My First Foray into Korean Dramas

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.Β  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.

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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.

fullhouse (2)

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.

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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.

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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.

cot5I 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!”.

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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!”

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24 thoughts on “My First Foray into Korean Dramas

  1. Ah how fun! That was a really nice story, I always love reading other’s journeys with dramas. The whole bit about secretly watching in the school hostel is quite funny and it’s something I can relate to. I didn’t live in a hostel but I have watched a TV show, Korean and American, in class. One when the teacher didn’t come, and another time when class was on going! I was quite the rebel. Plus, 10+ years of watching K-dramas, that’s a long time! I haven’t quite been a fan for that long, but I’m curious as to whether or not I would still be watching in a few years time.

    1. Life won’t be complete without those adventures! LOL I secretly brought my mobile phone to school although it was strictly prohibited and that was the most rebellious thing I have ever done.
      That’s a thing worth pondering but I believe that if there are more important things we’re destined for, then it couldn’t be helped. What we can do now is to enjoy the dramas πŸ™‚

  2. This post is so sweet. πŸ™‚ I hope that 10 years later from now, I can look back at my drama watching experience and have no regrets about it too! πŸ˜€

    By the way, I’m amazed you can remember so many of the old dramas you watched so long ago. I forgot so many of the dramas that I watched.. T_T”

  3. Aww~! What a lovely, nostalgic, warm-fuzzies post, chingu!! I loved reading this! I felt like I was watching your kdrama life story unfold in my mind’s eye as I was reading this! πŸ˜€ What an amazing experience, to watch kdrama with 50 other girls! I’ve watched drama with a few friends, and it was a blast, but I don’t think I could ever manage 50 people! XD

      1. What an amazing memory to have, in your life of kdrama! πŸ˜€ I can only imagine how awesome it was, to squeal with 50 other girls, over a beloved drama’s finale, no less. Wow. ^^

  4. Nice Post. It made me think of how I got into Kdramas. My first Kdrama was sageuk and the rest is history. The drama was Queen Seondeok.

      1. 😊😊 At first I was like that is alot of episodes but it was interesting so I decided to keep watching it. It was good and it turn me into a fan of K drama fan. Which also lead me to become a Kpop fan. The second sageuk I watched was even longer. It had 81 episodes. It was Jumong. Then to learn it was part of Korean’s history was really neat. TBH I kind of like learning about history. Learning about another country’s history is really interesting.

  5. Aww this post is so sweet! I did watch those dramas, but the dramas that mostly leave an impression and slice of life lesson in my life are the ones that seem to be less known as hallyu icon. For example, I really liked 9 End 2 Outs, Soulmate, or types like Shut Up Flower Boy Band. But it’s true that K dramas are where my youth idle time is mostly spent on! Haha

    1. Now that you mention it, I rarely watch those slice of life dramas! Maybe I should try some of them πŸ˜‰ One of the reasons why I was not really a rebel might be related to dramas..I was probably too busy watching them instead of acting like a teenager. Kekekeke

  6. ( This comment is overly long: Sorry )

    I am a man, 60, from Holland, and KDrama-addict for 5 years now. I was completely bored with new Hollywood, but there was plenty of very good old Hollywood, and British that I still could enjoy..
    Good British drama is the thing my wife and me both like.

    Sometimes I have to work night -shifts at the airport, in a 24/7 shop.
    Between 1 and 4 at night it gets really quiet, so we take our laptop, ( tablet nowadays) to pass the time with wifi or some movies on the harddisk.
    A forumbuddy from a Canadian forum lived in Korea in 2009 and tipped me about Kmovies and Kdrama.
    I tried a movie just out of curiosity, but with slow wifi, it took ages for a movie to load.
    But it was at work, a really good Hollywood movie I would keep for homewatching on DVD. That was my plan.
    Wrong…
    Hooked withing 3 weeks, and 5 years later I hardly watched anything else anymore, at home and at work.

