9 signs you’re becoming a true Korean cinema fanOnce you get into Korean entertainment, it’s hard not to be completely devoted, says Koreaphiles.
It all started in the early 2000s, when CDs of Korean movies like ‘He was Cool’ and ‘My Sassy Girl’ circled around in schools. Teenagers started wearing Converse with their school uniforms, sticking cute stickers on cell phones, straightening their hair, getting bangs—the craze for Korean drama had made its way to Kathmandu.
“There was a huge craze for Korean movies in those days with movies like ‘Windstruck’, ‘My Sassy Girl’, ‘Classic’, ‘My Little Bride’, ‘Moment to Remember’ sweeping young people like us,” says 28-year-old Sarita Limbu, who is a big fan of mainstream Korean films and dramas.
Over the years, Korean entertainment took over the world, not just Nepal. The South Korean wave that started in the later part of the 1990s escalated with the internet, especially through YouTube and streaming apps. Today, the Korean entertainment industry has a sizable international audience with a dedicated fan following. And there are phases that all Korean entertainment lovers go through, say Koreaphiles. From watching your first rom-com with a little scepticism to wanting to eat Korean food—there’s devotion required to becoming a true Korean cinema fan. Here we have broken that rite of passage into nine notable stages.
I will just take a peek
It starts with you just looking at photos of actors and singers on Pinterest and Instagram, just to see what the fuss is all about. Then, before you know it, your only purpose of logging onto these social media platforms is to save pictures of Park Bogum, RM or Jungkook from BTS, Gong Yoo, IU, Son-Ye-Jin, Park Min-Young, Hyun Bin, Song Joong Ki and Yoo-Ah-in. You try to stop yourself but you can’t help it. Then, looking at your favourite stars on the phone is not enough: you start collecting your favourite band/actor’s posters, key-rings and notebooks. Perhaps even make a scrapbook with lyrics.
“In my days, I used to collect posters but not anymore. I think the younger ones, mostly teenagers, like collecting them more. Also they are more prone to imitate the fashion,” says Kabita Mandal, who calls herself a Koreaphile.
I need more rom-coms in my life
This is when you keep finding yourself wanting to watch every romantic Korean drama available on the internet. You need to feel all warm and gooey inside, and watch love take over the world.
You probably started watching Korean rom-coms with ‘Boys Over Flowers’, but now you can’t stop watching YouTube clips of ‘Descendants of the Sun’, ‘Goblin’, ‘Fight For My Way’ while you wait for more rom-coms to release because you have already watched everything that’s available. You ask everyone you know for recommendations. When that fails you will watch the same movies over and over again, even forgive the nonsensical: like the scene where Yoo Si-jin jumps to action right after having a cardiac arrest in ‘Descendants of the Sun’.
Oh, you should watch that Korean drama/movie!
When someone asks you for a movie recommendation, all you have on your list are Korean dramas and movies. You will start with your favourites, tell them why you love Korean drama and movies, all the while praying that they don’t judge you. (But they have already!) You will hear yourself saying, “It’s not for the pretty boys or cute girls, it’s more than that and you are missing out a lot.”
You will start sending links to your close friends. You will look for every chance to talk about Korean dramas. “I highly recommend…,” you will go on.
I want something serious and complex
This is when you will stop enjoying the rom-com, the fluffy dramas. You will start seeing right through the maker’s tropes to allure viewers. “I couldn’t watch ‘Crash Landing on You’ after episode 1; I think I have grown out of that phase. It was too fluffy,” says Sanjana Shrestha, who also loves watching Korean dramas. “I now like serious dramas that give attention to character arcs and work on the details of the story, like ‘Reply 1998’ that captured the 80s in its details or something like ‘Sky Castle’ or ‘My Mister’,” she says.
You will find yourself watching intense crime thrillers like ‘Stranger’ starring Cho Seung-woo and Bae Doo-na. You will probably even want to change careers to become a lawyer, prosecutor or detective. In this phase, you want more compelling stories to move you. And you start watching thriller and mystery movies week after week: ‘Memories of Murder’, ‘I saw the Devil’, ‘Mother’, ‘The Man from Nowhere’, ‘Burning’, ‘The Handmaiden’, ‘The Forgotten’—you can’t seem to stop.
