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I need romance?

More than car wrecks and comas, it’s the promise of romance that drives the majority of K-drama stories. We don’t have to be watching a rom-com for things like attraction, affection, devotion, and love, to be major elements of the story. I enjoy a good love line just as much as the next person, and everything from an opposites attract rom-com, to the pining love-that-cannot-be in a melo, can make for a great drama.

But have we ever stepped back to think about what stories saturated with romance do to us as viewers? There’s a wealth of social, cultural, and emotional ramifications. I’m no expert in any of those things (never mind romance), but the following are some thoughts on how romance-centric stories affect us long after the story is over.

K-dramas often operate on archetypal characters, sometimes sticking to the formula, sometimes playing off of our expectations around them. But if there are archetypal characters, then there are most certainly archetypal love lines to go along with them.

The hardworking Candy who has no time for love? She ends up falling in love anyway, and is snatched out of her circumstances by the man of her dreams. The embittered “older” woman who’s been around the block and is done with a capital D when it comes to romance? Well, you can’t be done with love in dramaland, and her story also ends up with a match made in heaven (and some of her edges softened as well). Even the innocent mottae solo (single since birth) heroine can’t stay solo — after all, the whole purpose of being single in dramaland is that you’re confronted with the alternative: romance.

A meaningful and lasting romance is almost universally considered a “good ending” for a story. But do we really need a couple to be united for a story to feel complete? I’ve turned this question over in my head a lot, since, shameful though it is, I often find I’m bored by a drama once the love line has been concluded.

A good recent example of this is Her Private Life — a drama where (for me at least) the romance was the draw, and once it was resolved, the final episodes of plot wrap-up were a slog. And I’ve slogged through to many a finish line in my day.

This reaction suggests we’re just in the story for the dynamic of attraction and conflict resolving into committed and lasting love. Can that really be true? I know in my heart there’s so much more to a story than the conclusion of its romance, but why does my head constantly shout otherwise?

As much as I’m loathe to admit it, a story without even a glimmer or even just a wink of romance sometimes feels like it’s missing something. But what if it’s not missing something. Who said that we need romance to have a full, rich, and delicious story — or life?

I often find myself in the awkward position of believing that romance isn’t essential to a story, while simultaneously contradicting myself by looking for it. Or, craning my neck to notice it. For instance, think of the sub-sub-plot of romance in the caper/action drama Mad Dog. I enjoyed that drama a ton, but I sure was happy to see a few subtle and/or silly moments of attraction between two of the leads. Would the drama have felt like it was missing something without that itsy bitsy side dish of romance? It’s possible.

The question, then, is if we really need romance in our stories. Does a story without romance really feel flat or unsatisfying? Or are we just so pre-programmed with this “I need romance” message that we don’t know anything else?

The idea of being pre-programmed for a certain kind of story, or even craving parts of a story, made me wonder. Where did this expectation come from? Part of me wants to blame Barbie dolls and Disney and Hollywood (and I often do) — but the element of romance is as deeply embedded into much more long-lasting and meaningful methods of storytelling, too. The plots of Greek tragedies, for instance, were often driven by love and romance. And even more so, many beautiful and ancient religious texts, though they’re not love stories in and of themselves, often tell stories driven by romance and love.

Romance is clearly something that we’ve explored for centuries through numerous creative mediums. It’s this realization that made me stop blaming our current culture for its reliance on romance-driven stories, and instead made me step back and appreciate it as part of being human. Maybe this need to see and hear and feel stories about romance is something that’s ingrained in our souls, and not merely a product of our culture after all.

It’s clear that romance is, and will continue to be, a huge part of our storytelling. But whether you like it, crave it, or avoid it at all costs, our constant exposure to romance as the be-all and end-all of a tale is also worth taking a step back from every now and then.

Do we come to stories to experience romance vicariously? Sometimes we enjoy these stories as a way to experience an emotion or scenario we haven’t in real life. Or, perhaps we just surrender to enjoying an idyllic romance that we know is impossible in the real world, but is gorgeously possible on paper?

I love the vast experiences and emotions we learn and understand through stories, and romance is included in that. But I also think that with romance, and the dramatic construct around it, we have to pay attention to the message it sends us.

In dramaland, a story struggles to end in a way that’s not the resolution or fulfillment of a romance. But, in real life, romance is not the only way to live a rewarding life — and there’s no such thing as its resolution. Our own stories (romances or not) don’t end with a kiss or a wedding or when we finally deliver the revenge we’ve been plotting. Instead, our stories continue on after these moments. This is an important distinction between how we encounter and experience romance in drama versus in real life.

We’ve looked at the omnipresence of romance in our stories, and how loving romance is pitched as the perfect ending to a tale. Do you agree that this makes for a satisfying ending? Do you find that you need romance (even just a sliver) in your stories? And a step beyond that, what messages and expectations has this set up in your own life? For me, I admit to sometimes being disappointed that real-life romance hasn’t looked a thing like K-drama romance (yet?) — but it’s also a good reminder that dramas are dramas, and life is life.

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PLEASE SKIP THIS COMMENT IF
YOU ARE A SUPER-HAPPY
KDRAMA ROMCOM WATCHER

Granted SKDrama RomComs are choc full of romantic tableaus - those singular moments that become gifs. However, for me, their is something unsettling buried inside nearly every SKDrama RomCom.

It took nearly 10 years to finally put my finger on it. SK RomCom story telling is built on 2 key structures: fated love, and makjang.
We see the fated moments and we infer these as the majority feeling between the partners. Where as, once you pull back it is possible to see the makjang that infuse nearly every RomCom relationship. There is a brutality in there interactions between those staged tableaus. These people aren't kind to each other, respect is momentary and I rarely get the feeling these people actually like each other. (What happens to these people over time, once the "gif" moments fade away - is it just a sea of makjang bubbling under the surface)

I know SK gets to make its stories for itself and I am just an external viewer. This is an important part of a culture telling its own stories and being from a small english speaking country (swamped by US and UK) I am often envious of how strong and prolific it is.

We often think romance is universal - never realising that every culture generates its own style, structure and sequence of romantic interactions. I think this is where we get caught out - forgetting these differences and projecting our own system into the unspoken voids in the script. Sometimes it's just having the "Invisible gorilla" problem where we can't see what is actually being communicated.

In my list of shows, I can only think of 3 RomCom dramas where the romance is palpable and the couple genuinely seam to like each other in-between romantic scenes (and not torment each other) and I suspect these 3 are due to the other genre mixed into the RomCom. I am really curious if people have a list much larger than that.

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American RomComs are based on candy unpopular girl wins the heart of popular it boy. Fated love isn't only limited to Kdramas one of the most popular romantic dramas of all time The Notebook is basically a long tale in fated love. Let's not forget Before Midnight and all the other movies that spun from it. Nor the asshole male leads ala 27 Dresses and He's just not that into you. In comparison Kdrama romcoms are better written and devoid of pointless sex scenes. What you dislike is the very idea of a romantic magical love. Don't blame it on Kdramas they are beautiful and well written more times than not.

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@Lily

Apologies, I was not trying to state that other countries are better or free of issue. My premise was about the particular makjang element that SK brings to the table.

I so agree with you about Candy, A-hole leads, and dysfunctional couples the US also serve up...not to mention the "I deserve it because - friend zone". These all have their own internal machinations. However, I would suggest they are not so commonly the tableau/makjang sequence (not saying there aren't examples)

I have no issue with "romantic magical love" and I think all my favourite SK RomComs have that in spades. However, if you are inferring that makjang or brutality is required for romance/love, then yes we are clearly in two different camps.

