The Fangirl’s Kdrama Roundtable: What Makes a Good Romantic Drama?

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It is that time of year again where everything becomes hearts, chocolates, and greeting cards.  Or for your typical Kaddict, it is that time of year when a rewatch of your favorite romantic kdrama becomes a must. So join us as we debate what makes a good romantic drama and which are our favorites. 

What makes a memorable romantic drama?

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KMUSE: For me, it is a mix of OTP (one true pairing) chemistry and good writing.  I might have become slightly jaded in my drama watching and I can’t really declare a show a good romantic drama unless it has both aspects.

CLKYTTA: I need a good storyline and strong chemistry between the leads.  I’m not loyal to an actor if there is bad writing.  I have no shame and will drop a drama like a hot potato even if my bias is the lead.

CLSunbae: For me, it’s all about the romantic/sexual tension. If I get tingles watching the leads interact; if my heart aches or pounds, by turns; if I’m thinking about them even when I’m not watching. I’ll put up with subpar writing if the OTP feels believable but even the best writing can’t make me get invested in a couple that is ho hum.

Jennie: What everyone else said. Chemistry, and a great plot.

Drama Geek: For me, it doesn’t always have to be amazing sexual tension, but they do have to have phenomenal chemistry. And they should make me believe they really are in love. I want to watch their interactions and not see the director’s hand involved. Couple that with a great story and you have for a winning OTP.

Haidi: What’s this blog rated? I’ll keep it clean, just in case. If I find myself rooting for the romantic couple, crying, laughing, and binge watching it through the night when I know I have to get up before the crack of dawn- it’s going to be a memorable drama. Note: kisses can ruin the whole thing. (I’m looking at you, Lee Min Ho…)

What characteristics do you love in your romantic leading men?

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KMUSE: I love jerky leading men who fall in love and are smacked by cupid’s arrow.  I also love the romantic Beta Hero… but the Arrogant Alpha beats them out by just a small margin.

CLKYTTA: I like a hero that’s what I call an arrogant marshmallow, you know the one, he’s all tough and kind of scary, but then you see him bending over backwards in secret to make life easier for our leading lady.

CLSunbae: I mean.. if we’ve already established that he’s GORGEOUS, I like a guy that has depth. Whether he’s a jerk with a heart of gold or a sweet guy who’s misunderstood, as long as he feels genuine, I like him. And he’s got to have the steamy stare locked down. I live for the moments where the hero is staring longingly at his heroine.

Jennie: I love a man who can’t resist the girl no matter how hard he tries. I also like it when they’re tsundere and get a slice of humble pie. Mostly, I like it when you can tell he loves the girl, but he’s subtle about it.

Drama Geek: I’m a sucker for a man who loves his woman so much he’d do anything for her. Whether it’s act like a complete fool or travel through time and space just to get one moment with her. Or love her even if she’s an alien. 😉

Haidi: I’m all about the heart. If he’s got a good heart but seems jaded, that works for me. If he wears his heart on his sleeve, also works for me. If he’s a big jerk-wad in the beginning and his heart grows 3 sizes by the end of the drama, that’ll do it, too.

What makes a bad romantic drama?

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KMUSE: I hate when a writer starts with a concept or single trope and doesn’t bother to put any effort beyond that point.  When a drama peters out after episode 6 it is a long, boring, descent into unromantic drama hell.

CLKYTTA: Every romance needs a little angst, but I can’t stand the breakup/makeup/breakup/makeup dramas.  I’m ok with one breakup, but when it’s a roller coaster makeups and breakups then I’m out.  I’m also not a fan of extended breakups or time jumps where we go multiple episodes with our OTP apart and then in the last five minutes of the drama they are all roses and chocolate.

CLSunbae: KMUSE and CLKYTTA nailed it for me. There are some dramas I would’ve loved if the writers hadn’t depended so much on keeping some stupid “secret” for ten episodes. And I also can’t stand break-ups that don’t make sense and angst for angst’s sake. That’s what drove me away from American TV.

Drama Geek: When the leads never feel like they trust each other. This is where the noble idiot syndrome can drive me insane. Another one that kills it fast for me (and usually happens more in historical dramas) is when one of the characters has no purpose other than the be the love interest. I want the story to be about both characters and their lives. Not one character and then shoe horn in the other just so there’s romance.

