Crash Landing on Me: A Surprise Passion for Korean Drama

It is really a style with a narrative emphasis on society’s underdogs and quite a few supporters above 50 are tuning in

Though scrolling by Netflix ideas 1 winter night, I observed an odd title: “Crash Landing on You.” The premise: a South Korean businesswoman, blown by intense winds whilst paragliding, crashes just across the border, the place a North Korean captain decides to enable instead than report her.

Two people sitting by a fire. Next Avenue, Korean Drama
Son Ye Jin and Hyun Bin in ‘Crash Landing On You.’  |  Credit rating: Netflix

A rom-com established in the DMZ? I stumbled onto the exhibit that is, for quite a few, the gateway to Korean drama, or K-drama. I gobbled the 16-episode tale like popcorn, pulled alongside by a thrilling plot with a graceful blend of drama and comedy. One year later, I had 22 K-dramas underneath my belt. A lot of of them, like “Crash Landing,” (or “CLOY,” in the lingo of drama fans), left me emotionally intoxicated.

These had been stories with so much coronary heart and great story arcs, about wisdom and growth, family connections, regard for elders, with negligible sexual intercourse and violence. The people may well facial area discomfort, poverty, estrangement, injustice or a zombie pandemic. There might even be a heartbreaking ending. But in the close, you felt uplifted, wiser, hopeful.

What Will make a K-Drama?

The time period K-drama refers to a Korean tv collection, and they’ve been booming in reputation on Netflix in unique. They normally consist of 16 episodes, each individual lasting about an hour, and only one time. Most supporters value seeing just one overall tale arc in a time, with resolution at the conclude. A K-drama also characteristics original soundtrack tunes (termed OSTs) by best Korean composers and performers.

These had been stories with so considerably heart and wonderful story arcs

The South Korean leisure business, with the aid of authorities expense, has poured sizeable resources into K-pop and K-dramas. The performing and the production values have leapt in modern a long time, with considerate, film-deserving cinematography. “They’ve appear up with a winning formula: the suitable range of hours, lovely OSTs and a really feel-good information,” claims Dafna Zur, associate professor in the Division of East Asian Languages and Cultures and scholar of Korean literature at Stanford University.

Right before “CLOY,” all I would acknowledged of South Korean entertainment was the phrase “K-pop” and the identify of its most influential band, BTS. I would collected it was teenybopper things. The world-wide explosion of Korean pop lifestyle is frequently considered of as a youth phenomenon. But, by inquiring, I discovered that a sizable variety of admirers, like me, are more mature than 50.

As for me, I had grown weary of American Tv set sequence that ended up artistically excellent but left me sensation vacant. Korean dramas ended up a balm for difficult occasions. I found I wasn’t alone.

Headshot of a woman. Next Avenue, Korean Drama
Dr. Dafna Zur  |  Credit score: Do Pham/Stanford University

A good deal of Us “Ahjummas” and “Ahjussis” (Center-aged Gals and Guys

… as effectively as “halmeonis” and “harabeojis” (adult males and women of grandparent age.) I place up a write-up on the large and lively Reddit K-drama team, inquiring for thoughts from lovers who have been around 50. I anticipated a mere handful of responses and was shocked to get around 150 well-thought-out, enthusiastic comments.

Steven Ho, 52, of New York, has been seeing K-dramas as a “chaser” for “heavier, cynical western dramas.” They fill a void remaining by American streaming expert services. Ho also appreciates the “convenience reveals that aren’t way too maudlin.”

One particular young woman claimed that her parents, in their late 70s, have watched K-dramas given that their retirement and evangelized their close friends to check out. It was, she thought, a way to rebel towards the developments of amusement at the time, these as displays — “Breaking Negative,” “Dexter” and “Mad Men” —fronted by anti-heroes, or never ever-ending serialized procedurals.

Inspiring and Common Themes

K-dramas surface in just about every style: romance, comedy, rom-com, thriller, slice of lifestyle, drama, historic, authorized, health care, sci-fi and horror. They are not preachy, but wholesome virtues predominate: the values of sacrifice for others, the healing energy of like, honesty, integrity and group.

“Audiences are delighted to see how underdogs get over problems and appear out as winners at the close.”