    I know Kdrama is more aimed at the Korean housewifes, and is not popular with male, they say..
    I like to quote a Korean blogger who lived in Manhattan, New York for some years. and writes about American, Korean and Japanese movies.
    “No Korean man will admit he is watching Korean romantic movies. But in real, Korea cinemas in New York and in Seoul are loaded with as many single men as women, and that is not for explicit movies !”

    I am macho to the core, and like a good hard movie, but I am not afraid of some romance. And, while still living in a free country, I am a big Jane Austen-fan too.
    Books and movies.
    Ofcourse I enjoy the beauty of Korean actresses a lot.
    But actresses and actors are often nice to look at, comes with the job.
    Either from the US, Britian, India or where ever.
    But, they can really act !
    And that is not a given.

    Reading this entry is fun, because I recognize it.
    Full House !
    I watched many series, and some more than once.
    One of my very favorites is still Painter Of The Wind.
    After watching Cinderella’s Sister ( twice ), I am still convinced that Moon Geun Young is the best actress in the world, because of how she really takes the viewer into the drama. Not all the drama’s with her are as good, but that does not matter.

    The Great Ha Ji Won I have seen in several drama’s, I am watching Empress Qi for the second time now.
    While waiting for the episodes in the beginning of this year, ( meanwhile following your blog), I looked at other historical drama’s, and became a big fan of Dong Yi, Dae Jang Geum and Queen Seon Duk.
    The latter is also one of my very favorites of all times,
    Every single episode of 62 total feels like a full movie.

    All this has made Korea a number 1 interest, involving other things besides only movies.
    I work in a team with a few colleagues with Asian roots, and learn a lot from them about cooking and other things.
    But nowadays I can show off with the kimchi-variations and homemade kimbap I bring to work as lunch or dinner.
    Korean drama: “Aja !”

    1. Awww don’t worry, I had fun reading your comment!
      I agree with you about Moon Geun-young πŸ˜€ (Painter of the Wind is <3, by the way) She's one of the first actresses I knew from the dramas and movies. She can portray different characters: from cute (My Little Bride) to layered (Cinderella's Sister). Nowadays it's hard to find a drama with good scripts and luck is not on her side these few years. Let's hope the movie Sado can bring back her luck πŸ˜‰
      Lucky you to have the chance to learn about cooking Korean dishes! I am still reluctant to try making my own kimchi although there are shops selling the ingredients and I guess I'll stick with learning Korean history for now πŸ˜‰
      Thanks for dropping by!

  7. I buy the kimchi in a tin. The variations are the use of it in salads, soups and stews, and, OK, the occasional Korean 2-minute noodles πŸ™‚
    Old Hollywood: I can still digest an Indiana Jones, James Bond, a Western etc.
    But Kdrama will be the main interest as long as drama’s like The Moon Embraces The Sun, Arang, and the ones mentioned above keep coming out.

    Although I did read a lot of English classics already before , it was Jennifer Ehle’s portrayal of Lizzy Bennet in Pride & Prejudice 1995 that lured me into Jane Austen’s books, and made me a big fan of her beautiful English with nice long complicated sentences. Jennifer Ehle did that perfect. she is Lizzy.
    Moon Geun Young is in that class, perhaps not in the spotlights worldwide, but there are few that have that same magic.

    Diana Rigg was Emma Peel in the legendary British TV-series The Avengers in the ’60’s.
    Several critics still mention her as one of the very few of all times in filmhistory that could play a dangerous, fighting woman, and be very feminine at the same time.
    Often, a fighting woman becomes too masculine if she does that.
    And Emma Peel was always perfectly equal to her male partner, John Steed.
    Sometimes he rescued her, sometimes she rescued him.
    I predict the same glory for Ha Ji Won, specially if the rest of the world gets to know her, if Hollywood is able to produce a drama that fits her well.
    Ofcourse I could go on forever like this, but I will not πŸ™‚

    ps: Thanks by the way for your detailed explanation of Joseon Fashion elsewhere in this blog, it helps to understand the different ranks.

