Surprise, everyone!! We have yet another guest post series to enjoy, this month!
Unlike our previous guest post series, this one was kind of an accident, almost. I have Ele to thank for this one, because it was her innocent question about something, that made me casually talk about the off-the-top-of-my-head, hypothetical possibility of a guest post series on love, in the month of February, in honor of Valentine’s Day.
So many folks on Patreon responded enthusiastically to this idea, that I felt that it would be remiss of me, not to actually make it happen, come February.
And so, here we are. This month, we will enjoy a total of nine guest posts from patrons on Patreon, on the topic of love stories. The brief is pretty flexible, in that, each writer is free to go deep, or go wide, on anything around the topic of love stories in Dramaland. I feel like we have a lot to look forward to, this month! 🥰
Today’s inaugural post is brought to you by Uyen, whom you might remember from her year-end awards post. I find Uyen’s enthusiasm for dramas really quite infectious, and I’m so glad that she’s taken the time to share some of her drama thoughts with us today!
Uyen also writes about dramas on her own blog, which you might like to visit here!
I hope you guys enjoy!
~ KFG ❤️
Hello! It’s me again.
I’m very thankful for the chance to write something else for KFG’s blog.
When the theme of love came up, there was no shortage of shows for me to consider. I haven’t explored much outside of kdramas yet, but at least for kdramas, one of the things I’ve appreciated is that the standard one season format provides a chance for me to fall in love with characters and see them grow, while also being able to have their stories wrapped up nicely.
While I do indeed love swoony romance and crackly tension, I actually realized I haven’t seen too much of those! My favorites instead have turned out to be very good at showcasing different types of love, through the small gestures and interactions.
As promised, here is some of my spazzing over my favorites (and my fav OSTs from them because I can’t think about dramas without their soundtracks!)
The All-Around-Smorgasbord-of-Love: Reply 1988
When I thought of a drama that encompassed different types of love, Reply 1988 was the first one that came to mind.
There were times when the cheesy humor wasn’t my thing, and sometimes my attention drifted with the long episodes, but it hit its emotional beats so well for me.
Love comes in so many different forms here: family love, romantic love, bonds formed through shared experiences, as well as tied to a physical location. Who doesn’t want a group of neighbors who trade food with one another, and show up for one another, and move heaven and earth to build a snowman for a little girl?
We have childhood friends growing to see each other in a new light. We have romance blooming among older adults, with children of their own, in a new time of their lives, developing new feelings for each other, on top of the fondness they already have.
We have parents learning to see their children grow up, and struggling with trying to keep them safe, and understanding that sometimes they have to make mistakes on their own. It can be difficult, but a form of love in itself, to recognize our parents are human too, and continue to learn how to communicate our love to each other.
There’re oodles of moments; I could probably write a whole post, on a moment per episode. But here are two that stood out to me:
The neighborhood friendship makes me weep.
Every time Taek comes back, all the other kids are so, so happy to see him, and it brought me joy to see them forming an assembly line outside his room, and on cue, be ready to receive a hug.
It also tugged at my heart every time Taek walks into his room and sees that it’s taken over by the crew eating or joking around. He’s not bothered at all, and it’s clear how meaningful these relationships are to him.
My favorite scene with them, would be one where Taek loses a match.
We know by now he’s fairly introverted and can imagine with his success and the pressure / expectations he’s under, that it’s a hard time for him. Even his dad starts to say something along those lines when the kids start coming over one by one, but they quickly interrupt him and scurry over to Taek’s room, calling his name loudly, and joking as if nothing’s happened.
For a moment when Jung-pal opens the door to Taek’s room, we actually think there might be a heart-to-heart moment, but instead, Jung-pal quickly and loudly exclaims, “HEY I HEARD YOU LOST A GAME.”
Each of the friends comes in and rubs more salt into the wound, and Taek understandably gets pissed and defensive. But the more he tries to excuse himself, the more the others point out the facts: he lost, it happens, and it was about time that he made a mistake. They say it so matter-of-factly, that it dawns on Taek how not a big deal the loss is after all. And then they start teaching him how to cuss, haha!
