In case you missed it, 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 post is brought to you by Kate, whom you may have seen around the blog, as well as on Patreon. Like Jaco_4950 did in her post, today is the first time Kate’s introducing herself to us properly (YAY for proper introductions! 🤩). I’m so glad that we have this chance, to get to know her better!
I hope you guys enjoy!
~ KFG ❤️
So I know I said I don’t have time to do this but here I am typing away happily. How come I did not manage to make time for “year-end lists” or “How I got hooked on Kdrama” posts but the topic of LOVE stories made me crack my knuckles? Well, they might just be my favorite kind of stories 😊
I’ll start off with a bit of my origin story since I missed writing for the guest post series last month, and I haven’t really posted that much in general. Until now that is, anyway!
I live in Europe and work remotely for a scientific medical journal. I have a PhD in neurobiology though, and before I switched gears, worked in academic research for 10 plus years. I live in a rooftop apartment in a big city with my cat, Luci, and love traveling. I think I am not the only one who misses travelling these days. Let’s hope this pandemic will come to an end soon!
How did I tumble down the Kdrama rabbit hole?
I used to watch this American sci-fi show on the CW called “The 100”, which, for the first 4 seasons, was my favorite thing on television in a long time.
Its central themes were the morally grey choices in a post-apocalyptic world, and the relationships between the characters. Good stuff. It has since been butchered by the show-runner and has ended with a whimper.
Back then, I was involved with the passion of a 17-year-old fangirl. I discussed the show daily on a forum; I was a content creator for gifs and avatars/ icons; the whole nine yards. I even made friends from around the globe, the core group of which I have actually met up with in person, just before the pandemic.
So one day, a writer for an online TV review platform penned a couple of pieces about “The 100” and I started following her on twitter. When she started tweeting gif threads about “Crash Landing On You” (and other shows since then), I ran off to watch it and I was in love big time.
How was there this magical world of kdrama out there that I had never even heard of?
After a few hits and some misses in the shows I picked after that – I had no clue what I was doing – I came across KFG’s fabulous page, and it has been my trusty and much-loved guide through Dramaland ever since.
With very few exceptions, my opinions align perfectly with KFG’s opinions, so it made finding shows I love a whole lot easier. The added benefit of course, being this wonderful community of lovely people here, with so many good recommendations, and such wonderful insights!
I don’t really have a preferred genre in kdrama, but with the general state of the world teetering on the edge of dumpster fire, I find myself drawn to romance and fluff more than I used to be.
However, the bitter lesson I have learned, is that if a show has the world “melodrama” in the description, I should run for the hills! The amount of ugly crying I have done for some shows.. Let’s just say it left me dehydrated and emotionally exhausted. Looking at you here, “Queen for 7 days”, “The Red Sleeve”, “Mr. Sunshine”.
I have watched an impressive (read: embarrassing) 88 shows in the last two years (to be fair, I dropped 15). I was also shocked by how many it actually was, when I compiled a list the other day, so maybe I could give Sean a run for his money after all. 😛
My bestie Sarah from “The 100” days has finally come around to watching kdramas with me, now so I no longer have to enjoy the fun all by myself. We zoom on our tablets, and stream the drama on our laptops, so we can ooooh and aaaah and squeeee together.
It’s the next best thing to actually, physically sharing a couch! I’m in Europe and she in Malaysia, so that would be tough to accomplish even without the pandemic. She tends to lean darker, so we started things off with “Beyond Evil” last year, a drama I might otherwise have postponed, since I’m a chicken when it comes to psycho-thrillers.
We moved on to “Stranger”, which we loved for all the scenes between Cho Seung-woo and Bae Doo-na but found ourselves a bit underwhelmed in general (sorry to all who love it!). “Flower of Evil” however, was right up our alley and we loved, loved, LOVED it!