Haidi: Length, poor writting, bad chemistry, inconstant hearts, …BAD KISSING (again looking at you LMH)!

What do you need in a romantic heroine?

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KMUSE: Please just give her a point.  There is nothing worse than a girl who is nothing more than a pretty face to stare and glance adoringly at a man for no good reason**cough cough…Hwarang*

CLKYTTA: I like a heroine who is able to stand on her own two feet and doesn’t need to be saved every two minutes.  It’s ok if she’s crazy for the hero and things are always happening to her, but don’t make her a simpering, sad, incomplete person.

CLSunbae: I’m cool with all sorts of heroines — the weak and submissive; the strong and sassy; the tortured soul — as long as her being *her* makes sense. I hate when writers give me a strong female and then make her weak and submissive once she’s in love. I hate a sweet girl who turns into a limp fish because writers don’t know how to write sweet and strong. I hate the tortured girl who can’t solve her own problems so she becomes a parody of herself.

Jennie: I like a girl who knows what she wants and isn’t afraid to be herself.

Drama Geek: I have to agree with everyone here. It’s a problem in a lot of kdrama’s and western shows too. I want a fully formed woman who has a purpose (outside of loving her man) and is all things that women can be.

Haidi: She can’t be superficial and needs to be true to herself no matter what.

CLKYTTA:

Master’s Sun

I was hooked from the first episode of this drama. One of my biggest weaknesses is a “you complete me” drama; one where there is something about the OTP that connects on a supernatural level and they are fated to be together.  This is one of those dramas.  It doesn’t hurt that So Ji Sub and Gong Hyo Jin have tons of chemistry, or that it also has one of our fangirl favorites, Seo In Guk as our second lead.  With several stories within the story, this drama kept my interest all the way through and it’s one that I typically binge watch at least one weekend a year.

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Ho Goo’s Love

If you don’t fall for Ho Goo then you have a heart of stone. This was one that I picked up after hearing my fellow fangirls rave about it.  Sometimes our heros aren’t chaebols or doctors, sometimes, it’s the guy you almost overlooked, the boy next door with the heart of gold who believes in you when no one else does.  When I’m having a tough time I rewatch this one from start to finish.  It’s also one of those elusive dramas that wraps up nicely and stays true to the story. Plus, I’m a part of a set of boy/girl twins and Ho Goo and Ho Kyung’s characters were very relatable for me.

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Haidi

It’s Okay, That’s Love

I love this one for so many reasons. Romantically speaking, this is a couple who fights against the everything to be together once they’ve established their relationship. It deals with real life problems but especially mental illness. It’s not sugary sweet and they don’t candy coat anything. In fact, I don’t think I’ve cried as much during any other drama. Laughing tears, sad tears, happy tears…

It’s beautiful.

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My Love From Another Star.

Oh. My. Gosh. This drama…

My Love From Another Star is the pepper to It’s Okay, That’s Love‘s salt. Supernatural, historical, fun, and good heavens, the kisses in this drama are glorious.

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JENNIE:

King of High School Savvy

I think the picture below pretty much says it all. These two had a quirky, unique, relationship with loads of chemistry. Seo In Guk is hilarious and charming, and he’s not afraid of what other people think. There was depth to the side characters (still crying about grandpa) and the focus on the relationship had just the right balance with the rest of the plot. Whenever I think of my favorite romantic comedy, this is the first one to pop into my head.

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Healer

Some might argue that this is more action than romance, but I disagree. This has become my favorite drama ever because of the balance between hard hitting plot, the delicate interweaving of all the characters, and the loads and loads of romantic moments. From episode two on, I’m crazy about this couple. Every episode there was at least one major swoon-worthy scene, and I don’t think I’ve ever been so excited about hand holding. Gah! Now I want to watch it for the tenth time.

