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Behind the noona romance

Age serves an important role in the way characters relate to each other in K-dramas, and in romances especially so. Dramaland is particularly interested in the idea of a younger man-older woman romantic pairing, also known as the noona romance.

You don’t have to be a noona to enjoy a good noona romance, and the frequency at which these stories are produced is a clue to how much it resonates with viewers. Why do we enjoy these stories so much? Certainly there’s more behind the noona romance than vicarious enjoyment (though that’s a part of it), or the plot tension this age dynamic adds to a romance on a social level. How are noona romances used to serve the plot, and what messages might be hiding behind the noona romance?

Though noona romances are on an upswing with the recent Pretty Noona Who Buys Me Food, currently airing Boyfriend, and the upcoming Romance is a Bonus Book, there were also a bunch of early dramas that were devoted to this relationship dynamic. These dramas were also great character-driven stories about heroines learning more about themselves, and making room in their lives for love. And yes, being wooed by a younger man turned out to be a crucial catalyst for their growth.

Dal Ja’s Spring is one of these dramas. It aired in 2007 and a favorite of many, Dal Ja’s Spring is about a career-focused heroine (played by Chae Rim), and the younger man she gets entangled with (played by Lee Min-ki). Thwarted by a one-sided love, and anxious to save face, Dal Ja starts up a contract relationship with Lee Min-ki’s character.

It’s no surprise that the story that unfolds is about the bumps on the road to their romance, but the drama handles the contract romance and noona romance themes in an enjoyable and light-handed way. Lee Min-ki’s character, though much younger, actually serves to ground Dal Ja’s flightiness. His presence also forces her to look inside herself, and at the things that are truly holding her back.

The title of Dal Ja’s Spring is important too. Spring, or the idea of re-awakening, is as central to this noona romance, as it is to 2010’s The Woman Who Still Wants To Marry. In this drama, Park Jin-hee plays a thirty-four-year-old TV reporter named Park Shin-young who’s always made her career her priority — and that’s where most of the plot tension comes from. Because what do you do when a young musician and student, Kim Bum, flirts with you, fights with you, writes rock songs about you? If you’re Shin-young, you wind up falling in love, a ten-year age difference be damned.

As in Dal Ja’s Spring, the romance in The Woman Who Still Wants To Marry is presented as a new season — or even a second chance — in life and love. Our heroine is once reminded that, “Even in theatre they have dark sets in between scenes… That’s happening to you too. This is just the dark phase before the start of your second chance in life.” And in this case, that second chance takes the shape of Kim Bum and his killer grin.

Why doesn’t she (or any of these noonas for that matter) just jump in head first? I remember thinking that during 2013’s I Hear Your Voice, as I watched the sweet romance between Lee Jong-seok and Lee Bo-young develop. It’s easy for the audience to dismiss the heroine’s misgivings as she’s romanced by a younger man, and sometimes her reservations might seem like an annoying plot barrier. However, when you take a step back, these noona romances have something very interesting to say about the power of choice.

In both Dal Ja’s Spring and The Woman Who Still Wants To Marry particularly, it’s the heroine’s inner conflicts that are the major source of tension in the drama. Both heroines are offered a new season in the form of a younger man. This younger man almost invariably adores her, looks past her faults, and has no reservations about their age gap. The choice of a new season is presented, but it’s left up to the heroines to choose to accept. If you think about it, this element is rarely explored in other romances where the question of age is not at the forefront.

K-dramas often treat falling in love like getting struck by lightning or drinking a love potion. There are endless rom-coms where the hero is completely smitten and has no control over his infatuation and adoration. The hero then harasses his way (eventually) into the heroine’s heart. Then there are other romances where the OTP is fated to be, and while the world (or chaebol elders, ever-returning first loves, trucks of doom, and other ill-fated happenings) threatens to separate them, nothing can truly keep them apart.

Noona romances are interesting in that unlike the more tropey romances, they often portray love and embarking on a relationship as being a choice. Dramaland makes it clear that love is magical, bigger than ourselves, and will often plow through any obstacles in its way — and while all of this is true, noona romances often linger (at least for a portion of the plot) over the heroines’ decision-making. They love each other, yes, and they are a great couple, but will the heroine be able to put her baggage aside and fully commit to the relationship?

If love is presented as a choice for our noonas, what sort of things get in the way of what seems like a perfectly acceptable and delightful proposition? Our first reaction would be to say the age of the hero. That’s not exactly fair though, because in most of these stories the hero not only proves his maturity and loyalty, but he himself has a total disregard of the age difference. While the noonas seem to be ashamed and hide from it, the heroes don’t mind one bit.

Jung Hae-in’s character, in Pretty Noona Who Buys Me Food, happily shares that his girlfriend is thirty-five. In Temperature of Love, Yang Se-jong’s character boldly declares to his noona (played by Seo Hyun-jin) that, “I’m twenty-four; I’ve already done my military service.” And in Witch’s Romance, Park Seo-joon’s character is more concerned by his age than Uhm Jung-hwa’s, when he asks if her refusal of him is because he’s too young.

These heroes have no doubt about the woman they’ve chosen. In fact, I can’t think of a noona romance I’ve seen where it was the younger hero that was beating himself up over his age, and breaking things off with the heroine because of it.

