Why Korean Dramas Are Popular
Catch the Hallyu!
Hallyu means Korean wave. It refers to the wide popularity of Korean tv, film, and music that is spreading around the globe.
Why do so many people watch Korean dramas?
When "Gangnam Style" by Psy hit YouTube like a tsunami, many people were surprised to discover how popular Korean music and dramas are in America and outside of Korea.
Korean dramas are hot on video streaming sites like Hulu and Netflix. Currently airing dramas can't be subtitled and loaded quickly enough to satisfy their English-speaking audience.
The big question people want to know is: why K-dramas and K-Pop are so popular around the world?
The Korean entertainment industry is booming right now. The global audience for Korean music and Korean television is exploding across Asia and is even spreading to Europe and North America.
This surge of Korean cultural popularity has been called "Hallyu." It means Korean wave and refers to the way Korean entertainment is spreading around the world.
Why is there a Korean wave right now?
Keep reading to find out some of the reasons for K-drama popularity, a list of the 10 best Korean dramas and most popular Korean actors and actresses, quizzes galore, and much more about dramas and K-Pop culture.
Check out what you've been missing out on. Get swept away with the Korean drama wave!
Get on the Hallyu, Catch the Korean Wave!
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Why Korean Dramas Are Popular
There are many reasons why Korea dramas have gained such a wide following of non-Koreans.
Here are some of the most common reasons why people become fans of K-drama:
- Eye candy! - The stars of dramas are very attractive. There is a reason there are lots of "broody shower scenes" and "princess for a day makeovers" to be found in Korean shows.
- Cultural appeal - It's educational (really!). Watching foreign dramas lets you absorb information about a different culture without the hassle of dreary studying. You learn about different societal norms by watching the day to day life of the characters. Watch even one Korean drama and you will understand that shoes are taken off at the door without anyone needing to tell you.
- Squeaky clean - The majority of K-Dramas are G-rated and very clean compared to American movies and television. Foul language is rare, violence is minimal, and love scenes rarely progress past kissing. In fact, even seeing a French kiss in a Korean drama is newsworthy. Some types of scenes make more impact to viewers when the show isn't flooded with them.
- Precious moments - There are oodles of meme-worthy moments in K-dramas. Some are funny, some are cute, the best are both. And the gags will feel new to people who haven't seen much Asian television.
- Vocabulary Stretch - By the time you become a K-drama veteran, all of the drama marathons you finished will have toned your lingual dexterity. You will know several key Korean words and phrases. You will be able to say "sorry" and "thanks" with ease and most importantly, you will be able to confess your love to your dearest Oppa. And you will also know what Oppa means.
- Fresh factor - Many people from the Western world watch Korean dramas just because they are different from the programming they are used to. It's not the same old stale, predictable plots that have been recycled for seasons. The plots, types of characters, and even the settings in K-dramas feel new and different and, therefore, more exciting.
- Cool clothes - The fashion in dramas has definite trend appeal. Many outfits are straight from the runway. The accessories are just as amazing as the clothes. Drama stars dress the way most of us would in our daydreams.
- Mouthwatering food - It's hard to watch a drama and not get cravings for ramen. Nearly every episode features delicious-looking dishes like rolled up eggs, hearty soups, and grilled steak. And your hand dexterity will improve with dramas because you are sure to have simultaneous chopstick cravings as well.
- Rocking music - K-Pop is even more popular than Korean dramas right now. It's not hard to understand it's popularity either. It has catchy beats and fun lyrics. There is also a hefty sprinkling of English words in K-Pop. And the good news is that dramas showcase plenty of K-Pop music and K-Pop stars are drama regulars.
Why You Should Be Watching K-Dramas!
Swoon-worthy love scenes, adorable actors, outfits that beg to be copied, edge of the seat action scenes, sob-inducing conflict, food that will leave you drooling, music that will be stuck in your head for days, and hilarious moments that will have you laughing till your side hurts.