    1. I saw bibigo’s kimchi at the mart so maybe I should try that one. Instant noodles..my favourite! Although I am well aware that it is not that healthy πŸ˜›
      It’s hard to describe Moon Geun-young’s charms as it is very unique. Thanks to you, I am skimming through Painter of the Wind for the countless times and I fall all over again for her. Give this lady a good role and she will knock your socks off!
      Ha Ji Won is indeed one of a kind. I cannot see any of the younger actresses surpassing her yet: she can fight but still pull off her feminine charms well. Did you the latest picture of her in the Cartier event in Taiwan (if I’m not mistaken)? She’s so beautiful!
      You’re welcome! Glad to be able to spread the knowledge πŸ˜‰

  8. Fantasy Couple: I watched this for the first time 3 years ago, following the Hong Sisters-line. I like their unique mix of humor, drama, suspense, mild horror and romance, often at the same time.
    In the old Dramacrazy-rankings, it was at the bottom of 1600 drama’s , ( also Japan, Taiwan and China-drama’s ), and no reviews at all.
    I made a rather solid review, mentioned it in a few forums and up it went to 500.
    It popped up in other forums too after that, more reviews etc.
    I am not a mega-forumer, just the odd message here and there once in a while,but this one really helped.
    Therefor, Fantasy Couple is a pet-drama for me. I watched it 3 times by now and will watch it again someday.
    Jung Soo Young as Kang Ja is unforgettable: “Will it snow ?” πŸ™‚

    Moon Geun Young’s first movies were the first I ever saw, while at nightshift.
    Nice and sweet, still like them.

    Did you ever watch oldie-but-goldie “Too Beautiful To Lie” ? . Kim Ha-neul as the prisoner who is send on parole because of good behavior. All she has is her suitcase and..her talent to tell (almost ) perfect lies πŸ™‚

    1. I consider Fantasy Couple as one of my Kdrama classics although it’s not old actually. Han Ye-seul really kills it as Jo Anna/Na Sang-shil and her post-Sang-shil was the best thing ever! I nearly cried when the maids freak out after she said ‘Please’ and ‘Thank You’. Kang-ja & Sang-shil are ❀
      Oh, Hong Sisters have not produced any drama this year..

      Although my first movie of Moon was My Little Bride, Innocent Steps is actually my favourite. Waited for several years before I could watch the full movie πŸ™‚

      Ah, Too Beautiful To Lie is another fun movie. Who could have thought that a liar can change the whole family? That was also the first time I saw Kang Ha-neul and she can handle comedy well!

  9. One more time about Ha Ji Won. Angelina Jolie became famous because of Lara Croft. I never bothered about watching Lara Croft-movies, because my interests were elsewhere, and the reviews were very hard. ( Reviews I try to ignore when I am interested, but it can save precious time )
    Lara Croft is just a man in disguise.

    Reminds me of a famous comic from the ’60’s: Miranda Blaise.
    An early Lara Croft type of fighting woman. As a comic they were pretty good.
    Twice they tried to make that into a movie, but it were disasters.

    So, while Angelina Jolie is Ha Ji Won’s idol, Ha Ji Won could do the trick herself if the Hollywood-writers understand her talents.
    I have my doubts, but we will see.
    I hope πŸ™‚

      1. Oh, we are from the same country. No wonder I could relate soooo much to this post.
        I remembered watching Mainland China dramas and HK dramas when I was really young. I used to do some desperate acts just to watch those dramas.
        Then Taiwanese dramas and Japanese Dramas made waves and I was instantly hooked… again. Much to my embarrassment, I spent nearly all my pocket money buying J-Dorama VCDs at that time.
        Later, Korean dramas entered our broadcast networks, I was totally a goner….
        This post just made me realise that I am a drama addict since I was young. If only there is a cure to such disease….

        Will definitely follow your blog!

        1. high five Yeay another fellow Malaysian!
          Hehehe I also did the desperate acts too, like feigning sickness to skip school, especially when it’s the final episode day!
          Thanks for following πŸ˜‰ Hope to see you around!

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