(This is seriously, no joke, a post about a Korean soap opera. Like the rest of my blog, this may be worth skipping.)
I hear you like to be called Korea, Korea. So, instead of South Korea, or the Republic of Korea, I’ll just call you by your first name. I hope we’re close enough for that.
Anyway, Korea, I just wanted to let you know that I won’t be judging you or your people by what I see on the soap opera Winter Sonata. There’s no way that a civilization which has supposedly been around since 2333 BC has that high a percentage of emotionally retarded inhabitants. I mean, seriously, I’m getting sick of characters insisting that Yujin not grieve for Junsang for the sake of Sanghyeok’s iddy-biddy feewings. Grow a pair, Sanghyeok. So, I won’t judge you by Winter Sonata because that would be like you judging me by episodes of Days of Our Lives (though, I was thinking of burying a beautiful young woman alive. Hmmph.)
I have to say that I really am enjoying the show. I’ve watched seven of the hour-long episodes and I plan on finishing all twenty. I point this out because I really figured I wouldn’t care for the show at all and that I’d give up on the first episode half way through. I just wanted a little exposure to some Korean television and lucked out by finding this title on Netflix.
I can’t help but compare the first couple of episodes to my favorite teen soap opera, Dawson’s Creek. In short, Yujin, our leading lady, has known her best friend Sanghyeok her entire life. Enter Junsang, the handsome new-kid-in-school. Everyone insists that Joey … I mean, Yujin, should be ga-ga over her BFF, but she’s falling hard for the new guy. While it’s not an exact match, I couldn’t help but be annoyed by the Dawson Leery like assumptions Sanghyeok has made about what’s best for Yujin.
What’s worse is that everyone in the show acts the same way. Male and female characters alike continually insist that Yujin and Sanghyeok are soulmates, and, worse, that Yujin should never, ever, ever show any sadness when reminded of the death of her first love.
If Winter Sonata is the norm, Korean dramas involve more buffoon-type comedic characters than American shows. I think there are four characters who exist only to be made fun of. Maybe that’s just what the place is really like, which really makes me want to visit. Furthermore, if this show is really a glimpse into Korean culture, 80% of Korean people bleach their hair once they become adults. It’s like smoking is in America, without the coughing fits and stained teeth.
Another thing that’s killin’ me is that none of the female characters seem to be able to hold adult conversations with men, especially if they disagree with them. Korea can’t be that patriarchal, can it? Neither Chaerin (conniving twat, though she is) nor Yujin can do much but nod and agree with their respective male partners. Why shouldn’t Chaerin be upset when Minhyeok is flaunting his flirtation with another woman in her face? What is with all the deference and obvious silent suffering?
I also can’t help but wonder why the writers of Winter Sonata seem to want me cheering on, at least what I understand would be, an incestuous relationship. My subtitle reading can’t be so bad that I misunderstood that. Unless the writers of this show are much more talented than I am giving them credit for, Minhyeok is Junsang with amnesia. Gross.
But I am – cheering it on, that is. Winter Sonata is addicting enough that I want some good old Korean brother-sister lovin’ to go down. Not that “lovin’” means over there what it means over here. Two characters that are engaged can barely hug each other with out feeling guilty afterward. Someone from Korea, please email me and explain whether or not this is true-to-life Korean culture, or just plain old TV-style morality.
One thing translates though; it may be our major shared cultural experience. Sanghyeok’s mother despises Yujin, though I cannot figure out why. I guess the crazy daughter-in-law hating mother is a universal stereotype.
So, I’m about to start the eighth episode, and I’m sure lying, sinister little Chaerin and annoyingly Dawson-like Sanghyeok are about to get their hearts broken. Even if I don’t get that wish, I will forever be satisfied knowing that I watched a Korean TV drama that used Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Any Dream Will Do from Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat while a character was daydreaming about his love interest. Now you know the real reason I can’t stop watching.