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The glamorization of overwork

When I’m not lost in the world of dramas, I’m usually reading, and lately it’s been some interesting research around the culture of rest versus the culture of overwork. As a society, are our values shifting more from one to the other? Do we reward overwork differently than we reward rest? Do we prize rest, or do we wear a golden badge of exhaustion?

Because all things can be boiled down to their core in dramaland, I started thinking about how work versus rest are portrayed in K-dramas — and even what the industry behind drama production tells us about the all too frequent glamorization of overwork.

The first bit of dramaland evidence is in the quintessential Candy character. She is, without much deviation, a toiling, exhausted part-timer who is working herself to the bone. Whether it’s to pay off her parents’ debt, or pay her way through school to better herself, there’s no plight we’re meant to identify with as much as this one. Nor, I would argue, is there a drama stereotype that’s quite as frequent.

I’m (impatiently) awaiting the rest of Netflix’s Love Alarm, so that drama comes into my head first when looking for recent Candy-like characters. But pick a drama, any drama, and there’s a pretty big chance you’ll find a Candy heroine — and if not a full-blown stereotype, some of the characteristics will at least be present and accounted for.

But what is this trope really about? What’s the message behind it? Why do writers love it so much that they’ll keep creating different versions of these female leads again and again? To answer this question, we have to think about the end result for these heroines: Candys are rewarded.

Regardless of how stale (or sometimes fresh) these Candy characters might be, their end point is always the same. (I’m sure there are some outliers, but most are pretty consistent.) Their hard work pays off. Their struggle is rewarded. Their suffering leads to victory. Whether someone recognized their effort, fell in love with them, slapped a fix on their problem, or helped them regain their emotional footing, Candys always end up in a better spot than they started. And that’s the point.

Not to make it look like the glamorization of overwork is centered around female characters alone, there’s a similar character stereotype that’s made for our heroes: the hardworking CEO. This character type puts work above all else — he might have a good heart and good motives, but he doesn’t mind working himself (and everyone around him) to death. He’s either striving for success, or striving to stay on top. Either way, there’s striving. And striving is the opposite of rest.

Our CEO stereotype often has to go through a process of softening and unlearning, but generally he meets a happy, rewarding ending as well. But was it his hard work that got him there? Or was his reward the cessation of that hard work?

This brings us to another examination of glamorized overwork in dramas, and that’s best seen through its representation of corporate life and culture. No matter the genre (rom-com, slice-of-life, legal thriller), you will undoubtedly find characters that come to the office early, leave last, work all weekend, nosebleed over their stacks of paperwork, and yes, they even work in the pitch dark after the office building has been shut down for the night. (The mirror image of this setup is also seen in school-centric dramas, too. Just replace studying with work, and the office for the library, and you have a very similar equation.)

Watching someone strive towards a goal and then succeed is not only one of the most traditional, but one of the most gratifying kinds of stories to engage with. In fact, this kind of “meritocracy” we see in dramas is one of the first things that lured me in. Work hard, put in all your effort, and you will be rewarded. Dramaland guarantees victory because victory is based on merit, and merit alone. And according to this logic, who deserves success more than the young orphan fighting for his/her goals, the office worker putting in the hours, or the executive who puts his company’s health above his own?

We’ve looked at some of the overworking long-suffering character archetypes in dramaland, but you don’t have to be a Candy or a CEO to strive and suffer in dramaland. In fact, it’s pretty reasonable to conclude that dramas teach us broadly about the value of hard work. Like Kim Da-mi said in her opening scenes in Itaewon Class, the way to be successful is to “work hard and study hard.” There’s no other road to success in her mind except effort.

This message can be (and has been for me) a source of encouragement — I know I’ve cheered myself on with a Hwaiting! more times than I can count, and taken heart in the fact that I, too, was a heroine gritting her teeth and soldiering on.

But what if this message doesn’t really show us the whole picture? Working, and working hard, is admirable and desirable — but shouldn’t taking rest be the same? Strange though it is, I can’t think of many dramas that talk about rest.