Once you step away from US dominated films, you learn countries that have avoided the sex scene have also kept a truism of film...the imagination is more powerful that reality. Hence they still keep that ability to never shatter the emotional illusion. I think this is why some of their best RomComs sit alongside the classics of the genre.

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First of all makjang is absolutely not boring nor bad. Dramas without conflict are however boring. The reason why romcoms these days don't live up to the classics of Winter Sonata and Autumn in My Heart is due to the lack of makjang. Same reason why dramas like Elegant Lies become major hits because makjang is fun and mindless and illogical but still very very fun. You know for a fact that none of these tropes can every happen in real life which is why people love them. Car accidents, amnesia, birth secrets none of this will ever happen to any one in real life that's why it's the most addictive plot theme. Romance without conflict is boring and mundane like real life. Imagine Romeo and Juliet without warring families, star crossed lovers and miscommunication. Imagine Love Story without the tragic cancer storyline. None of these stories would become immortal if these makjang plots didn't exist. I find straight forward romance extremely boring and dull. Even in real life people want a movie like meet cute to happen. I enjoy my jerk male leads and cast females a lot and only require very minor era appropriate changes but otherwise that plot line will never get boring. Same reason why every version of Han Yori Dango received a strong and positive response. Jerk male leads and wrist grabs with evil parents are very fun and 100 times better than watching Love Island or Kardashins. If I wanted intelligent television I'd watch Discovery. Romcoms should always be trashy and fun and full of unrealistic scenarios. The more real they become the more boring they are. No one is forcing you to practice those tropes in real life nor does it translate into real life situations. Whatever happens in fiction stays in fiction.

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I meant Graceful Family a makjang drama that became a big hit recently. Got mixed up.

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If you think kdrama is violent then never watch an Indian drama. A country of over 1.3 billion people have learnt romance from these dramas which by your definition would not just be violent by a human rights violation. Yet many people in India mostly women mostly our mothers swear by these dramas. They watch the same drama religiously every night for 5-7 years where the same makjang plot repeats over and over again and the relationship violence is next level. Yet almost half the population of 1.3 billion people will swear by these dramas. In comparison violence in kdramas are tame so tame its basically Disney level.

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@jellybean

My post was only trying to express what I see in SK Drama romcoms. I was not trying to rank different culture's stories, and I don't think I used the word "violence".

We all have inbuilt story structures that are tied to our culture. For me, I find it interesting that makjang may not just be a seperate genre to SK but actually infuses its story telling.

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Dear God don't remind me. The absolute bat shit crazy makjangs & the abusive behaviour they propogate made me stray away from Indian tv serials in my teens.
I just couldn't fathom why women would continue to watch that.
___& so this is what my mum told me.... The housewives & women watching this think... We have it bad but at least it's not as bad as the FL. They relate to some of it & find solace of fantasy in its romantic moments.

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Please let me know the 3 RomCom dramas on that list!

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Thank you for this interesting reading. I don't think I have to have romance in my stories. There are quite a few kdramas with minimal to no romance that I enjoyed immensely, such as Misaeng, Forest of Secrets or Punch.

Not to say I don't like or enjoy romance though. I do. Especially if it is done right and the actors have great chemistry. Ultimately for me, it's about the stories of the people that I care about in the dramas. I don't mind if the couples I am rooting for didn't end up together, if that's the story that the writer chose to tell. That doesn't mean I don't get mad at the drama when things doesn't go my way (still giving you the stink eye, Reply 88), but I do know drama is drama and life is life. If I am Deok Sun, I know who I am gonna choose. 🙂

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I'm a bit different in that I do want romance in my Korean dramas. That's why I watch them. The good ones imitate the sensation of falling in love (which, for most of us, only happens 0 to a few times in real life), and our hormones (related to but not primarily sexual) respond in kind. We can vicariously experience the sensation over and over again.

But I watch shows in my own language primarily if romance isnt involved. At some point romance got relegated to the bottom of the taste list (but not comic books, go figure), so we get little of it that's fun in serials aside from soaps. So there aren't a lot of great romances being made. To feel again that sensation, I look to Korea and sometimes China.

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This was a great topic @missvictrix!

I do agree that romance is all pervasive in Kdramas. The rom-com+action (City Hunter, Healer, Two Weeks) is what initially got me into dramaland; but truth be told, my favorite dramas are not romance - Buamdong Revenge Club, Signal, Life on Mars, Misaeng, Solomon's Perjury . Or they only have elements of it but frankly the romance is the weaker part of the show Search: WWW, Hotel Del Luna. In other favorites such as Age of Youth and Be Melodramatic, it is better incorporated, but the focus is on the friendship between the women.

When it comes to dramas, I like strong or resilient female leads - without this crucial element, I'll probably end up dropping a drama. AND sadly, most romance shows comprise the female lead once she falls in love.

For example, I loved Her Private Life when it started, but lost interest soon after as we started moving away from the female lead's fangirling and into typical romance territory. That special, unique something was taken away and replaced with something "regular" - the perfect man that now "completes" her. It was just...dull.

I do still prefer Asian shows over Western ones though even though Western shows may allow women to retain their individuality despite love. This is simply because culturally, Asian shows strike closer to home (as an Asian person myself) and the female lead against that familiar background is more interesting to watch.

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I did get bummed when Her Private Life moved away from her private life(hihi, I'll see myself out), and became more focused on Ryan's childhood trauma. Instead of being a show focused on her balancing her two very different lives, she became a backdrop for Ryan's own drama.

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Your comment reminded me of how many times I want to start a discussion on what makes for a strong female lead.

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That'd be a great discussion!

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Romance is what drew me to kdramas initially. There’s something about the process of falling in love that is universal and kdramas, I feel, captures this well. Somehow, it feels more organic than US shows this day and age, where physical lust drives most romantic gestures and relationships. There’s an initial sense of intrigue in kdramas between most couples that goes beyond a physical nature. Not to say that a physical spark isn’t there. That excitement you feel when you first touch someone you like, holding hands, the first kiss, are also done extremely well in many kdramas. Coffee Prince did this probably the best of any kdrama, in my opinion. You feel the angst and desire. And then when that desire is met, it’s so very satisfying. That’s why I keep coming back to them. I also enjoy dramas without a romantic bent, and I don’t need one or even look for one in certain dramas. I loved Lookout for not giving me one. Forest of Secrets is another. But when I have an itch for romance, it’s never too far away in most kdramas!

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You just put my thoughts to words so well!

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I used to watch a lot of US dramas but now I don't watch any of them and I do think it's because of what you said:" Somehow, it feels more organic than US shows this day and age, where physical lust drives most romantic gestures and relationships".

I like how that first hand-holding moment as a couple is an actual thing in Kdramas. It's slow, it's sizzling then it's, "Oh my gosh we're actually doing this" or something to that effect. US shows tend to start relationships with a bang(literally, in some cases) and while this isn't necessarily bad, I haven't identified with it in a long time.

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I won’t lie, romance is what I initially signed up for when I started watching kdramas. But then when I got the plotline in my head, I would either watch the drama only for the romance and ditch the rest or watch it for the plot and enjoy the romance as well. It’s actually a two way street most of the time.

A drama that did the romance and the plot well together was Nine Days. It was so good that while I was interested in the romance there were some unexpected shocking twists and that kept me interested entirely.

Speaking of dramas that do both together well, I Remember You was so good too. While the romance was nice, the brotherly tension between Seo In Guk and Park Bo Gum was what kept the show running. Definitely worth a watch if you haven’t watched it.

