[KS] Korean Serial Dramas

Charles Mark Mueller bul2mun at yahoo.com
Sat Nov 5 02:12:00 EST 2005

Steven D. Capener wrote:

... What I mean by this is the mesaage that under a certain set of
circumstances, we will usually see similar reactions or situations
vis-a-vis characters in the drama. For example, the ad naseum tropes of
jilted or disgruntled men drinking themselves into oblivion in a 'soju
tent' . . .

There are certainly recuring themes (after the success of Gyeoul
yeon'ga, for example, there was a whole spate of films that virtually
replicated the plot). And there are some similar components that are
odd. A handful of films now have used a key character who is a
"patishie" (a French-trained baker). (I still have a hard time
believing there's an "art" to making frosted cakes.) And yes, the
amount of drinking that goes on in films is staggering and a bit
disconcerting. The entire genre could be seen as an ad for liquor

Even so, I applaud the genre for its achievements. Unlike American TV
fare, the shows frequently show characters that are in moral shades of
gray. Those with character flaws are often shown in a sympathetic
light. (One of my favorites in this respect was the first Yongseo
series.) The serials also blend comedy and seriousness, which is rarely
done well in the U.S. (Hwaryeohan Shijeol, a personal favorite, did a
great job of this). 

As Korea becomes more prosperous, much of the economic and class
tensions that previously drove serial dramas (and in my opinion, made
them interesting) seems to be giving way to plot lines involving
wealthy kids with rather trivial problems. This probably reflects the
current zeitgeist, as Korea shifts from an extremely serious to a more
relaxed and affluent society. 

In a previous post, the widespread use of Western music was also
mentioned. One interesting aspect of its use is the painstaking work
done to make the lyrics correspond to what's happening in a particular
scene. Some of the serials do this for pretty much every song. 

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