“I believe there is a effective nostalgic creativity of innocence in Korean drama,” reported Saena Dozier, Ph.D., Korean Section head specialist at LanguageBird, a language system for secondary students. “Innocence that is much less affiliated with nationhood and nationwide identification but extra affiliated with a universalistic and utopian way of existing inside a collective community.” 

“One more explanation for Korean drama’s world wide acceptance,” Dozier stated, “is its narrative target on society’s underdogs. Audiences are delighted to see how underdogs get over challenges and occur out as winners at the finish.”

Respect for Elders, and a Woman’s Outlook

Korea, like other East Asian nations, is constructed all-around Confucian values, one of all those currently being filial piety. As a western viewer, I was struck by the integrated function of elders in K-dramas and the respect with which they are treated. Grandparent figures are normally the anchors for a troubled most important character or for the local community in typical.

In “Navillera,” a 70-year-previous guy pursues his lifelong desire of accomplishing ballet, and not just as a hobby. He is as really serious as his 24-calendar year-old teacher, who aspires to the globe phase. He gives significantly-necessary ethical help to his troubled teacher, and with each other, they assist satisfy each individual other’s aspiration.

In “Navillera,” a 70-calendar year-aged man pursues his lifelong aspiration of undertaking ballet, and not just as a hobby.

The greater part of K-drama writers are ladies, and this is mirrored in the storytelling and the enhancement of figures. A lot of viewers say they take pleasure in the healthier watch of masculinity depicted in K-dramas. Males demonstrate tenderness and the complete gamut of feelings. And it is really not unusual for the woman direct to be more mature than the male direct.

Romances tend to be really slow burn, where the contact of a hand in episode 12 packs additional voltage than a bed room scene in episode 2 of a western drama. In thrillers, guys and females, equally, generally pretty much consider a bullet for just about every other.

Korea: The Certain to the Universal

Lots of viewers develop a broader desire in Korean language and lifestyle. From time to time fandom is shared concerning generations. Lisa Craig of Mt. Juliet, Tennesee, is a single of two Redditors I spoke with whose fascination in Korea commenced with sharing their daughters’ enthusiasm for super-K-pop band BTS. Craig and her daughter Chelsea are touring jointly this spring to take a look at filming web sites, try to eat Korean foodstuff and take in the historical past and tradition.

So how did a country the measurement of Indiana establish these kinds of an outsize world wide footprint in company, technologies and amusement? Dafna Zur explains that South Korea, like Japan and Israel, is a source-inadequate nation that relies on the ingenuity of its people to be affluent. “They have no normal gas or oil, so the nation counts on people’s creativeness as well as their do the job ethos, on which they pride them selves.”

A collection of various snacks. Next Avenue, Korean Drama
K-drama treats  |  Credit score: Barbara J. Tuttle

Education is really valued. Talking of her college students who are supporters of Korean leisure and tradition, Zur stated, “Our pupils these days know what took me years to figure out: Korea holds the critical to financial, political and cultural puzzles right now.”

It really is Just Very good Stuff

Earlier mentioned all, K-dramas are excellent tales, perfectly informed. Randy Burleigh, of Opelousas, Louisiana, had a extensive checklist of what he enjoys about K-dramas, amongst them: principal figures who strive to do the moral thing, “no swift deal with to day to day complications, you’ll be in for the long haul to get any resolution (and what a payoff it is!), and most importantly, wholly entertaining. I know with no a question that I will be carefully entertained all over the lifestyle of the clearly show: I will be invested in the figures, I will snicker, cry and smile with them, and be cheering by the stop!”

When men and women confront adversity in K-drama stories, the solution generally lies in the healing electrical power of enjoy and neighborhood. That information is a terrific reward from the South Korean leisure industry to a hurting globe.


“Crash Landing on You”
“My Mister”
“Mr. Queen”
“Hometown Cha Cha Cha”
“Expensive My Friends”
“Medical center Playlist”

The Reddit teams r/kdrama and r/kdramarecommends

Contributor Barbara J. Tuttle
Barbara J. Tuttle 

Barbara J. Tuttle is a freelance author in Minneapolis. Her functions have appeared in Star Tribune, Denver Submit, Wildlife Conservation, the Cricket Media publications for youngsters and several other publications.

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