Of course, we can’t talk about overwork — or lack of rest — in dramas without looking at the actual production process behind them. We’ve heard the story over and over again: idols, actors, staff, and crew, worked to the point of breaking down. Most recently it was Sohn Ye-jin on the set of Crash Landing on You, but there’s a whole string of actors who have pushed themselves past their edge in the name of hard work, diligence, and responsibility.

It’s more than a little ironic that an entertainment media famous for overworking its cast and crew can actually provide hours of rest (as in restful entertainment) for its audiences. It’s even more ironic that stories of toil and struggle are the ones we most often watch as entertainment. So, what’s the takeaway?

To be inspired to press on, try hard, and endure is a great message, and one that we don’t easily tire of. The hundreds of stories about struggling, toiling, overworking heroes and heroines are proof of this. In the struggle lies the story.

But, as the audience of these stories, we also have to make sure we take them with a grain of salt. They’re created for drama. They create moments, whether it’s contention that pushes the plot forward, or the midnight office hours that bring our lead characters together.

Getting a nosebleed, fainting from overwork, or taking care of your boss’s pet fish before you take care of yourself — these are not actually healthy ways to live. Dramas might use these events as devices to show us how much effort our lead character is putting into their work, but the reality is quite different. For instance, real-life surgeons sleep for as long as they can before they head to the OR for an important surgery. When have we seen anything close to that in dramaland? Dramaland gives us entertaining and even delightful scenarios to relate to and enjoy — but they’re just that: drama. They’re a recipe cooked up to create a good (and sometimes even great) story.

As you look back on your drama travels, do you find you’ve been influenced by the glamorization of overwork? Whether you see a battle of work versus rest in dramas, in society, or don’t pay much attention to it at all — the question of effort, struggle, and work remains a central storytelling device in dramaland.

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Have dramas influenced me to overwork? Never!

Has Dramabeans influenced me to sneak away when I should be working? To get caught up on the latest recaps? Check out the latest posts? Post my own snarky comment or thoughtful reflection? Um, well..... It's important to be well-rounded, well-rested, and happy, right? It adds to the quality of my work, right?

I knew you'd agree.

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I will never glamorize work. But, I think the rest of the world is leaning more toward that than rest. And they are not necessarily a drama fan. You'll have plenty of rest when you're dead, they'd say. Even at work, if you use non-work hours to do work stuffs, you'll be praised for your dedication.

And I know a few people who finds joy in their work. They are the type who would complain about having to take day offs because their vacation hours are maxed out. That concept is foreign to me. I could never have enough vacation. 😁 I need my rest. Plenty of it. Afterall, I need to be awake to watch my dramas!

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this comment made me smile. a really good outlook to have. i have to work hard to get to my dreams, but i also have to realize there's a journey on the way so killing myself to get there does me no good. the thing is labor isn't just you being literally too tired. it is emotional, physical, it can drain every ounce of you.

these thoughts make you put yourself and emotions in a time crunch but one that's ineffective. and then at the end of the day...what do you have?

my mom once said to me, "if i dont do [making family xmas] i'll feel like i just live for work and i can't do that" and it broke my heart. and it made me go i'm gonna try my hardest but i know that i can fail, or be too sad, and rest. i can't look back to see a life pass me by like that and not enjoy the job you're doing. like what if...a novel concept....u lOVE UR JOB and u also LOVE resting....what would it be like with more TIME to explore things you want?!!??!

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I think the key is finding balance between what I want and what I need to do. I work 8 hrs a day, and during that 8 hrs, I am giving my all to work (okay, not 100%. I sneaked in some DB time. But you get what I mean ;)). Sure, I will work extra hours or on weekends when requires. Afterall, things happened outside of our control all the time. But don't expect me to work 8+ hrs every single day. That won't do for me.

I am also aware that I am at this point in my life where I could make this kinda demand to my boss. I am also extra lucky to work for wonderful people who understands my need. 🙂

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this sounds great. i love hearing this! and i get extra happy when people say it definitively. because you deserve your time. honestly most people (well most in good faith) do their work. and if u RLY care about it, your def gonna do it. but it doesnt even need to be proven. you have deserve rest. you're a person. we only have one life to live.

i'm glad the boss and your people understand your needs! it's sad how that can be rare..

