – but isn’t that what escapism is all about?
Having said that, it was an absolute delight to hear that the actors fell in love in real life! That was truly the cherry on top for me!
Ah, Healer-ya! This was my introduction to the oh-so-swoonworthy Ji Chang Wook (JCW), and also, my very first Kdrama Oppa. Needless to say, I’m sitting here with the biggest grin on my face right now. JCW has that effect on me (Think KFG and Junho!).
Whilst Healer starts off quite confusing, it becomes something magical once it all clicks into place. KFG does an awesome job reviewing the show (here) and loves it just as much as I do! Yay!
JCW’s duality in this drama really did it for me. I loved how he effortlessly went from a serious, highly skilled night courier jumping off tall buildings whilst fighting gangs, to a nerdy and timid Bong Soon during the day. Such a great actor who clearly immerses himself in his characters.
My favourite moment in the show was how Healer deeply fell for Chae Young-shin/Oh Ji-an when he finally allowed himself to. It was so lovely to see how he’d gone from wanting to live on an island by himself to not wanting to leave Young-shin’s side, and what that actually looked like physically.
I’d love to talk about my favourite OST from the show, but I’ve reserved that for a little later.
Prison Playbook and Reply 1988 led me to Hospital Playlist (HP). I never knew I would enjoy slice-of-life drama’s as much as I did with the above, let alone a medical drama. But Director Shin Won-Ho clearly knows the right formula for me!
As mentioned earlier, themes surrounding romantic or platonic relationships really strike a chord with me. Hospital playlist swings more to the platonic side with hints of romance in the 1st season, but ups the ante with the romance in the 2nd season.
HP is about 5 doctors who are best friends, who graduated from the same medical school. The show follows their daily lives as individuals, as well as their interactions with their patients, and it does so in a beautiful, entertaining yet educative way.
Each episode seemed to provide some thought-provoking themes. I always walked away with some sort of life lesson after each episode.
In particular, I found the bond among the group very endearing. It was mature, playful, and respectful, and reminded me of my university group who are my closest circle. Seeing them eat together, and practise, was always a highlight.
Having wanted to be a heart surgeon and work in a hospital when I was younger, made this show even more special. It gave me a glimpse into the ups and down of the career I once wanted to have.
I really loved all the characters, but my favourite was Ik Jun (cue second massive grin). What a funny, smart, loveable friend, brother, doctor, and dad he is!
His comedic timing was great, he was friends with practically everyone in the hospital, he always sung his heart out, he won the best dad award in my eyes, and he was so very consistent in his pursuit of his romantic counterpart. In case it’s not obvious, I’m a massive fan of Jo-Jung Suk now!
HP was a delight and I really enjoyed learning lots of medical terms and seeing how hard doctors and nurses work. It was also heartwarming to walk through diagnoses, losses and wins, alongside the patients. Even in hardship, many found the strength to keep going, and that was endearing and encouraging.
[SPOILER ALERT] A story that stands out for me, is that of the lady whose daughter was waiting for a medical procedure (I think it was a heart transplant) for months.
She kept hoping for the best, even though another child who was submitted months after her daughter, received the treatment before her child. Whilst she cried and was clearly at her wits end, she kept her composure and kept believing.
I was so emotional when a match was finally found for her daughter. Tough seasons can feel like they never end, but as the saying goes – it never lasts. Tough people do. [END SPOILER]
Whilst I enjoyed season 1 a little more, I got to enjoy season 2 with a close friend of mine.
We’d get together at mine, for a home-cooked meal on a Thursday night, before relishing the goodness of the show, and then do it all over again, but at hers, the Thursday after. Thursdays truly became the new Saturday for us!
My Mister / My Ahjussi
As I write this entry, we’re in the middle of a watch party where KFG is reviewing every episode, to my delight, and I couldn’t be happier.
My Ahjussi tugged on my heart strings in the same way CLOY did, but from a completely different angle. This is one of the shows that I desperately needed to digest through a review once I had finished it. There was so much to unpack!
