34

Siblings of dramaland

The most important relationships featured in K-dramas are arguably the romances. In fact, I think I could count on one hand the dramas that have not been romances, or featured a loveline of some sort. In comparison, while siblings are common in dramaland, there are not many dramas that have siblinghood as the focal relationship of a drama. And as much as I want to separate sibling relationships from drama romances, and think about them as two separate dynamics, they often get woven together in a variety of ways.

The first way that comes to mind almost automatically is the trope around fauxcest, with all of its Greek tragedy-level drama. Sometimes it’s the concept of the entire drama, like in Autumn Fairy Tale where siblings mix-ups rules the plot, and sometimes it’s an element, like in Hundred Million Stars From the Sky, where the fauxcest wound up wrecking the world of our leads, and leaving the story in shreds.

Other dramas have capitalized on the fauxcest concept with a different frame. Instead of two lovers mistakenly being told they are long lost siblings, another use of the trope features siblings who are not actually biological siblings falling in love. Well, at least one of them. In That Winter the Wind Blows, Jo In-sung pretends to be Song Hye-gyo’s prodigal brother. During his grand masquerade, falls head over heels for her, which, understandably, gets sticky.

Dramas love to play with hidden, unrequited, and pseudo-forbidden love, to the point that if there’s a drama where one sibling is adopted, it’s pretty safe to say there will be some playing around with this dynamic.

In Kill Me, Heal Me, Park Seo-joon’s character was eventually revealed to be the adopted, not biological, brother of Hwang Jung-eum’s character. Consequently, his closeness and protectiveness of her as an oppa took on a whole new edge (and a new meaning to the word). The same goes for Jin Ki-joo’s oppa in Come Here and Hug Me — their relationship featured the same dynamic and the same reversal.

While I can see the dramatic appeal of this dynamic, I would have much rather had these characters remain as real brothers. This is not because I’m against the trope (I secretly enjoy this one), but because I loved them so much as siblings I didn’t want anything to cloud that. That goes especially for Park Seo-joon and Hwang Jung-eum, going for walks with the dog, making fun of each other, and continuing to do the weirdo things they did as kids. The details made it feel like a real-life brother/sister relationship, and dramaland needs more of this!

One drama I can think of that didn’t use this angle was Hundred Million Stars From the Sky. The relationship between Jung So-min and Park Sung-woo remained a devoted sibling bond, even after we learned that they weren’t biological siblings. (Phew!)

Another common K-drama sibling dynamic is a heroine and her younger brother. Shin Se-kyung in When A Man Loves, Han Ye-seul in 20th Century Boy and Girl, and Park Shin-hye in Memories of the Alhambra — all three heroines had sweet younger brothers that were an important part of the family unit, but not so much the plot.

Have you noticed these younger brother characters are often played by K-pop idols? All three of the dramas above feature idols in the younger brother role, and it begs the question of whether they are there for show, for acting practice, or because they’re actually wonderful (yes, that’s an option!).

There are many more dramas with heroines and younger brothers, but most of them are equally on the tangential side. They can stir the pot (like the best of little brothers) and push a love line forward, they can be ill or endangered, or they can have a problematic best friend (like Sohn Ye-jin’s dongsaeng in Pretty Noona Who Buys Me Food).

There are a few dramas where the sibling bond was evocatively conveyed, and my favorite of these is in The Good Wife. Yoon Hyun-min cameoed as the brother of the heroine, played by Jeon Do-yeon. Both brother and sister were in a state of upheaval in their lives, and watching them reconnect and support each other added a wonderful depth to the story, even though it remained tangential. In a favorite scene, they are sprawled out on the couch late at night, talking and sharing their stories with each other in a way that only siblings can.

Another sibling relationship I really enjoyed was with JB (a.k.a. Im Jae-beom) and Shin Se-kyung in When A Man Loves. This was not a great drama by any stretch, but JB backed up Shin Se-kyung’s struggling noona heroine nicely, giving her emotional support and a shoulder to lean on. He even helped her dance some stress away at the studio where he practiced as a trainee. Sure, it was a shameless plug for what was then JYP’s JJ Project, but their relationship worked for me, I think because the drama successfully showed their support of each other as family.

Let’s not forget the sisters of dramaland, which is where I think K-dramas do some of their best portrayals of siblinghood. Whether they are rivals in love, or just sisters that need to squabble and fight and struggle to co-exist, dramas like Answer Me 1988, Temperature of Love, Empress’s Dignity, and High School King of Savvy (to name just a few) all had a strong component of bickering but loving sisters.

The sister trio in What’s Wrong With Secretary Kim might be my recent favorite, though. The sisters acted as a support and sounding board for Park Min-young’s character, and rather than stir up the plot, their presence grounded it beautifully.

