As far as I can remember, Asian Dramas have been part of pop culture for a long time now, in fact, I can still remember bits and pieces of the Taiwanese version of Meteor Garden (2001) even though I was still a young kid back then and to be honest, I have no idea what was going on 80% of the time. I can’t comprehend complex dramas yet because my four or five-year-old self would still yearn for cartoons and kid shows, my cognitive skills are still in the level of answering every question asked by Dora the Explorer. All I know is that I was very fond of the character named ‘Shan Cai’ and the male group “F4” is massively popular back then that I’d see their faces everywhere—from posters, stickers, cheap merchandise on the streets, billboards and commercial, heck I even danced and sang along to their famous single ‘Oh Baby’.
Over the years, I’d still catch a few episodes of other Asian Dramas, particularly, Korean Drama. I remember giggling over “My Girlfriend is a Gumiho” and “Boys Over Flowers” (which was hugely popular) when I was still in Elementary school. However, I’d only watch it whenever I had the chance to or when I stumble upon it on TV, I wasn’t really keen on watching the drama day by day. Normally, I’d watch all episodes on its premiere week but as time progresses, I was bound to miss an episode or two due to school work and I’d lose interest in playing catch up. After that, if there’s nothing else good on TV and I stumble upon these shows, I’d watch it with the itching question of ‘what the hell is going on?’ since I missed a few episodes in between.
Fast forward to 2010s, the K-Drama craze continued to thrive, in fact, it even became more popular (as in really popular, really.) 2016-2017 was the year I became fully aware of the whole K-Drama obsession. Everyone was talking about it and it all started with ‘Goblin’ and then I’d hear other shows like ‘Weightlifting Fairy’, ‘Legend of the Blue Sea’ and ‘Descendants of the Sun’. I couldn’t escape it, everywhere I go, it was the talk of every magazine, website, every conversation I hear in the hallway and inside the classroom. It was everywhere. E.V.E.R.Y.W.H.E.R.E. Korean Drama became an even larger portion of pop culture, especially here in Asia, and as someone who grew up and fell in love with Western Pop Culture, I continued obsessing over Riverdale, The Walking Dead, The CW Shows, and other fandoms, and just ignored and learned to live with the whole K-Drama craze.
A year later, something sparked my interest and jump-started my curiosity in Asian Dramas. Everyone started talking about ‘F4’ again, at first I just thought it’s because they are a timeless and classic male group, however, I was taken by surprise when I found out that there’s a Chinese remake of 2001’s Meteor Garden. (Yes, I was living under a rock, but truth be told, I was clouded by my Western fandoms, that I was too blind to pay attention to Asian Pop Culture). I never intended to watch an episode or watch the whole series even, but all that changed when I was able to watch an episode while riding the bus home. I remembered my childhood and I’d lie if I say that I didn’t find the actors who play the members of this new version of F4 cute, especially Darren Chen who plays Hua Ze Lei. What’s interesting is that I have always likened Hua Ze Lei, be it the Taiwanese version or the Korean version, ‘Boys Over Flowers’. There’s something about this cool-headed character I seemed to be drawn to more than the lead male, Dao Ming Si who embodies a typical arrogant, hot-headed bad boy.
Now, why am I blabbing about a Chinese drama remake of Meteor Garden when it’s not even a Korean Drama series and the title of this blog post says ‘My Long Journey of Entering the World of K-Drama’, well, my lovely dreamer readers, watching a few episodes of Meteor Garden (2018) and jumping into the craze sparked my interest about the whole K-Drama obsession a lot of people was caving about. When the K-Drama craze was on its peak during 2017, I didn’t completely jump into the bandwagon and I wasn’t open-minded enough to watch TV Series with a language I don’t understand and just rely on subtitles. The Asian Dramas I used to watch back then were dubbed and with the rise of streaming services, various K-Drama shows are now accessible. Sure, I’d catch a glimpse of it whenever my block mates would air Korean TV Shows by connecting their laptops to our classroom’s Smart TV, but I never really paid attention to it. Usually, I was busy doing other requirements for different course subjects and would lift my head from time to time if a scene piques my interest.
Now that I am more welcoming towards Korean Drama, I started watching Goblin around September of last year—and I. Was. Hooked. Goblin is the first Korean Drama I binge-watched and it was the first Korean Drama I’ve watch in Korean. It wasn’t dubbed and I was quite glad with the experience since I got to learn a few Korean words. This show broke my misconception towards K-drama; that all K-Dramas follow the same formula and is just angled towards cheesy and sappy love stories. Despite Goblin centered on the relationship between Kim Shin and Ji Eun-Tak, I was still astounded by its plot—its twists and turn and modern take on deities, grim reapers, and reincarnation. I am a proud fan of fantasy stories and the elements injected in this show to pass as a fantasy drama gave me a new perspective about mythologies, specifically an Asian lens in the world of the Gods since I was used to seeing it through Rick Riordan’s established world of the Gods in Percy Jackson and Heroes of Olympus Series. Sure, there weren’t counterparts of Zeus, or Poseidon or any other Greek or Roman Gods we know of, instead, it creates its own concept.
Goblin was also my go-to happy pill during the time when the semester was becoming burdensome and I had no motivation to socialize with the people around me. I was enduring an extreme case of separation anxiety from my previous block in Senior High School and still trying to warm up to my college block mates. The workload wasn’t a burden since I got the hang of the university’s system since I’ve been studying there for three years now, but Goblin helped me cope up with separation anxiety and it got me through tough times. I know what I did is use it as an escape from reality and I tend to do that, but I was just really happy I took a chance on K-Drama.
After completely fallen head over heels for the series, Goblin, I decided to watch “What’s Wrong with Secretary Kim” since it was becoming popular at the time and even dubbed as one of the most popular Korean Drama of the year. Again, I am amazed how this Korean Drama makes me fall in love with their characters and storylines, once again, my misconception about Korean Dramas only having cheesy romances is broken. I never thought that Korean Dramas also include heavy storylines, character arcs, plot twists, and interesting supporting characters. Because of this, I decided to spend my Christmas and Semester Vacation by catching up on all the K-Dramas, since I was late for jumping into the whole K-Drama craze.
As of today, I’ve watched Goblin, What’s Wrong with Secretary Kim, Love in the Moonlight/Moonlight Draw by Clouds, Fight For My Way and Legend of the Blue Sea. I plan to watch more Korean Drama since it serves as a happy pill and a breather from reality. Here’s to watching more Korean Dramas in the future.