The coronavirus pandemic may have forced me to stay at home and put a pause on travelling for at least another year, but it failed to stop me from drooling over a hot bowl of ramen and cherry blossom trees.
The Korean wave has taken over the world and I’ve been right with it for the past four years. Be it K-pop, particularly BTS in my case, or the numerous K-dramas, South Korea has made its mark when it comes to the entertainment industry. My laptop screen has been a window these past few months, one that has helped immensely in keeping my sanity intact.
Like most millennials, I grew up watching a number of American and British television series, bingeing on shows from various genres over the years. So, I’m accustomed to Western culture, know some slang, mannerisms and can also observe many similarities in India today. But over the last few years, I have begun to appreciate other cultures, cuisines, languages and fashion – especially South Korean. And unabashedly, I’ve tried getting as many people as I can to tune into K-dramas.
For the last three years, I’ve been falling in love with one protagonist after another. I have some fairly basic knowledge of various customs, ways of speaking, expressions and can even correct some subtitles that have been mistranslated. The fashion trends are different as well – by and large, men have no facial hair, there is an obsession over double eyelids and there is perfect skin galore. From the shows, I’ve gleaned that South Koreans are also incredibly respectful towards their elders and strangers, and bow when greeting and thanking them.
The stark differences from the usual Western shows have been quite refreshing. These dramas are usually 16-20 episodes long of at least an hour each, and usually last only one season.
Since the lockdown began at the end of March, my parents and I have largely spent our time on various devices, either reading, scrolling through social media or writing – they’re both journalists. At the beginning of May, we lost topics to talk about during our evening coffee time and spent it mostly in silence.
I figured that they needed something new and suggested that we watch some K-dramas together. At first, they were quite hesitant, having witnessed how crazy I sound while talking about my new Korean crush of the month with my friend. But they caved in eventually.
It started off with Itaewon Class on Netflix, which is about an ex-convict who opens a pub and battles against his tycoon enemy over the years to become a successful businessman. Two episodes in, my parents were hooked.
Six episodes in and my dad started thinking he could speak Korean and started calling out to me using an intonation similar to the characters in the series. Our conversations during the day started revolving around the drama and I began educating them about the various customs I’d picked up on over the years while ravenously devouring content from South Korea.
We tore apart the plots and the intricate sub-plots, and after it ended, they asked if there was a second season as they weren’t quite ready to bid farewell to the characters yet.
I considered giving them a break from more dramas for some time. But less than a week later, my mom asked if there are other K-dramas they would like. I enthusiastically provided options by spelling out the basic plot. They settled on the recent hit The King: Eternal Monarch, as it has a mix of mystery, thriller, action, drama and romance. Dad got so engrossed in one of the scenes that he missed the table while placing his coffee mug and it crashed on the floor! We have been watching it for just a week and not one day has gone by when they have not asked me about what happens next. I am planning to continue with more dramas like Hospital Playlist, Crash Landing On You and The Reply Series.
With minimal displays of affection or violence, designer clothes and beautiful romantic lines, K-dramas have provided a respite from the real world and sparked enthusiastic conversations at home. My little experiment could not have fared better.
Poorvi Bose is an Electronics engineer and a Post-graduate in Public Policy from National Law School of India University in Bangalore and specialises in technology policy.