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Yes. That is indeed sad. I am forever grateful for working with wonderpul peps!

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Dramas have never influenced me to overwork. I influence ME to overwork and that's a me issue lol. If anything, dramas inspire me to procrastinate. But when I do overwork myself to exhaustion (quite literally in my case) I try to comfort myself quite ridiculously that maybe I am a kdrama candy and wrist-grabbing chaebol (*swoon*) will come save me. I do identify with those types of characters so much lately. Especially with characters like Jang Geu Rae (Misaeng) or the more recent Ko Ha Neul (Black Dog). The Latter even learned how to prioritize work later on in the series which was so refreshing.

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Silly me. I'd rather be the wrist-grabbing chaebol than be the candy waiting for one.

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I guess the problem lies in that you cannot decide to be a chaebol.

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Overwork? Aniyo.
Overwatching kdramas? Dangyunhaji!

*maybe you're talking to the wrong crowd, @missvictrix ^^ although admittedly I've suffered from severe burn-out once, and cured that by watching season 1 and season 2 of Grey's Anatomy 3 days straight.

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Funny you should mention Grey's as the fix to your exhaustion.. It's the first show that gave my teenage self anxieties about the seemingly punishing 'adult' work life. Somehow seeing all those sleepless study-practice-compete-excel/burn out cycles had me seriously second guessing my ability to survive in the real world 😅

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i could talk about this all day. this post really excites me so thank you for sharing.

the idea of a candy is that she is working hard because she has to and is supposed to. she comes from nothing, and you gotta push to the top, which in itself is a problem. the unreasonableness of a society so structured on production for money. what candy's success is though is a man, it's money. that's their ending and that's their reward. we have two double whammies there.

the CEOs work hard but how did they get there? well, more often than not, their family has always been rich. or they got huge opportunities from the rich. and although they go through a character arc they are still rich...still hardworking yet seeming to live a life of more leisure tbh.

(ps what happened with sohn ye jin?)

i want to say that i do think about it a lot. but i want to comment on entertainment and crew specifically. obviously it is difficult to work. even here, it's hard as hell to get in a union for media work and then to be able to work because you are in a union. there's active squashing of unions.

and while idols specifically suffer...we as a public don't take in the crew outside of the cast. those things we watch? someone has to EDIT that, there's a graphics person, there's someone fetching the coffee, there's people making sketches and setting up lights and camera operating for these music shows. there's the art department laying it all down.

but the thing is, the people we watch, when we get to sit down to watch them do it...there's still a disconnect. we come home everyday (ostensibly) and we takeaway a sense of, i don't know, strength? being able to do something all day and get paid.

we watch a show and while those people are workign hard, those in front of the camera, that comes with social capital and [more] financial security. i will never deny the huge issues of overwork and especially for idols where things are constantly churning but it's the selling of an idea. this goes triply fold for idol stuff (and we can get into literal idol show entertainment but anyways)

i think about this all the time. i think about it as an artist and i think about it as a person who HATES doing things i don't like. i don't have the attention span, i'm bossy, i'm airy, it's hard for me to be in a restricted environment. this is why i am an artist.

i think about people in these jobs...let's say designers in a fashion industry, actors, directors, etc who are so close to quitting because they don't know if it really means anything. if you're body is being consumed but you're still disposable to a public. and even though the public can make/break you, the public that is watching you is still sold a fantasy of the fantasies they enact or live in.

to be honest, the one thing korean media has done is expand my brain for my own development. i looked inward at being such a fan of idols and this work-hard mentality and thought about...

