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[Work, life, balance, and K-dramas] Confessions from behind the lectern


School 2013

By @vongole

I had left my student days behind by the time I got hooked on K-dramas, but the one-more-episode syndrome is familiar from graduate school days. I remember watching Heroes Season 2 over one night. So, there’s empathy when I read about fellow Beanies complaining about their impending exams and, more generally, how studies interfere with their K-drama binges. I recall from Spill the Beans stories that one enthusiastic Beanie lost a school year because of their love for K-dramas.

If you plan to stay on at the university as a professor, the struggle to balance drama-watching with studies does not get any better. The challenge just takes a different form. Students have to study for their grades; professors need to press pause on the finale of Pretty Noona Who Buys Me Food to finish grading answers. Just for the record, for better or for better, I finished the grading and have yet to watch said finale.

We may not need to worry about grades (ours anyway), but sometimes it really is easier to be a student rather than a professor. Students may look bleary-eyed and struggle to stay awake in class after an all-nighter (the drama binge kind, of course). But, that’s not an option for your professor, who has to sound intelligent and inspirational, and definitely not look tired from getting only four hours of sleep due to a drama marathon.


School 2013

On some days, as I am working past midnight fine-tuning that early morning lecture, the temptation to spend the last crucial waking hour on the just-subtitled latest episode of K-drama is strong. Occasionally, I give in. Then I spend the rest of the day feeling guilty. Then I tell myself that the happiness I get from watching dramas makes me better at my work #TVisthe(not-so-new)OpiumoftheMasses.

As those who share my vocation know, academics rarely switch off. How would you stop thinking anyway! (Tried-and-tested answers: Mind-numbing physical work and/or alcohol.) And so, in order to nourish multiple birds from the same feeder, I have looked into the possibility of conducting research on/in South Korea. But I never seriously pursued the tentative opportunities that did come my way because, all things considered, I decided against turning pleasure into work. I watch dramas to feed my soul. To exercise my mind on such matters, I can come to Dramabeans. There are good conversations on dramas and latest trends, and thoughtful essays (no word limit) on the artistic merits and/or “close reading” of Young-Joon’s morning showers in What’s Wrong With Secretary Kim. If you have not submitted the latter yet, you are way past the deadline.


What’s Wrong With Secretary Kim?

Beyond whisking me off to wonderful make-believe worlds and away from work stress, K-dramas have proved helpful in an area of my professional life: to remind me time and time again (okay, mostly through School 2013 and School 2017; so, exactly two times) to never give up on a student.

Teaching errant postgraduate students is not the same as teaching young, impressionable minds in a high school. My students are adults and I like to treat them as such; and, if I had to choose a role model from the dramas I have watched, it’d probably be the Witch in Cheese in the Trap and not Jang Nara’s character in School 2013. Learning spaces are precious in these times of intense competition and funding cuts in higher education. Everyone has their story, even the bully and the serial plagiarist. Like Se-chan, I have taken cues on patience and understanding from In-jae in School 2013. Unlike him who’s caught in the world of the writers’ making, I can escape to the dramaverse when it all gets to be too much.


School 2013

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I enjoyed reading this SO MUCH. I didn't discover kdramas until I was a professional---long long after my student days---and I can really relate to this: "has to sound intelligent and inspirational, and definitely not look tired from getting only four hours of sleep due to a drama marathon." I'm too old for this, and yet---and yet---and yet. Here I am. :D I like, this, too: "There are good conversations on dramas and latest trends, and thoughtful essays (no word limit) on the artistic merits and/or “close reading” of Young-Joon’s morning showers in What’s Wrong With Secretary Kim. If you have not submitted the latter yet, you are way past the deadline." First of all, hilarious :D But also yes, this is a great sum-up of DB. I love this thoughtful community! I could go on and on---but it seems I have an essay due :P

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Thanks! And yes, turns out that good sense doesn’t necessarily come with age. But hey, I am sure our work is better for all the happiness we get from K-dramas!

