Not always a soap opera

Lee Seung Gi in You're All Surrounded

Lee Seung Gi as hot-headed rookie cop Eun Dae Gu in You’re All Surrounded

I regret that when I first started watching Korean dramas to explain it I described them as soap operas. Now people around me say, “Ah, she’s watching Asian soap operas.” And that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Not that there’s anything wrong with soap operas. It just that the comparison does the majority of these shows a disservice. The first shows I watched were typically melodramas and had many similarities to soap operas, particularly the makjang ones that crammed in the poor striver falling for wealthy asshole, birth secret plots, people returning from the dead, over-the-top CEOs, unknown twins, Rich families trying to keep a couple apart, etc. Also, many of the same actors and actresses are “recycled” from show to show, which reminded me of American soap operas back in the day.

The more I watched the more my view of this changed. The currently airing shows I watch are nothing like soap operas. They are sometimes action/adventure, romantic comedies, straight comedies, mysteries and any other genre of TV show that we have here. One genre that you see more over there is historical shows. We rarely have anything like that on TV nowadays. The close equivalent would be when we used to have mini-series like The Thorn Birds or Roots. I guess our past history is too problematic for today’s audience. And just like with American TV shows, I tend to stay away from medical dramas and cop shows. I don’t like them much in either language.

In our need to boil things down to a single category or genre, we use the term K-drama to encompass any show that is Korean whether it’s a drama or not. We do the same with K-pop which certainly isn’t just pop music; It’s rap, hip-hop, R&B, and probably a whole lot more.

So mea culpa fans of K-drama. I’m still learning.

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