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to be honest, the one thing korean media has done is expand my knowledge. what is enough for me to accept. i looked inward at being such a fan of idols and this work-hard mentality and thought about what i believe in, who i am as a black woman and consumer. and the dramas that focus on labor issues opened a whole new world up to me. because the message should be simple: you should be able to have on job, you should be just as happy as that CEO, your ending can be what you want it to be.

glamorization of overwork is a problem with dramas that dont attack the bullshit ideas of productivity. and i'd say it's because that IS a part of life. people do get so sick, will work themselves to death, how many stories come out about someone getting into a car crash but then GOING TO WORK and having someone go, "you're so brave, we will pay for your hospital bills!"

and like you said, we identify with it. really it isn't just drama because this is the way we are told the world works. when it doesn't. not one bit. or, at least, the viewer is probably not going to grab that opportunity and the life that the person gets in a drama.

i guess my point is that it isnt a storytelling device. it's a dream being sold by the innerworkings of capitalism via media.

this is such an interesting question and post. i'm glad you brought it up. i dont feel influenced by it but it's my goal to reject it.

i probably wont be able to enjoy a candy story. not that i dont enjoy fun and kdramas help me maintain my anxiety when i feel very stressed. what makes something enjoyable is shaking that notion up tho. money not being the salvation. just happiness. rest. we NEED rest. we deserve rest. overworking isn't admirable andd that's the storytelling goal but it isn't a foreign concept to people because we/others cannot imagine a world without work.
...hope this made sense

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Great comment. And we need to point it out that is not Just kdrama. Probably 90% of American show, the character profession is the front centre of the story. And worse, they create this badass character at work and everything around them is about work, their friends is from work, their love interest, their family. They sell this idea that we should live to work. It's capitalism.

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absolutely! ! i think this idea of the american dream has permeated through the world tbh. . i mean it's a special type of thing in america and probably the biggest saddest illusion but the idea that you just work and work and work and work and work until one day you work so har dyou can be a millionaire...

it's such a pervasive idea here, we center our lives on it, it's so so sad

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As a society, are our values shifting more from one to the other? yes and no. yes in the sense that more people, particularly millenials and to some degree gen zers that do work or organizing, are opening up their minds to what it means. 'parasite' coming out seemed to just blow people's minds (even if they missed the point.)

no in the sense that we believe the quientessential american dream will happen (and i put this american dream onto other countries like SK. there are political reasons for that but just the very notion that you MUST progress fast and you WILL if you work SO SO SO SO SO SO SO SO hard and you will get money. yet...we know it's a lie...chaebols are established. you regular joe are...not.)

Do we reward overwork differently than we reward rest?
absolutely. "u sleep i grind" showing people how many jobs you have like in dramas. the beauty in someone working hard to their death to get a............2k bonus but u rly want reliable transportation.

Do we prize rest, or do we wear a golden badge of exhaustion? golden badge of exhaustion. but how could we not?
could we ever prize rest when rest means you're doing nothing because work means you are winning some way, some how. that the people who are sick and tired failed to work, so they're resting, so they must have failed.

also not to get toooooo p*litical but what is good/bad work? i notice that we wont follow around "bar girls" for this. i can't imagine a romcom centering that. so there's an idea of good/bad work to ;)

thank you for making this post. i love love love to think about this. there are dramas i love to that rly provoked a serenity within me in that regard

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For every tale of a plucky hard working hero/heroine there another detailing the dehumanization and degradation inherent in the process. Lets recall that brutal opening scenes of 'Go Back Couple'. Lets remember the most difficult-to-watch parts of 'Pretty Noona Who Buys Me Food'. Most recently there were the workplace degradation scenes in 'Diary of a Prosecutor'. Half the side characters in 'My Ajusshi' had given their all for their respective companies then were discarded once they reached middle-age. The 'Candy' fantasy is intended to assure people that in the end it'll all be worth the sacrifice. But often, in the same show, there's another character arc with the opposite message. The spiritually broken unemployed father, the middle-aged female worker watching a younger woman being groomed for her post. And my personal favorite, the aging wife who had married a Chaebol heir (with a bad personality) for love only to live a life in hell as a result. That gives you an inkling what sort of hell 'Secretary Kim' has to look forward to once she hits 45.

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genuinely engaging here so bear with me...

don't you think that the success stories are to be shown as things others failed to do? instead of there being a root of a problem it was them?

diary of a prosecutor is a good point and with shows like that or go back couple or whatever. thinking about the labor storyline...she forced the man to be compliant because he needed the money to mitgate misery but it didnt solve the problem at all.

the opposite message i feel like, more often than not in shows that don't focus on say exhaustion, family dynamics, really fucked up shit, which LBR are mostly romcoms is you struggled and got far. maybe your mom didnt and she died but you did and you're rich now. yay! so what did she do wrong? as opposed to all the things that could go wrong or were in her way.

secretary kim got that wish then she realizes he's a fuckin child that can't do anything for himself and has to manage his life until they both die

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I agree @Mike. There are plenty of dramas that show how damaging overwork can be and I love it when dramas explore both sides of that coin. The combination of working hard - with having to do the after-work entertaining & team dinners - must be terrible for anybody with families.