But siblings relationships can also be used for contrast, and to set apart our hero or heroine from the characters around them. Think of the dichotomy between Seo Kang-joon and Lee Sung-kyung (as Baek In-ho and Baek In-ha) in Cheese in the Trap, or between Lee Min-ho and Choi Jin-hyuk (as Kim Tan and Kim Won) in Heirs. Their characters, their goals, their willingness to sacrifice, and their ideas about love, were all purposefully contrasted through their sibling relationship.

While there’s no shortage of siblings (biological or not) in dramaland, to me there’s a shortage of exposition around this relationship. Rather than using siblings or sibling fake-outs as fodder for the drama’s romance, I’d love to see them explored more — even as a side plot — just because stories about siblings are worth telling. I’ve named a few dramas that stood out to me with their sibling elements, and while I’m sure there are more dramaland siblings in shows I haven’t seen yet, I also hope there are some in dramas yet to be written.

RELATED POSTS

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

34

Required fields are marked *

Let's not forget the Byun sisters and not-half-brother Ahn Jung-hee in "My Father is Strange".... The Byun sisters are my favourite siblings in Dramaland. Hye-young made me think of a sister I'd never had... :)

17
3
reply

Required fields are marked *

💖💖💖💖💖 Loved them to bits. Ugh I miss FIS

2
reply

Required fields are marked *

Mee tooo! Wish I have big sister like Hye Young..
Orr,, I can just be a big sister like Hye Young to my dongsaengs.. 😊

2
reply

Required fields are marked *

While reading through, I was searching to see if they were mentioned! Great minds think alike 😉😉😉😆😆😁

0
reply

Required fields are marked *

i love when sibling relationships become a focal point in some dramas, especially one where they are protective and can lean on each other for support. The relationship that i found the most adorable would have to be the kill me heal me twins they both just rocked it together!

5
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

Siblings. Long time married couples. Parent and child. Pseudo-families. Adopted families. Any kind of family. Kdramas are pros and the absolute best in portraying any kind of family relationship.

4
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

As someone who comes from a really big family (13 siblings, same father and mother for all of us), I always love to see the relationships between other siblings. Especially my sisters who are close to my age are like best friends to me, so I always have a soft spot for close sisters in dramas. But sadly there aren't too many dramas who focus on the relationship between biological sisters.

5
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

Circle and I Remember You, very brothers-centric dramas, where romance takes a back seat !

9
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

I like Secretary Kim’s sisters. They are so supportive. The three brothers in My Ajuhssi also has a very good relationships. Would like to see a drama with twins put their identical appearance to use in bringing justice or revenge etc.

Btw, @missvictrix
I think you got confused on a name. The Cheese in the Trap actor’s name is Seo Kang-joon.

6
4
reply

Required fields are marked *

"My Mister", is the best brother relationship to me... They're having different personalities, but understand each other. There's one scene which made me tearing up.. is when the brothers knew Yoon-hee was cheating.. The bros brought him to drink somewhere in the out town.. then the oldest brother called Yoon-hee, and said sorry to her because she married into a poor family... Oh my heart... :(

7
2
reply

Required fields are marked *

And they are always there for each other. I know the show says they gather at the bar almost everyday because they have nowhere else to go, but I believe they find comfort in each other's presence.

6
reply

Required fields are marked *

Oh those brothers. They broke my heart a million times in that drama.

4
reply

Required fields are marked *

That sounds a bit like Switch 🤔🤔 except they weren’t twins or, maybe they are long lost twins?

1
reply

Required fields are marked *

Pinnochio... it was one instance where a side character, the brother, took a big role in the main plot and stole the show, pushing Yoon Kyun-sang to be noticed in the industry. Also, despite their short reunion onscreen, the chemistry between YKS and LJS was insane, and real since last time I checked both were still bros.

6
1
reply

Required fields are marked *

Yes!!! Despite my love for LJS, I have to admit YKS absolutely stole the show in Pinnochio. A brother role played flawlessly. And they have remained close friends ever since!

2
reply

Required fields are marked *

Oh don't forget the currently airing "The Light in Your Eyes" where Son Ho Jun plays the brother beautifully to his sister as a young woman and as an old woman, played by Han Ji Min and Kim Hey Ja. That is definitely a unique take on siblings in kdramas

3
1
reply

Required fields are marked *

I love the Light pair too. It's like they're copying scenes from my (annoying) brother and I's real-life interactions.

2
reply

Required fields are marked *

Oooh I really like this article. Especially the way it's explaining about both supporting & contrasting siblinghood. It's very interesting. I've always been aware of it but it's explored quite nicelt here. I too would like more sibling dramas.
Minus fauxcest. It's just not for me. 😅

2
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

Why does lee min ho look soo short and small beside Jin Hyuk?? Are my eyes deceiving me??😨

3
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

My fav sibling relationship is that of ryu jun yeol and ahn jae hong in reply 1988. the love between them is so subtle. There is no overt expression of love yet we viewers can see how much they love each other and the effect it have in ryu jun yeol personality and life choices.