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There are good conversations on dramas and latest trends, and thoughtful essays (no word limit) on the artistic merits and/or “close reading” of Young-Joon’s morning showers in What’s Wrong With Secretary Kim. If you have not submitted the latter yet, you are way past the deadline.

"Professor @vongole, please accept my tardy essay on "The Artistic Merits of Young-Joon's Morning Showers." I had to finish my creative writing fiction piece on Nam-woo's guilt-plagued response to Min-ho's being hit with the TOD that Dr. @raonah required within the 48 hour deadline. If I would have known that you were a Kdrama fanatic as well, I may have lost more sleep to complete it. I hope you enjoy reading it...

'The human body is a marvelous thing, and such a perfect specimen should be on display to see, for both academic and artistic study...'

Sincerely, Your kdrama-loving student"

Thank you for your insight in being a functioning member of society and the educator of minds while being a Kdrama addict. Like you, work will always come first for me, as I still have several dramas that I've yet to finish after being derailed by deadlines. But, "fighting" from one educator to another to find a way to finish them! And I hope you do finish Pretty Noona, the last episode was very sweet, of course.

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LOL😂. Agree with everything, Ally, except on the last episode of pretty noona being sweet 😒
But let's allow our teacher to form her own impression 🙃😊🙃

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True! I think she will! And hopefully let us know her opinion!

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I am sure there will be a slump sometime in the near future, and that’s when the familiar Pretty Noona will come to the rescue 😊

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The problem is not tooc much the time slump... I won't tell. You find out for yourself. I cannot tell even if I would want to, because I was so angry I couldn't watch it fully.

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Thanks! And, of course, top grades for that thoughtful reflection on Young Joon’s shower. Good luck with your other deadlines!!

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Bravo @vongole! I've been on the teaching side of things too so I identify. Nobody seems to realise how much time teachers spend working outside of classroom hours, planning lessons and marking late into the night. And never switching off. It is all-consuming if you're not careful, so I understand how dramas became your escape.

Also, I am so happy to see School 2013 get some love. Everyone goes on about the bromance, but for me the best thing was the realistic portrayal of the teachers. One was cool and strictly professional most of the time; the other was caring and probably too invested in helping her students with "life problems". The drama made me think of what kind of teacher I wanted to be. Like you I learned from it to never give up on a student.... but I also learned the heartbreaking truth that there are limits to how much a teacher can do.

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Hey! I watched School 2013 fairly recently, and it really spoke to me. I am not a big fan of high school settings, but the focus on teaching strategies was fascinating. The kind of difference that Jang Nara's character's approach to her students made to their lives (fictionally, of course!) was inspiring. But, self-care is important too. We do what we can, I suppose.

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I stumbled into the world of kdramas while a grad student, so I was both student and teacher trying to find balance. I was not always successful; however, Beanies helped me stay somewhat sane by giving me an outlet to discuss and share what all my cohorts thought silly. Moreover, the talented Beanies gave me the inspiration for my final and very successful storytelling lesson, and if I teach in the future gif storytelling, or something similar, will be in my arsenal.

Giving into the temptation of that newly subbed episode after midnight, knowing I had teach at 8 am, happened more often than I would like to admit.

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Not a single friend or family member of mine is into K-dramas. I wouldn't know what to do without our Beanies community!!

gif storytelling!! What is that?!

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What a fun post.
I recently discovered dramas and there are times it reminds me of reading under the covers and the, " just one more chapter" reasoning. The big difference is that when I was a teen I could reasonably function on no sleep.......now it can take days to make up for it.
I'm watching Cheese in the Trap for the first time right now.

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Thank you! And, I still read page-turners. Between my love for fiction and K-dramas and LIFE, I don't know how I get any work done!!
Enjoy Cheese in the Trap (as long as you can)... I guess you have seen the mixed reviews here.

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LOVE your post!