What more could you ask for in a show? Experience Korean dramas today!
- Smorgasbord of choices - There is a drama to suit every taste. Light romantic comedies are a popular fare. There are also meatier melodramas for people who want to cry a lot. Genre can even be seasoned to taste with historical, fantasy, science fiction, action, romance, and many other drama ingredients.
- Accessibility - Video streaming sites have made foreign television and film more readily available than in the past. People watch K-dramas more now than in the past in part because they actually can now.
- The format - A typical Korean drama is 16-20 episodes and then it is done. The length is perfect to tell a whole, connected story that has a strong buildup and conclusion. The season is longer than a movie, so viewers because more emotionally invested. And it has a definitive end so the plot doesn't become about filling time to last for multiple seasons.
- Addictive properties - Korean dramas successfully create emotional connections with viewers. Characters are developed and brought through trials and tribulations in such a way that the audience relates to the characters and feels the same emotions. The cliff hanger endings of nearly every episode leave viewers squirming till the next episode can resolve the conflict. The tension is built up so expertly that it is more emotionally resonant when the main couple finally hold hands halfway through the series than when a full-blown bedroom scene happens in an American series.
Top 10 Most Popular Korean Dramas
These ten dramas are some of the highest rated Korean dramas, especially with non-Korean audiences.
If you are just beginning to get into the world of Korean entertainment, these are great dramas to introduce you to the awesomeness of K-dramas.
"You're Beautiful" Trailer
1. You're Beautiful - A nun in training poses as her twin brother in a popular boy band. Crazy antics and love triangles ensue as she tries to keep her true identity a secret.
2. Flower Boy Ramen Shop - Chemistry ignites when a girl finds herself working in a ramen shop with very attractive employees.
3. My Name Is Kim Sam Soon - Kim Sam Soon is an average girl with average problems. Things change when she meets the owner of an upscale French restaurant.
4. Secret Garden - A shopping mall heir and a poor stunt woman learn about each other when they mysteriously switch bodies. But the knowledge they gain may not be enough to overcome the obstacle of their social class difference.
"City Hunter" Trailer
5. City Hunter - A man is trained to take revenge against the government for killing his father's unit.
6. Full House - After a writer ends up losing everything, she enters into a contract marriage with the man who bought her house.
7. Boys Before Flowers - The status quo at the richest school in Korea is tested when a poor girl arrives and challenges the four most popular boys to change their bullying ways.
8. Jewel in the Palace - A historical drama about a real woman who overcomes struggles in her early life to become the first female royal physician.
9. Rooftop Prince - The crown prince travels 300 years into the future to solve a murder case where he meets someone unusual in modern times.
"My Love from Another Star" Trailer
10. My Love From Another Star - A 400 year old alien falls for a popular actress three months before he is due to return to his home planet.
There are hundreds of other K-dramas available outside of Korea. Here are some other good dramas that didn't make it on the list.
Master's Sun, Shut Up: Flower Boy Band, Flower Boy Next Door, Playful Kiss, Dream High, Answer Me 1997, Summer Scent, Love Rain, Heirs, Heartstrings, Shining Inheritance, Coffee Prince, My Girlfriend Is a Gumiho
Don't see your favorite? Tell us about it in the comments section.
What K-Drama Rules Your Heart?
Vote for your favorite drama.See results without voting
What You'll Find in Korean Dramas
- Body switches, aliens, mythical creatures, time travel, ghosts
- Action heroes, rock stars, larger-than-life billionaire heirs
- Cute stuffed animals, bento box faces, and meaningful couple jewelry
- There's even historical dramas and settings around the world.
- And love stories you'll wish you could star in.
Common Scenes in Korean Dramas
These tropes and plot conventions can be found in nearly every Korean drama. See if you can start spotting these in your favorite dramas.