7
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

for sibling relationships, we need to really look at weekend dramas and daily dramas where they are a highlight. issues like jealously, rivalry, need for acceptance after mistakes, not being able to communicate and how adult changes like the introduction of a love interest/marriage can change the dynamics within a family are explored in realistic, poignant and even humorous fashion. my favorite set of siblings would be from sons of sol pharmacy, ojakgyo family, my husband got a family.

5
2
reply

Required fields are marked *

True :) they may get crazy at times, but the longer format means every relationship gets its time in the spotlight, which happily includes family.

3
reply

Required fields are marked *

@night owl,
I agree with you about family dramas and weekend dramas. Their longer length provide an opportunity for character development and backstories that cannot be explored in shorter formats. Amen to OJAKGYO BROTHERS!

FIVE CHILDREN and the ironically-titled HAPPY HOME are also memorable. MARRY ME NOW? has a great flock of siblings in it.

STARS FALLING FROM THE SKY / PICK UP THE STARS is an oldie but goodie about an unni/noona who steps up to the plate to keep her family of adopted siblings together after their parents die in an accident. The kiddies' names are the colors of the rainbow. ;-)

Even though the show is not overtly focused on siblinghood, the conspirators who come together in FAKE FAMILY SERVICE / BAD FAMILY end up creating a memorable family of choice. (IIRC, one pair of purported elder in-laws or siblings (aunt & uncle) end up in a scandalous romance. LOL!)

In the non-heartwarming department, MONEY FLOWER featured a tortuous pseudo-sibling relationship in a chaebol family whose pater familias channeled Taejo Wang Geon of Goryeo in his autocratic succession-planning methods. The relations between his offspring and their get featured all the warmth of a shark frenzy.

0
reply

Required fields are marked *

As an only child, the vast array of sibling dynamics represented in K-dramas have given me a very confused perspective of how sibling relationships actually are. Nevertheless, because I've never had first-hand experience with any kind of sibling, watching how siblings interact in dramas is always very interesting.

3
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

This was just plain fun to read. Siblings in K-dramas are often complicated. Especially when they really aren't. Or are, but don't know it. Or . . . yeah, but I love a good sibling line in a story and you've mentioned quite a few that I've watched. Several have mentioned the Byun sisters in "My Father is Strange" - that was a good crew right there. Remember Ko Mi-nyeo and Ko Mi-nam, brother/sister twins (both played by Park Shin-hye), or maybe that's for another column! Thanks, missvictrix.

3
4
reply

Required fields are marked *

Def thinking of You're Beautiful as well

1
3
reply

Required fields are marked *

And am watching Your Honor, so subset of same actor playing siblings, although these sibs really hate each other...violently

1
2
reply

Required fields are marked *

Yep, another siblings drama, two identical twin brothers played by Yoon Shi Yoon (love him)!

1
1
reply

Required fields are marked *

He is doing amazing job playing the two characters, really feels like two actors to me.

0

The Ojakgyo Brothers! The episode were Joo Won and Ryu Soo Young were in a heart to heart talk about how JW isn't really opening up to RSY as a big bro is because they aren't biological siblings. That scene was so realistic 😭

And I'm aching to watch Hello Monster because (honestly, first because of SIG, PBG and DO are in it) I saw a fanmade video of PBG and SIG in a complicated heartbreaking brother relationship. Of course, I wouldn't know if they are really siblings but I'm excited to find out (except I don't have the luxury of time yet).

3
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

Let's not forget all the siblings in the Reply franchise (Reply 1997, Reply 1994, Reply 1988), who are pivotal in shaping the plots.

2
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

While not technically brothers, the pair of clones (and their donor) portrayed by Yang Se-jong in DUEL was tragically memorable.

Who could forget the star-crossed stepbrothers in LOOKOUT, Prosecutor Jang Do-han and Priest Lee Gwan-woo? Despite their family tragedy, Do-han steadfastly supported Gwan-woo in his quest to clear his father's name.

THE KING'S DAUGHTER, SU BAEK HYANG featured a pair of half-sisters in the contested title role in a drama that hinged on numerous birth secrets and hidden identities. Seja Myongnong and his princely buddy Jinmoo regarded each other brothers since they were little kids, only to be separated by court politics.

In the totally dysfunctional royal family of Buyeo depicted in JUMONG, King Kum-wa adopts dead buddy Hae Mo-su's son, future founder of Goguryeo, and raises him with his own boys. Seja Dae-so and Prince Yeong-po both suffer from terminal sour grapes. And then there's the whole brother-in-arms theme that runs through the drama as Jumong carves out a new kingdom for the descendants of the former kingdom of Gojoseon.

2
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

Its a bit unnerving to American viewers watching K-dramas to see adult successful working daughters in their 30s still living under the family roof, still under the parents' thumb, and still grappling with sibling dynamics similar to when they were teenagers. Family roots go very deep indeed in K-dramas.

0
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

Loved your article, just wanted to add in my favorite siblings: the siblings in My Father Is Strange and the siblings in Another Oh Hae Young. :)

0
0
reply

Required fields are marked *