So yes, while romance primarily runs kdramas, action could be an added bonus if done right. And to do both right, you have to be extraordinary.

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If I'm looking for something heavy on romance, I usually go to an Asian drama. However, I've been feeling like more and more have been kind of moving away from this recently. It's kind of hard to find a romantic drama to really get into these days. At least for me. So maybe that's why I've been trying to seek it out more.

I wouldn't say I need it. But I do have stretches of time, where I really, really want a romance longer than movie length to watch haha. Sometimes, I want something sweet. Sometimes I want something a bit sexy; then other times I'm like "OK, I want to watch something really soapy, a little nonsensical, and with crazy drama" LOL.

I don't have much expectations in my real life but it doesn't hurt if it's in the show I'm watching. And yeah, preferably with the happy ending because why else would I invest so much time in following a couple's relationship? Usually, the show will warn you if that probably won't be the case. If there is no romance, that's OK too. I also love a good story. But I am an avid reader so I get much of my non-romantic narratives from there. Surprisingly, I don't read much romance, if any at all, so I guess it's all about what ya want in the moment and knowing where you're most likely to get it.

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"so I guess it's all about what ya want in the moment and knowing where you're most likely to get it."
This captures it all for me.

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If a show becomes boring after the main love line concludes, it has already been boring, but just managed to cover it up till now with flashy leads and lots of skinship.

What made me fall for kdramas since day one was all the different kinds of relationships and feelings they are able to depict between family members, friends, neighbors, rivals, enemies, and strangers. And that is still the reason I come back to them every day.

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Couldn't agree more about your last paragraph. That is why I keep coming back. Even all my favorite "romances" typically have other key relationships that flesh out and enrich the experience.

I will say, because I always need more than just "flashy leads and lots of skinship" to originally get invested in a romance, I have a different perspective. I need there to be chemistry and emotional connection between the actual characters, not just actors. And some writers are great at this during the push and pull phase and falter later on. They just don't know how to make the post-get-together phase feel genuine.

For example, despite how others might feel about them, I loved the dynamic between the leads in Her Private Life ep 4-11, even after getting together and was all invested in them. I wanted to see how Deok-mi balanced her fangirl life with her relationship because I found it relatable, as someone who has had a hard time sharing my love for dramas in my relationships. Basically, while some may have loved them only for the skinship, I did not. And felt disappointment when they strayed away from what made them great (to me). All of a sudden it felt like I was watching the PMY and KJW Newlywed Show. Not Ryan and Deok-mi actually dealing with starting a relationship.

All of my favorite romances need to make me love the lead couple even more after they get together, not just entertain me during the push and pull phase, but take me through relationship growth that feels unique to the show and its characters. It's when that doesn't happen, that a rom-com that previously invested me loses its spark.

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Re your last paragraph: I have noticed that this can happen more with shows that have a mild crime subplot or something like that, and have the couple get together relatively soon. Like the story that the writer has in mind isn't revolving around when will they say I love you, but about how the subplot will affect their lives.

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You are right about this- romance is important to 'romcom' kdrama's but the best give us family and friends. Good examples of this are shows like MARRIAGE, NOT DATING or SHOPPING KING LOUIS- in the later it is at least as important that at the end of the story Louis has not only found 'the one' but also that he has found real friends.

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I like romance but some of the best dramas don't have it. My Ahjusshi comes to mind, if it had a romance I would have been really angry. I got a little angry when people tried to shoehorn in a romance in DB comments, lol. Forest of Secrets was another one without romance. It didn't need it. So I think romance works in certain stories, but others it simply ruins the storytelling.

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@kafiyah-bello
Beautiful comment.

FoS - one of the greatest platonic friendships in SK dramaland.
Seriously, how did it not become a spin off:
"Yeo-Jin & Shi-Mok's Pojangmacha reviews".

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Yes! That will be the title on Viki when FOREST OF SECRETS 2 comes around.

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:D

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"I got a little angry when people tried to shoehorn in a romance in DB comments"

This can easily ruin a show for me.

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In the case of My Ajusshi, you can blame the director for that. There were so many things conveyed without words that would have been unnecessary if the intention of the drama were purely platonic. Can't blame the part of the audience for seeing and feeling that there was something more either.

But I see lately a similarity with Untamed. I am not watching, but it seems that people really enjoy it for the subtext that goes beyond just a pure bromance. I don't see them being called out for that.

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I have to disagree. I never thought there was anything romantic at all. I saw father-daughter, sibling, or even just friendship, but never romance. That is why I would get annoyed because I didn't see the romance at all. 😊

As for untamed, I don't know what that is so I can't comment.

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I thought My Ajusshi was very platonic and mutually healing relationship. It is possible to have good feelings for someone who has helped you but that doesn't necessarily mean that it's love.

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For your last few lines @missvictrix I'd like to say that yes kdramas increase our expectations to an unrealistic level. And then it's quite disappointing to find out that there won't be 1. As good looking men - who are equally well behaved (lol can be so too but it's rare) 2. The romance to be as grand and heart fluttering and also maybe angsty as in dramas. So yeah real life can be both simple and dramatic but that is why I'm drawn to slice of life dramas which are either completely without romance or the ones who show a slightly realistic one (Be Melodramatic).

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Thanks for the writeup. You bring up some really good points.

As you said, romance is as pervasive as it has been not just in K-Drams but stories around the world through time because we are human. Even in dramas like Misaeng and Stranger, some degree of romance or at the very least love is present. We may not all be lawyers or detectives but most of us can identify with various degrees of love because we have experienced some degree of love. Many of us have heartbreak. Many of us have more than one relationship, etc.

My two main problems with the depiction of Romance in Korean dramas is that they almost always a portrayal of the characters first meeting to newly becoming a couple--for the main leads at least. They're also usually overly dramatized stories.

It always frustrates me that secondary couples are often introduced as already being a couple and main couples aren't. There is so much more to romance then just establishing a relationship. So we're often asked to believe that all the makjang was worth it, because if the couple can survive that to get together in the first place, they can survive anything--which is not true.

Romance is one of the weaker aspects of Korean storytelling, but I don't think it's as simple as that. I think I'm of that opinion because there is a cultural clash. Dramas like Pretty Noona and Temperature of Love exemplify this for me. I'm still waiting for me Pretty Noona less makjang and a happier ending. I wonder if I'll ever get it?

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What brought me to dramas in the first place was the cheesy romance -- the insurance that i could watch something predictable, cheesy and cringe and feel at easy. And while I still have the mindset from time to time when choosing dramas, it turns out, when i think introspectively, the dramas I liked best where the ones WITHOUT romance. With that in mind, I believe romance is the cheap fast attraction to getting someone to watch your show. It's nice , but it also takes away from loads of «could've been» and plot development. A story with no romance must focus on deeper, juicier plot elements to keep the story going. But If youre ready to commit, to actually listen to a story, and to explore the characters youre given without any romance... you'll be in for a joy-ride. Might I list Misaeng as an example.
A more recent example (although not my favorite but quite enjoyable) was Class of Lies. Crack mystery entertainment. :)

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@missvictrix, I'm so glad you're asking these questions. I think about them a lot. Yes, there are dramas without romance, like Forest of Secrets, but even in these dramas, I'm watching hard to see if anything develops between the leads. The other 97% of dramas, at least the ones I watch, have a romance between the leads. They may have a strong plot with romance on the side, but much more often it's a strong romantic line that the plot is structured around. Why am I always so invested in the romance, or disappointed if it's lackluster or poorly paced or if I don't find the couple believable? Am I stirring up my own feelings from the past, or trying to find the perfect love in a story, since my own love life is far from perfect? You are so right that kdramas often build up to those crazy, exhilarating moments when the couple finally overcomes obstacles and misunderstandings and comes together, and very rarely explore what happens afterward. Is it because so many of us are stuck in those more mundane moments (and years) that we want to relive the feelings that brought us down this path? I sometimes beat myself up about spending time on these romances, when I could be doing something creative or at least something useful. But I keep coming back, and keep asking myself these same questions. One thing's for sure -- when I can analyze/fret over/squee/complain/join a conversation about a show on DB, it elevates the whole experience for me into something more than just the drama and the romance.