I also loved the relationship between Bo Ra and her dad, particularly the moment when she moves out of the family home.
We think her dad isn’t going to see her off, since he doesn’t show up to wave goodbye in front of the house like the rest of the family. Bo Ra’s already fighting back tears, trying to act tough and everything, and then it turns out he’s waiting around the corner. He tries to pretend it’s not a big deal and hands her a bag of medicine, and a wad of cash, and OF COURSE she starts bawling.
They’ve had a more tense relationship because they’re both similarly stubborn. But underneath all of it, there is a deep love. It’s just – so classic, that they never say, “I love you, I’ll miss you,” but that’s what’s unspoken. There was something about the shot of her dad in the rearview mirror, and then a close-up of him, pausing, and slowly trudging away, that just totally captured the emotions for me.
The ending was so bittersweet. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so tied to a physical location like that, but I completely get what a sense of loss it would be, to return to a neighborhood where everyone you love, has left.
Fav OST: Hyehwadong is sort of the iconic theme (and I squealed hearing it at one point in Hospital Playlist), but my favorite is actually A Little Girl by Oh Hyuk.
Quirky Love: Be Melodramatic
I loved this show for poking fun at itself, and being satirical in different ways.
It probably has my favorite pilot episode, just for the way it quickly got me invested in our three leads. I liked that one of the romances had a male lead who was not conventionally attractive, and while it wasn’t necessarily a super sparks! swoon! romance, I totally loved how their wit matched each other and they totally got each other.
Honestly, like I mentioned, the first episode got me with some scenes.
I felt Han Joo’s pain when she starts crying, sitting alone with the sounds of a crying baby, while her ex is smiling on the TV screen. I was so angry, and also wanted to be like Eun Jung, and run with a scythe after the selfish jerk who hurt my best friend. I also loved how each of the friends rallies to be by Eun Jung’s side and finds excuses to move in to be near her.
By far, the scene that stands out to me, is the one when our normally stoic, fearless documentary filmmaker Eun Jung realizes that she has been imagining her love all along, when she’s been talking to him.
It’s such a bittersweet moment when she cracks, and cries over their photo together, then slowly walks out to the living room, looking sort of numb. Everyone else looks at her, just waiting. And then she says, “I’m having a hard time. Please hold me.” And they just pause, looking at her. And she repeats herself, and that makes everyone cry, and that made ME cry (tbh I had started crying long earlier though).
Hearing them all say thank you to her is a reminder of how much they’ve all held in, those two years, ugh. They’ve waited for her to be ready to receive support, instead of pushing her. But, they’ve always been there, so that they could be there for her at exactly the right moment, when she needed them. That’s love.
Here’s the video of the scene.
Fav OST: Consolation by Kwon Jin Ah
A Trope That Wasn’t So Tropey: Because This is My First Life
It’s funny, this premise, of a contract marriage between a guy who needs rent money and a girl who needs cheap rent, sounds so tropey, but it didn’t feel tropey at all, to me.
Instead, I kind of understand the practical reasons.
I liked the friendship between our three female characters, and a little bit of what their arcs showed: one friend who dreams of being a homemaker and navigates to find herself waiting for a ring on her finger, one friend who dreams of being her own CEO, and who is stuck at a firm and experiencing sexual harassment, and one friend who dreams of true love, and finds herself in a contract marriage for cheap rent.
There are different parts I appreciated, such as the critique of married life and the expectations of a married woman from her in-laws. I also liked the introduction of the ex – things didn’t get petty, *gasp* – you can like your partner’s ex and have a nice conversation together, and go rock climbing together.
In terms of an emotional moment that hooked me in, it was probably the wedding scene and the mom’s scrapbook.
Another example of how maybe the words of love aren’t spoken, but Ji Ho’s mom painstakingly keeping photographs, her awards, and printing out scenes with her name in the drama credits, speak volumes about her love.
