When I get tired of doing something I used to like, I always look back and reminisce the first time I did it. It was like falling in love, and that was the same thing happened between me and Korean Dramas. I admit that nowadays, I spend less time watching dramas due to real life commitments and it is normal to feel out of touch at times. The Sunshine Award made me feel nostalgic about my experience of getting acquainted with Korean Dramas and I think I should put it here, lest I forget about it one day.
My relationship with dramas went back as far as 18 years ago. At that time, Mainland Chinese dramas were very popular here and my father, being a fan of martial arts films, never missed any episode airing on the local television. That was part of the reasons for me to learn how to read as fast as possible, so that I could watch the dramas together with my father. It continued until I went to primary school and the landscape of dramas changed on the local channels: from Mainland Chinese to Hong Kong, not to forget Taiwanese Dramas once in a while.
I did not really watch T-dramas since at that time, I was more into C-dramas; plus, my father prefer action dramas compared to the romantic comedies offered by T-dramas, like Meteor Garden. The addiction with C-dramas was quite memorable, since I would skip school when the final episode of a drama was aired so that I could watch it. I remember that at one time, I was so into dramas until I neglected my studies and my grades dropped. Don’t blame me, I was just 9 at that time! The drop was quite significant and I made a promise to myself not to be too attached to the dramas.
The first K-drama I saw on the television was Hotelier, but I did not really follow the series back then. Autumn in My Heart was the Kdrama that dragged me into the world of Kdrama addiction. It was my aunt who encouraged me to watch it and I did follow it closely, to the point that even my mother knew the names of Jun-seo and Eun-seo, portrayed by Song Seung-heon and Song Hye-kyo. The same aunt also bought the VCD set and that was the first set of Kdrama I saw with my own eyes.
I eventually put a halt on my drama watching activities as I decided to focus on a major examination. I was accepted into a boarding school with full time stay at the hostel, so that drew me further from my dramas. But then, the drama drought did not last long; my aunt had acquired videos of another Kdrama and showed it to me, knowing that I would love it too. I think she just need another person to squee with, and she found the right one; except that it was the first drama I watched after several years of drama drought and I became obsessed with it. That drama was no other than Full House.
Oh, I could not recall how many times I replayed the series after I finished watching it, not to mention all the funny scenes! The first time Ji-eun and Young-jae met, their encounter at the house, their wedding, and their newlyweds acts, the name-calling, and the Three Bears song…ah, so nostalgic! The teenage me really loved all the bickering and the romance in the series. That marked the second wave of drama addiction for me, but I could only watch them during holidays. I think Dae Jang-geum was also broadcasted in that year and the person who watched it religiously was my father, this time because of the food galore in the show. Yup, my father loved food and he is a great cook, while this daughter of his is severely lacking in her culinary skills.
Winter Sonata was the drama that sparked the nation’s interest in Hallyu and for that reason, more dramas were bought by local TV station for broadcast, for instance Something One Percent (the first time I saw Kang Dong-won was in this drama!), Successful Story of a Bright Girl (I knew Jang Na-ra from this drama but I did not know the guy..until few years later. Sorry, Jang Hyuk!), and My Love Patzzi (watched this because of Jang Na-ra!). It’s funny how I could recognize the actresses but could not keep tab of the actors’ names back then.
Another major examination came and ended, but our batch could not go back home yet since the term was not over yet, There were about two months left until the holiday, and we spent those days doing almost nothing. One of my friends brought several VCDs from home and we had several Korean Movie sessions at the hostel lounge. Those were great times as all the girls huddled together there (those who arrived early got to sit on the couch!) and watched the movies: the crazy 100 Days with Mr Arrogant, the quirky He Was Cool, the funny My Little Bride, and the tragic A Millionaire’s First Love, which was a memorable one since my aunt was wishing to see it in cinemas before and I got to watch it first. All the tears (and sobbing) was worth it.