So finally on to the actual topic of this rambling post,
❤️💖 KDRAMA LOVE ❤️💖
When it comes to love stories, I enjoy all the tropes genres, the soulmates, the enemies to lovers, the fake dating, the arranged marriages, the best friends to lovers, the bromances and womances, the close familial bonds! As long as the emotion rings true, I am all here for it.
I don’t need my love stories to be neat and clean like “Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok-Joo,” which I found to be breezy fun with an adorable Lee Song-Kyoung and a cute Nam Joo-Hyuk. They can be messy like “Start-Up,” which I liked a lot more than everyone else it seems lol (I did NOT think the second lead deserved the girl and I shall await your comments! 😉).
They can be painful and hard to watch like “Just Between Lovers,” a show that managed to break my heart several times (they made Jun-Ho suffer SO much in this). I also find myself entertained by ridiculous fluff such as “So I married an Anti-Fan.”
I’m even in for the complicated-to-the-point-of-dysfunctional love stories (if given the time to be resolved) like “Goong,” which is a long slog to get through. Despite the evil side characters and mountain of contrived misunderstandings and miscommunications (I mean really, I’m rolling my eyes just thinking about it), for me it redeems itself through the true emotion between the leads.
Love stories I like can also be big, sprawling, epic love stories like “Lovers of the Red Sky.” I managed to ignore the complicated magic backdrop entirely, because I was completely mesmerized by the swoon-worthy romantic scenes of the too-gorgeous-for-words Kim Yoo-Jeong and Ahn Hyo-Seop.
I’m here for the silly “Secret Garden;” what an entertaining romp that is, and what a dreamy Hyun Bin! I smiled through the fun and whimsical “Secret Royal Inspector and Joy” (I desperately needed to see Ok Taecyeon as someone other than the evil psycho he plays in Vincenzo).
The quiet and understated love story “Because This is my First Life” warmed my heart (fun easter egg, Jung So-Min and Lee Min-ki show up in a cameo in What’s Wrong With Secretary Kim). I even love the barely hinted at love story in the high-speed-no-time-to-catch-your-breath action drama “Vagabond”.
I am here for it 💖❤️💖ALL💖❤️💖.
In general, I like to see some sort of acknowledgment of feelings around the halfway mark (at least to the viewer, not necessarily between the love interests), so Show can devote a decent amount of time on resolving whatever conflicts that stand in the way of eternal bliss, whether they be internal or external obstacles.
More time for the OTP sharing a screen and being adorable doesn’t hurt either, of course! Will-they-or-won’t-they is great fun, but if it’s drawn out too long with ever more ludicrous tropes to keep the OTP apart, I find myself getting bored and annoyed.
Whether I’m drawn to a story or not, is purely based on my emotional response to it. While on an intellectual level, I may appreciate such things as cinematography and production value, if it’s not hitting me in the feelz, it’s not for me. I guess everyone may be a bit like that, right?
This means I can be incredibly forgiving about plot holes and tropes if the chemistry of the OTP sweeps me off my feet and vice versa, or extremely nitpicky about details when I’m not feeling the love story. It is probably somewhat of a viewing lens, as KFG calls it, or romance-tinted goggles maybe. 😃
I really 💖 loved 💖 and would recommend “It’s Okay To Not Be Okay”, which nails the near impossible feat of bringing together laugh-out-loud-funny, an incredible love story, and the pain and joy of living with an autistic sibling ,in a truly memorable drama (to this day, it’s my favorite kdrama).
In my top 10 are surely also “Healer”, “Flower of Evil” and “Romance is a Bonus Book” but I’ll just ramble on a bit about two of my favorite rom-coms to finish this post. They are definitely on the lighter end of the spectrum, which is just what you need sometimes. 😉
If you haven’t seen them, beware, for Here there be spoilers:
[SPOILERS FOR WHAT’S WRONG WITH SECRETARY KIM & FIGHT FOR MY WAY]
(nothing actually, she is fabulous and I love her 😃)
This was brought up on many a Google search as the ultimate rom-com in the kdrama-world, and since I loved Park Min Young in Healer, this was an obvious early choice for me.