That she asks Se Hee to let Ji Ho keep writing, knowing that that’s her daughter’s passion, so much that Mom is willing to come over to help with household chores if needed, all because she really wants Ji Ho to not give up on her dreams the way she had given up on her dreams is – well, it just holds as much regret as love.
And then the way Se Hee honors her mom’s wish to not let Ji Ho cry alone, and stays by her side and gently tells her to cry as much as she wants, and says that he’ll wait with her so they can go together? *weeping*
At this point, they barely know each other outside of a transactional relationship, but it is such a kind gesture, and an example of love between almost-strangers.
Fav OST: Shelter by Hee Jin (ft. Lee Yo Han)
Lots of Bromance: Prison Playbook
Ah, this one snuck up on me. I had seen a lot of good things about it, so I tried it out and ended up being interested in the storytelling, but also a bit disturbed by the prison setting.
It wasn’t until about episode 5 that I found myself fully invested. It was still disturbing at times, but at the same time, the camaraderie that formed between our cellmates, and the compassion that they showed each other, was quite lovely.
Je Hyuk and Joon Ho’s bromance was a highlight for me, and Park Hae Soo and Jung Kyung Hoo acted that out so well.
Time and time again, Joon Ho showed up for Je Hyuk and was truly his biggest fan. Whenever Je Hyuk’s being kinda dense, Joon Ho shows up, being sort of annoyed and dramatic, but at the end of the day, does whatever Je Hyuk wants, like showing up to comfort his little sister. Joon Ho knows Je Hyuk very well, and it’s very heartwarming to know Je Hyuk has at least one friend he can count on.
There was a particular scene when Je Hyuk was transferred to a new facility and getting into some trouble with some other prisoners.
I was freaking out for him and let out a cheer when the light switched on, and it was none other than his biggest fan, Joon Ho :’) The shocked look, that turns into relief and a brief smile, from Je Hyuk, was so cute to see, and I swear he had stars in his eyes looking at Joon Ho as his hero.
I was so used to seeing Je Hyuk not emote that seeing this little bit of emotion meant so much.
Again, I also loved the friendship that develops between our cellmates.
I love the unlikely bond between Looney and Captain Yoo, as they help each other, when the guys come up with this elaborate plan to pretend to be Je Hyuk’s former coach (that is completely see-through and not fail-proof at all, but it’s the effort that counts), which results in this hilarious scene below, when they try to act all tough to support Je Hyuk.
I actually was so sad at the end, to say goodbye to everyone.
This was probably one of the shows where I really felt the empty feelings afterwards, and was a bit surprised at how deeply I was affected.
I think a part of it may have been because some things were left open-ended. In my head, they all meet to cheer Je Hyuk on someday, at a game, and recall some of the ridiculous things that they did together.
Fav OST: I liked more of the rap on this soundtrack, and Nostalgia by Woo Won Jae captured the poignant feel of the show for me.
Wholesome, Youthful Love: Racket Boys
I quickly got into this show and loves it because I haven’t really seen other shows that center middle schoolers, and honor their maturity and their perspective, as having their own sort of wisdom, that sometimes adults forget.
I love how our Racket Boys are not petty, are understanding, and forgive each other.
For example, when Hae Kang’s dad royally messes up and causes the team to miss the tournament, I was SO PISSED on their behalf. And they were understandably upset and resigned, but also, they responded with a lot of compassion.
Knowing that he didn’t do it on purpose, they still embraced him as their coach. And then the reveal that they had tried to move heaven and earth to get hotel rooms so they could stay longer, because that’s just how much they really wanted to play? These boys.
My favorite scene though, would have to be the ones where Hae Kang gets closer to the boys, because we see that he’s pretty resistant at first.
It was the story of how Hae Kang’s old baseball teammates were really rude about his dad and threw away his food that broke my heart – that’s so hard to both feel embarrassed and furious, on your dad’s behalf, and to be judged by people who are supposed to be on your team and have your back. How can you trust them to support you on the field, when they’re bad-mouthing you and your family? No wonder he has trust issues.
