I wasn’t into any Korean dramas before, but when GMA-7 started running QSD, a Korean saeguk drama on the life of the first female ruler in old Korea’s Silla Kingdom, I was hooked. There was so much discussion going on especially in the Internet plus the fact most of my friends and acquaintances had been talking about it. It started my fascination on Korean history, the hallyu wave and upped my itchy feet cravings to go to this state once branded the “Hermit Kingdom.” It got me searching and researching about Korea—what it was before and what it is now. It made me (and my mom) avidly watching KBS and Arirang (two Korean channels that our cable tv allowed), and jumpstart my interest to watch and vote for Korean dramas more than Western chick-flicks.
The reason probably was that more of K-dramas portray the Asian communal camaraderie when it comes to history, culture and the arts. The day I started watching QSD, I thought to myself this is more than just Korean history; it gave insight to the political history and relationship of Korea with its neighboring countries particularly China. I even found it funny (at the same time elated) when in one episode of QSD, I thought the Philippines was mentioned. Since the South Korean wave (stressing the South) started streaming into the Philippines, (if I’m not mistaken early 1999 or 2000) with the first of the Winter Sonata series, Pinoys slowly started having an affinity with K-dramas. At first it was ignored and even thought that it was just a very good deviation from the Mexican telenovelas that initially invaded Filipino TV screens. But slowly and steadily, the Korean entertainment industry, their hallyu actors and actresses and their popular idol pop groups, are now getting more popular and even edging out those in our local showbiz industry.
I came across a paper by Tyas Huybrechts,[http://www.tyas.be/files/%5BKCS-leuven%5Dpaper-TyasHuybrechts-film010708.pdf] on the Korean wave, the question “why the Korean pop culture became so popular?” was asked. Originally it was thought that the common factor is that “beauty attracts” and that is the reason why in K-dramas and film and even in the music industry, the “good-looking” is highly favored and popular. But I really think one of the real reasons that made more sense is that “it offers both a nostalgic reminder of what has been lost during modernization and an example of an Asian country that has modernized and has retained its traditions.” Korean dramas are favored not just because they banked on the aesthetics and cheaper importation but because of their focus on the more traditional Confucian values placing emphasis on family relationship, filial piety and sibling love. And probably the reason behind the successful phenomenon of “tragic” endings in Korean dramas and movies may be attributed to their “tragic history” as a divided nation that more or less has been used to carry out an emotionally powerful content. Truly very, very Asian.
So, I guess that’s why after watching QSD, I re-watched Jumong and the Legend (Tae Wang Sa Shin Gi) which featured Song Il Guk and Bae Yong Joon respectively. I loved the story of Jumong, the hero who established the kingdom called Goguryeo, also an old Korean empire, despite the adversities and trials that came his way. There was a time I heard of a group of Christian pastors that made “Jumong” a basis for a study on leadership. I figured out late that The Legend was also a nice historical drama when I re-watched it and I appreciated the English-subbed version better than the Tagalog-subbed version. Beautiful, brilliant acting from BYJ and his leading lady Lee Ji ah who played Sujini—it was waxing beautiful poetry which made me tingle in anticipation for each episode. Who wouldn’t swoon to Damdeok (the lead character) when he says to Sujini (his love interest) “I will never let go of you again…where you are is where my palace is.”
Since watching Korean dramas, I can now put names to familiar faces of K-drama actors and actresses whereas before I couldn’t. But prior to QSD, I have watched several of their contemporary dramas like Lovers in Paris, Memories in Bali, Full House, Jewel in the Palace (aka Dang Jae Jeum), My Lovely Kim Sam Soon, Stairway to Heaven, Love Story in Harvard, All About Eve, Autumn in My Heart, Irene and Bad Love.
Only recently, I finished watching Princess Hours, Baker King Kim Tak Gu, Secret Garden, 49 Days, Baby-Faced Beauty, Temptation of Wife and Spring Days. I have watched others like Lie to Me and Marry Me Mary, but wasn’t faithfully watching every episode.
When I have time, I will probably make a drama review of each of these K-dramas I’ve watched. But for the meantime, it’s just fun reminiscing how my fascination on K-dramas started and bloomed like a love affair that comes softly in my heart. :-*