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If only many writers know how to write geniune conflict and interesting about romance, like the old days. Raw, geniune, have depth. Not all, but Many drama I've watched, the romance created to hooked viewers or draw viewers. So they tend to be formulaic, lack sincerity.

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I realized that, while I don't need a romantic plotline to enjoy a drama, my trashy subconscious self keeps looking for it. I am usually impressed by dramas that hold my attention without romance, just like I'm impressed with food that mange to be good without MSG. For example, I was kind of rooting for the two polar opposite judges to at least reach "some" stage by the end of Miss Hammurabi. Then,I realized that I myself have numerous colleague whom I think are attractive. I look up to them, work extensive hours with them, sometimes even flirt outrageously, but never have I ever gotten past that initial stage of admiration. So, I guess the open ended relationship status in Hammurabi was very much realistic and I admire that show very much for getting me emotionally involved in every single case.

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This was a great read, @missvictrix, about a topic very close to my heart!

(SORRY for the mini essay I'm about to write here. I have so many thoughts.)

I've always been a dreamer and a hopeless romantic, and I think that's what really drew me into dramaland, those 7 years ago. Back then, I was in secondary school, I had never gone out with anyone, and had become completely entranced by the way the love story played out in Answer Me 1997 (my first drama ever, and a favourite in my heart to this day!).

Since then, I've watched drama after drama, and I always find myself gravitating to pieces where the romance is basically the essence of the whole story. As much as Signal had me on the edge of my seat, and Misaeng was heart-wrenching, soulful and utterly gripping, the truth is, I just love romance.

For me, nothing compares to the rush of a confession, a first kiss or even a break-up. I can't say for sure if it started out as a form of escapism, when I was young and wondering if I would ever get to experience the kind of first love (another crucial drama trope) that's worthy of a 16-episode serial. But there was just something about the magic of love and romance that had (and still has) me hooked.

I'm older now, and I think I have gotten my chance at that feeling of first love. I'm lucky enough to have met and got together with my tall and handsome athletic college oppa and I've had a good handful of those heart-fluttering moments, and those 'female lead cries on a bench' moments too.

But I think what I've had to learn, as clichéd as it sounds, is that life really isn't like my favourite romance dramas, and that's okay. Being a romance junkie, I kind of expected that I would be getting to experience a lot of those moments that I've screenshot and squealed over. Before I realised it, I started projecting (rather unfairly, of course) some of my fantasies on my poor boyfriend.

How was he supposed to know what the male lead was doing to romance the leading ladies in Weightlifting Fairy, or You Who Came from the Star? How could I explain to him why I needed him to express his love for me in the earth-shattering way Junghwan did to Deoksun in Reply 1988 (minus the painful retraction, of course)? How could I do all of this, while ensuring that I didn't have to spell it out, thus keeping it as organic and spontaneous as it all was in the dramas? I thought about this from time to time, and sometimes, it would get in the way of my happiness.

And then, I almost lost him. And my head, which had always been in the clouds, came crashing back down to earth. Because life isn't a 16-episode drama where everyone has the right lines to say and it's all neat and beautiful and lovely in the end. I had to start living in the real world, where things aren't always heart-fluttering and Gummy isn't always singing in the background.

And that's okay.

I still love romance. I think I always will, and dramas will always be that...

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...place I go to when I want some pure tooth-rotting, butterflies in my tummy moments. But I'm also a lot better now at reminding myself that in real life, I've got a Prince Charming who's putting in his best effort to love me in his own way. It's not always picture perfect, but it's real.

Romance in dramas, as lovely as they can be, can sometimes set up these potentially dangerous expectations for (younger?) viewers that love is best when it takes a particular form. And that's far from the truth! There is, of course, nothing wrong with wanting a little (or maybe a lot, if you've got a romantic as a partner) romance in your life and your relationship, but it's not the be all and end all, and it doesn't have to be.

I hope that Beanies who love romance like me and find romantic partners in real life won't feel weighed down by the absolute need to experience the kind of romance that happens in the stories we see in dramas. Go out there and experience your own stories! Because those can be just as wonderful as the ones in dramas, even without your own Park Bogum piggy-backing you home, or your own Gong Yoo carrying an umbrella for you when it rains.

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Yes!

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OK, how telling is it that my first thought was, "Yes, this is so true and very well said," and my second thought was, "You know, that story could be a drama plot. The female lead who loves romance dramas and almost loses her real life sweetheart because he doesn't behave like a drama lead. I'd watch that show...."

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Thank you for your first thought 💘

And on your second... Maybe I should pitch the idea! Do you think Chae Soobin would be willing to play me? 😂😂😂 And maybe Kim Soohyun could play my boyfriend?

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I would watch that show in a heartbeat! My now-husband experienced plenty of my moods when things didn't go the way I thought they should have based on what I had seen on a screen. LOL

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I would watch that show too.

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I love this

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Thank you for reading it all 💘

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@choijunu
Ever noticed how it's almost impossible to think of a sequel (after the ending of the drama) to a Romance that works and feels as giddy. Eg...as much as I tried I could never make "Roman Holiday" work out...every iteration was a crash and burn.

It's never too early to learn - never fall for the Instagram version as reality...but never accept a life without IG worthy moments to sustain us either.

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Well Roman Holiday was not a happily ever after ending so there is no sequel. They simply went their separate ways.

But I give sequels to lots of dramas in my mind. It is quite my guilty pleasure. I have even made them break up after a few years and sent the female lead to the second lead. :D

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Ha...brilliant.
So it's a new romcom not a continuation of the original.

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I personally don't think it's always impossible (it really depends on each drama and each set of characters), but I do agree with you that more often that not, a realistic, longterm future is a little difficult to conceive for some drama couples, no matter how fated to be together the drama wanted us to think the couple was.

Ideally, we would all be able to live with balance! A healthy and stable relationship with a good number of beautiful moments is the dream :)

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Your comment made me rethink on my stand. I originally thought I had no expectations for kdrama romance. But now I realize, I did, but that has changed along with age.
When I first into kdramas, I was in that age where those romances would give me the butterflies or broke my heart in pieces. Oh, how I cried for thee, Autumn in My Heart and Stairways to Heaven. But now that I am much older, I seek out romance a little less. I still appreciate a good romance in a drama, but it no longer is a necessity and I no longer expect it to end happily. And when a drama like Be Melodramatic comes along, I didn't even want to analyze the romances. I am content to just be a by-stander and watch them cruising through life and love. Cheering them on when they got together and patting them on the back when they are having a hard time. That's what I would do in real life too. :)

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Yes, I did wonder while writing this if my age played a part in how I felt. Younger me probably would be thinking of the situation with a little less maturity/open-mindedness, and maybe older me will have experiences that will further develop how I feel.