That makes it even more special, then, when he rushes to the hospital upon hearing his younger sister is ill, and finds out that the boys had run/carried her all the way to the hospital.
Seeing them snoring in the bed is a shock to him, because he’d literally never thought he would have friends who would do that.
Slowly but surely, the Haenam boys, their infectious enthusiasm, and cheesy dance, thaw Hae Kang’s heart. When he sits next to them and buckles his backpack in the same way, and they all look over, surprised but delighted – that warmed my heart in a way some romances fail to.
Fav OST: ah young love – Focus on Me by Coffee Boy
Second Chance Love: 18 Again
I started this one solely because of Lee Do Hyun and a friend’s recommendation.
I had heard of the Zac Efron version, 17 Again, but hadn’t watched it because it looked cheesy, and I wasn’t sure how they were going to expand it to 16 episodes.
I was pleasantly surprised that I loved it more than I expected, particularly the arcs around familial love and how loving someone is an intentional choice. There was a lot of self-reflection and learning.
It was lovely how Dae Young strengthens his relationship with his family, making new memories with them, and also, encouraging them to re-remember what they’d taken for granted about him as well.
My favorite moment is the one where Dae Young reconnects with his dad.
We see how they’ve had a tense relationship, so it’s very meaningful to me when he sees his dad at work, and understands the burdens he faces, and how that mirrored his own struggles as a dad, that his own children were not aware of.
I teared up in the scene when Dae Young sees his dad at the basketball game, and he starts signing to him. It’s so lovely because it’s a connection to his mom too. And his dad TOTALLY GETS IT. Like, there is no hesitation. He not only recognizes this young man having an uncanny resemblance to his son, but also, when Dae Young starts signing, he starts crying.
“Dad, you said you were the happiest when you watch me play. I wanted to show you again. I’m sorry that it took me so long. I’m sorry, Dad.” aksjdfhalksdjhfaskldhjfaskdf *excuse me while I go off to WEEP AGAIN*
I also loved the scene when Dae Young rushes to Shi Ah’s side when she was little, and we understand just how much he loves her and his family.
The story is all about navigating regrets, yes, but it’s also so clear, that Dae Young becomes very sure that his family is not something he regrets. I also loved the scene when Shi Ah sees all the money Dae Young puts in a bank account for her, and how that affirms his love for her, even when she hadn’t realized it.
Fav OST: Hello by Sohyang
An Understanding Love: It’s Okay That’s Love
Leslie mentioned this in her community post, and I was super excited, because I actually have a soft spot for this one, for Gong Hyo Jin and Jo In Sung (this director really liked close ups which made me laugh at first, but also, if I got to see more of their beautiful faces, I’m not about to complain).
There were parts I didn’t love as much, and I don’t think it’s aged very well, but when I first watched it, the romance stood out to me in the way they both accepted each other.
I loved this romance because it felt imperfect and real; thinking about communication (or lack of), double standards, insecurity, trust issues, consent, sex/physical intimacy.
I understand some concerns about aspects of their relationship, which is fair, since I didn’t love all aspects of it, but in this case, I did like that both characters were flawed.
I felt they were equals, and I totally loved their chemistry, from the not quite liking each other at first banter, to the love.
The more I like a show, the more I feel compelled to critique it, so I will have to note that Jae Yeol’s character arc was more fleshed out than Hae Soo’s, and I would’ve liked if she had been given some more weight on her own too.
But when this drama made me feel, it REALLY made me feel. This gets more into spoilers but it did get me patting my heart for a number of reasons, and for this reason I totally love it. Also it’s my favorite drama poster.
I still think about the moment Hae Soo sees Jae Yeol sleeping in a bathtub and doesn’t bat an eye, but is instead immediately empathetic, and senses there is an experience behind it, that may be difficult for him to share.
She just calmly says to him, hey get ready, it’s time to leave now.
That’s not a reaction Jae Yeol often gets. And it’s even more thoughtful of her, some episodes later, when she immediately remembers how he can only sleep peacefully in a bathtub, and apologizes for forgetting (even though it’s not her fault at all).
