I was destined to be a Korean drama addict: The signs were all there. As a child, I clapped my chubby hands wildly when Cinderella’s prince placed her foot into the glass slipper, cheered when Wendy was saved by Peter and swooned when Sleeping Beauty was awakened with a kiss. (Yes, little girls swoon; they just don’t know why.) It’s no wonder I reimagined Alice in Through the Looking Glass as Alice Again by replacing the white rabbit with a handsome young man with a tupelo honey complexion.
In college, I soothed my soul with General Hospital. Luke and Laura had a romantic Port Charles wedding, but rather than leave their future to my imagination, they went back to their soap opera struggles and eventually broke-up. Definitely not the stuff my dreams are made of.
Little did I know that half-way around the world, Korean women were soaking up the kind of love I craved (only on small screens). Their dramas have been on TV since 1962 and after the Korean Wave, they’ve been streaming the world; even to my house where I get my fix nightly, in my pajamas and tucked in my side of the bed.
At book talks, my readers are amazed that I watch with or without sub-titles. Hear my confession now: Once I learned kah ji ma (don’t go), guh ji mal hah ji ma (don’t lie), ul ji ma (don’t cry) and sarang heh ( I love you), I could get through the most complicated plots. The father who co-signed a friend’s defaulted loan, the babies who may or may not have been switched at birth, even the ex-girlfriend stalker don’t get in my way. I’m too busy watching my couples. Koreans have embraced the principle that when you’re in love, the rest of the world is irrelevant. True in ancient Joseon. True in London. True in The Bronx and probably in faraway galaxies too.
I’m amped by each new episode one; when the lovers are arguing strangers, or she accidently rips his sleeve as he races for an important interview or he throws out a bowl of slop and ruins her date. I smile as they storm away from one another knowing they’re on a collision course to love. No matter how long it may take (daily dramas run for nearly a year) the couple will be together and I’ll be with them the whole time. For a twist on beginnings, I recommend two faves: Goong, where a commoner somehow marries a modern day prince who loves a ballerina. Stick around for episode 23, longest K-kiss in history; proving princes are really worth the wait. In Coffee Prince, the prince, (really just a rich boy) thinks the take-out delivery girl is a boy. Ride along until he falls for her with the famous line, “I don’t care who you are.” Then stick around for their kiss at his door.
I’ve melted watching Kim Sam Soon get a world class smooch in a men’s room, actor Lee Seo-Jin break furniture to make love in (what else) The Lovers and Lee Min-Ho’s immortal “Game Over” as he pulls in Son Ye Jin for a dizzying embrace. Most recently, I set my DVR to catch every episode of My Love From Another Star. No woman can resist a hottie-alien who never ages and works on an interplanetary fix to keep her young alongside him.
In K-dramas, men grab their women by their wrists to prevent them leaving (men, don’t try this in America, you’ll get slapped with harassment charges). They save them from charging motorcycles (there’s a speeding motorcycle in every drama –I don’t know why) and get on their knees to beg their fathers to leave their women alone (this last example is from City Hall—highly recommended!)
I’ve cataloged favorite love scenes in my brain, tucked them away in my heart and kept them alive in my books. Perhaps, I’m like the lovers in my dramas, in love with love. I’m unashamed. K-Dramas have helped this insomniac to sleep, cry along to relieve some of my real-life pain and giggle at cross-cultural nonsense when I was down. I have grown to adore and respect a people who soak up tenderness and passion on a daily basis. Maybe that’s a more lasting love story after all.