Why So Many People Are Obsessed with K-Dramas Right Now

Why So Many People Are Obsessed with K-Dramas Right Now

With touching storylines and moving performances, Korean dramas couldn’t have met us at a better time.

Against the backdrop of a pandemic, Korean dramas have never been more comforting or worthy of wider appreciation. Self-isolating at home has opened the floodgates for these diverse television programs, whose uplifting and heartwarming narratives offer a certain kind of solace for life under lockdown.

As more people continue to watch K-dramas to help them get through this crisis, we take a look at the qualities that make these series so critically successful, as well as beloved throughout the world. 

They know how to tell a good romance story

From slow-burn pining to meet-cutes over the DMZ, Korean dramas tick all the boxes for binge-able romance while providing wonderful quirks of their own. Here are the sweeping gestures that make us fall head over heels, the playful banter, the dramatic backstories, and the electrifying “will-they-or-won’t-they” chemistry between the lead actors. As sparks fly — at times, literally, in the form of bubbly hearts around the screen — so do our emotions run wild with every episode. 

Even when a series deals with romance at the forefront, you never quite know what you’re going to get. What I thought would be a straightforward office romance took a darker turn midway; and the story that I thought would focus on revenge made way for heartwarming moments of lightness and tenderness among the supporting cast. 

Many K-dramas have a soft spot for certain tropes, like entwined fates or missed connections. But the writers also know when to have fun with them, and how to spin them around to catch audiences by surprise. 

With the right balance of tight plotting, crafty direction, and the undeniable charisma of their actors, K-dramas have landed the winning recipe for what makes us want to watch attractive people fall in love. Over and over again. 

They showcase the language and culture of South Korea

Anyone who loves to watch K-dramas will tell you that one of the many perks is getting to discover more about South Korea. And when you’re barred from travelling to the Land of the Morning Calm, what better way to learn about this marvellous country than through its pop culture? 

Bridging a gap between worldwide audiences, Korean dramas shed light on pressing issues: class divides, the power dynamics between men and women, attitudes toward work and success, frustrations about love, workplace politics, and other complexities of social life in South Korea. In return, viewers gain a broader understanding of the culture and its people.  

Even the language barrier presents an opportunity to pick up handy phrases and expressions in Korean. More importantly, the official soundtracks can introduce you to fantastic musicians you might not know about. Of course, you can always brush up on your Korean through foreign language apps. But where’s the fun in that? 

Also read: 15 Easy Korean Words & Phrases Every K-Drama Fan Should Know!

They inspire you to travel

From the hanging bridges of South Korea to the lakeside village of Iseltwald, your journey with Korean dramas will take you all over the world. With many scenes filmed in drop-dead gorgeous locales, these series inspire their viewers to relive the magic beyond the screen. 

Travelling to these filming locations takes on a deeper meaning through the eyes of the characters. Didn’t we all mentally file trips to Switzerland after following Yoon Se-ri (Son Ye-jin) and Captain Ri Jeong-hyeok (Hyun Bin) in Crash Landing on You? What would it feel like to experience Nami Island in the snow, as Yoo-jin (Choi Ji-woo) and Joon-sang (Bae Yong-joon) did in Winter Sonata

At a time when travelling via plane is stalled until further notice, K-dramas offer a vicarious escape into landscapes that make anyone catch their breath. You can steal away into these worlds any time you want. They’re no less beautiful from a safe and sheltered distance.

Also read: Korean Drama Bucket List: 17 K-Dramas That Will Take You Around the World

They package life lessons in entertaining ways

Image credit: Itaewon Class on IMDb 

I can’t count the number of times I’ve paused a K-drama just to rewind to a crucial moment and watch it blow my mind again. As easily as these series convince you to root for the characters, they also deliver memorable life lessons and insights with lines that pack a punch. 

Whether it’s dealing with life’s hardships or taking a second chance at life, many series touch on the value of believing in yourself and standing up for what’s right. Critically acclaimed dramas like Itaewon Class, for instance, remind you not to give up on your dreams or think less of your ambitions, no matter what your detractors might say. 

They help you forget the outside world for a while

I’ll just watch one episode,” said no one ever. If anything, the more accurate response might be: “Wait, it’s 2am already?” 

Time certainly flies when you dive into the world of K-dramas. For those who know too well the emotional stages of K-drama addiction, the early days are hilarious because it’s mostly you deceiving yourself as you watch your fifth episode in a row. Fast forward to several weeks later: You’re walking around in a daze, refreshing fan pages to see if the actors have become a couple yet. 

For every night of watching Crash Landing on You, I remember going to bed with a goofy smile on my face. Initially, I was only looking for a distraction to take my mind off the lockdown in my country. But like emptying ice cream into my mouth or settling into a warm hug, this tale of impossible love between a South Korean heiress and a North Korean soldier — somehow always finding their way back to each other — chases away the fatigue of the day. 

More than a soothing retreat from the news, I found a dose of comfort I didn’t know I was looking for. It wasn’t as if all my worries floated away instantly. Not exactly. But if someone were to offer you a momentary respite from the madness, a chance to feel better about the world again, wouldn’t you take it?  

They’re engaging works of television

Against the criticism that Korean dramas are formulaic and have nothing to offer beyond light-hearted escapism, I wonder sometimes if those who are hostile to the genre have truly given it a chance. Even if you were to pick among the most mainstream choices of the pile, you would still find a rich and varied genre. 

I’ve seen episodes tackle social injustice, poverty, corruption, wartime conflicts, psychological trauma, the difficulty of moving away from childhood, and possibly my favourite theme in K-dramas, what it means to choose your own freedom and happiness in a collectivistic society. As someone who still has a lot of ground to cover, I can only imagine what other underrated gems are out there.

Not in the mood for love? Many Korean television series don’t put romance at the centre of their narratives. They cover a wide range of genres as well, from crime-busting thrillers (Signal) to historical dramas (Kingdom) to realistic portrayals of contemporary life in South Korea (Misaeng, Reply 1988). Suffice to say, there’s a little something for everyone. 

That’s not to say that K-dramas aren’t flawed or that they don’t resort to clichés of their own. It’s okay to dwell on the fact that they embrace romantic tropes and conventions, like the happily ever after. That doesn’t make them fake or contrived. 

Instead of singling them out for their unique aesthetic, we should also pay attention to the way K-dramas refresh old stories, defy our expectations, and experiment within their own form. 

For any lover of romance or television in general, making the jump to K-dramas isn’t such a huge leap. Even if it were, it’s as good a place to crash-land as any! 

About Author

Tiffany Conde
Tiffany Conde

Tiffany is a writer based in Manila. When she was younger, she knew she wanted to write stories or go on adventures—now, she's learning to do both. She enjoys being swept up in books that spark her curiosity for new places, both real and imaginary.

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