I need that song
There was a time when you didn’t even think that Korean songs would make it to your playlist but now after watching several dramas, you have become adept at searching songs that you don’t know the lyrics of. And they make you feel good. You search for soundtracks of all your favourite dramas. Your phone has the title track of the movie ‘Classic’ and songs by Rachael Yamagata or Carla Bruni. You also know there is more to Korean music than just K-pop for you have listened to the likes of The Black Skirts, Hyukoh, Lucid Fall.
Now on your YouTube playlist, you play soundtracks from Romance is a Bonus Book, Something in the Rain or Encounter on repeat. “I think the Korean production really works hard to tell their stories convincingly. They also invest a lot in writers and Korean indie music,” says Limbu. “And that is why they are so compelling with their works.”
Why isn’t she/he acting in more movies?
By now you know all the Korean actors. Because every time a character has grasped your interest you have studied about them in Soompi, Dramalist, Dramabeans and so now you know who you want to religiously follow. Perhaps Lee Byun Ho after watching ‘I saw the Devil’ or Kim Hyeja from ‘Mother’. You desperately wait for your favourite actor/s to make more movies and dramas. You want their movies to do good. And if somebody asks you, you will even be able to tell them their work history, their milestones, the roles that brought them glory. “Their movie is different,” you will say.
“I am right now excited about Lee Min-Ho’s ‘The King: Eternal Monarch’. After three years of waiting since his mandatory military duty, Lee Min Ho has finally returned to our screen starring in a romantic fantasy drama,” says Mandal. “My sisters and I watched the first two episodes just last week. But now we will have to wait for another week to watch the other episodes.”
I want to have Korean food
Koreans celebrate food. And by now, you know more about Korean cuisine than other cuisine. Be it Seo Hyun-jin eating pork belly kimchi stew or Kim Tae-ri eating sujebi, your mouth has watered every time. You want to gulp down Soju with some delicious gogi-gu-i (Korean barbecue). You go out to eat Kimbap, ddukbokki (even plain ramen that you can get easily in department stores) more than any other food. There’s no better way to feel more Korean than to eat some delicious Korean food.
“I have been having ramen ever since I started watching Korean dramas. Besides that, it really fascinates me the way they eat their leftover food. They mix so many things including Kimchi to gulp them down one spoon after another,” says Mandal.
Lurking on forums to discuss and complain
By this stage, you are in deep. You have been so obsessed with plots of dramas that now you need to pacify yourself with discussion and commentaries. You will search for forums to talk about character arcs, story development and to discuss works of chakanims (writers) and gamdog-nims (directors). And that’s how you know about Korean production and how the Korean entertainment industry values production.
“Sometimes, I like to go around forums reading people’s comments and discussion on dramas. There is a lot of discussion happening around Lee Min-Ho’s comeback,” says Shrestha.
Sometimes you will be a quiet observer, other times you will lash out all your rage on why the drama is not making sense, or why you don’t like the character. You may make new online friends or—and this is highly likely—offend someone.
I will travel to Korea!
Watching all those dramas and movies has you wishing to visit the country itself to know the culture even more closely. You want to visit Joomoonjin beach from the drama ‘Goblin’, Jeju Island that the movies/dramas’ characters so often seem to repeat, Seoul the ultimate dream world, Busan where Gong-Yoo was trying to reach in ‘Train to Busan’ or Gwangju where Song Kang Ho was driving to in ‘A Taxi Driver’. You want to see the Korean market and meet ahjussi (mister) and ahjumma (Korean middle-aged women) for real. You want to try the real taste of kimchi, kimbap, ddukbokki , jajangmyeon and much more.
“After watching a lot of dramas, I really wanted to visit Korea, so I went there two years back,” says Shrestha. “The place was really beautiful and I will most definitely travel back to the place again with my family,” she says.