What is it that the age disparity does to the inner workings of our noonas, then? It’s about so much more than being perceived as socially awkward, or drawing attention to the seniority of the heroine. To me, one of the primary things the age difference does is open up space for doubt. Dating a younger man seems to wake up worries in our heroines about whether their love is truly a lasting one. It tests her confidence in their relationship, and even more so, her confidence in herself.

While this questioning can happen in any relationship, very few non-noona romances actively feature the heroine deciding to take that step forward — and that’s because noona romances rely on age disparity to give the heroine that moment of pause. This shows up in the plot through worries like, “Can I keep my current life/career/goals and love this person?” or “Can I trust his love is true?” or “Is this what I really want for myself?” These internal doubts can be stronger than any outside antagonist that drives the couple apart.

Often, our heroines use the heroes’ age as a reason or proof not to trust in his love, but most of the time, the issue lies inside of the heroine herself. There are a lot of noonas who are presented with quite a magical romance — but who falter in a mess of hesitation and insecurity after the initial excitement has settled down.

This was particularly felt in Pretty Noona Who Buys Me Food. The heroine (played by Sohn Ye-jin) is wrapped up in her job, dating the wrong guy, and clearly missing some magic in her life. When she meets the character played by Jung Hae-in, everything starts to change. But he’s the childhood friend of her younger brother, and this throws a major wrench into their romance.

While not without its faults, the drama was a poignant exploration of what insecurity, self-doubt, and the power of outside perception can do to a romance that would have (and should have) otherwise thrived. It’s also a great example of how noona romances force the heroine to look within to face her issues, and decide whether to trust the love that’s offered to her. The noonas may have a wonderful romance in their lives, but it’s clear that they have to learn how to love and value themselves before they can fully accept the heart of the hero.

That’s not to say all noonas romances dig quite this deep. There are many dramas where the noona romance exists more for comedy’s sake. In the zany 2014 drama High School King of Savvy, our hero (played by Seo In-gook) is in high school, and the heroine (played by Lee Hana) works in the office where Seo In-gook poses as his older brother. Their age disparity isn’t central to the plot tension of the drama — rather, it acts as a fun element that adds to the drama’s flavor.

The same goes for 2011’s Flower Boy Ramyun Shop, where heroine Lee Chung-ah is hilariously teased, borderline harassed, and totally adored by the privileged high-schooler played by Jung Il-woo. The noona romance here is more for the comedy, and to argue that what the heart chooses doesn’t always make sense. And let’s not forget the noona romance subplot in Angry Mom, which, though wonderful, was more about building and softening the character played by Ji-soo than it was about the psyche of the heroine.

As we’ve seen, noona romances use their age-disparate relationships in different ways, and to tell different kinds of stories. They can bring out themes, scaffold character development, or function merely as an ode to the logic of the heart. Something I think they all have in common is that at their core, they’re about recognizing value.

One of the things that made me fall in love with K-dramas many years ago is the way that love is portrayed. OTP love goes deeper than surface level and physical attraction. Love is continually shown to be about valuing and cherishing the other person and there are a multitude of tender forehead kisses and back hugs meant to illustrate this deep, patient, and unconditional love.

This idea of recognizing the value in another person can come out even more strongly in noona romances because they’re often about a young hero seeing the value in a woman who feels she’s already missed her chance. In Dal Ja’s Spring, or The Woman Who Still Wants to Marry, the heroines are given a new chapter when the hero sees their value. In stories like Witch’s Romance, Temperature of Love, and Pretty Noona Who Buys Me Food, it’s the heroine who needs to do the growing, even though she’s the older one in the relationship. Again, the fact that the hero values her so deeply is what spurs that growth.

Whether it’s about learning to value yourself, learning what it means to truly love and be loved, or giving up immature expectations for a real-life romance — a good noona romance has so much depth to explore. While each drama is different, and plays with age dynamics in its own way, each has the opportunity to be a rich story that explores the imperfections of human nature. After all, behind the noona romance, there’s just a story about people.

 
Addendum: Apologies to all the other lovely noona romances I didn’t get to address here. You know who you are!

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I looove noona romances. Haven't watched all the ones above but I Hear Your Voice has a special place in my heart.

I think this needs to be hotlinked to:

http://www.dramabeans.com/2013/09/if-you-like-noona-romances/ http://www.dramabeans.com/2017/06/dramaland-catnip-noona-romances/

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Here are the ones I have watched:

Romance 2002 (more melodrama than comedy)
Snow White 2004
What’s Up Fox 2006
A Thousand Kisses 2011
I Hear Your Voice 2013
Let’s Eat 2013
I Need Romance 3 2014
Witch’s Romance 2014
High School King of Savvy 2014
Modern Farmer 2014
Sweden Laundry 2014
The Man Living in Our House 2016
Pretty Noona Who Buys Me Food 2018
Boyfriend 2018

PS. This is the first time ever I have the first post.

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and to that I would like to add Secret Love Affair

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Also: High Kick Through the Roof 2009 where Jung Il Woo's 16 year old character falls in love with his teacher. Although that was only a "side" theme running through the drama, it was important and ran through even in the last scene years later.