KFG did another amazing job reviewing this one (here). But as mentioned above, there are now posts on nearly all the episodes! Yaay for watch parties!
So back to show – thematically speaking, this show was gripping in so many ways.
Prior to show, I was convinced that a romantic relationship in a drama would always trump a platonic one. This show proved otherwise for me. Whilst there are some question marks about the nature of the friendship and feelings that ensued between Lee Ji An and Dong Hoon, I’m firmly on the team platonic side of the discussion.
[MINOR TO MODERATE HIGH-LEVEL SPOILERS FOR MY MISTER]
Show starts off really dark and gritty (in my opinion), with a few hard-to-watch scenes. The character development however, as well as the blooming of the friendship between our characters, was incredible to witness, and helped alleviate the heaviness of the prior episodes.
I thoroughly enjoyed seeing how these 2 people living for living’s sake, slowly became a lifeline for each other. In some instances, this was literally the case. Whether it was through hearing one breath, or simply knowing that the other was safe – the platonic dependency was so very endearing.
I simply didn’t expect to be so enamoured by this show.
It really reminded me of some of my friendships. Thankfully, we don’t face the same hardships as these characters do, but we very much do show up through rain or sunshine. To see that portrayed so beautifully really warmed my heart for a long time, and made me realise that a great friendship can really change one’s life.
I want to be that person to everyone I encounter. I want be nice to people, more than 4 times.
This drama is one of those shows that I never would have watched if someone had explained the premise to me. Because how exciting can an office drama really be? Pretty exciting apparently!
Show homes in on a rookie intern, who finds himself in an office environment well beyond his depth. We get to be flies on the wall of One International, where we get to see a daily glimpse into not just our rookie’s life, but other interns and senior colleagues in the company as well. Show provides a good view of what the office culture looks like in South Korea, as well as a few other Asian countries.
Here’s KFG’s review.
Now, as I write this, I still have 1 more episode left (I really dread leaving Team Three behind) but I can firmly say that it is right up there for me.
The reason I love the show so much, is because it resonates with me on so many levels.
I identified with the feeling of excitement but worry, as fresh graduate working in the city of London, trying to keep up with all sorts of jargon, finding a balance between working hard but not being consumed by the work load, whilst trying to navigate how to take comments or behaviours from certain managers in a constructive way.
It was therefore a pleasure to see how our main lead (Siwan) manages to settle into his team, even though it was anything but easy. I loved his determination to keep going, how immersed he was in his role, and how much he appreciated his team. I particularly loved the support he was given by Manager Oh and Dong Shik. What a team!
It was also interesting to see the cultural differences when it comes to corporate life in South Korea vs. London/the West. For instance, the way respect is shown here to a superior differs in various ways. Another example is how going for drinks is nearly an expected unofficial obligation as part of one’s role in South Korea. That was really interesting. (You can read more about that part of Korean work culture here. ~KFG)
From the 15 episodes I’ve watched, my main takeaway is that I really do want to strive to become the best version of me, in my role. It made me reflect on how I can stand out, work smarter, and be the best version of myself, from a corporate perspective.
A very cool drama that took me by surprise.
3. What are dramas or characters that spoke to you, and again, the stories behind them?
Hi Bye Mama
Dramas are usually a form of escapism and entertainment. And they are, for many people, including myself. But more often than not, I find myself walking away with nuggets of wisdom, and pondering on themes witnessed in many dramas.
There are a handful of kdramas that have made me stop and ponder. In some instances, they’ve even led me to make a change in my personal life, view situations from a different perspective, or even hope for a better tomorrow.
The most ‘impactful’ and memorable drama that springs to mind is Hi, Bye Mama.
I don’t think I’ve cried as much as I did for a show prior to this drama. It is certainly not for the faint-hearted but it communicates a sobering message that we all need to remember from time to time.