Now I wish I had focused more in those anatomy class so I could give detailed (and specific) elaborations on the physical merits of Young Joon’s morning showers. Dang! I miss the deadlines.

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Thank you! And, it's never too late ;) I haven't had the chance to watch this week's episodes yet (just back from a holiday). Off to check now if the show has been consistent about its character representations - for academic reasons, of course.

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Great post @vongole

I share your problem of how to switch off thinking. Alcohol only seems to make the thoughts go round in my head faster!

Watching kdrama is actually the only thing that works for me. It's not that kdrama is mind-numbing, but more that it is the one thing that can make me think about something else other than the current project that I'm obsessing about.

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Thank you! You are so right. Well-directed dramas really do take us into a different world. I must say though that when I see the non-chaebol drama characters work so hard to make it in the professional world, I do feel fortunate about having projects that stress me out.

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Thanks for sharing your story. Your references to how watching kdramas has influenced your interaction with your students has made me think about the same thing - but in my case it is interactions with colleagues in a Misaeng-type cubicle jungle. I think that overall, watching kdramas has had a positive influence on my professional relationships.

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Misaeng is still on my to-watch list. My current favourite workplace drama is Miss Hammurabi - lots of food for thought there.

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@vongole I can relate to this post so much. It's just like you've read my mind and had my experiences. I discovered K dramaland in my last year at uni (thank you very much, my dear classmate "you know who you are") and I have been here since then. An after graduating I enter the academic world but to be in the other side of the classroom. At least some time I could share my passion for k dramas too.

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Thank you! My areas of teaching/research do not really lend themselves to K-drama references in class. But, a dear colleague who knows about my obsession challenged me sometime back to bring it up in class, in an academic context. I am pleased to report that I did manage that one :P

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Looooool!! I can relate to this so much!! I don't know how many sleepless nights I pulled during weekdays... I'd go to work on auto-pilot and sometimes, even continue watching them in the office. Yep, good memories!

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I may or may not have some drama in office, maybe (or not) during lunchtime 😋

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loooooooooooool!!! I feel you!

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As a fellow academic, I relate to your experience in so many ways. But there are as well so many differences! I somehow found myself lecturing about Korean pop culture (by accident!). I started grading final tests while watching k-dramas to keep myself motivated (no guilt there). And lately I've got through revisions for an article by using My Mister as relaxing background noise. I think most people would be surprised to learn that academics can enjoy kdramas, but I found that because academic work is so intellectually and emotionally demanding, I have no patience left for TV shows that want to be witty, gritty or edgy. I'd take Pretty Noona Who Buys Me Food over Games of Thrones any day.

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Oh yes! I find it very hard to watch anything too stressful anymore. In K-dramas, in spite of my love for Lee Sun Kyun, I couldn’t continue watching My Ajhushi. K-drama rom coms or something like Little Forest are just right for me!

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Im a bit late reading this- but i LOVE LOVE LOVE your perspective and writing. And i cannot agree more about tesching methods.

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Thanks so much!!

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I enjoy reading this.#RELATE

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I love that so many of us academics have congregated here😇

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I am studying to become a professor so I could relate to this on a personal level, especially the, "telling myself that the happiness I get from watching dramas makes me better at my work." I guess most of us are guilty of that😂
The piece is hilarious and hearing about a drama lover's struggle from a person who is already at a place where I want to reach was oddly comforting.
Thank you Sunbaienim! 😍😍

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Hello fellow academic! Thanks for your kind comment, and good luck with the research and writing. May you get tenure with fewer grey hair than I did!😊

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Thank youuu!

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this spoke volumes to me! growing up kdramas were a minor part of my life, with the occasional addiction to Goong and Full House. but I re-discovered kdramas one year into my graduate school life, and to say that they were a blessing is an understatement. In between the stress of constant writing and thinking, it felt great to switch off even for a few episodes a week. I also found an affinity for reference-laden dramas (the story room nineteen from BTIMFL got me obsessed with doris lessing for a while). glad to know there are other beanies in grad school, too!

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