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Above I only listed the ones I watched which had the main couple as a noona romance. Below are the ones that has a secondary/side pairing noona romance:

We are Dating Now 2002
Fated to Love You 2014
Surplus Mermaid 2014
Plus Nine Boys 2014
The Family is Coming 2015
The Lover 2015
Bubblegum 2015
Answer Me 1988 2015
One More Happy Ending 2016
Madame Antoine 2016
Oh Hae-young Again 2016
About Time 2018

Some of these are more developed and better than others.

My favorite unrequited noona romance is in Angry Mom.

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I Hear Your Voice is a favorite of mine. Can't get much better than Lee Jong Suk and Lee Bo Young was awesome!

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Ji-Soo is a Noona two timer. I loved “Angry Mom”, and he was also great in “FantastiC”. Noona romances are usually my favorite kind of romance in K Dramas. As a dude, I just think older Women are better at nurturing than younger women. And to me, that’s what makes them so attractive 😅 Haven’t seen “The Woman who still wants to marry” so I’ll probably check that out. If anybody else has any other recommendations pls let me know 😊

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You should definitely check it out. It is a classic! Also a great girl buddy show. Which there are not a ton of in K-drama land.

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I usually like noona romances, I Hear Your Voice is still my most favourite LJS drama. Nobody came close to being such a puppy like him.

The the only noona romance I found icky was “I need romance 3.” I don’t know... I just found it weird that the heroine could get past the fact that she was there when he was born and changed his diapers and took care of him when he was a baby.

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Now that's a funny one. But you know,as the above post says "love is magical, bigger than ourselves, and will often plow through any obstacles in its way"

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That's my problem with What's Up Fox? too. She's literally in the hospital, carrying her sister on her back, watching newly born infant chal-su trough the glass of hospital baby room. She's already 9 or 10 year-old at the time.

But I always have problem with noona romance. To be fair I also find ahjussi romance as icky as noona's.

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I don't mind the noona romances because it seems those spring directly from the heart and soul of the characters. With the ahjussi romances, it seems there is oftentimes the predator lurking there.
While kdrama mostly stays away from that sort of thing, (feigning innocence) my experience as an American says otherwise.

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Hmmm, I was just remembering that I used to hold one of my cousins in my arms when he was still a baby. I was like 12 at that time. I am now 32 and he is 20. Nowadays when I meet him he's way taller than me and I don't remember him as a baby at all anymore. I'm not saying that I have any romantic feelings towards him (hell no!) but I get it that at some point you forget that you used to hold him in your arms. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

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I Need Romance 2: "I just found it weird that the heroine could get past the fact that she was there when he was born and changed his diapers and took care of him when he was a baby."

Not sure I trust my memory, but wasn't she only 7 years older than him? That's nothing IRL.

I have had the experience of running into friends' little brothers, years later, who were all grown up and tall and stuff, definitely not little kids anymore. It's...interesting.

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Lee Jong-suk as the ultimate noona killer will always give noona romances a very special place in my suk filled heart.

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I agree. I don't think there's going to be another noona romance to out pass I HEAR YOUR VOICE anytime soon.
But if I can add another one, though I didn't finish it, I liked Kim Bum in THE WOMAN WHO STILL WANT TO MARRY.

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Oh how I still remember clearly Kim Bum's silvery hair..

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I know right?
Sometimes I even forgot he was 12years younger until they mentioned it in the show

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my fav list of noona killers

1. yoo ah in ( secret love affair)
2. park seo joon (witch's romance)
3. lee jong suk (i can hear your voice)
4. jung hae in (noona who buys me food)

and noona killers and their noonas i would like see in 2019
1. kim min suk ( the guy who played the dr in DOTS and the young henchman in Defendant)
2. seo in guk (last seen in million stars)
3. ryu jun heol (last seen in lucky romance)

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Yoo Ah-in's romance in Secret Love Affair was so intense I forgot it was a noona romance when I was watching it.

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I always wodered why My Name is Kim SamSoon is never tooted as a noona romance when SamSoon's age was one of the important obstacles they had. After reading this I decided it is because it has none of the characteristics mentioned here. The boy is still a jerk.

A drama worth mentioning here is Bottom of the 9th With 2 Outs. Though not the main love line, there was a failed noona romance that was handled and shown very well in my opinion.

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I still couldn't understand why I didn't feel the pull of a good noona romance drama. And even when I tried watching it, I just... couldn't get behind the OTP journeys. I wonder if it's because I feel uncomfortable with the extra attention to the age difference. Because I've watched and enjoyed drama like Greasy Melo which also has a noona romance, but since it never put a spotlight on their age disparity, I thoroughly loved their romance. Is it my real life preference intruding unknowingly? 🤔🤔

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Nod in agreement.

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Exactly!! I'm so glad you have written this because I have always wondered about this exact thing. There are many many dramas with a very short scene where the girl laughingly says then I'm your noona, and it passes with no added emphasis, or dramas where we know without being told that she is older.

I haven't been able to enjoy watching dramas which get hyped as noona romances either though I have loved many normal romances where the girl was obviously many years older.

And here's another point. Introducing a drama as a noona romance means that the main conflict will be the age difference. It doesn't matter how well it is executed or how well the characters deal with it. So people who wish to watch a noona romance where age won't matter to the leads are probably choosing the wrong dramas...?

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@missvictrix, thank you!

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My favorite noona romance all the time is always I Hear your Voice. I love they chemistry on and off the screen.