Show had one poignantly beautiful message. And this was for me to love, appreciate and spend intentional time with family and friends today. To be always present and intentional and not take time and relationships for granted.
Most people don’t often get the opportunity to say a final goodbye, so make every moment count. If you don’t get to say goodbye when the inevitable happens, you can look back with joy rather than regret or guilt. Sobering, right?
How often do we end up scrolling through our phones when we’re supposed to be spending time with our family members? How often do we put off calling that friend whose name has been ringing in our ears for weeks? How about rescheduling a coffee catch-up for the nth time? Or not visiting parents as much as we should?
In a nutshell, Show made me ask myself, am I actually present and intentional, when it comes to dealing with those who matter? Or do I take the time I have with them for granted?
As a result of this, I implemented a weekly walk with my mum and dad, as well as a monthly dinner date, where we just hang out and enjoy each other’s company. These are things we did here and there, but I’m now far more intentional about it.
It has also been the same story when meeting up with friends. I try my best to not reschedule catch-ups unless something really pressing comes up. More than that, I truly aim to be present at all times.
Kudos to the amazing cast. I was particularly moved by Lee Kyu-hyung’s acting. I also loved him as Looney in Prison Playbook and hope to see him in more dramas in the future.
Actors / Actresses
Here is a quick round-up of my top 5 actors and actresses.
Yep – the grin is back. This man is swoonworthy on all fronts.
He’s a great actor, VERY easy on the eyes, and has a really cool laidback personality, from interviews and vlogs I’ve seen of him.
I love it when he plays a romantic lead because this man wears his heart on his sleeve and captivates one’s heart. Whilst I think he’s been brilliant in his previous dramas, I don’t think he’s scratched the surface yet. I’m very much hoping that he get’s more big-ticket dramas in the future.
Confession time… I’ve actually only watched 1 kdrama with Lee Min-ho (I know, I know), but my goodness, was I swayed.
His role in The King: Eternal Monarch made me question whether he’s actually a descendent of a royal blood line. Not only did he look absolutely gorgeous, I loved his depiction of a wounded but triumphant and brave king. He loved hard, played hard, and also ruled fairly. Sweet, gentle, brave, and regal, is how I’d describe him in the show.
I am due to watch more shows of him but have also been enjoying his recent vlogs in LA. What a handsome man!
Park Bo Young
If I had to give PBY an award, it would most likely be for being the cutest adult on the planet.
Kim Sun Young
My first ‘encounter’ with this ahjumma (ha!) was in Crash Landing On You, where she was one of my favourite characters!
She’s funny, witty and truly reminds me of an African aunty in the show. But I’ve also had the pleasure of witnessing her range. She’s awesome in Hospital Playlist, Her Private Life, When the Camellia Blooms, and a number of other dramas.
She sure makes me laugh, and is one of those actresses I’d love to have a coffee with.
Handsome, talented and fun is how I describe PSJ.
Not only is he a total looker, but this man has serious range. His character in What’s Wrong with Secretary Kim is the polar opposite to Fight My Way. And his character in Fight My Way is completely different to his character in Itaewon Class.
Then there’s the added bonus that he’s Hyung to BTS’s V (yep, I’m army). What’s not to love about him?
I’m really looking forward to his introduction to the Marvel Universe. Absolutely well deserved.
Well, if you’re still here, I’d like to say a massive thank you for reading!
As a thank you and a bonus, I’ve included my top 5 OST that have given me the biggest feels and always manage to usher me into a happy place or a state of euphoria.
I must admit that this is also the case because of the context in which they’ve been used in their respective dramas. Have a listen and let me know what you think of these.
Until the next time family! 😊 Stay safe, stay entertained and stay blessed!
– IU – Give you my heart [Crash Landing on You]
– Choi Yu Ree – Wish [Hometown Cha Cha Cha]
– Gaho – Start [Itaewon Class]
– V – Sweet Night [Itaewon Class]
– Michael Learns To Rock- Eternal Love [Healer]