As an executive editor at Penguin, Anne Sowards spends her days working with the likes of Jim Butcher, Patricia Briggs, Rachel Caine, Anne Bishop, Ilona Andrews, Jack Campbell, Karen Chance, and Rob Thurman, to name a few – or as Anne puts it, “I do the fun books.” But what you might not know about Anne is, she also just so happens to be a huge fan of Korean pop culture – so please, take us to school Anne!
Overlooked Television: Kdramas
A few years ago, a friend introduced me to the wacky, romantic, hilarious, and deeply emotional world of Korean TV shows. Kdramas are hugely popular throughout Asia, yet many English speakers are unaware of their existence. Once you discover them, you will never be at a loss for something to watch again (which could be good or very, very bad). There are dramas to suit every taste, from romantic comedies to action thrillers to historical epics.
Here are some of my favorites to get you started:
Boys Over Flowers
A poor, hardworking girl gets a scholarship to an elite high school. She immediately clashes with the heir to Shinhwa corporation, who basically rules the school. He’s intrigued by this girl who stands up to him, and…you probably know where this is going.
A nun-in-training disguises herself as a boy and becomes a member of the most popular boy band in Korea. Just trust me on this one.
Fun thing: some of the other members of the (fictional) band are real-life Kpop stars. I liked their songs so much I wish the fictional band had recorded more!
The Master’s Sun
A woman who can see ghosts encounters a man who disperses these ghosts when she touches him. Of course she wants to be around him all the time – only he’s a wealthy businessman struggling with demons of his own, and he hates to be touched.
This is sort of a romantic/horror comedy. It’s a little hard to classify – I just know I like it.
I just finished watching this one, and it’s fantastic. An arrogant CEO falls for a stunt woman – and the twist here is that they start swapping bodies when it rains. I wasn’t sure about the premise initially, but the actors really sell the body-swap here. It’s funny, romantic, and some episodes will make you cry!
Another drama with a cross-dressing heroine, but this one will ease you into the world of historicals. To support her family, a young woman dresses as a boy and helps scholars cheat on their tests, including the entrance exams to the academy that turns out future ministers. When she’s caught by the upright son of a minister, he forces her to enroll in the academy, ignorant that she’s a girl.
Dae Jang Geum (aka The Jewel in the Palace)
This is a 50+ episode historical epic, but it is amazing and so worth it. It’s the story of Jang Geum, who became the first woman to be the king’s personal physician (and she didn’t cross dress to do it). Initially, she works in the king’s kitchens, so there is a ton of stuff about food and Korean cooking (which I loved). The acting and writing are terrific. I introduced my mom to this one and we watched 20+ episodes in a week.
So, want to try? All you need is a willingness to read subtitles and an internet connection. Netflix has some dramas on streaming and others on DVD, Hulu Plus has a growing catalog of Kdramas, but the motherlode of Korean dramas is Dramafever.com, where they have most every show and you can watch free with commercials.
Happy watching, and if you find yourself obsessed with Kpop, want to make your own kimchi, and start learning Korean – you’ve been warned.
Thanks again, Anne!
For more on Kdrama, Kpop, video games, and of course, books, you can follow Anne on twitter HERE.