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Couldn't finish "I Hear Your Voice" because I couldn't get rid of the image of a guy in school uniform romancing a lawyer. Didn't have that problem with "Temperature of Love". I think the school uniform is the problem.

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I hate when noon romances start while the guy is still in high school.

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I just realized I watched all those dramas! But I think it's more because it was romance kind that necessarily noona romance.

Secret Affair was a good one too. It was the same PD than Pretty Noona. The both dramas were very beautiful and full of strong feelings. In Secret Affair she was more a teacher than a noona but there was a big difference of age.

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I can see why Secret Affair is never talked about. The woman was very married and very much a criminal.

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Criminal? Oh, you mean because adultery was against the law in Korea.

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No. She was an embezzler at her job.

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It's been a while since I watched it. If I am remembering anything near to correctly, she turned in evidence of her organization's corruption to the prosecutor against massive pressure (external and internal) and confessed to her own wrongdoing. I remember her being quite relieved to pay for her crime, and to have a chance at another life afterward. It was a good ending.

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I've never personally really got the attraction to Noona Romances. I'm not drawn to them and sometimes I even actively avoid them (it is in fact part of the reason I'm not watching Boyfriend *shrugs*). I don't fully know why. I have always thought if they weren't all so intent on making the age gap a plot point I might enjoy them more. And I'm not even sure the reasons I don't like them are consistent cos I love the Queen's Thief Series by Megan Whalen Turner and that has a significant "noona" romance in it. PLUS, my sister is older than her husband! I don't know. It's just not my cup of tea.
So thus I've only really finished one Noona Romance with a significant age gap and that's Witch's Romance.
But all the more for those that do love them, then I 'spose. :P

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*high fives for Queen’s Thief*

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Lol logged in just to say same! I didn’t think I would see queen’s thief here but I can also see people who like dramas loving those books. Book 6 should be coming out soon!!!

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Dalja's spring~ classic noona romance kdrama for me
Young Lee Minki (and young super cute kim jae wook)~
But while I like IHYV, I'm not into their romance. That uniform... That uniform killed it for me.

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Thank you for bringing kim bum into the mix, he is missed, now that bo gum and seung ho heating up this winter.

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I love Noona Romance - Thanks for this interesting piece. I married a man many years younger than me. We are married almost 10 years now. Thus, Noona Romances resonate with me and my favorites are Pretty Noona, Witch's Romance, Temperature of Love and now Boyfriend.

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I love it when the female lead gets to choose whether she wants to be in a relationship and the man is all in. LOVE THAT TROPE. But noona romances are not my thing. I don't know, for me, or the way I was brought up, age is just a number. So all that tension or angst feels tedious and long, and i never seem to have enough patience with it. I guess it's a korean cultural thing that For some reason, my brain cannot pretend to understand even for the sake of the plot. But i do admit, some of the best male leads out there come from noona romances! The guys in there are almost TOO perfect.

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Right and then there’s the parents who 🤨🤨🤨🤨 that their son is into a woman years older than him or that their daughter is into a man younger than her 😪 Oh wells,

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You must have at least seen High School King of Savvy, right? It’s so non-dramatic and hilarious 😂

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One of my favorite "noona" romance was "Secret Love Affair". The currently airing "Boyfriend" I think (hopefully) will be added to my list. But I think the pattern for me to enjoy a noona romance is that the "age" factor, though a plot device, is not the basis for the story. In Secret Love Affair for ex., there is power struggles, a bit of politics, corruption and unhappy marriages. In "Boyfriend", I feel like it is less about age and more about social status. The point however in all of them is that for the heroine, the young guy represents a breath of fresh air, who pulls them into their world, and somehow changes the way they see they see and interact with their own world. And I truly appreciate that.

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there definitely needs to be more to the plot than the age difference to keep me interested

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My all-time favorite noona romance is I HEAR YOUR VOICE. Lee Bo-young and Lee Jong-seok had such chemistry not to mention that it was such a well written drama.
IHYV was followe by:
2. Encounter/Boyfriend
3. Something in the Rain/Pretty Noona Who Buys Me Food
4. Temperature of Love

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The reason I like Noona romances is because the FL is usually independent , has a career and can make decisions. Also ML behaves more maturely than other dramas.
The silliness quotient is usually low in such dramas which I appreciate.
I haven’t seen too many though.

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Yep agree. I especially love if their career is a manger of some sort - I love seeing this kind of plot where a woman is leading a department and everyone depends on her capabilities.

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Thanks for the insightful post!

I have to say even after knowing about it for such a long time I'm still curious as to why people call these stories noona romances. Why don't they call Goblin an ahjussi romance?
Why must only the age gap between an older woman and a young guy be a factor while the older man gets to romance a girl, sometimes 15 years younger, and the story doesn't even consider it. I'm not saying the age is not important, it is. Anything that can become a source of power imbalance is something to consider. Which is why I always find silly to have younger guys so eager to jump in the relationship and show this as something only positive. It's like the younger guy must again be Prince Charming and the older woman is the one being too conservative if she has doubts, while she may only be thinking in more realistic terms. I do like the so called noona romances if they happen between two interesting individuals, but I wish people would call them just romances. :)

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I think with so much attention to age gap in noona romances having female lead who activly pursue much younger ML would make people feel uneasy about power imbalance. But that make this kind of romances rather one note. And you are right the age difference when in reversal is treated as something normal vs. "scandalous" younger men - older women pairing.

