Most watchers of Korean dramas are adults, but some of us watch with our families. I usually do that in the evenings with my husband, and sometimes with a granddaughter who visits. I have seen comments from other people looking for dramas to watch with children, so I thought I would share my experiences. Part of this includes how the granddaughter reacted to the dramas, which will involve some spoilers. I’ll give warning, although these are mostly older dramas since I only show her things I have already seen.
We are not talking very young children here, because they have to be good enough readers to keep up with the subtitles. But preteens are still young enough that you need to screen what you show them. Besides deciding if shows are too violent or racy, I pick those that are light and upbeat. You also need something visually interesting, to grab their interest right away. We introduced dramas to our granddaughter with a fantasy when she was nine.
Dramas I’ve Watched with My Granddaughter
My Girlfriend is a Gumiho
Most drama watchers know this one. It starts with a girl in white chasing (and threatening to eat) a young man. We see him in quick succession doing martial arts on high wires, chasing around on a motorcycle, sitting with a towel on his head in a salon, and running from his grandfather. Lots going on. Then we see a shrine on a quiet mountain lake and are introduced to the mythology: the nine-tailed fox (gumiho) who can become a beautiful woman but is trapped in a painting.
The young man is trying to become an action movie star but is very irresponsible at first. The gumiho is trying to find a husband so she can become human. She is in general as cute as a toddler with kittens. Along the way we get a mysterious goblin hunter trying to return the gumiho to her painting. The whole thing is mostly very charming and the granddaughter enjoyed it a lot.
The next year when she visited we watched a Japanese drama about a teenage girl who becomes small like Thumbelina. This one also went over well.
Minami-kun No Koibito (My Little Lover)
In the beginning we see a Grandma telling two children the legend of the One-Inch Princess. They watch a shoe floating down the stream and suddenly a tiny girl in a kimono peeks out of the shoe. Then the story skips up to when the children are teenagers and the girl is angry that the boy, Minami-kun, has grown distant. She makes a wish that she could be small again and the next morning is reduced to six inches tall.
She doesn’t want her family to see her, so the fun comes in as she tap dances on the keys of his phone and he tries to get doll clothes for her to wear. Mostly it is a cute game of a few people finding- or nearly finding out the secret.
Last year we watched You’re Beautiful, which a lot of people love and show to kids.
It is about a young candidate nun whose twin brother is the new member of a k-pop band but needs to fix a botched plastic surgery. On her way into town on a motor scooter, his manager meets her and gets her to impersonate him until he gets back. She is clumsy and gets into lots of mishaps and slapsticky troubles.
[SPOILER] This time we got mixed results. The lead band member is mean at first and then mellows, and the second lead is the sweet supportive type. The granddaughter fell prey to Second Lead Syndrome and refused to watch the end because she did not like the male lead. Even when I told her that he becomes nice. Even after all the slapstick and silliness at the start. So we dropped this and tried Imaginary Cat. We can’t miss with animals, can we? [END SPOILER]
Who can resist a man and his cat? The man is plenty cute and the cat is friendly and squishy. The man is a manga artist trying to get published. He meets a girl who likes his cat and brings presents and treats. The cat is the main draw here. It converses in a light, cooing mental voice and climbs on the drawing table and walks on the artist’s work.
[SPOILER] Then it starts getting sick and unable to climb. “This is a hint,” I told my granddaughter. “Is the cat getting sick? Is it going to die?”she asked. “Do you want me to tell you?” I replied. No answer; but she was pretty unhappy when sad things happened, even though the last episode was cheerful again. [END SPOILER]
Dramas I’ll Watch with My Granddaughter This Year
When she comes this year we have some candidates to try. From what I have learned about her, I think she’ll like these.
One Percent of Something (2016)
A school teacher finds an elderly man who has fallen down a steep hillside and takes him to the ER. The scene shifts to a young CEO who is impatient and crabby, throws phones and furniture, and has his staff on edge. He nevertheless is polite to customers. The old man turns out to be the super-wealthy grandfather of the irritable CEO. He coerces his grandson to date the teacher, hoping some of her kindness will rub off.
This is an upbeat story without much baggage. There is a cheerful lead girl and a cranky rich lead guy. There are a second-lead female who tries to come between them, and a second-lead male who is a rival to take over the company. But things turn unexpected corners and don’t go as you would think. This is a remake, so be sure you watch the one from 2016; I like it much more.