It was also the revelation of seeing Park Seo Joon for the first time and omg, this boy could charm anyone’s socks off, right? *swoons and flails*
I often struggle with the passive / submissive role sometimes given to female characters in kdrama, and tend to be more drawn to the ones with plucky female leads who stand their ground. In What’s Wrong With Secretary Kim, there are a few familiar tropes, such as him being the (seemingly) egotistical, rich and powerful CEO, and her, his executive assistant.
However, what makes it work for me, is that she is no wilting flower, and is presented as extremely good at her job. It’s made clear that he (and the company) can hardly do without her. The tragic backstory is a bit contrived but I feel that way about most “traumatic events that connect the OTP.” Also, have I mentioned that I can overlook a lot of flaws when I want to? 😃
I loved watching Young Joon (Park Seo Joon) realize his feelings, and being the one pining and seeking advice from his friend (their bromance is comedy gold). It’s not the girl who swoons and pines for her rich and powerful boss but the trope is put on its head.
Watching him come to the realization that he isn’t just freaked out by the fact that his trusty sidekick is leaving him after years, but that instead, he is in love with her, is really fun to watch.
She kisses him first! One of my pet peeves in kdrama is the male lead kissing the female lead without “obvious” or explicit consent; it makes me cringe sometimes.
However, here Kim Mi So (Park Min Young) isn’t just passively letting stuff happen to her; Show makes it clear that she wants him as well, and is an equal and active participant in the physical affection displayed.
Our leads are on equal footing in their relationship despite the outward difference in status. And what is probably the most enjoyable for me, is that this story does not immediately end when the main couple gets together.
Instead, you are shown their struggles of learning how to be in a relationship with each other. They are both growing together, and making concessions for each other, and it’s lovely to watch.
Is this show ridiculous, silly and over the top? Absolutely.
But it brings genuine sweetness and emotional payoff to your screens as well.
PS: It also doesn’t hurt that PSJ and PMY’s chemistry is OFF THE CHARTS.
When I watched this for the first time, my viewing lens for displays of physical affection had already been Kdrama-tized to the point that I almost fell off my couch in some of the romantic scenes.
This adjustment to the far tamer romantic scenes in kdrama, compared to US shows, always makes me think back to the director’s commentary for the Keira Knightly remake of Pride and Prejudice. That taking someone’s hand could be considered erotic, as people normally would wear gloves and there was no skin on skin contact ever.
So after years of watching mostly American TV shows, it is refreshing to swoon over a chaste (or in the case of What’s Wrong With Secretary Kim not-so-chaste) kiss. 😃
My favorite trope (apart from maybe arranged marriage) is friends to lovers. If I had to pick the ultimate friends-to-lovers story, this would probably be it.
Early on in the show, we see that for all intents and purposes, our two leads are already in a (platonic) relationship. They are really comfortable around each other and whatever happens in their lives, they run to share it with each other.
They may squabble like siblings, but the shift to realizing their romantic interest is organic and believable, and at times hilariously awkward.
What made me root for them, is just how close they are, and the adorable moments shown in flashbacks, of how these two have always been with each other in important moments of their lives.
Show does really well in bringing to life, the depth of their connection (even before the romance).
Early on, when Ae Ra is having an exceptionally crappy day, the way he shields her from the world by spreading his jacket around her, so she can hide and cry, just melted my heart. Just this one scene would have been enough to sell this love story, for me.
If you want a fun, fluffy, relatable and sweet romance that is so rewarding that you walk away with a big grin on your face, then this is perfect for you.
If you just want to witness how Park Seo Joon can go from adorable goofball one second to smoldering hot and swoon-worthy in the next, these two dramas are well worth a look (or two 😉)!
Thank you, KFG, for creating this fantastic little corner of the interwebs, and for giving me this space to share my thoughts and feels! Thank you all, who’ve managed to read through this rambling post. I can’t wait to read everyone else’s! ❤️