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The reason they are treated differently is because for a long time it was not accepted to have an older woman with a younger man (It still comes with its own baggage, especially in more conservative countries). Throughout history it's almost always been older men with younger women, mostly because women needed to pop out children asap. And so the idea of an older woman being with a younger man is still a new one which has spawned it's own genre. I agree, I wish they would just be called romances but it's still a newer idea, that some people still frown at, to have an older woman with a younger man.

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Chugakusei Nikki is the best! But does it qualify as a "noona" romance, I think it does, just correct me if I'm wrong :)

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Yup! It's always the noona having issues-I had too in the beginning (and its only 2 years difference!) but am gonna marry him this year age be damned 😉

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Dal Ja’s Spring ♥️♥️ My all time favourite drama ever. I still re-watch some scenes to this day especially when I’m in deep drama slump. Pity there was never a Offical Korean DVD boxset of this drama, and that’s probably why I feel incomplete. It’s the series that’s missing in my collection 💔

I got into this drama because I got curious of Javabeans’s avatar and I remember how much she talked about this in the past, and I believe this was one of her first recaps on this site? I remember how much I used to spend time reading them. So nostalgic.

Another Noona-dongsaeng drama that caught me was the Witch’s Romance which opened my love for Park Seo Joon.

I don’t really have an issue with this genre. Honestly throw some good chick flicks my way and I’ll watch them! Regardless of genre. ☺️

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From all the noona romance I've watched: my most favourite one is "Secret Love Affair." I love the imbalance between Oh Hae-won and Lee Sung-jae, but then it has given them balance.

Even after I've re-watched several times the scene in episode 16 during OHW closing statement during the trial still got me. For a badass like OHW, she's always served people (his boss and his family) until for me, she looks like a slave. But then, there's Lee Sung-jae as someone who does something simple for her, like making sure she's having a clean seat or she's comfortable... that what moves her the most.

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This is a very insightful post. One thing I like about noona romances is the reversal of the traditional power dynamic; age is very important in the hierarchy in Korea. In most other kdramas, there is an extreme power differential between the man and woman (every Chaebol/ Candy romance ever), which I find off-putting. Usually the man is an ass to the woman in the beginning, and it's sad that her only hope of bettering her life is to marry someone who has more money and power. But in noona romances, the woman has more economic power. Of course this is also taboo in Korea, which is what makes it fun. The age dynamic is complicated, though, because although older women are theoretically higher in the hierarchy, they are also looked down on as being past their prime.

Noona romances are rare in Western movies and TV, but of course it's not unusual to see a man in his fifties paired with a young, beautiful woman. In contrast, most Kdramas are made for women and explore their desires and interests.

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"In contrast, most Kdramas are made for women and explore their desires and interests." This is what I like about K-dramas, the stories are catered to women.

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I really enjoy noona romances as well. The vicarious living has a lot to do with it for me. The issue is the power imbalance in these, and the social perception that the woman is somehow taking advantage of the man-boy. For me, it’s that fact that the woman has a career and has focused on this for much of her life, putting romance and a life-partner in the back seat that appeals to me. Honestly, I thought it would happen to me at times (it didn’t). And for whatever reason, these women feel less attractive than their younger counterparts, so how flattering is it when a younger, very attractive man falls for you! It’s as rare as a fairy tale. And that’s where the infatuation of this genre lies. It’s very fairytale-esque. My first noona romance was Biscuit Teacher Star Candy with Gong Yoo and Gong Hyo Jin. Honestly, I really didn’t like it. A high schooler with anyone older screams too much of child molestation to me. Even if it’s Gong Yoo. As full frontal lobe maturity occurs around 25 y.o. in males, an 18-year-old making the decision to be with someone older is not using all his potential decision-making capacity and can be swayed much more emotionally and physically. So, the fairytale, for me, disintegrates. But in a show like Boyfriend or Pretty Noona, when the man is in his mid or late 20’s, you feel that he is able to make this decision and have the maturity to help the heroine grow as well. Great read, @missvictrix!

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Ok I don't know why, but is it just me, or does anyone else not think Temprature of Love as a noona romance? Maybe it's because Yang Sejong plays his character so maturely or maybe it's because they don't stress that fact. I don't know XD

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I do not. He was 24 and I think she was 28 with they first met. It was brought up once and was not a source of the issues they had.

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So far all these romances haven't dealt with the issue of having kids. Most women want to have a family and little ones. Love is all great, but when you're in your 30s and still haven't found "the ONE"... Going out with a younger man is all great if you've got feelings but you can't "force" him to have kids in his 20s - he's got his freeedom and life to enjoy as you did yourself - when on the other side your clock is ticking.

One of my male friend's girlfriend is 5 years older and she had to threaten him to have a kid when he still wanted to wait ( he had his son at 33 and she was 38). He's happy now, but it could easily have gone another way ( and thank God she threatened him because they just can't manage to have another one so if she didn't do it, she'd probably be without a kid... that is certainly one of the worst thing that can ever happen to any woman who ever dreamed of having her own child... Adoption is generally the default choice...)

