K-Dramas: The Rise And Acceptance Of Korean Culture

by Vrinda Jain
K-Dramas: The Rise And Acceptance Of Korean Culture

February 12, 2021

Don't you wish on your sad days that Hyun Bin (you know it if you know it) would come and swing his jacket around your shoulders? Alas, that dream is far away from reality.

Over the last decade, the Korean wave, which includes music, TV, movies, and culture, has gained a great deal of popularity worldwide. With Bong Joon Ho’s Parasite‘s phenomenal success, more and more people are waking up to Korean dramas’ brilliance (referred to as K-dramas from here on) and movies. 

It doesn’t matter if you’re new to Hallyu (Korean wave) or a veteran, there’s a lot of stuff that’s bound to leave you puzzled while observing K-dramas. It’s a globalised world we’re living in right now, so things may seem pretty familiar on the face. Despite this globalisation, common Korean traditions may seem alien to many of us.

Looking at the romance, the beautiful scenarios, the food, and the beautiful traditional costumes, we wish we were born in South Korea. But have you ever thought how authentic is South Korea’s portrayal in their films and dramas and how is it in the actual life?

Korean actors portrayal in dramas is so different from their real lives.

Reel V/s Real

Rich man-meets-poor woman, a love story crossing borders or a classic underdog tale- with cherry blossoms and Han River is what makes a basic storyline for Korean dramas. Respect for the elders, showing affection through food, and navigating social disapproval of falling in love with a younger man is another theme. But in reality, how true do they stand?

Why Do All The Rich Men Fall In Love With The Poor Girl?

Poster for Boys Over Flowers.

The extremely famous Boys Over Flowers got us hooked to the narrative of rich boy falling in love with a poor girl. Despite the female protagonist of the drama facing a hundred different problems and bullying in school, she somehow manages to get over things and protect her love by going through various difficulties. 

Whether it is Strong Woman Do Bong Soon or Secretary Kim, many have been shown and overplayed in the same narrative. But is a rich guy out there looking for you? Well apparently, many girls hoped to find the wealthy, good looking man from an influential family.

The trend of getting a rich guy to fall in ‘love’ with a poor girl did get out of control at a point. The influence was such that women started to wait for their prince charming and pretended to be poor!

The Obsession With Beauty And A Slim Waist!

Again, the portrayal of beauty standards in the dramas is high, but in reality, South Korean society is obsessed with looking beautiful and having a little waist. If you have seen My ID is Gangnam Beauty, then you might be aware of what Gangnam Beauty means.

If you are not sure about it, it means an attractive person because they got plastic surgery. It’s not surprising that Korean beauty has conquered the world. The famous ’10-step skincare routine’ trend is evident. But this also means that the expectations of beauty in Korean culture are incredibly high and rigid. As a result, the country has the highest proportion of plastic surgeries in the world.

The "ten step skincare routine" of K drama stars.

Facts About Figures

A 2020 study found that 20% of young Korean girls had undergone cosmetic surgery. This is substantially higher than the average frequency in other nations. A more recent survey by Gallup Korea in 2015 reported that roughly one-third of South Korean women aged between 19 and 29 reported having had plastic surgery.

A 2009 study found that Korean women are critical of their physical appearance and are more vulnerable to lower self-esteem and self-satisfaction than women in the United States. Asia’s fascination with whiteness is also a sign of its economic status.

Education And Student Lifestyle

Staying the late night in schools, having extra classes and the pressure of getting into Seoul National University is correct. As shown in “Sky Castle,” the burden of studies on students is real. Even the parents go to more extraordinary lengths for their children to study in good universities and get high grades.

Since the students can keep up with challenging school requirements, they are considered high-performing students. Getting to a prestigious university is seen as a status symbol, particularly for the upper class. Though international schools are rising in popularity in Korean society, Seoul National University’s pride continues to be a high-profile choice.

A shot from "Sky castle" korean drama.

As a result of its Confucian cultural influence, Koreans highly valued education and started working on various reforms to create a literate population. The Basic Education Law of 1949 and then the National Strategic Plan, emphasising education policies in 1962, established mandatory schooling for elementary and middle school students.

Its development has not stopped since then. Korea now has a literacy rate of 97.9%; this figure has been further reduced, with 99.2% of males and 96.6% of females literate.

The Oppressive Celebrity Culture

In the last few years, there have been several high-profile suicides of people who are stars of pop or television scenes. Their deaths have naturally become subjects of concern and interest for the audience. The world in which these young celebrities live is absolutely relentless and very challenging. 

They have to practise on an on-going basis, they have nothing in the way of life outside the studio, there is a lot of pressure from the very beginning, and the agency practically controls those signed by them. Very few who make a name in the industry are always under terrible pressure to look nice, smile, and be beautiful.

K-Pop actor and star Cha In-Ha committed suicide at the age of 27.

It’s worse for the women. Numerous cases of rising stars were reported to coerced into relationships with managers, representatives or other idols to boost their careers.

The audience may recognise the pressure that their favourite celebrities are under, but the wave of watching K-Dramas is enormous. And by this time, if you are tired of watching the same overly done story lines, then we have prepared a list of different shows with exciting story lines just for you!

A-List Of K-Dramas


Cha Dal Gun, a stuntman becomes an awakened tiger when his nephew dies in a mysterious plane crash. As an orphan himself, he raised his nephew in place of his brother who had passed away. Triggered by the large-scale cover-up of the incident, he sets out on a quest to find the truth.

Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo

Go Ha Jin is transported back in time to the beginning of the Korean Goryeo Dynasty during King Taejo. She wakes up in 16-year-old Hae Soo’s body and finds herself in the 8th Prince Wang Wook house. She soon became acquainted with several princes and met the shunned 4th prince, Wang So. While she knows that she should not be involved in palace intrigues over the throne’s inheritance, she unwittingly becomes a victim in the struggle, when several princes fall in love with her.

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A poster of K drama "Moon Lovers"

Save Me

Following her father’s failure, Sang Mi and her family moved to Muji-gun where they had no family or friends. Over there, she meets four young men. When Sang Mi and her family face the loss of her brother and trouble with the town’s spiritual Father Baek Jung Ki; her family is slowly sucked into a pseudo-religious cult, and the four young men try to save her.

Sweet Home

After his family died in an accident, a teenager Cha Hyun Soo moves to a new apartment. His peaceful life was soon interrupted by the strange events that started to occur in his new building. As people transform into monsters, Hyun Soo and other locals are trying to survive.

Memories of Alhambra

Memories of Alhambra tells the unusual and exciting love storey of Yoo Jin Woo and Jung Hee Joo. Good spirited Yoo Jin Woo is the CEO of an investment firm with a degree in engineering and expertise in designing video games. He has an adventurous, competitive nature. Suffering after his best friend betrays him, he goes on a business trip to Granada, Spain, in search of an elusive inventor of a groundbreaking augmented-reality video game. He ends up in a hostel that Jung Hee Joo owns.


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