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CL Sunbae:

I Need Romance 3

Okay, there are many, many Korean dramas that I love. But when you’re looking for ROMANCE as your number one criteria, this is the drama to turn on. I mean… the OTP has chemistry for days. It’s, hands down, one of the sexiest Korean dramas out there. But it’s also sweet; the conflict feels real and believable and the conclusion left me satisfied. The premise is that a man who fell in love with the woman who used to babysit him returns to claim her as his love. But I love the twist of how they showed that all his rosy-colored childhood memories were actually painful scars for her. He had to grow up, let go of his ideas of who she was, and get to know the real her. She had to let go of her own biases to see the real him. And as all this is happening, sparks, ya’ll. Sparks is flying.

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Go Ho’s Starry Night

I chose this drama for two reasons: 1. a lot of other great dramas had already been claimed and 2. it’s perfection for a quick, romantic bingewatch. It’s 20 episodes, but they’re all about 15 minutes each. The story follows Go Ho, a woman approaching 30 who is struggling in both her career and love. She’s got an easily-irritated boss who’s always picking on her and an ex-boyfriend who joins her company and tries to pick up where they left off — you know, right before he demolished her heart. It’s not the deepest show you’ve ever watched but it’s sweet, the characters are entertaining and it hits that romance sweet spot in half the time of a regular drama.

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KMUSE:

Moon Embraces the Sun

I am a sucker for an extremely angsty romance, and if it is well written then I say the more complicated the better.  Moon Embraces the Sun is as complicated and angsty as a drama can get. When you have a love that transcends death and crazy politicking royals it is fated to be a must watch romantic drama.

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The Greatest Love

I was tempted to choose a second really angsty drama … I love my makjang.  But I decided to go in a different direction, mostly because I realized that the classic, must watch shows  from when I started being a kaddict are different from the shows that the newbies are watching. Great dramas must be shared regardless of when they aired. Which is why my second choice is The Greatest Love.  Who wouldn’t want to watch a cutie has-been idol being wooed by a top movie star?  Especially since all this is going on while she is filming a dating reality show with a sexy available doctor?  The wonderful chemistry and romantic hijinks make The Greatest Love is a must watch for every drama addict.

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Dramarookie:

King 2 Hearts

Lee Seung Gi plays the biggest jerk ever in this story. Not just misunderstood. Not hiding a heart of gold. He really is an arrogant, selfish, lazy playboy prince. Wait a minute! I’m supposed to be convincing you this drama is awesome. Trust me. It soooooooooo is! Princey starts out awful, but the love of a North Korean woman who can kick his entitled butt all over the place eventually whips him into shape. The first six or seven episodes crack me up, as he pulls all kind of tricks and she somehow outsmarts him over and over. Plus, you get two for the price of one in the side love story between Princey’s sister and the earnest, heart-on-his-uniform-sleeve soldier (played by Jo Jung Suk) who could wring tears out of the stoniest of viewers. But I will give one warning, the villain is all out CRACKERS! He is cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs and you won’t miss too much if you fast forward through some of his wacko scenes.

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My Princess

Both of my drama picks have a royal theme, but it wasn’t on purpose. My Princess holds a special place in my heart because it was my gateway to the addictive world of K-drama. My naive self found such adorable things as adult piggy back rides so different and creative. Hahaha. Little did I know it’s in practically every drama ever written. Before Kim Tae Hee became Mrs. Rain, she starred as the ordinary girl who finds out she’s really South Korea’s long lost princess. The yummy Song Seung Hun is tasked with guiding her through the political land mines, and keeping her from embarrassing herself. The embarrassment part especially is quite a challenge. If you’re looking for a fun watch with a happy ending, give this one a try.

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Drama Geek:

Queen In Hyun’s Man

If you just watch this drama for the kisses you will not be disappointed. But that’s only scratching the surface of what makes this show great. The lead man is extremely intelligent, tender, caring and can be a total goof. He finds a way back to his woman over and over and over again, yet still manages to devise a plan to save the Queen in his time too. The heroine is like a ray of sunshine (yes, it’s Sunny from Goblin). She finds herself entangled with this man from 300 years ago and for the most part she just rolls with it. Her little lies to him about what is normal in her time is hilarious and is one of the reasons we get so many kisses. But I think one of the reasons this drama ended up being a favorite is that you can’t fake the chemistry between these two. They really did date after the drama ended and their appreciation and attraction to one another permeates into every scene.