I really enjoyed these noona romances when I was in my 20s, but now at 32, surrounded by happy couples and kids, wanting to have kids on my own, I'm really starting to identify with the women portrayed and unfortunately it's not so much, as far as I'm concerned, about finding yourself... It's about building something. With the rise of fertility problems, you don't have the leisure to waste time anymore. The one who loves you, should also automatically become the father of your kids... and the sooner the better. The clock is ticking after all.
I can surely love a younger guy, but the age gap better be not that great... if not... well unless he's very responsible... This is gonna be something we'll have to discuss early on... and I'm not sure he'll be ready. After all, I wasn't in my 20s, can't blame him if he's not.

These young guys don't mind... But WE do, WE have a biological clock and unless you're filthy rich, it's not such an easy thing having a kid past your 40th birthday... Plus, the fact not everything is possible in that matter depending on which country you're living in.

As much as I enjoy watching these "noona romances" (which again is only qualified as such because age is more important for women given our shriveling eggs), I've yet to find any that really tackle that increasing anxiety that I, and other women my age or older are feeling.

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This is a very interesting take, I never thought of it that way because I personally don't want any children. If I were to have kids I would never want to ruin my body to have one, I would adopt (I genuinely don't understand why people have this weird urge to have their own kids when there are plenty of children out their who need loving families). But for women who are very interested in having children of their own, I can understand how being with a man much younger then you can be an issue. But I think with any relationship, this is something to be discussed. Some women, like me, may never want kids. Or maybe their partner is super ready to have kids right away.

For me personally, I would never want to date a guy much younger then me, not because of a biological clock, but because I don't feel most younger men are mature enough for what I am looking for in a partner. But I still love noona romances and I recently came to the realization that it's not the age difference I am interested in, it's the fact that pretty much every noona romance I've seen, it's about the man pursuing the woman, which is what I am drawn to.

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Like @trinpie I do not intend to bear children. I understand women with those goals and see how a younger man can cause serious issues in the future but at the same time I have very little patience watching a noona struggle with these issues. So I would rather watch the comical noona romances like High School King of Savvy and Witch’s Romance that toss reality out the door and just be romantic.

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It's not a goal in itself per say. It's just one of those things that I feel is necessary as far as I'm concerned to have a wholesome life. I understand women who don't want to have kids... I mean, let's be blunt, you do have to sacrifice part of your freedom and sometimes give up some of your dreams in order to bring them up. Maybe I'm too greedy, I have a good career but still dream and study on the side to finally land that dream job that I feel would enable to wake up every day feeling happy and contented with what I do instead of just working to get a good salary and praying my holidays would come sooner... and also want a happy family life, cute kids, a significant other, the lovely house with the garden ( when I'm living in a small apartment in Paris because as a single person, living here is better to easily go out instead of living the suburbs... but the price is the small apartment which is the only thing I can afford even with a very good paycheck).

Still women who don't desire children are the minority. How much of that is Society's influence, telling us we need family and kids to be happy or personal desire is anyone's guess but at the end of the day... here I am watching "noona romances" with terrific guys and that question is not discussed. Now I'm all for fantasy. And I also need my escapism... So yeah, frankly I don't mind... But it would be nice to talk about these issues.

Frankly, I've tried some dating sites, and you can't imagine the number of guys older than 33+ who wanted women who were at the most 30. I also had lots of success from men over 45. Yeah...

Fantasy that's for sure.

Can't tell you I didn't receive some propositions from younger lads ( the youngest was 24)... But given the proportion of older guys VS younger... I'm bound to think that, on the dating sites front, it does reflect men's general desire for younger and fresher flesh.

And I'm not even speaking about this:
https://www.joliegazette.com/toplifestyleevents/tinavincent

Which is basically pedophilia. Supposedly they started their relation when she was 18 but she's a model and even in France they start their career early usually 15/16 years old so I've got my doubts. But as long as you're an actor/singer and rich, I guess pedophilia is called "Love". Responsible parents not blinded by money should have told their daughter to wait a few years to marry if she was so sure of loving him. But nope. Already pregnant with her first child.
Johnny Halliday did the same with his wife Laëticia ( they were 31 years apart)...

Nope, you can't mention our French President because this guy actually fought tooth and nails to convince his current wife to leave her husband. Whether it's moral or not is not really the issue here but the young guy, like in these noona romances, actually fell in love very young ( he was 15 when he fell in love with his wife who was 40 and with 3 kids) and if this was not meant to be than I...

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Ah geez lost the rest and restarted the computer ...

Well anyway.

Let's just say that Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte is your REAL noona romance because falling in love with a woman with kids and pursuing it for YEARS until she gives up her reservations, divorce her husband (who from what we know wasn't a bad husband at all) at the risk of alienating her own kids is not something you do... unless you're completely crazy. He must really have outdone himself to get her.

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"here I am watching "noona romances" with terrific guys and that question is not discussed. Now I'm all for fantasy. And I also need my escapism... So yeah, frankly I don't mind... But it would be nice to talk about these issues."

I think in general, most dramas don't really touch on the idea of having kids, even the non-noona ones. You have some out there that do, but that's typically when it's the theme of the drama itself, or the characters already are parents. But very rarely do you have couples in dramas discussing parenthood. I think the reasoning behind this is that is usually something to discuss as an established couple, not something people typically discuss when they are still fumbling through the blush of an initial romance.

