International TV: the rise of K-dramas

Nimra Rafique discusses her favourite K-dramas and why she recommends them

Nimra Rafique
16th March 2020
Credit: Ryan Karolak on Youtube
I still can’t believe that I used to binge watch 5 seasons of a TV series, each having approximately 23 episodes, and now I struggle to finish even just 1 season. That’s the beauty of (almost) all Korean dramas, they usually only last 1-2 seasons, with about 16 episodes in each.

At first, after being an avid watcher of shows such as Pretty Little Liars and Gossip Girl, I found it hard to fathom that a K-drama was able to create a compelling story, with well developed characters, plot twists and a satisfactory ending in just 1 season- but boy was I pleasantly surprised.

With the likes of Parasite, which won an impressive 4 Oscars this year, to boy group BTS, who have countless achievements and international success, there’s no doubt that the Korean entertainment industry is at its peak, and K-dramas are no exception. Entertainment has become increasingly more diverse, and international shows/films are beginning to become more commonly acknowledged and appreciated, especially with them being more available and easily accessible at our fingertips through streaming sites such as Netflix. This is the case for K-dramas; I have seen the increase in awareness and discussion of K-dramas on social media, from influencers to regular users, and Netflix has started releasing a wider variety to the site, from classics to new releases.

The messages articulated in international shows and films transcend language and cultural barriers

Credit: Ryan Karolak on Youtube

It important to appreciate and admire works from other countries and cultures. I find it impressive that a show or film in a language I don’t know can have such an impact on me, that’s what makes it so brilliant, that the messages articulated in international shows and films transcend language and cultural barriers. I will share two of many K-dramas that have captured me with their thought provoking message, characters and overall story.

Hello, My Twenties! (Age of Youth)

I believe that well-developed characters that you can connect with is one of the most important parts of a TV show, and the main reason why I love Hello, My Twenties! (also known as Age of Youth) The 2-season series revolves around a group of 5 university students living together in a Seoul share house, the only thing in common being their address. Despite their different personalities, they bond and support one another, through all the good and the bad, and we as viewers almost feel as if we are part of the friendship group as we watch everything unfold on screen. I love that the show has all-female leads, and takes a fresh perspective to the typical K-drama romance cliches. Each character faces their own struggles and has their own distinct narrative, all of which are interesting and conveyed very well, yet they come together naturally as the characters connect and their friendship grows.

Season 2 (my favourite of the two) takes their friendship even deeper, as the story explores more complex and darker ideas, perfectly balanced out with humour. For example, one of the main characters, Song Ji-Won (my favourite), embodies exactly what I mean about the balance between comedy and tragedy. Her bubbly personality adds lightheartedness and humour, however, the darkness of her past which she must face in this season makes the show raw and real. It is this sincerity and authenticity that makes the story so compelling and touching.

Credit: Iflix Phillippines on Netflix

SKY Castle

SKY Castle received a lot of critical acclaim and media attention, which was how I initially heard of it. From the very first episode I was hooked, so much happens and I was left with so many questions. I found myself continuously clicking onto the next episode into the early hours of the morning. The show takes a satirical route when looking at the South Korean education system, as it revolves around wealthy families living in the luxurious Sky Castle community. These privileged parents will do anything to get their kids into one of the top universities, even at the expense of someone’s life. The show is dark, full of emotion and twists. The ending, although is not the happy conclusion I wanted for some characters, clearly represents the cruel reality the show is criticising. It is definitely deserving of all the attention and high ratings it got.

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