Black Dog also showed the choices families have to make and they did the same thing: one story-line about how hard work is necessary to get a full-time job and another story-line about how working all hours might not be the best thing for your family.

Add to that the recent research about how people make lots of mistakes when they get no sleep (and aren't productive at all after a certain number of hours of work) and I can't help but feel sorry for the people who have to work in those kind of environments.

(and yes, I completely agree with you about the candy-myth)

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One thing left out of nearly all of the candy tropes is that they ALL end at the high point in the candy's life struggle. And yet in almost every drama (including the ones with the successful candy), other character slots are filled with (usually older) personal failures, such as the ajuma's that spend all day in boring coffee meetings and such. And I presume that at one time all those people were also at the same candy high point at one time - and it was all downhill from there.

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I wish I could upvote this ten times. This was so on point.

I have rewatched Go Back Couple maybe 30 times and I still ugly cry every time in those brutal opening scenes.

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That’s so true. It’s kind of like the message of Parasite, where at the end it’s kind of shown how no matter how hard the son works, he’ll never be able to earn that house. No matter how hard one works, the structures of capitalism have limited our potential.

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One messed-up thing about overwork, especially in the form of an all-nighter, is that it doesn't take much sleep deprivation to impair your performance about as much as being legally drunk. Go ahead, google something like "sleep deprivation vs alcohol impairment".

So all those kdrama school kids who stay up studying until their noses bleed are ensuring that they won't get into that good college.

I read something a few years ago saying that be biggest difference between sleep deprivation and alcohol impairment was that the sleep-deprived people were less likely to realize how impaired they were. I just tried to find that again but I couldn't. Perhaps I'm too tired?

ZZZzzz...

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it's soooo bad for ur body. i wish i valued sleep more when i was younger. but it's hard bc there simply are not enough hours in a day to do what we are told we must do.

i suffer from insomnia, have been on ambien for months, and i know a thing that would make things soooo much better would be better sleep health. even that little thing.

but then again, think of all the people working overnight. from drivers to doctors. your body can't ever be comfortable with that. some are avoidable (not overworking a driver) but then some are things that have to be done (doctors and nurses) but all this could be supplemented with adequate care.

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https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/sleep-deprivation-and-deficiency

It's really shocking... I know I need enough sleep to function well but I didn't know sleep deprivation could be as bad as being drunk.

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Actually, while female leads get rewarded for their hard work by stopping it altogether, male lead gets female lead AND can keep her by that unhealthy hard work.
E.g He works himself to death and pays off her debts, he rents a whole café for their date and promises her life with a healthy dose of barely 40 hour work-day (of course doing what she loves). Sure, our candy isn't a gold-digger, but that just makes our lead continue to give her whatever she might need. At some point, that also becomes one of the reasons why she ends up with him.

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But pick a drama, any drama, and there’s a pretty big chance you’ll find a Candy heroine

Yes, many many candy shows, but still a lot of my favorites were (as best I recall) the non-candy, low-calorie type.

Girl K - well, her hard work did pay off, but she still didn't seem sweet and candy-ish
Signal - do dead candies count?
You From Another Star
Mother
Queen's Classroom - well, maybe the kids, but not the adults
Sandglass
Hotel del Luna
My Fellow Citizens

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I miss those kids from QUEEN'S CLASSROOM.
I feel old since they've all grown up now.

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As always, a great article @missvictrix 😘😘😘

This time, I’m reminded of this:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Libby_Zion_Law

And as always, spread kindness— don’t forget to say thank you to the barista who made your coffee, don’t forget to hold the door for someone, don’t forget to pay it forward.... Don’t forget to tell someone that they did a good job—a GREAT job— because little things like that, humble little things that we may not see as great, can and are great in the eyes of another who might need that little bit of encouragement at that perfect moment 🥰🥰🥰

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Yes, and not just baristas -- cashiers and baggers too. Imagine standing at a counter all day and not being acknowledged as a human being by the people passing through.