I love the idea of being a bystander, and I think we learn a lot from taking that position too. Dramas oftentimes tell us that we should fight for the happy ending, but sometimes, forcing a happy ending between two people isn't really a happy ending at all. Life can be so crazy and unpredictable, it's nice to step back and just reflect sometimes.

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Thank you for this wonderful post. It is everything that I am when it comes to my drama references. From highschool till now, at 31, I gravitate towards romance genre. I always want to feel my heartstrings being tugged at by the romance I watch.

I, too, am a hopeless romantic and I realized the romance dramas that draw me in are the kinds that didn’t happen/work out in my life - childhood friends-turn-to-lovers
and first love stories. They are my favourite tropes simply because I had no childhood boy to grow up and fell in love with and my first love isn’t my last love. You long for what you don’t have.

My friends had always predicted that I would end up with my ideal “oppa”; the kind of oppas I always gush over in the dramas. I had wished for my own oppa too to appear before me and do what they do in dramas. Alas, as life would have it, the man I met and fell in love with 8 years ago was a complete opposite of “oppa”, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I may not have had an earth-shattering first meet up with him, or received a swoon worthy love confession, but that’s what dramas are for to me to watch. I agree with missvictrix, dramas are my constant reminder that dramas are dramas, real life is real life. And I like that.

I’m afraid I would never grow out of my drama preference; it’s not like I’d want to either. Watching different stories of romance, no matter how recycled plots they are, are my escape from real life. It is simply a matter of preference to an individual. Romance gets me all hyped up when watching. It is the reason I’m glued to my screen, whereas dramas that don’t focus much on romance, I get bored.

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Thank you for reading it ♡

There's something kind of magical about watching a romance unfold on screen. Even when I know, after watching so many of them, exactly what's going to happen, there's a certain thrill of seeing all the elements play out between the two romantic interests.

There are a lot of dramas out there with really wonderful characters, great writing and important stories to tell. But we're similar in that, I just don't feel as compelled to watch them if they're not romances 😂

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Part 1 of 2

Thank you for your thought-inducing essay, @missvictrix.

One of my pet peeves is the contamination of good, compelling stories with gratuitous, shoehorned-in, bolted-on romances. I'm not usually interested in mushy stuff (I'll cop to succumbing to occasional temporary insanity), and tend to avoid romance for the sake of romance. Borrr-ing. (Er, watching HER PRIVATE LIFE was purely for documenting Kim Jae-wook's first lead role, that’s my story, and I'm sticking to it.) What I like best are dramas populated with fascinating characters going about their lives, or involved in nifty whodunnit-and-why-and-how plots. I especially enjoy ensemble works where an assortment of disparate individuals come together for a specific purpose that ends up melding them into a stalwart band, as was the case with LIFE ON MARS. If a bit of romance is organic to the characters involved, that's fine. But if it feels as if it is intrusive fan service, it alienates me, and I try to ignore it while focusing on the aspects of the drama that really interest me.

There is one exception that I can think of, and that is romance as an indicator of character growth. MAD DOG is the case in point. Kim Min-joon was a loner with a tragic personal history who concealed his deep hurt under a thick layer of bravado, chameleon-like impersonation skills, and a fine, quick intellect. Watching Min-joon come out of his shell to join forces with Mad Dog's team of insurance fraud investigators was every bit as compelling as observing their progress in solving intricate cases of the week along with the air crash at the center of the drama. For someone with trust issues like his, every millimeter he lowered his personal Berlin Wall was a resounding victory. Beanies who live-watched cheered their heads off in the recap threads.

- Continued -

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Part 2 of 2

Giving up his loner ways and collaborating in the give-and-take of true teamwork was an emotionally satisfying spectacle as the wary Mad Dogs put aside their unfavorable initial impressions of Min-joon, came to recognize his true nature, and embraced him as one of their own. Bromance off the charts ensued as he gradually came to trust that they truly had his back. The fact that skilled infiltrator Jang Na-ri happened to be "one of the guys" with issues of her own left an opening for romance to eventually take root after her path initially crossed his while each attempted to scoop the other in acquiring evidence. It was an ingenious meet cute that required less suspension of disbelief than some of her break-ins, or his explanation that resonance caused a building to collapse. Every bantering step closer they took marked significant healing and interpersonal progress, and was icing on an already fabulous cake. Woo Do-hwan's embodiment of Min-joon's grief, conflictedness, and vulnerability made for a terrific performance and a truly memorable character arc in a satisfyingly well-wrought mystery thriller.

Another of my beefs is that female leads may start out as individuals with brains, agency, careers, and chutzpah, but often lose their unique characteristics and devolve into insipid arm candy. Jang Na-ri is one who retained her sense of self all the way to the end, as did Cheetah’s revered teacher and jail-bird crush, Nurse Oh. They are two of my favorite female Kdrama characters.

-30-

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@pakalanapikake,
Thanks for the nice MAD DOG analysis and explaining why so many of us became Woo Do-Hwan fans. Yoo Ji-tae (from HEALER) was the reason I had MD on my radar and I had never heard of WDH. I did not think his next drama TEMPTED was a good fit for him and did not watch but I eagerly awaited his appearance in MY COUNTRY.

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You're most welcome, @marcusnyc20 bong-soo. Thank you for your kind words. ;-)

I tuned in to MAD DOG for Woo Do-hwan because he caught my eye in SWEET STRANGER AND ME. In the course of very little screen time, he managed to portray a loanshark's thug as a sympathetic character. Kim Wan-sik had grown up in an orphanage with protagonist Ko Nan-gil, and there was still a redeemable spark in him. Needless to say, I am a total Sucker For Redemption Arcs. Wan-shik was like Mo-ri in REBEL. I'm crossing my fingers that Sun-ho turns out the same way in MY COUNTRY.

I agree that THE GREAT SEDUCER (alternate title) was a bust, although WDH did a good job with what he was given. I also tuned in for Kim Min-jae, whose Nurse Park had grabbed my eye in ROMATIC DOCTOR, TEACHER KIM, as did his jealous young king in GOBLIN, and his dogged rapper trainee son of Yoon Si-yoon's time-traveling Hallyu star in THE BEST HIT. (Aside: Yippee! KMJ will reprise Nurse Park in season 2 of RDTK, and will be rejoined by badass Chief Nurse Oh and anesthetist Doc Nam.) Alas, TEMPTED wasted its cast. Based on film reviews I'd read, I had strong doubts that UNTOLD SCANDAL could be successfully adapted to TV. I should have heeded my gut instinct.

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*slow claps for your Mad Dog mini essay*
I LOVED the romance sub sub plot in MD. It worked with their characters and it was never forced. In fact I don't even mind that we didn't get more of it, because more would've been unnatural to the story, and there is something nice about not being given everything once an a while. Sometimes just leaving it with a hopeful implication is all that's needed.

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Thank you, @sicarius. I totally agree that less was more.

Leaving the audience clamoring for more was definitely the way to go. Otherwise it would have distracted from clearing hyung's name and bringing the true perpetrator(s) to justice.

For me, it wasn't the romance itself so much as what the ability to engage in even a tentative relationship conveyed about the inner growth of the characters involved in it. Hacker On Noo-ri's warning to Min-joon not to make noona cry was actually a touchingly back-handed confession that he'd been adopted by an aspiring dongsaeng. It echoed his difficult reunion with his co-pilot hyung. Even Cheetah's snoring like a buzzsaw in the next room was an assurance that Min-joon was now one of the pack, and would not be left on his own -- whether he liked it or not. For me, that kind of bromance is cracktastic.