Splash Splash Love
This is a short drama about a high school senior who panics and skips out on her college entrance exams. Wandering around in the rain wishing to disappear, she hears drumming coming from a puddle and looks in. She sees a view of a medieval palace, steps into the puddle, and lands in a large stone water pot being used in a rain ceremony. Having seen historical dramas, she is able to fit in. She meets the king and teaches him modern science and math, surprised that she remembers so much. It is very fun and she learns a lot about herself and becomes more confident.
To appreciate this story you have to know that this is a real king, Sejong the Great, and that he is famous for supporting science (including the development of a water clock and other things seen here) and for inventing the Korean alphabet.
Protect the Boss
We start with a scene from high school days: our heroine and her bestie rescue a friend by beating up some thugs from another school. Then we get to know her through her trials to straighten up her life and get a good job. She is eventually hired as secretary to the heir of a big company, who messes up and skips out all the time. He and his dad are both crazy, fighting in the elevator while the secretaries cover up the security camera hahaha! But she figures out he has anxiety disorder, and they are pretty cute working out ways to overcome it.
There are so many endearing characters. The dad who is bluff and loud on the outside but would do anything for the grandma. The secretaries who tiptoe around their unpredictable bosses, doing their best to hold things together. And the cousin who may take over the company, and is without a doubt the prettiest one of all.
[SPOILER] My favorite part is our two besties from high school who are still besties and live together and take the annoying ex-girlfriend under their wing. [END SPOILER]
Very much like Legally Blonde. It’s about a newbie prosecutor who seems to only care about high fashion but soon shows her smarts and competence. And a mysterious lawyer who orchestrates meeting her and helps her out from time to time. Memorable characters are her best pal mom and a lead prosecutor with a great karate kick and cute little daughter.
Other dramas that are fun and would be good candidates for kids to watch are:
1) Bride of the Century: A family is cursed by a ghost who takes the first bride of every first-born son. The fiancee of the current heir discovers this and finds a double to replace her. The ghost is the best part.
2) Baby-Faced Beauty: A woman substitutes for her sister as a temp one day at a fashion company and gets hired under the sister’s ID. In Korea people treat you differently according to how old you are, and if you are older than they are. The situation becomes awkward when a younger man begins to like her
3) Couple or Trouble: A spoiled heiress is rude to a handyman and then falls off her yacht and gets amnesia. He comes across her in the hospital and takes her home to care for his young nephews. Loosely based on the American film Overboard.
4) Go Ho’s Starry Night: Five men at an advertising company fall for the same young woman. Short and sweet.
5) Heartstrings: A young woman who is a music major playing traditional native instruments meets and clashes with a young man who is majoring in rock music. (Can you even do that?)
6) I Am Sam: The unmanageable daughter of a gangster falls for a high school teacher and tells her father that she will behave if she has that teacher as a tutor. Several teen actors in this become famous later.
7) Let’s Fight Ghost: A young man pays his way through college by being a ghostbuster. He comes across a teenage ghost who has lost her memory and starts following him around and helping him. His two scaredy-cat pals are the comedy in this show.
8) Miss Korea: Needing money, the head of a small cosmetics firm sponsors the prettiest girl he knows to enter the Miss Korea contest. Favorite characters: the dad in an apron and the awesome head of a competing beauty school.
9) My Princess: A wealthy businessman decides to restart the Korean monarchy. He finds the person who would be the heir to the throne, installs her in a palace, and trains her to be a princess.
You need know your kids and what they like, as well as their tolerance for stress or suspense in a story. Let them watch one and see how it goes. That will influence where you go from there.
[SPOILER] Although most shows have a part near the end where the characters have trouble, I have learned that my granddaughter can’t take much of that. I already know I won’t suggest The Greatest Love because of Second Lead Syndrome. Or King of High School because of some sad episodes. Or Rooftop Prince, because she wouldn’t like the ending. But there are plenty she would like. All of those on the list have happy endings. [END SPOILER]
Enjoy watching with your family. We should spread the love around! No matter who you are introducing to Korean dramas, consider what they would like and not like, and try to match it. Happy viewing!