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Oooh, this article hit home. Since October (and especially Dec to Feb) I have had so much work I wanted to cry from exhaustion. Two of my coworkers resigned, and I had to take over some of their tasks on top of my own. I haven't been on Dramabeans in so long because of that sked, but something prompted me to check in today. This is the first post I saw! Maybe the Universe is trying to tell me something.... Thanks for this essay, Miss Victrix

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this article came at a time i totally needed to ear this, i am looking back and seeing that i have really being influenced by this. hopefully now i can make a conscious effort to change!! kudos to the writer for this

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One stereotypical overworked employee in Kdramas that always bugs me is the Secretary. Is it just drama trope, or are they really expected to follow their bosses around 24/7, drive them home when they're drunk, take care of dry cleaning and other personal errands, etc.? Really curious if that's part of Korean culture, or is just a storytelling device.

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It has been mentioned a lot on this site that many of those secretaries are actually personal assistants. Probably more of a translation or interpretation problem.

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so, even if they are personal assistants... do personal assistants NEVER get rest or have their own lives?? ever??
What's worse: they really don't seem to get paid very much, regardless of the gender.
(this is, of course, referring to secretaries / personal assistants in KDramas)

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I wasn't justifying their being overworked. Just saying that it has been mentioned a lot that seeing them doing tasks that secretaries in the west don't normally do might be due to a translation problem rather than culture or storytelling device.

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oh no no!
I didn't imply you were justifying it. I was simply going along with the thought that their overwork was horrible.
cheers!

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Good essay on that theme. On the opposite side, for every overworked candy there is at least one totally worthless lazy room mate. For every cop that works 27 hours a day to solve the latest crime, there are 11 other cops in the station who do nothing but sleep in the office.

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ha ha ha ha
great observation!

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The idea that hard work leads to just rewards and success is nonsense that I want to drown in lava. It is simply not true and there is no evidence to support it. This is not to say hardwork is bad or doesn't help in success, but that it is neither a defining factor nor the most important. Otherwise the people working the mines of Congo to dig for Coltan or the people in China working in sweatshops would be the richest people in the world. Luck, timing, location, opportunity, skill, and intelligence all have more to do with success and rewards than hardwork. ( Rant over, one of my biggest pet peeves)

All that to say, there has never been a drama that encourages me to overwork, only overtime at time and a half does that.🤣🤣 as for the hardworking trope it is entertainment and wishful thinking if nothing else.

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I saw ONE drama line that got it right - Where the lead guy said "don't work harder, work smarter". Far too many kdramas equate long hours at crap jobs = working harder.

Perhaps all those candies putting in 20 hour days selling potatoes at roadside stands should step back and think about what they should be doing.

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I loved reading your take on the topic, @missvictrix !! It reminded me a lot of Byung Chul Han's book "Burnout Society" (an incredible read, if there's a beanie out there that hasn't read it yet, give it a try!!).

I have been influenced by the glamorization of work in kdramas. During my teenage years the effects didn't last for long, since I had too much love for pokemon games (lol) and really bad time management skills. Now, in my adulthood, I find that the influence of such glamorization manifests itself in other ways. One thing I need to battle against every day is the guilt I feel whenever I take time off from my studies and my work. I might not put in more hours than necessary at my job, but the thought that I'm less than my peers simply because I enjoy resting is always there in the back of my head.

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I really hate those conversations between people trying to impress each other by humblebragging about how many extra hours they put in... from where I see it, if people need to put in extra time, then something's wrong

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What a good read!
thank you, @missvictrix .
and yes, i agree with you on all points. Society, be it on our screens, behind the scenes or in regular life, seems to be on the side of glamorizing overwork.

Which is actually why the words and practices like SELF-CARE, MINDFULNESS, MEDITATION, PERSONAL TIME, MENTAL HEALTH CARE and others have been trending more and more: it is a slow shift in realizing the negative effects of overwork (among other reasons) and the need to fix our mentalities.