Similarly, I loved how Jae Yeol accepts her. I do think Hae Soo’s difficulty with physical intimacy is sort of brushed away rather quickly. But I did love the scene where she reveals her tense relationship with her mom, that was at the root of that, and some actions she isn’t proud of, from the past.
In response, Jae Yeol simply holds her and affirms his love for her, and that was very sweet to me. So, go It’s Okay That’s Love, for the unconditional love and acceptance.
Fav OST: It’s Alright That’s Love by Davichi
The Love Triangle That Wrecked Me: Reply 1988
I cannot leave this post without at least mentioning love triangles and second lead syndromes, because as I said, I do love romances and these are staples of the genre (although slowly changing? maybe??).
This is one of the love triangles that I didn’t roll my eyes at, because I genuinely liked both of our boys and was conflicted.
At the same time, because of that, I hated it, and felt it was completely unnecessary, because my heart does not like being yanked in different directions, and I hate being teased the way this writer loved to do to me!
I would have preferred to have just had the endgame be upfront and had more cute rather than angsty moments, but I guess the anticipation and fan ships are good publicity. In the end, I felt things made sense, but I would much rather have had everyone be happy with no heartbreak, you know?
But it was nice that their friendship really came first, and there was generally good communication with one another, at least among the boys.
That was interesting to me, because normally, I feel I have more of a sense of the female character’s feelings, but for this one, it was harder for me to have a good read on her affections at first, or at least, figure out when and where things turned romantic.
Overall, I’m not going to fight the ending because I agree with it in a way. But I still 1000% bawled.
The Love Triangle That Wrecked Me In a Good Way: Chicago Typewriter
This one was my end-of-year Razzie because it fell short of my, admittedly, very high expectations. But, one of the things I truly loved about it, was our leads.
I felt less angsty over this one, because I didn’t feel the writing tried to tease me with the romance. Instead, I felt it centered on the friendships between Se Joo/Hui Yeong, Jin Oh/Yul, and Jeon Seol/Soo Hyun in a way I really loved.
I mean, how can you really compete with a friendship that transcends lifetimes?
Se Joo and Jin Oh’s bromance was cute to see, in how they bickered but slowly warmed up to each other, and by the end, how fond they were of each other. A part of that is probably with old memories resurfacing, but I do think their present-day bond was also strengthened a lot.
Seeing all three of our main characters together was simply the best, and now looking at these photos, I’m ready to go cry for the tenth time writing this post.
The 1930’s crew really got my heart breaking into pieces, and I just desperately wanted them to be happy.
I also loved Satellite by SALTNPAPER and thought it was so fitting that it was used as background music in two scenes with our triangle legs.
I particularly loved the scene where Ryu Soo Hyun first wears a dress, and Yul sees her for the first time.
There was something about the music, and the way it was shot, with Im Soo Jung bashfully coming forward on the stage, and the look on Go Kyung Pyo’s face as he sees her. I roll my eyes sometimes at that trope, of a girl getting dolled up and a guy going ga-ga over her, but somehow this felt beautifully done, and I totally bought that he was head over heels for her (you can see part of this in the video below).
The second scene I loved was with Soo Hyun and Hui Yeong, when they’re hiding out behind a wall, and she suddenly kisses him.
But yeah, Satellite playing in the background was perfect for me here. Honestly, we don’t get that much screen time with these too, but we got some really poignant moments, like them giving up their love in the past lifetime, for a hope in the future (with a freaking finger brush in that scene! I cannot with the slow burn in dramas sometimes, for giving me so little, yet making me feel so much).
I never thought “I’m doing this for my country” would ever make me swoon, until this show lol.
Fav OST: Satellite by SALTNPAPER
There are tons of other shows I’m sure I’ve missed, like I didn’t even touch on My Mister, Move To Heaven, Navillera, or Hospital Playlist, which were all shows that caught my heart in certain ways, but I would love to hear from you all, more stories of love that have stood out to you!
I totally loved re-watching scenes, listening to songs, and crying a million times all over again by writing this, thank you!!