Tuning In – Watching Korean Television, as an American.

Brace yourselves for a car accident. Because the plots will most definitely include one.

I know I’m late to the party, but I’ve started getting into Korean television.  (I attribute my aversion up until this juncture to my distaste for things that are individually or culturally stifling.)

What I’ve Watched:

Boys Over Flowers
Boys Over Flowers 
Boys Over Flowers (2009, 25 episodes).

A Korean remake of the Japanese series based on the manga. A working class high school student is admitted into a renowned private school for rich kids, which include a pretty boy clique called F4. (I feel like this should have been titled Boys Prettier Than Flowers.) Cast: Gu Hye Sun, Lee Min Ho, Kim Hyun Joong, Kim Bum.

MLSS - one sheet
My Lovely SamSoon (2005, 16 episodes).
A pastry chef and a restaurant owner’s son begin a false romantic relationship to serve their individual interests. Cast: Kim Sun Ah, Hyun Bin.








Secret Garden (2010, 20 episodes).

A stuntwoman and a CEO begin an unlikely relationship due to a misunderstanding and a body-switching incident. Cast: Ha Ji Won, Hyun Bin. Check out a clip of the first episode below:

The_Woman_Who_Still_Wants_To_Marry_ one sheet

The Woman Who Still Wants To Marry (2010, 18 episodes).

Thirtysomething women look for love. (Also, that title translation is terrible.) Cast: Park Jin Hee, Kim Bum, Uhm Ji Won, Wang Bit Na.

(The offenses, not to mention – hello subtitlers, those dialogue translations overall could be a whole lot better.  Also, I don’t think you need to subtitle ‘gasp!’ )


Questionable and Ridiculous Fashion Choices: Boys Over Flowers

bof - one sheet - featured image

The series starts off lighthearted enough, a working class high school student is rewarded for her heroism on a random trip to an prestigiously renowned private school. At first bullied, she eventually befriends and even begins dating one of the exclusive F4 clique: four filthy rich boys that attend the school, one of whom is an heir to the conglomerate which runs and own a bazillion companies, including the high school.

Get rid of that hair.

DANG those Korean boys are the poster boys for pretty boys. If there was an award for the most pretty boys on a TV show…well, you know. All that fuss and high maintenance gloss just asserts their – boyishness? No, wait – boydom, if you will. These are definitely boys, not men – also, that crown of curled ringlets on Goon Joon Pyo is nothing short of ridiculous.  I almost quit watching at that – are there no American television distribution consultants at the MBC network?  If you were packaging this for an American audience, at least cut it out with the curls. Seriously.  I found multiple offenses, beef with many of these dramas.

  • Nice theme with Yoon Ji Hoo always donning white – a slightly spacey-artist type with an innocence. More high maintenance hair, natch.

The F4 boys sure are pretty, but in terms of wardrobe, why the 3-piece suits? Vests and ascots? A bit over the top for high school kids. Is that truly what the rich kids in South Korea are rockin these days?  Is every boy supposed to be a Chuck Bass of sorts?

Hated. That. Shirt. Why??!!
That possum accoutrement.
  • Those schoolgirl skirts: last I checked, real private schools had dress codes which didn’t involve the skirt lengths of male fantasies. Probably the riskiest choice made in the production.
  • Those maid uniforms. SERIOUSLY?!
The Woman Who Still Wants To Marry – That’s a lot of hair, dude.
No. I don’t like your haircut. Take it back.
The Woman Who Still Wants To Marry – Could she also NOT want bangs, maybe?

Ubiquitous Plot OFFENSES and CLICHES

  • How many times is there a car accident/hospitalization??!!
  • How many times is there memory loss??
  • A kidnapping?! Really?!!
  • Intoxication: when characters are tipsy or in an all-out drunken stupor, why are their clothes so pristine, every button fastened, and their hair as fresh as when the day started? If they’re drunk, mess up the hair a bit. Unbutton a button. Mess up that tie.  Are you trying to make no efforts here?
  • The couple we’re rooting for gets trapped in an enclosed space, due to unforeseen circumstances aka twist of fate – ATM stall, cable car, what have you.
  • Unrealistic and sudden pressing deadline, after the couple overcomes a bunch of obstacles, is abruptly brought up at the penultimate episodes, which feel contrived and hokey.
  • Continuity problems: In My Lovely Sam Soon, the same knocks on a bathroom stall door is in discrepancy between different characters’ flashbacks.
  • Recycled themes, scenarios & cliches:
    1. love triangles, love triangles, in a Venn diagram of other love triangles. Love hexagons, intertwined.
    2. Rich guy plus poor girl get romantically involved – with a slew of obstacles in their way.
    3. And those shopping makeover montages and cooking montages are so old. Please. Stop.
    4. Drinks getting thrown into someone’s face. Always water – never juice, wine, beer, or a martini ?
    5. Boy grabs girl by the wrist and drags her to a second location. What are women, rag dolls?
  • In Boys Over Flowers, Kim Bum’s character professes that he can’t date Gaeul because dating her would break all his rules. When he approaches her later for a date, she simply accepts. She should have at least protested, or inquired something along the lines of “Why are you only going out with me now? Aren’t you breaking your dating rules? Hmm?”
  • In Secret Garden, Kim Joo Won, as a surprise, decks out Gil Ra Im’s humble apartment with furniture and fancy chandeliers. The show had senselessly reiterated footage of a taped-up apartment door window.   So how come Kim Joo Won never got around to fixing the apartment door, hmmm?
  • So, people can apparently leave their part-time jobs at jjuk restaurants at a moment’s notice and no one will care, and they won’t get fired, right? At least, in Boys Over Flowers, they do.

Affection/Making Out & Stuff/Expression/the PDA/Physicalities:

  • Kissing: If I was an ignorant American, I would presume that Korean guys are terrible kissers.  Nobody moves – might as well cue Zach Morris, “Time out!” No passion, no spark, nada.  I get it a few episodes in – hugs in Korea are basically as intimate or as scandalous as a smooch in American television. However, these are pretty vapid in execution and come off more like a cross between a handshake and a pat on the back. I get it, I get it.  Towards the end of the series, a hug happens, and I am in jaw-dropping guffaws. How scandalous. (What? I can throw caution to the wind and get sucked in.)
  • Korean men are so SKINNY! Somebody get them some burgers! Steaks! Baby back ribs!
  • Sure the actresses are all skeletons – but I guess that’s a global thing. Do actors not EAT?
  • Extra-long, and I mean LONG, looks of longing. That’s right, I said it. If only editors cut certain shots a little shorter, it wouldn’t seem quite as unnaturally elongated.  Especially right before those kissing scenes which we already know look awkward, unnatural, and prepubescent.

Things of an American (and English) nature: Spoken English Offenses

Accents are horrible. I mean, que horrible horrible.  Very thickly accented and barely recognizable. (Shouldn’t there be no need for subtitles during the spoken English dialogue?)


  • The Woman Who Still Wants To Marry: the scene where Lee Shin Young is studying abroad is particularly cringe-worthy.
  • Secret Garden: Whenever the guy supposedly spouts off expert, fluent English, it’s anything but.

Will add more to this post, stay tuned!

Look, Ma, am getting in touch with my ethnic heritage. And brushing up on my language skills. Happy now?


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