I bought my daughter a Korean Hanbok when she turned 4. We were preparing for a wedding in the family and I wanted her to wear a unique outfit. Scrolling through numerous websites for traditional garments worn around the world I found a site, which sold Korean Hanbok with accessories. I bought the beautiful purse and shoes to match. This was my first introduction to anything Korean. Yet, my life experience thus far had not been exposed to many things Korean. Well, with the exception of the Korean Merchants in stores when living in Bedsty New York, I had never come in close contact with anyone who was Korean. Of course, that changed when I attended college as an International Student much later.
Fast forward years later and I am now a major Kdrama enthusiast. How is it that a “black Caribbean Female Living in New Hampshire” like me got addicted? It all started one late evening back in 2012 while watching a popular program called “Attack of the Show” on G4 which is a US cable network channel. The show is soon to be cancelled but it was the place to go to learn about American Pop Culture and the latest technology for most geeks like my husband and me. We watched it religiously as a family every evening after dinner. The show had a section where they covered Asian Cinema and it was there that they showcased a Korean Drama titled “City Hunter”. The hosts gave the show a high rating and recommended it to those who loved Asian Cinema. My family is a lover of any/all things Asian especially since living in Tokyo, Japan for over 2 years. Curious about this new genre we decided to watch “City Hunter” together as a family. The show was so well done that we did our first family marathon watching it every night in anticipation of the next twist and turn. We became addicted to Lee Min-Ho and wanted to see more of him.
However, for me, my family’s “Kdrama-watching-pace” was to slow. My husband had to go to work every day and my 11 year-old daughter had to go to school and pay attention to homework. I, on the other hand, was a stay-at-home mom. Once they were gone for the day, I was left on my own to cook, clean and take care of everything at home. I was also very isolated. Living here in New Hampshire there are not many black, Caribbean women from Barbados or other like countries to talk to or meet up with. I have found that living in the suburbs in the north eastern part of the US as a Black/African-American can be downright lonely and depressing. Since I am Buddhist and not Christian this further isolates me because my way life is not the ‘norm’. I needed something to fill the void created from this dire situation.
Kdrama filled the void perfectly.
I was so taken with Lee Min-Ho in “City Hunter” I wanted to see his handsome face constantly. So I looked for every show with him starring and came across “Boys Over Flowers”. We started to watch as a family but once again my husband and daughter were taking too long so I just went ahead and watched every episode over a period of 2 days. Next came “Personal Taste” and on and on until I could not find anymore Kdramas with Lee Min-Ho in them. So I started looking at other Korean stars and dramas and discovered “Secret Garden” with Ha Ji-Won and Hyun-Bin and many more dramas.
I was officially addicted.
Soon I had to find the right place to watch the dramas and I needed to find more of them because I was watching a marathon weekly on my Ipad. Not many shows were set up to watch on Ipads but I found a way. I discovered Crunchyroll, Viki, Youtube and many more but my all time favorite place to go for Kdrama is DramaCrazy because they have a wide variety to assuage an appetite like mine.
Discovering Kdramas have helped me in my life in so many ways. I have learned about creating a good plot and what great writing can do for a show; I have learned about and am fascinated by Korean Culture, people, food and the country; I have learned that Koreans are very conservative, respectful of their elders and traditions and that they respect their dead just as much or even more that their respect their living.
I also see that Korean people value education and the culture is set in their perceptions of class and status. It is important for lines to be clear and delineated when it comes to rich and poor. I have also learned that even though I am an avid fan of Korean culture, which was sparked by my love of Kdramas, the color of my skin might still be an obstacle. To be honest I was worried that Koreans might not be open to a person such as myself but soon overcame those feelings. I believe Kdramas can be a powerful and useful tool in transcending the issue of race because of how Kdrama is reintroducing the Korean people and their culture to the world. I am slowly learning that there are many Kdrama fans like me across the world.
I am not alone.
I believe that Kdramas can do much to help introduce South Korea, its people and culture to the West and am hoping that the dramas will soon make an appearance on cable television. Just as I have overcome the issue of race through my introduction to all things Korean via Kdrama, I think the same would apply to Koreans if they knew how much Kdramas have come to mean in the small world and daily life of a black, Caribbean female living in New Hampshire.
. ******** Written for iPad Zine Korean Now feb 2013 issue