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Miss Victrix, romances existed long before Hollywood. Even the very short book of Ruth in the Old Testament has most of the elements of a romance. Does every story have to have a romance? no. Homer’s Illiad does just fine without one. But the prevalence of romance in literature really tells us that, yes, we really do need Romance.
The problem with romances is the idea of “happily ever after”. It is the idea that if you find the right partner for life everything will be smooth sailing from there. Very few romcoms look further. To me a better story is one where we do look further. This is the genius of the full(er) screen versions of the Manga "Itazura Na Kiss", of which the two seasons of the Japanese live action MISCHIEVOUS KISS: LOVE IN TOKYO remains the very best adaptation – the Korean PLAYFULL KISS is sadly one of the truncated ones. If you ever get a chance to watch this one you should- because the wedding marks only the halfway point of the story. Had the author of Itazura Na Kiss lived to complete the story she had actually planned to take it through the birth of the couple’s first child. To me the genius of the story lies in the way that it shows how, through dedicated love, a couple learns to grow together- and to help each other grow: The nearly helpless girl, with her husband’s help, becomes a competent medical professional and the lonely, isolated genius boy becomes a courageous and empathetic man in full. For all its slapstick silliness (and there is plenty of it) this is a greater and truer story about romance. It is a pity that more writers are not capable of this.

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This. All. Day. This.

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The best episode of Secret Garden was the last one - you know, where they have three kids who are a handful - that's the reality of "happily ever after". But actually, the worse part was Hyun Bin's character who acted like a teenage girl with a crush, practically stalking Ha Ji-hwan. I remember thinking in the real world, men would never act like that. Must be a female writer who writes men as women wish they were.

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I don't actually think the story ends with three little kids, either. There is no true end point - it's entirely arbitrary as to what makes a satisfying end point in a story and probably depends on your stage of life.

What about when their three kids become teenagers, then start dating "inappropriate" partners (and marrying them in adulthood; or what's maybe considered worse in Asia, not marrying at all)? When our lead couple become grandparents, grow old, have health issues? etc.

And really, in the real world, men are never stalkers? (I did find Hyun Bin's behavior really objectionable, btw - no disagreement there.)

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Of course the story doesn't "end" with kids. But my point was it went further than the engagement or marriage that most kdramas end on.
There are some soap operas in the U.S. that have no end. Some have been televised since the 1950s. They have kids, grandkids, great grandkids, etc.
Oh, I guess it did look like I was saying in the real world men aren't like that (i.e. no stalkers). Of course there are stalkers. What I was really trying to say was men don't usually act like teenage fangirls, which I thought the writer made Hyun Bin's character act like (or something like that). Since you agreed with that point maybe you can state it better than I...

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"...my point was it went further than the engagement or marriage that most kdramas end on." True. :)

Did you ever watch Dear My Friends? That was the rare drama in which a big piece of it was the decades-long, entangled lives of older people (grandparent age). I loved that one (though I could have done without the central story of the grown daughter).

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In my opinion the best part of the episode was also the fact that the mother never accepted the female lead, at least she stayed true to character.

I hate the whole, "the met through ridiculous happenstances, they fell in love despite an awesome amount of obstacles and somehow lived happily ever after without mayor compromises".

At least the mother's hatred lived on to forever stain their bubble. The one realistic thing in that show.

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I think the format of Kdrama befits romance. There is a start and an end that usually is a happy one. In US shows, the romance is built on several seasons, it 's kinda long. It's why I liked Kdrama in the first place, I like some tropes even if it's cringey :p

But it doesn't mean I need it in every drama. I think it depends on the story and the actor's chemistry.

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Yes, yes, yes to this. The worst part of North American shows is the 'will they/won't they' holding pattern that gets drawn out over 3+ seasons when the set up is very very obvious from the beginning. New Girl, for example, was one of the worst for this, but I'd say it's a total NA TV trope that makes me so glad I've stumbled into the world of kdrama.

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I stopped watching North American shows a long time ago because most of relationships won't last (except maybe in comedies). And also especially dislike the dating round-robin that happen with combination of casts.
Like you guys, I actually love that there's an end to the relationship in kdramas. And yes, happily ever after is a good bonus. :D

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Agree! Or it just gets really weird, like in How I Met Your Mother.

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The final season of HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER was a major reason why I stopped watching American TV, except of Baseball and College Football.

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I think the will-they-won't-they dangling came about after the tv series, Moonlighting, where they had the sparring characters hook up in one of the seasons and then the audience lost interest. I didn't watch that series, but I'm guessing there were probably other factors involved.

I really like the romance portions in Parks and Recreation and Brooklyn 99 where they start of as bickering couples, get together still relatively early in the series (Leslie and Ben get together 1 season after they meet and Jake and Amy get together in season 3), and then life goes on and the characters continue to grow as individuals and as partners. There are interesting storylines outside of the couples.

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Oooh Moonlighting! ❤ But my fave bickering couple is Anne and Gilbert from the Anne of Green Gables book series of my childhood (I rewatched the 2 film specials dozens of times growing up).

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Anne With an E is a nice tv show.

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Doubling down on @kurama's note about the current Anne show from the CBC. It's really good, so many lovely moments and great acting.

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One K-drama entirely ruined by romance was 'Revolutionary love'. After a (VERY) rocky start as a creepy stalker rom-com the series eventually settled down to become a social justice story. Once the social justice plot like was resolved it abruptly switched back to being a creepy stalker rom-com again. Nothing worked with the romance angle. The standard second male unrequited love story turned icky when the guy finally confesses and the heroine looked like all she wanted to do was get out of the drarned building.

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That show started off pretty well, and of course I really like Kang Sora. But I seem to remember the plot sort of petered out and now I don't remember much about it, except that I enjoyed the first half of the show.

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The second half of the drama was a total mistake but I remember enduring it to the end just for Kang so ra’s sake. Aside from that I can’t seem to remember what the drama was about too!

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We all remember 'My Ajusshi' which was bombarded with hate comments before it even aired because fans couldn't imagine a storyline that *wasn't* about romance. They assumed up front that male lead + female lead = romance storyline.

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@Mike
...and by extension: that "love" can take the form of mentoring, and caring for another.

To me there is something troubling in the notion that relationships with women are either romantic/sexual or non-existent (part of a TL:DR discussion). It works against the idea Cornell West expressed so eloquently:

"Justice is what love looks like in public".

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I don't necessarily pick a kdrama to watch for the romance aspect. The artist in me of course just turns into a puddle of mush when the romance is done right(Being Melo, Healer, and about 500 more dramas 🙂) but I have had instances where even though the drama was a romance drama or rom com, I rooted for an entirely different sort of coupling(Goblin and Reaper). It's not that I hated the romance, I just found myself more invested in the bromance than the romance.

Come back Ahjussi didn't have a couple as the leads but I loved the relationship between the 2 leads and in turn loved the drama.

And then there's Hotel de luna where I honestly would have been ok had the the story gone either way. I was happy that they got together but I would have been equally happy had they not. The world they built in HDL was rich enough for me not to notice the lack of a romance sizzle most of the time. I loved the thawing of Jang Man Wol's heart not as it relates to romantic love but a more familial love for those that had been with her for a while.

So it's not so much romance and the premise of "living happily ever after" that draws me to a drama. It's more good writing and good acting that pull me in. And if there happens to be romance in it, well then I will squee to my heart's content.

