Attitude! It’s all about attitude! Last week Dramas with a Side of Kimchi spotlighted hooking your man on Korean dramas. How happy do you think we were when Jennneeefeeerr wrote in the comments section that her husband watched Man to Man and Bad Guys with her? And then diannegoh commented that her husband enjoyed Healer and Neighborhood Lawyer Jo Deul Ho. Yes! Proof it can be done! Read on to see more ways you can hook your man on Korean television!
In introducing someone new to Korean dramas, unfamiliar phrases like “Korean soap opera” can create a barrier. Ivy wrote in the comments with the advice that it is better to drop the “drama” part altogether and just say “tv show.” I can agree with that. Using the term “miniseries” also explains the idea of a multi-episode story.
Another piece of advice I have if you want to watch with your husband, is to WATCH WITH HIM. Don’t sneak in an episode without him when you have extra time and expect him to pick it up again after having missed some of it. NO MATTER HOW GOOD IT IS! If you are watching Healer together and you REALLY want to keep going –sorry– you will lose him if you do. Choose something else like Queen Inhyun’s Man to enjoy by yourself.
Watching Kdramas With a Man Part 1 (click here if you haven’t read it yet) was about Humorous and Action Dramas. This time we are discussing Plot and Character Dramas. Sometimes the plot is so intricate and twisty that you can hardly wait to see what happens next, and sometimes the characters are so funny or charismatic that you are totally involved just in watching them. Sometimes you are lucky and you get both.
Nine: Nine Time Travels
Perhaps the best time travel show out there that is about the time travel stuff, is Nine Time Travels. A man finds some incense sticks that take him back in time exactly twenty years (to the minute) and return him in half an hour. Each time he goes back something unexpected results, and since he goes back exactly twenty years, he can never go back to the same moment again. You get parallel stories going, for the present and for twenty years ago; and both are changing. The story was fascinating and stuck to well-thought-out rules of time travel. I made charts of the different timelines and it all worked out. The ending got more people talking and more blog posts written than perhaps any other.
We picked up Ghost (aka Phantom) because it is about computers. (My husband is a software engineer.) The story involves two friends from the police academy; one becomes a detective in the cyber crimes unit, chasing down the other who is a notorious hacker. They are both after the same group of criminals when they are caught in a fire. One dies and the other has terrible burns and comes out of plastic surgery with his friend’s identity. My husband had a running commentary on the computer tricks that would actually work and those that wouldn’t. It held its own pretty well. The plot is quite involved, with events that mesh together very carefully.
I first became interested in Misaeng because of action scenes in the first and last episodes that were filmed in Jordan. They do fit into the story, but it mostly follows four young interns in a large trading company in Seoul. One of them, who has no college degree, solves complex problems using skills he developed when training to be a professional baduk player. (A game compared to chess.) People loved this show because it portrayed the difficulties they faced at work, from tyrannical bosses to prejudice to child care. And I do mean difficulties. The first couple of episodes were depressing, but then the characters start to succeed and you watch see how they are going to manage, and to cheer them on.
An alien appears in Circle and divulges advanced technology that allows an unscrupulous group to take over South Korea. Two very different environments result: a luxurious island which is peaceful and crime-free, and the rest of the country which is downtrodden and crime-ridden. Each episode has a prologue that takes place in 2007, showing young twin boys who witness the alien’s arrival. Then the first half of the episode takes place in 2017 when the boys are coping with their lives being turned upside down. And the last half is in 2027 when one of the twins is missing and the other has lost his memory — and we don’t know which is which. They keep you guessing to the very end.
Kill Me Heal Me
Perhaps the ultimate character drama is Kill Me Heal Me, about a man with a split personality – seven of them! Ji Sung wowed everyone as he went flawlessly from one to another; you could see him change and knew instantly which personality he was. The normal self is lackluster, and the first time you see our motorcycle rebel Shin SeGi is a little bit of a shock. It would be a spoiler to tell you who they all are, but we tuned in each week to see what Ji Sung would do next. Our heroine, the psychiatrist, slowly uncovers the reasons for each personality and approaches treating him in an interesting way. It was a great ride and a perfect ending.
There is a whole genre of dramas with a mythology of (grim) reapers and demi-gods. Goblin (aka Guardian: The Lonely and Great God) has a reaper and a demi-god – called a dokkaebi in Korean – translated as goblin in English. He was a general from medieval days who was killed and then brought back as a powerful goblin who intervenes in people’s lives to help them in unobtrusive ways. He is a little thoughtless and arrogant. He meets a reaper who (as is common) has no memory of his past life, has assignments and paperwork, and is the senior of a group of reapers working together. There is a plot involving their past lives and the women they come to love, but half the charm of this show is the two of them and their petty squabbles and occasional joint awesomeness. The other half is the atmosphere created by the moody background music.
Romantic Doctor Teacher Kim
The drama is called Romantic Doctor Teacher Kim in the sense of romantic vs. classical: intuition vs. logic. Teacher Kim is an amazingly skilled doctor who for some mysterious reason is working in a small town hospital near the freeway that gets overrun by traffic accidents on weekends. Three young doctors who fall afoul of the politics of a big city hospital also end up there. The woman has PTSD; one of the men has fallen for her, and the other is the son of the Evil Head Doctor (EHD) of the big hospital. Both of the guys have been sucked into EHD’s ways of placating the rich to get ahead, but begin to admire Teacher Kim’s skills and determination to do what’s right for the patient no matter what. When the chairman of the big city hospital comes to Teacher Kim for a complicated surgery, EHD shows up loaded for bear. Even though the chairman is such a crotchety old guy, you really get a soft spot for him by the end. And watch for the head nurse who is resourceful and loyal, and the male nurse who always backs her up! If you want a resolved ending, you have to watch the bonus episode, sometimes called episode 21. (Hint: don’t try eating when they are doing a surgery.)
Father Is Strange
This is a very recent show; Dramas With a Side of Kimchi has a midway review in Drama Banchan. It’s a family drama about a couple and their four grown children. Father is Strange because he doesn’t drive, have a business license, or travel; his wife does everything. They all seem to love and support each other a lot and yet they all keep secrets from each other. Big secrets. We become fonder and fonder of this family as they start to crash into the consequences of their secrets and hope they make it through. At 52 episodes it’s none too many; you wish there were more so you could stay with them longer. Characters change. There are those you love right away who start to annoy you. There are those you do not like at first who mature and become your favorites. And it’s all done in a believable way and rewatchable.
Ok people: here are eight more Korean miniseries that appeal to men, along with hints on how to talk about them. My husband and I do a lot of things together, including yard work, running errands, and going for walks while listening to language lessons on our earphones. (I told you he was a language geek.) One of those things is watching television together. We hardly ever watch American tv anymore but we really have enjoyed watching Asian shows, mostly Korean, because there are a lot of good ones and they are easy to access. Have fun with them!
Dramas With a Side of Kimchi