"Maybe I'm too greedy, I have a good career but still dream and study on the side to finally land that dream job that I feel would enable to wake up every day feeling happy and contented with what I do instead of just working to get a good salary and praying my holidays would come sooner... and also want a happy family life, cute kids, a significant other, the lovely house with the garden"

There is nothing greedy about that :D I think most people want a semblance of that life and there is nothing wrong with it!

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Noona romances are my catnip. Which is funny because in real life I am not interested in younger men at all (or only a couple years younger then me at most). So I was thinking about why I love noona romances and I think it's because of all the ones I've seen it's about the man pursuing the woman, and I love that. So I think it's not as much noona romances that are my catnip but it's when the man pursues the woman that is my catnip.

Some excellent noona romances I've seen are:

I Can Hear Your Voice (one of my favorite dramas)
A Witch's Love (another favorite)
Flower Boy Ramen Shop
I Need Romance 3
Let's Eat
High School King of Savvy
What's Up Fox
Biscuit Teacher and Star Candy
Dal Ja's Spring
Angry Mom (not so much a noona romance as it never actually happens but the unrequited love was super adorable)

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MY FAVOURITE NOONA ROMANCE IS TASTE SWEET LOVE WITH LEE WAN. Socially awkward and never-been-kissed noona falls in love with best friend / dreamboat's troublemaking younger brother.

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I am not a big fan of noona romance either, but that's probably my own cultural bias. But one thing this article had made me wonder is that isn't it then a problem that noona romance is the only way a woman can seem to make a conscious decision to be with the man pursuing her? Why can't they have the same decision-making powers in the "regular" romance? Some of the newer ones seems to have this choice for the female lead, but like the author said, the usual fare is that the FL gets badgered by the pursuing male. On that note, has their ever been a noona romance where the woman has been the one pursuing the male lead? I wonder how comfortable people would be watching someone like that (it's not something that's widely shown even in US shows - they use the term "cougar" for that reason!)

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I don’t love or hate noona romances. To me it is just a romance. I never have the patience to watch the noonas struggle over accepting love of a perfect man just because he is much younger. I know in real life it can be a big deal. I don’t need it to be in a drama.

I dropped many noona romances regardless of all the rave reviews because it started getting uninterestingly conflicted (to me).

My favorites are Witch’s Romance and High School King of Savvy. There are probably more but these 2 left the best impression. These noonas had their brief struggle and then the romance continued. The couples experienced clash of generations among themselves rather than pressure from family or society. They dealt with it and moved on, just like couples in other romances.

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@missvictrix

In fact, I can’t think of a noona romance I’ve seen where it was the younger hero that was beating himself up over his age, and breaking things off with the heroine because of it.

In High School King of Savvy, when Min Seok realized his immaturity was causing Soo Young too much frustration and that he is financially incapable to help her, he asked to break up. And then she proposed 🤦🏻‍♀️. This drama broke most rules of noona romances and I love it for that.😂

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you. complete. me.
thank you, @missvictrix , for this beautifully written review of what it is that we love about Noona Romances, articulated in ways that I would never have thought of.

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I think it's just that the times have finally allowed such romance to flourish. Also honestly in Asian countries most guys born in the 90's are much more feminine than their elder generation. But that doesn't mean that they act more girly or anything. It mean that they are more understanding of woman's needs and problems and are much more respectful to people around them.
These qualities are very attractive for a lot of normal people in the real world who are not attracted by the bad guy types.
Also the current gen of guys have had to become adults and mature much more quickly than previous generation due to recession and student loans. So they had to work a lot of part time jobs in college. And in countries like Korea and Japan it is more so like this.

Also there is this term of herbivore men in Japan which describes guys born after 1990 who don't actively pursue women. But from what I have observed these guys do pursue women but only after they put a lot of thought behind whether they actually like the girl or not. Obviously this is not everyone but its more common than people think.

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Most noona romances I've seen were cute and swoony. 'Secret Affair' stands out in that there was a darkness to it. You just knew their love was doomed from the beginning. While we rooted for them, we were also preparing for the coming train wreck. It was only a matter of when not if.

I can imagine the plot must have been somewhat risque in Korean culture. For one, the heroine, while extremely gorgeous, was moving beyond noonahood into ajumma category. And two, she was married. It's almost like the writers knew Emmanuel Macron before he became president of France. But happy endings come in different forms, and in a way i think they got theirs.

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In I hear your voice, the age matter is barely even mentioned; neither by the leads nor by their friends or acquaintances.
I found it funny, because Lee Da hee's character, being Lee Bo young's frenemy, could have mocked her for having a younger boyfriend, both of them being already lawyers and independent women, but she never did; she even protected LJS's character at the end.
Actually, in general, in I hear your voice the noona aspect was never raised or criticized by any character at all. I really liked that. They fell in love, yes, but their fears of not ending together had barely to do with age.

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You are right but with the exception of the female lead who, driven by the age gap, tried to get rid of her feelings (and the male lead)

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It was never clear she wanted to get rid of her feelings because of age. She never said it. She got upset many times that he could listen to her thoughts. It was a imbalance of power, and I understand her. It wouldn't had mattered he is older, but the fact that he could listen to her inner voice was more of a disadvantage for a person like her.
She mentioned "many other things that could go wrong", but never clarify which things.
At the end she gave up, because she liked him so much. And that's it. They never ever talked about their 6, 7 or 8 years deference... I really liked that. Because age is really not that important.