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For me, Kdrama romance is a sweet escape from real life. But I often feel conflicted about it, because some of the tropes are problematic. There is usually a huge imbalance of power between the man and woman. I get tired of seeing women humiliated, chased by debt collectors, etc. I don't like how Kdramas normalize behavior that would be considered verbal abuse or stalking in the real world. I gravitate toward dramas like Fight My Way and Melo Suits Me, in which the women and men are on more equal footing. I think the old Candy/ Chaebol trope has a lot to do with sexism and social inequality in Korea; maybe women see romance with a rich man as the only path up the class ladder? I prefer to see women who get ahead based on talent and hard work. I loved WWW for that reason, although the main romance was lacking.

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I think romance is pretty key to these dramas, but then again, I'm a sucker for a good rom/com. What actually turned me off in the last few episodes of Her Private Life, was that they totally switched off on showing her evolving private life (as a fangirl) and switched to the male lead's dreary past. I would have liked to have seen her Idol crush find out that she was one of his biggest fans all along, etc.

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All through the run of 'Misaeng' commenters were constantly posting "I don't feel the love line! When is the love line going to start?" During 'Reply 1988' commenters practically had a coronary because the 'expected' male lead didn't wind up getting the girl in proper K-drama formula.

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I claim to hate romance (and I genuinely avoid Rom coms or chick flicks unless handed directly to me without my say in the matter), but you have a good point. Even when there isn't supposed to be any, I look for it. I want it. I don't enjoy cute dating scenes where a couple spend their time staring into each other's eyes only to break up because of some idiotic sacrifice or whatnot. I dropped a few dramas because of that. What I DO like is those characters who are clearly attracted to each other but never waste their time in those lovey dovey stuff, and instead work together in solving a crime or saving the world. Small doses bring out the best of a romance while never taking over the main story. But speaking as myself... a kiss or two wouldn't hurt uwu

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Yes, I completely agree with you! I guess this concludes that romance is a way to feel happiness, but with the right amount. Too much romance always gives you stress, and in dramaland this means dramatized stress and it's not always good.

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If you recall about a year ago JTBC’s THE THIRD CHARM aired with leads Esom and Seo Kang-joon. (Crime, mystery, murder are my main genres.). I watched TTC because of SKJ’s performance in AYHT which was my first SKJ drama. Turns out I has seen Esom in WHITE CHRISTMAS. That is is it.
Well a lot of folks were disappointed when they realized TTC was not going to be a rom-com. What did M. Scott Peck, the psychiatrist and author write?: “Life is difficult.”
That could have been the motto of that drama. Both Joon-young (SKJ) and Young-Jae (Esom) had all kinds of issues. Both those actors gave fine performances but Esom was outstanding and iirc she received some grief because of her performance.

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This reaction suggests we’re just in the story for the dynamic of attraction and conflict resolving into committed and lasting love. Can that really be true?

Actually I think it's less our fault, and more the fault of the show.
If a show's SOLE focus, IS the romance, specifically the build up to the romance, it becomes shallow and boring when that ends because there's nothing else to the show.
A well balanced show will have more to it.
Take Healer for example- it has a romance sub plot, but it's not the sole thing driving the story; it has thriller and mystery and action elements to it too, and more important than the romance, is really the characters of the OTP, who they are and where they come from.

So rather than-

In dramaland, a story struggles to end in a way that’s not the resolution or fulfillment of a romance.

- I think it's more that a story struggles to end well at all, when the focus of the drama is in the wrong To me, good story telling is imperative. A good story can be a story about romance or it can have none at all. Some stories would do better to remember that they don't NEED romance in them to work, some could do with a bit more. It really depends on the story you're telling and the characters you're telling the story with, and how well you know your story, what you want to tell, and yourself.
Good story telling utilizes and balances ALL its parts. Character, theme, setting, dialogue, plot, relationship, action, conflict, film techniques, music, direction and everything else.
However, most of my favourite shows have a stronger focus on character and theme over anything else, and I think strong characters can carry a weak plot (Lookout).

And I enjoy romances; I appreciate how Kdramas go about telling a lot of their romances (See @ally-le's comment) and I can't deny that sometimes all I want is a fluffy mindless rom com.
But at the end of the day, I just want a good story, in whatever form that comes, I'm bias towards character over everything else, but rom com or psychological thriller, just tell it well.
Cos if you don't tell it well, I WILL write a 3000 word essay on it, no matter what genre it is.

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I am expecting 3000 word essay for your romance with the elusive coconut Melona. Can't wait to read it. Don't disappoint me, k Sic? 😉

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... Does the History of Melonia count towards that or do I have to write 3k new fresh coconutty words? :P

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New ones, ofc! 🤓

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One of course could also argue, philosophically, that Love is imperative to living, and therefore to storytelling. Whether that is the love of affection between friends or man and beast, the love between a mother and a child, the love between two neighbours simply because they are neighbours, the romantic love between lovers, blood bonds between brothers or people who might as well be brothers, or ultimate sacrificial love which can of course come from any of the previous ones... Not everyone needs physical eros romance; but everyone needs love.

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Many dramas have romance: Dramas are about human characters and their relationships. Romance is a special type of relationship. An easy way for a story to be compelling is if it capitalizes on our desire for and fascination with this "special" type of human relationship.

The question we might ask is why romantic relationships are given this special treatment.

Sociological speculation: Humans have a biological instinct to reproduce, and since we reproduce sexually, this usually comes about through romantic attraction. Thus we are very keen to the idea of romantic relationships as a sort of holy grail, but not just any sort of fling of course- we aim for an ultimate stable, monogamous relationship with the potential for a family. Logically, we understand that people can still live meaningful lives without such a relationship, but the traditional family unit has long been key to our evolutionary development. A long term, socially acceptable (differs by culture) romantic relationship is difficult to achieve. Many people go through their whole lives striving for this ideal relationship. From this perspective, it makes sense that humans would be attracted to stories that satiate their sexual desire and curiosity about what such an ideal romantic relationship would be like. Even for people who consider themselves to be in happy relationships, there is something validating about seeing another couple's development that makes the viewer feel like they are part of a greater human movement (totally guessing here). Many dramas choose to end after an idyllic relationship is confirmed, serving to reinforce the idea that romance is an ultimate goal. The magical romantic tropes and fated encounters are used to prove to the audience that the couple really will turn out to achieve the goal and not breakup offscreen.

Of course a good story doesn't need to have romance. People can be just as fascinated by the intricacies of platonic relations as they are with romantic ones. Sometimes romance is hinted at but never seen through as a vital part of the plot. Sometimes there's just no mention of sexual attraction at all, and it's still a riveting story. But even dramas that are not about romance are still about romance. Assuming that the characters are fully fleshed-out human personas, what human is not grappling with the implications of their sexuality, hormonal desires, and the societal expectations involved? So it's also natural that as viewers, we search for these hints of romance even if the writer is not intending for it to happen in the story.

OK, but I still love blatant romance in my dramas. Maybe I'm curious because I've never experienced it before. I do think dramas have given me an unrealistic idea of what love looks like. I especially have a pet peeve with the concept of "forever", so I’m all for dramas with bittersweet endings and unsuccessful pairings. But regardless it would be weird if I went into love without any delusions, so...