Several cases of stealing happened and thanks to that thieve, we were prohibited to stay at the hostel before 11 PM. That put an end to our movie sessions but one time, that friend of mine played My Little Bride on the laptop and it was projected on the big screen. We were at the school then and the boys were there too, and all the girls screamed, “Noooooo!” when we realized what movie was it, because there was a scene featuring a pair of undergarments. LOL. The boys were all puzzled and we girls could only giggle thinking about the close call. Heeee.
My Girl was being aired and if I remember it correctly, it ended before the holiday so I did not get the chance to watch the ending. My friend’s sister was so in love with that drama and I could only listen to her ramblings about it. On the next holiday, I encountered another one of my favourite series: Goong or Princess Hours. I was so lucky that we have two TVs in our house, because my brother had mastered the art of annoying his sister by conquering the main TV to himself. I had no choice but to retreat and struggled watching the drama on the old TV. Again, I did not get to watch the ending because I had to go back to the hostel.
When school started on the following year, most of the students, especially the girls, were aware of Kdramas. One memorable thing happened during that year. We had a TV at the school but it was only for usage outside the school time, so it was a normal thing to see the junior boys watching cartoon during weekends. We had study sessions during weekday nights (like those study hall featured in Kdramas) but that day was the finale of Sassy Girl Chunhyang. My friend begged me to accompany her as she was going to watch the episode, no matter what happened. The reluctant me became her partner in crime but when we reached there…a large crowd had already gathered in front of the TV.
It was quite a sight, with the whole crowd being girls, and we were being careful not to get caught. My friend and I were both student reps but on that day, we decided to break the rules only once. It was even funnier when the Head Girl joined us, wondering what we were watching and she ended up staying too! With more than fifty girls watching a Kdrama, it was hard to keep silent and the collective squeals and laughter caught the attention of a teacher, so we scrambled away, running for our lives to avoid being caught. That was crazy, and my friend vowed not to do such a dangerous thing again.
I watched Fantasy Couple, also known as Couple or Trouble, during my next holiday. It was the first series I watched from the start until the end while being broadcast on the local channel, and I truly enjoyed the crazy ride with this one. This was also the beginning of an inside joke of our family: since I would beg and made a deal with my father (whose news broadcast was on the same slot) to give me the chance to watch my drama, my father started calling Kdramas as Mimi’s Dramas. The joke continued until today and whenever my parents saw any Kdrama on air, they would call me and say, “Hey, your drama is airing!”.
I also got my first drama box set at that time. Well, it was not one technically, since I bought My Girl and Princess Hours’ box sets, together with Princess Hours OST album (one of my friends had an MP3 collection of My Girl‘s songs so I settled down with that). They were quite expensive back then but they became my most treasured possession. This was also the first time I got to listen to the real actors’ voices since all the dramas I saw before were dubbed in Chinese. It was fascinating and I still chuckled when I look at those box sets. I finally got to finish My Girl and continued fangirling about Lee Jun-ki with my friend, and she told me about her sister buying VCD of Lee Jun-ki’s new drama at that time, Iljimae.
When I started college, I watched Japanese Dramas for a while, but Kdramas lured me into addiction again. With more outlets and resources available for Kdramas, I did not look back and continued to feed my obsession with Kdramas, which included teaching myself Korean Language in order not to be too dependent on subtitles. I could do that with Jdramas since I took Japanese classes in school, but I am still lacking when it comes to Korean.
It has been more than ten years since I started watching Kdramas and I have accepted that it is normal to be bored at times. It is still amazing that I manage to come this far, since most of my fellow drama watchers: my aunt and my friends, have fallen out of love with Kdramas. They all have their own commitments and probably think that dramas are just a hobby. As for me myself, I think it has to do with the growing community of Kdrama lovers, as well as the friends I made thanks to the shared interest in dramas that makes me stay. Watching with fellow fans makes a drama more enjoyable, with the thoughtful discussion taking place after the episode ends. Although my real life drama comrades have been mostly replaced by the online drama fiends, it is still fun, if not better. I did say that I could not see myself quitting the Kdrama universe but if it does happen, I have no doubt that I will look back and think:
“Oh, that was my youth and I have no regret about it!”