Drama, drama, drama...

[I've got to say thanks to my e-friend Julie who answered many a question when I was starting my Korean drama watching obsession a couple of years ago...without her this post wouldn't be possible.] Korean Dramas. Some might call it an obsession. Others, education. I prefer the "education" terminology. [wink] While I joke, I really feel that dramas provide the perfect learning vehicle for becoming familiar with the Korean culture, language, food, mannerisms and cultural viewpoints. Having watched so many dramas prior to traveling really helped me to relate to so many people while in Korea, including our SW and FM. There's a whole level of respect when you reference a popular culture item. Still I notice a level of comfort that Korean Americans get with me when I can talk about something culturally relevant with them. Most of my tidbits have been gleamed from dramas, that alone is worth it. The entertainment value is just an added bonus!

A couple of you asked for advice and tips so here's my overview to get you started. I think that what's listed below will keep you busy for a while to come... but feel free to either comment or email me for more information.

There's three ways to watch Korean dramas (K-dramas). Online, downloaded, or rentals. To watch online, my two favorite sites are my*soju and drama*fever. I prefer drama*fever, but they don't always have what I'm looking for. The reason behind this is because they are actually "airing" K-dramas with the networks permission... hey, I didn't say this obsession education was all on the up-and-up, did I?! So if you're one for legalities, that's where you want to be. Drama*fever also has a more "user-friendly" interface. If you're looking to download dramas (which is actually my preference these days) you should check out d-addicts or DLAznMovies. There is a bit of a learning curve to downloading dramas, but it's the best video quality and you don't have to worry about streaming issues. (Which as some of you know, I have problems with) Both of those sites have "how-to" and "help" sections that explain what you need to do. Again, let me know if you need help though. I should note that there was a third site I was going to recommend (aja-aja), but it's currently closed to anonymous users since there was some foul play with people linking to their downloads... so annoying. Why can't people play nice and do the right thing?! Anyway. Then there's renting. A couple of you have told me that Net*flix has some Korean dramas available, but I'm not really familiar with their library myself. A few rental sites that have been recommended to me are Tiger Cinema and Ramen City. I've never personally rented DVDs, but I foresee that changing in the near future (read: I just saw two series I've been wanting to watch that I can't find online)

[If I want to be really thorough I should also tell you that your cable/satellite company might offer MBC or KBS... if so, there should be subtitled dramas available there. So four options for some of you.]

So I've covered where you can get your k-drama fix... moving on to what to watch. Here's a list of what I've watched so far to get you started. I'm going to preface this by saying that I like to watch the Gossip*Girl/Grey's Anatomy type shows. I'm all for "TV as escapism" so you won't find too many "heavy" dramas on my list... although there are some.

Some of the dramas I've seen (titled as found in above mentioned sites for the most part):

All In : Great action drama (with a love story component as well)... this one's good for the guys too. There's something for everyone in this story... romance, action, gangsters... It stars Lee Byung Hun, a major star in Korea.

Boys Over Flowers : Gossip Girl fans - this one's for you. This was a runaway drama while it aired last year. Any of you who traveled last year were sure to have seen advertisements starring these actors/actresses. We got a *lot* of "street cred" with a bunch of Koreans for knowing this drama and the star Lee Min Ho. (People compared Spencer's curls to the main character's Joon Pyo, played by Lee) Now we think Spencer looks more like Kim Bum. [wink]

Coffee Prince : Another big hit (this time from 2007) A romantic comedy that has a lot of reflection on Korean culture... especially their view on commitment and homosexuality. Lots of great subplots in this one as well.

Goong : A classic Cinderella story in a modern day setting. 'Nuff said. (Please note I am not talking about Goong S here - I haven't seen that drama)

Gourmet : This one is for Jon & Kelly, and anyone else who is a foodie. A light comedy set in the kitchen of haute-cuisine restaurant Oonamjeong, but steeped in traditional Korean food. It's got a slow start, but you may be too busy drooling over the food to notice. If you are as obsessed with or intrigued by the David Chang phenomenon... check this drama out.

Full House : A heartbreaking love story that explores whether a famous actor and an ordinary woman can enter a contract marriage (to pay off her "debts") and not have feelings develop. Hmmm... what do you think?! For those of you familiar with Rain, he's in this. It's one of the first dramas I watched, and I loved it. I actually want to re-watch it since I can't remember it all that well.

Iljimae : A fabulous historical drama set in the Joseon Dynasty. The story of a man who steals from the rich and protects the poor (a la Robin Hood). An absolutely amazing performance by actor Lee Joon Ki. If you want to get a feel for some of Korea's rich history, this is a great taste.

My Girl : A romantic comedy that aired in 2006. A great "first time" drama. It was the first drama I watched and I found that it was a great way to get my feet wet. Lighter than some of the others, but still has a good love triangle thrown in.

My Lovely Sam Soon : I dare you not to get addicted to this drama. Wonderful, feel good, and endearing. It's often compared to "Bridget Jones Diary" and once you watch it you will see why. There's so many good things about this drama (plots, subplots, cast, etc) that it has to be on your list.

Return of Iljimae : The sequel to Iljimae mentioned above. Beautiful. There's a lot of debate as to which one is better, but I'll let you decide. I think each on has it's pros and cons.

Sandglass : I see this just came to drama*fever and I am so stinkin' excited! I don't even know if I can do this drama justice by trying to sum it up. There was just a depth and richness there that not many other dramas can achieve. Go read the summary on drama*fever... then watch it. Seriously. I plan to again. (Also another great one for the guys and those of you into more "current" Korean history.)

Time Between Dog & Wolf : An action-romance where a secret agent seeks revenge for the murder of his mother when he was young. This stars Lee Joon Ki as well (notice a trend here?!) and is just a fabulous plot.

I'm watching: City Hall Queen of Housewives Shining Inheritance

Up next: Alone in Love Bad Love Dream East of Eden Happiness Hong Gil Dong Last Scandal Love Marriage On Air Smile Sons of Sol Pharmacy Soulmate Style Thank You Truth You're Beautiful

Other good resources: Dramabeans (one of my favorite blogs) Korean Drama HanCinema DramaCrazy

I'm sure there are more... but these are the ones that come to mind.

So there you have it! I hope it was worth the wait... and I hope you find it useful. For my fellow addicts, please chime in if I missed something... or if you have a favorite I haven't mentioned!