I have always loved exploring foreign television shows/movies, and I actually just recently got sucked into the massive black hole that is South Korean dramas. I don’t know what it is about them, but they are dangerously addicting. Like, you can’t just watch one or two episodes…you need to binge the entire series in a day, thanks to the cliffhangers that appear at the end of almost every episode. The plots are also always so unique and different, which definitely interested me about them as well (we all need a break from all of the similar cheesy, subpar teen rom-coms that keep coming out these days, right?). That being said, I have a long list of dramas that I hope to watch soon, but here are two that I have recently watched and loved.
It’s Okay to Not Be Okay
I watched this one over this past winter break with my best friend from home, and we were immediately obsessed!! It dives into the lives of two drastically different characters; Ko Moon Young, a woman who writes scary children’s books while struggling with Antisocial Personality Disorder, and Moon Gang Tae, a charismatic, kindhearted psychiatric hospital employee who is devoted to taking care of his austistic older brother. For those who are unfamiliar with Antisocial Personality Disorder, it is a mental illness where the person who has it holds extreme disregard for others and does not know how to process emotions well, whether it be other peoples’ or their own. That can result in them experiencing negative behavioral symptoms such as aggression, deceitfulness, and even manipulativeness. All of these characteristics are displayed through Ko Moon Young, and when Gang Tae meets her for the first time, his world is turned upside down by her disorder. However, they both come to the realization that they actually knew each other as children, and they slowly (but surely) develop feelings for each other, with Gang Tae helping her get her mental disorder under control along the way. For those who aren’t completely into romance (I know I’m certainly not), don’t worry! This show doesn’t center solely around these two characters, and that is not even what the entire plot is about. There is plenty of drama, action, suspense, and even humor thrown in here as well, and each episode seriously kept me on the edge of my seat.
One of the main reasons why I loved this show so much was because so many different mental illnesses were showcased, and the actors playing these characters did an amazing job of accurately portraying these disorders. I remember I watched cast interviews after I finished the show (as one does), and I was honestly so dumbfounded at how different they all were off-screen. What I mean by that is that their presentations of these disorders in the show were so believable (seriously down to every detail) that it almost felt real. I have never seen mental illness be so faultlessly represented in a television show before, and it was really nice to see that the creators (and the actors!) really did their research and made sure to take special care in how they were going to show these disorders. It didn’t try to romanticize or glorify any mental illnesses, showing viewers exactly how difficult it can get sometimes for people who, unfortunately, have to live with these kinds of disorders. Additionally, I really enjoyed how this show didn’t just focus on the two main characters; so many of the side characters had a ton of screen time and their own separate plot lines, which allowed me to care about them a lot more than I’d usually care about second and third leads.
Overall, this show held the message that yes, it’s certainly okay to not be okay sometimes! It also tried to convey to viewers that it’s okay to ask for help when you need it and to lean on someone you trust when you’re feeling down. Most importantly, I think the most significant aspect of this show that people should take away from it when watching is to never be ashamed of who you are, whether you struggle with a mental illness or not. Embrace who you are, be confident in yourself and your ability to break through any tough moments you may be going through, and you will find people who love you for you no matter what!
Crash Landing on You
I won’t even lie, I was super scared to start this one because I was SO attached to the characters/plot of It’s Okay to Not Be Okay, so I was nervous that I would feel underwhelmed or overall just not as into this drama as the very first one I watched. But actually, I was so wrong. I am extremely in love with this show, just as much as It’s Okay to Not Be Okay (maybe even a little more so oops). This drama tells the story of Yoon Se-Ri, a wealthy and privileged fashion designer based in South Korea, who goes paragliding, only to find herself caught in a terrible windstorm while she’s up in the air. This results in her getting blown over to the North Korean border by accident and right into the clutches of a North Korean military outpost on top of it. We all know how different North and South Korea are, so obviously this is not good. However, she meets a somewhat passive army officer named Ri Jeong Hyeok, who reluctantly decides to help hide her until they figure out how to send her back over the border. But as Se-Ri spends more time away from home, she begins to not only become more accustomed to the ways of the North, but is also no longer able to resist her growing feelings for Captain Ri as well. Now, I really don’t want to give too much away because a LOT happens, but I’ll just say that this little secret catches up to the both of them at some point, and they find themselves in some serious trouble as the show progresses.
I actually just finished this show less than a week ago, and it’s honestly all I’ve been thinking about…it was THAT good! Each episode kept getting better than the last, and every minute was so intense. I literally cried about four times while watching this show, and the end made me sob…so, this is your warning if you’re a highly emotional person. This show was quite the rollercoaster, and that’s all I’m going to say on that. I also became SO attached to all of the side characters so fast, and a main reason why I liked this show was that they gave the side characters so much screen time as well, just like in It’s Okay to Not Be Okay! Each one of the characters, first leads or not, have amazing personalities and great development, and I really loved that about them.
Some may say that this is a pretty unrealistic drama. Who would ever end up smack dab in the middle of a North Korean military base from a paragliding accident that happened in South Korea? Probably nobody, ever. However, it wasn’t meant to be completely realistic in that way!! It’s a gut wrenching, but also heartwarming, show about love, loss, friendship, and betrayal, communicating to viewers that people from different walks of life can come together and accept each other (maybe not people from North and South Korea just yet, but you know what I mean). I would watch this show over again right now, I’m seriously obsessed.
This isn’t even half of the K-dramas out there, as there are so many more of them. A lot of them cater to many different genres as well, so I’m sure you will find something that interests you!!
Don’t stick to what you know just because it’s familiar. Just because something is written in another language doesn’t mean it isn’t just as good, maybe even better than, American media. It’s so fun for me to step out of my comfort zone and become exposed to different types of shows and movies from other countries and to see what people from these places like to watch. Honestly, getting into K-dramas was one of the best decisions of my life.
So with this all in mind…don’t be boring. Go read some subtitles! I promise it’s worth it!