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I am not sure whether it was due to differences in translation but the version I watched frequently included the term "boy" when she talked/thought about getting rid of her feelings (as in how can I have feelings for that boy, it is ridiculous) thus in fact implying it is about the age gap

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Ohhh, well that was also true. 🙄🙄🤔🤔🤔🙄🙄🤔🤔🙄
But I heard that mostly from Oska lawyer. She said it maybe only once when he had already lost his memory, and of course it was a problem, because he became helpless, but she overcame that particular fear very quick. So I didn't find it a problem, and she never told him she considered him just a boy.

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I find this very interesting especially since the concept of Noona Romance seems to be reflected in real life with famous Korean celebrities marrying men younger than them (like the leads of Descendants of the Sun). But I am curious if this has always been a normal thing in Korean culture, or is this a more contemporary, modern step?
Are the noona dramas caused by art imitating life, or has the popularity of the theme boost the confidence of many to choose and love younger men? Just curious here, thanks!

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Female Song is 37 and her husband is 33.

This is considered a noona romance? Seriously. It ain't like they got together and married when he was barely out of school.

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Unfortunately yes

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On contrary to most dramas that are a slice of life (albeit decorated), noona romances don’t seem to be catching on in real life.

I’ve always credited the recent spike of this “genre” to the imbalanced prime of male and female actors, in terms of acting skill and overall caliber.

See Lee Jung Suk for example is constantly seeking another female costar of similar status. It’s not easy to find. And it’s not just about getting another big name on board but because working with unseasoned costars affect even the greatest actors. Some actresses reach a prime at young age and see their previous band of male stars jump into movies and variety. They are left little choices when selecting a romance drama, or bravely move into motherhood on scene. Some examples are Song Hye Kyo, Jun Ji-hyun, also Lee Bo Young (before she actually became a mother).

Mandatory military service also adds to the imbalance as male stars who have reached their prime romantic age of late-20s can’t be considered for projects anymore.

So, being an analyst, I believe noona romances came along as just a way to allow production houses to maximize the possible couple combinations that can generate high viewership. The tremendous success of My Love from the Star gave writers confidence to write more and more such stories.

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There were actually 2 noona romance is The Woman Who Still Wants to Married. In addition to the one involving Park Jin Hee & Kim Bum, Lee Pil Mo romanced the 10-year older Park Ji Young (who played Kim Bum's mother).

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I like "noona" romances because they are "romance". I like romantic shows, whether they be suspense/romance, noona romance, oppa romance, romcoms, or romance/dramas... anything with romance in it, if done well, will appeal to me.

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My Wife and I are currently watching A Witch's Love. I had never seen the Korean version, but loved the original Taiwanese version, which stars the wonderful Cheryl Yang (one of my favorite actresses). So far the Korean re-make is as good as the Taiwanese original.

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Even though I generally dislike huge age gaps, I have a soft spot for noona romances. I like it even when their age difference is highlighted because it can be used to question social norms and explore societal pressures. At least noona romances acknowledge the age difference; no one seems to bat an eye when a forty-something man is paired up with someone twenty years younger than him :/

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Reading back, my last sentence was very awkward. I want to clarify that I don't support the pairing of young actresses with much older men. In fact, although I understand that because of military service, men are often older, it doesn't change the fact that they don't have to be paired up with actresses much, much younger than them. There are many talented actresses around their age out there; especially considering THEY don't have to serve military service.

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As somebody once pointed out, it says something that "Noona romances" are a thing, since it means that every other romance show in an Oppa romance and nobody cares about that.

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I love noona romances and found this an interesting read :) Also excited to have discovered some new noona romances I hadn't known about before

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I think the reasons I like noona romances are the fact that I see them as second chance stories, in which the woman has the opportunity to love and be loved (or to fall in love for the first time, like in Encounter / Boyfriend) and the fact that the heroine, thanks to the - often unexpected- love story, learns to love herself, to accept her true self and to show it to the world.

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Serious question: what defines a noona romance? Greater than x years age difference? Different in career? (Ie, one person established in career, other just starting out).

Just remembered that I’m descendants of the sun, Song Hye Kyo’s character was older than Song Joong Ki’s, but I’ve never heard it called a noona romance.

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For me, I always thought of Noona romances are being ones where:
1. there is a younger men and an older woman and
2. this dynamic - specifically the woman being older - is a societal issue or an individual issue that drives the conflict.

So the actual age difference is not important, it's how that difference may be perceived. Whether that's by a highly patriarchal society or by the two people in the relationship. So in Pretty Noona and most recently in Boyfriend the age difference is negligible to showcase how ridiculous people's reactions to that difference are. In others like I Can Hear Your Voice and Witch's Romance it's much, much larger and the difference becomes more of an issue for the woman involved.

But I've seen lists of "Noona romances" with dramas like I Remember you on it. Even though the female lead is marginally older than the male lead in it, the age difference has nothing to do with the plot or the romance at all. While it's a great show, I got very confused at it being called a 'noona romance' and someone told me that any drama with any older woman in it could be seen as a 'noona romance'. I think that's ridiculous myself.

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I think the definitions of a Noona Romance have evolved through the years and keep getting more complicated and specific.

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