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this article and all comments here are thought provoking making it an interesting read...personally, i have always gravitated towards a bit of romance in my reading of books and tv series/movies but that doesn't mean i can't watch or appreciate non romance books/shows/movies on rare occasions, but given a chance to choose what to read/watch, i would usually pick one with romance for sure...however i absolutely can't do with a sad/tragic ending in a show that's clearly touted as 'romance'...i'm okay with not getting a 'happily ever after' in the manner i thought it should have happened but tragic love stories (both in books and shows) are not up my alley...i've only read or watched a handful of such books/shows, and but even if i hadn't read or watched them no matter how critically acclaimed or popular they were, i would have been fine too. i also realized quite late in my life that i don't enjoy watching or reading explicit scenes, so while in books it's easy to skip (and now with streaming service its easy too) but i find that i would like to watch shows without such scenes and that's why i think in the last one year kdramas have been such an attraction for me...additionally, with the passing of time, i find that i enjoy the slice of life shows too...friendship, family, overcoming adversity and overall feel good ending is what i'm now looking for in my shows:-)

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Storytelling will always be a part of our lives because it is one of the main ways that we understand the world and that includes the many relationships we tell stories about. Story structure gives meaning, pattern and control in the face of a world where there are no clear endings and often very little control. Our brains seek out patterns because they are made to predict in order to understand and survive the world around us. We crave resolution and predictability while at the same time we need some novelty and surprise to stay intrigued. People, of course, have different preferences about how much predictability and how much novelty they prefer.

I fall on that part of the spectrum where I like a drama that acknowledges established patterns and then seeks to subvert or play with those expectations in a clever way. And that goes for the “romance” storytelling as well. “Because This Life is Our First” will always be one of my favourite romantic storylines for that reason.

And my tastes have definitely changed as I have grown older. Now that I am married and have a kid of my own the storylines between parents and children just pierce me to the heart. In Reply 1988 the younger romantic stories were fun but what really had me riveted and often ugly crying were the relationships between parents and children. The letters between Bora and her dad destroy me every time. But a thread of romantic love between the young or not-so-young is always welcome if it is well written.

I do think love stories will always be with us. They always have been and they always will be. Even the old duality of tragedy vs comedy comes down to whether you are getting a story about death or a story about a wedding. (That is vastly oversimplified but you know what I mean.) It’s about our reality of life and death. Comedy shows the continuation of life through both the next generation via a new family/relationship and the resolution back to the established social order (family, duty, kids, marriage, how ever the culture wants to define it). Tragedy deals with the death and loss that is also common to all human lives.

As social creatures we are innately seeking out connection with other humans. We look for ways to be in relationship all the time, even if a specific relationship is dysfunctional and hurting us we will still seek it out if it is all we know. Whether it be our family, colleagues, friends, rivals or romantic partners, we need connection to each other. If a show gives me genuine connection between characters that I care about (any genre of story can be formulaic and flat) it will have me sucked in. Like others I prefer a story that includes many kinds of dynamics from family to work to romance. All kinds of combinations/amounts of each can work if the writer knows what kind of story they want to tell and do it well.

The romance part of a story line gets a lot of power because of our basic human desire for connection and family...

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I found myself becoming a K-drama fan when I started to become extremely sensitive to the oversexualized and hyper-violent programming on American TV/entertainment. And the romance in the Kdrama world made me stay. From then on, I became unconsciously drawn and really appreciated the romance in K-dramas. In fact, I loved this aspect of Kdrama: no sex, the slow "courtship", the falling in love no matter the trope, the holding hands, the kiss midway through. I mean, those are aspects of romance I had not seen in TV, and it made me realize that i needed that! It was such a breatg of fresh air for me and to this day, I have a hard time going back to regular tv programming: Kdrama makes up 90% of my tv entertainement. I dnt particularly expect romance in my real life but it's somethg that I find so essential to story telling ... and entertainment! I think it may mean that as humans, we are sensitive to the notion of love, not specifically to romance. I personally pick dramas based on the love/romance story line. It's something that I love to see, and that's entertaining for me. But, for those dramas that I watched without a romance line, i nvr regretted it and felt it was missing smthg, i.e. my ajhussi, misaeng. I admit tho that action, thriller, without romance, would be difficult for me to get into (i have nvr watched Signal, but loved Healer, Pinocchio, etc) Thank you @missvictrix for those write-ups that are very good food for thought!

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That's exactly the same reason I started watching kdramas. Which is why I try to avoid even kdramas that don't have romance. For example I don't think I'll ever watch something like Voice. I remember becoming too sensitive to the voilence in American shows to the point of repulsion even at a hint of voilence. That said I love it when a kdrama does not have romance (or it isn't important to the story) like in Squad38.

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Yea, exactly! Even Signal despite the amount of buzz it received I was nvr drawn to watch it.

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When anything too violent does end up happening I skip. I'm like nope, no, can't. Whereas before I used to ignore romance in most things and now I just go aww. Power of kdramas I guess.

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I think we have been conditioned to think that enjoying romance stories is cheesy or somewhat beneath for example action driven stories and I think of it as another form of sexism as romance is mostly aimed at woman and there is a lot of bias when it comes to reviews rom com movies get and them not being seen as cool. The truth is there is nothing wrong with enjoying romance, just as there is nothing wrong with enjoying action or comedy or other genres. I got into kdramas around the time Hollywood decided rom-coms/ romance stories were no longer cool so in a way I need kdramas to fill the romance sized hole in my life, but I don't need romance in all my entertainment, in fact my favourite american TV shows had little or no romance (Supernatural, Criminal Minds) and for kdramas I can also enjoy them without romance if they have other elements I like like a mystery or strong friendships. So I'm grateful that kdramas feature romance so heavily because while it may be unrealistic, it's better than today's take on romance in Western media where everything seems to be about sex. I hope rom coms like they were în the 90 's (While you were sleeping, You' ve got mail) will have a resurgence and that we'll be able to enjoy them alongside the million superhero and Fast and Furious movies out there without any judgement.

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K-dramas do give us a glimpse of the flip side of rom-com love. These are the *parents* of the OTP, couples that have 30 years of cohabiting under their belts. Its not often pretty. The take-away from these characters is if you marry a K-drama-style manipulative jerk male lead, after the love endorphins wear off you will find yourself chained to a manipulative jerk male. There's no 'reforming' the bad boy. Most of the happy marriages among the parents seemed to come from marrying the 'nice guy', the Beta male from the main story.

This points up the utility of the much-despised 'long separation' that's in so many K-dramas. The couple have to opportunity to separate themselves from all the drama, to define themselves outside of the relationship. Then, when they reunite, if they spark's still there then they're good-to-go.

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When I was a kid (yes, I started watching dramas at the age of 6, thanks Mom!), romance dramas were my favorite. My ultimate drama until this very day is still a romance drama (Full House will never get old, and I always cry whenever I watch Youngjae sitting in his hotel room crying after his presscon in which he revealed everything), and it's been what... 15 years?

Up until this day I still enjoy romance, but when it's done right. I agree that sometimes a story feels like it's lacking something without hints of romance, but now I find myself to enjoy (insert genre) dramas with minimum to no romance more than straight up romance drama. Solomon's Perjury, Punch, School 2013, Misaeng, Forest of Secrets, Prison Playbook, My Ahjussi, Duel, Argon, and of course Signal are among my favorites.

Be Melodramatic, Age of Youth, Just Between Lovers, Come & Hug Me, Radiant Office, At Eighteen, Tomorrow with You are examples of romance done right for me (please note that this is subjective). Some aren't straight up romance and tell more about life (which, ofc, includes romance) but still, at the end of the day they revolve around romance and there's nothing wrong with it.

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And the reason why I enjoy romance drama less thesedays is because I'm automatically reaching for something relatable? And romance kdramas in general aren't really relatable and are almost always become way to dramatized (I loved Temperature of Love at the beginning, but starting from ep 8 I couldn't take it anymore. Everyone was SO annoying)

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I can't believe I forgot Because This is My First Life

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