Okay, I admit it, I’ve got a problem. I am absolutely addicted to Korean TV. Yes, it is in Korean. No, I don’t speak Korean. Thankfully there are subtitles.
Imagine Disney merged with your steamiest soap opera merged with the history channel. Welcome to Korean TV — or at least what I can access here in the U.S.
The first program I sort of stumbled onto was the Queen and I. Oh how I love this show and hope they eventually make another season. A warrior from the King’s court travels three hundred and twenty years into the future and ends up on the set of a present day historical docudrama, coincidentally set in his own time period. He falls in love with the woman playing the queen. No matter what is thrown at them, they learn to trust and believe in each other against impossible odds.
(This trailer from YouTube is scenes to music. There is no dialogue. If the video doesn’t open up, please update your Adobe.)
Sounds corny? I would have thought so, too, but this series is extremely surprising. As a suspense writer It’s hard to fool me with plot twists — usually I can smell them coming five minutes into the show — yet, this series did it every single episode. I’ve never seen writing of this caliber coupled with such intense romance, without one single nude scene or more than a kiss. The costumes and historical setting are beautiful.
The show is funny, too. He keeps popping in and out of time, and ending up in unusual places — like her shower stall — much like the Time Traveler’s Wife. I loved that movie, but this was much, much better.
The Queen and I (also known as Queen In Hyan’s Man) can be seen for free on viki.com (along with a slew of other Korean TV shows) by clicking HERE.
I learned so much! Did you know the title of Empress is reserved for deceased queens? And that the educated Korean in 1698 wrote and read in Chinese? The scenery in modern day South Korea makes me want to visit that country — something I hadn’t considered before watching.
While Korean shows that are exported are mild enough for a tween to watch (at least the ones I’ve encounterd so far), it doesn’t stop the romance from being steamy. The way the two main characters look at each other could melt my TV set. It seems that South Koreans are very in tune with their feelings — particularly the males. Still propriety is important. Even in scenes set in modern Seoul, characters are careful not to create a scene or kiss in public. The historical sequences are full of heart-pounding action on horses with lots of sword play — well choreographed and breathtaking.
The one thing that takes getting used to is the inclusion of slapstick sidekicks in nearly every show. I like the lighter side balancing the drama, but sometimes the facial grimaces remind me more of cartoons than live action shows.
Perhaps what attracts me most to these shows is the respect for individuals and innocence of the plot lines. Something we have lost in U.S. TV and I really mourn. As a kid there were so many characters to look up to — Marcus Welby, Perry Mason, Andy Taylor, Shirley Partridge to name but a few. The Koreans haven’t lost that. Female roommates might share the same bed and no one raises an eyebrow. They are roommates and nothing more. A bad character might kill someone or sneak a peak at a girl undressing, but he doesn’t touch her.
Korean television is full of cute boy bands (K-POP) who remind me of the backstreet boys in their better days. It’s very much like Disney in that way and all the shows I’ve encountered on MNET (or M-wave) are no racier than PG (I understand this is not always the case elsewhere, though). I’ve especially enjoyed one realty TV show where male band members from a famous group search for true love in a Korean version of the Bachelor. They are asked to pick tokens for the girls and are matched, not by who is sexiest or says the most provocative thing, but by who has similar taste and interests.
In Flower Boy Next Door (the titles of these shows are really strange — there are no flowers and the boys are grown men who work as illustrators) a young woman sees the man of her dreams from her apartment window. Instead of introducing herself, she spends all her time spying on him. The result — a seriously funny series that most teens would love.
Here’s a sample:
You can watch other episodes of Flower Boy Next Door for free HERE.
In another Korean show, a young man encounters an elderly lady alone on a dark country road. He realizes how exhausted she is and carries her on his back all the way to her home. Just imagine doing that in the U.S.! When he asks the woman why her daughter isn’t caring for her, she replies, I have no right, I was a bad mother. I could not provide [college] education for her so she has a bad job and it is my own fault. Therefore she has no duty to me. The young man shakes his head in disbelief that her daughter would be so cruel, but understanding the way Koreans think is fascinating.
I suppose the point of all this is that we now have the means to watch TV from all over the world — to get to travel from our armchairs and understand a bit more about what makes our fellow man tick. Only by understanding each other culturally and emotionally can we hope to really communicate with one another. Besides, it’s a heck of a lot of fun.
For those of us who are writers as well as fans of romance, it’s nice to see the intensity of emotions — male and female — in other parts of the world. To know that love is a universal theme — and to know who our international audience just might be.
So I wonder, is there something you watch and love that is a bit out of the ordinary? Please let me know.
Wishing you great TV viewing and many surprises in life!