Common K-Drama Conventions:
- Piggyback rides
- A hospital visit
- Evil parents
- Back hugs
- Eating ramen
- Gifts of jewelry, stuffed animals, or shoes
- A trip to an island (usually Jeju)
- Overindulging in alcohol
- Birth secrets
- Adorable bento boxes
- Karaoke outings
- Toilet humor
- A funeral or a visit to the grave of a dead relative
- A trip to a bathhouse (sauna)
- Love triangles and quartets
Which conventions do you like? Which have become too cliché?
Which dramas have successfully defied these conventions or flipped them around in an interesting way?
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Eye Candy!Click thumbnail to view full-size
Top 10 Most Popular Korean Actors
Lee Min-Ho - Boys Before Flowers, City Hunter, Faith (The Great Doctor), Heirs
Kim Soo Hyun - My Love from Another Star, Dream High, Moon Embracing the Sun
Jang Geun Suk - You're Beautiful, Love Rain, Beethoven Virus, Pretty Man
Lee Seung Gi - My Girlfriend Is a Gumiho, Gu Family Book, Brilliant Legacy
Kim Hyun Joong - Boys Before Flowers, Playful Kiss, Inspiring Generation
Rain - Full House, The Fugitive: Plan B, A Love to Kill
Kim Bum - Boys Before Flowers, High Kick, Dream
Yong Jung Hwa - You're Beautiful, Heartstrings, Marry Him If You Dare
Lee Hong Ki - Bride of the Century, You're Beautiful
Choi Jin Hyuk - Heirs, Emergency Couple, Gu Family Book, I Need Romance
Who's Your Oppa?
Which Korean Drama Actor Is Your Favorite?See results without voting
Give Lee Min Ho a Hug!
With this fabulous pillowcase, you can hug Korea's most popular hallyu star whenever and wherever you want.
Top 10 Most Popular Korean Actresses
Park Shin Hye - You're Beautiful, Heirs, Flower Boy Next Door, Heartstrings
Ku Hye Sun - Boys Before Flowers, The King and I
Lee Ji Eun (IU) - Pretty Man, Dream High, You're the Best Lee Soon-shin
Jeon Ji Hyun - My Love from Another Star, Happy Together
Im Yoon Ah - Prime Minister and I, Love Rain, Cinderella Man
Park Min Young - City Hunter, Unstoppable High Kick
Shin Min Ah - My Girlfriend Is a Gumiho, Arang and the Magistrate, A Love to Kill
Kim Tae Hee - My Princess, Forbidden Love, Stairway to Heaven
Bae Suzy - Dream High, Gu Family Book, Big
Kim So Eun - Boys Over Flowers, A Thousand Kisses, Horse Doctor
Who's Your Favorite Leading Lady?
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Different viewing platforms often have different English translations of the original titles listed for the same drama. For example, the Korean Hana Yori Dango is commonly translated both "Boys Before Flowers" and "Boys Over Flowers."
Where to Watch Korean Dramas
Korean dramas with subtitles in other languages can be found on several streaming platforms.
- Netflix has lots of Korean movies and shows.
- For current and recently aired dramas, Dramafever, Hulu, and Viki are great free streaming sites. These sites also offer apps for streaming on tablets and phones as well.
- Youtube is a great place to discover more about K-Pop as well as more information on your favorite dramas and Korean stars.
"Boys Before Flowers" Trailer
Gagnam Style - The Song that Launched a K-Craze
How to Connect with Other K-Wave Fans
- There are lots of great blogs and websites dedicated to recapping and reviewing Korean drama episodes for foreign audiences.
- Dramabeans is one of the most popular sites featuring recaps, Korean entertainment news, and cultural insight for non-Koreans.
- Dramafever is another site to not only watch dramas, but to find out information about Korean actors and actresses and pop culture news for all of Asia.
- Anime conventions and other similar conventions are beginning to feature panels and guests about the K-Pop and K-Drama industry.
- If you are interested in meeting other K-Drama and K-Pop fans, look for groups on Facebook. In many areas, there are local meet up groups for people interested in Korean entertainment.