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Coffee Prince

I think I was really missing Goblin when I picked my two. LOL. I have to admit the first time I watched Coffee Prince I didn’t know the gender bending trope was a huge thing and I didn’t realize how fantastic Yoon Eun Hye’s portrayal of a boy was. I honestly haven’t seen any kdrama girl pull off a boy anywhere close to Eun Chan. But on my second watch I knew, and it made me fall in love with her even more. And with Han Gyul. Because you could submerse yourself in their story and really believe that he thought she was a boy. That he truly fought every feeling he had for her, and didn’t want to and couldn’t admit that he was gay. These two palling around together had such a sweet and fun bromance. But when Han Gyul finally gave in and told Eun Chan that he didn’t care what she was and planted a very hot kiss on her lips, I was totally and completely gone. He loved her no matter what. And part of me wished Eun Chan really had been a boy. But she wasn’t and the angst and then the makeup afterward was extremely rewarding.

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There you have it.. all our top romantic recommendations.  What is your top valentines day watch?  Be sure to let us know in the comments and come back in the future as we discuss more drama related topics.

Til next time,

The Fangirls

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0 thoughts on “The Fangirl’s Kdrama Roundtable: What Makes a Good Romantic Drama?

  1. This weekend will be very busy for me as I go and rewatch all my favorite parts of all of these dramas, because I feel like my fellow fangirls picked every drama in my top 20.

  2. Coffee prince is my perfect romance drama: I loved that Eun Chan had her own agenda until the very end, loved the chemistry, the kissing, the second couple, all of the boys, the comedy, the clothing, the music, even some of the filler episodes. Honestly, there hasn’t been another romantic drama that I would love/ like as much.
    I My second would be Go Ho, because I’m sucker for leads that know the party better then they know themselves. I also liked that once Go Ho realized she liked Grumpy McGrumps there was no hesitation or baking up (or going back to the ex, because of his stupid sob story).

  3. Nodding my head in agreement. Queen In-Hyun’s man and My Love From Another Star are my top romantic picks. Also Secret Garden because Hyun Bin, and jawlines, and arrogance. I am a SUCKER for arrogant jerks turned doting boyfriends. Which is good, because that describes like 95% of Kdramas lol. Great picks, and I just love reading your thoughts, girls!

    And thanks for giving me a romantic drama to binge. I haven’t seen I Need Romance 3 yet!

    Cheers!
    Devon

  4. Oh, Reply 1994 is always at the top of my list. It’s the only drama I own and have downloaded so that I can take it with me when I go to visit my family’s Internet Free Zone.

    A second choice would be My Princess because i love the fact that he’s tutoring her against his will but because she’s the real thing.

    On the flip side – I was really hoping for The Greatest Marriage because I loved the idea of a smart, talented yet lonely woman making a life together with a chaebol who was strong enough to find his own way in life. The “Us against the World” trope! And I like dramas with babies in them!

    But, alas, it was the exact opposite. Park Si-yeon as Cha Gi-young was lovely but No Min-woo as Park Tae-yeon was totally wasted. All the could-be-charming was turned into television doodoo!

  5. I love that Healer and Queen Inhyun’s Man features in your list !!

    In my 5th year of drama watching now, I can’t ignore lack of plot / cookie cutter personalities ..

    Chemistry.. the leads need to have it by the truck loads. But I love how the female / male leads have a life beyond the romance , that makes me vouch for their longevity after the initial years have past

  6. Great list! So many romantic faves including Queen In-Hyun’s Man, My Love From Another Star, Healer!!! I need to check out some of these as well like Go Ho’s Starry Night and King of High School Savvy.

  7. I loved it when my number 1 bias drama was included in the list; High School King of Savvy! Well chemistry is the most important point for me so Reply 1997 and shopping King Louie are on the top of favourite list, and also because Seo Inguk never fail to make me swoons with his kisses, aaaghh.

  8. Jennie!!! You could be the Kdrama soulmate that I’ve been searching for. Everything you said resonated so perfectly with me. Esp about the leading man who can’t resist the girl no matter how hard he tries. That’s my favourite kind too. 🙂

    And King of High School is an absolute favourite too.

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