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Honestly, working hard is never about only merit. It's about your genetic luck - general health, ability to concentrate, willpower and other random things. Also I always found glamorisation of studying hard stupid because my own experience is the opposite - I always had nearly perfect grades without really studying, just because I naturally had good memory and was relatively smart. There is no merit here. Also naturally people aren't able to concentrate for more then a certain time, so just working ling hours won't help you perform better, it can actually hurt your performance in real life. Time management is much more important 🤣 so for me it's the opposite, this part of dramas never really attracted me

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This year I’ve officially given up on teaching. Not only did my blood pressure significantly go up every day (high schoolers), but the amount of work that I had to do every day at home (including weekends) was insane. Yes, I could have taken it easy. Given less work (no essays, yay!) worry less about whether my students were learning or not. But I couldn’t do that. Some got on my nerves, but overall they were good kids that deserved a chance to learn.

However, I was overweight, prediabetic, had high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. I couldn’t, or wouldn’t, find the time to exercise because I always had “work” and I was always exhausted after staying up late grading papers or fine tuning lesson plans. My diet was crap. Too tired to imagine cooking or cleaning up after myself, I would buy take out almost every day. I would seat on my desk every night drinking juice and eating random snacks to get my energy up (I hate coffee).

So I decided to take a break. Reboot. And in that process I found other alternatives related to education that don’t revolve around working myself to the bone every day. Wish me luck.

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May Lady Luck smile upon you!

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🥰 Thanks!

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Teaching teenagers can be so draining that you forget to look after yourself... Been there, I totally get you. Kudos for being brave enough to reboot, and all the luck to you @dramamama!

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🥰 Thanks!

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One thing to note is the end goals are often so meager. Killing yourself in the hope of landing a civil servant job. The characters in SKY Castle may have been monsters but at least their ambition was higher than getting a salary job at the Department of Motor Vehicles. But SKY Castle was about elites. The characters in dramas reaping the rewards are most often silver-spoon inherited wealth elites with political connections. That Chaebol heir who knows nothing but work would be just as rich if he played all day instead. His hard work comes off as an OCD personality disorder. Actually, the 'rich guy with the personality disorder' is as common a trope as the always-working 'Candy'. And, in the end, both are redeemed by love (Clean With A Passion For Now)

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@missvictrix Thank you for this insightful post. If you ever have the time, you should read David Graeber's "Debt." It's super long, but you can get a copy for free online (and if you can't figure out how, hit me up and I'll send it to you). I think it will blow your mind.

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All Hail! Fish Cult! Actually, Kdramas are not glorifying overwork, it's just speaking to the norm in Korea. It's normal for people to work until 7-8 pm and then go out until 10-11 routinely, and then do it all over again the next day. I've asked my Korean friend about this and she sees her counterparts in Korea work themselves into the ER, thinking it's normal. It normalizes that behavior, but take it with a grain of salt. Because usually it's a cautionary tale. I remember the ER doctor who died of overwork in Goblin and reaper had to meet him there to tell him he had passed away. After finding myself in a similar situation with my nurse who works 6 days a week and 12 hours a day, seeing her in the ER and admitted for basically overworking herself, but not believing anyone that she is. It's heartbreaking. She doesn't have time to breathe or for her heart to beat normally, and then it happened to me the very next week. But I least I do have time for Dr. Kim to also teach me the same lesson on RDTK2 this week, and hearing him reprimanded by head nurse Oh, was like hearing a record playing, first by me, then to me, then to Dr. Kim. For those you aren't watching, he basically was injured in a bus crash, then operated on not one but 2 critical patients, in pain and not well himself, then fainted and had to be seen in the ER himself, with his whole staff anxiously waiting. Real life is sometimes stranger than fiction.

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Speaking of overwork, the CLOY filming just finished on February 13, only a few days before the finale broadcast. In the last few weeks you can visibly see the wear and tear on all the actors, but their performances have still been good.

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You never know what may come in life, health, wealth/poverty, how long you live isn't guaranteed or in your control but what matters is how you choose to live each day.
In this day and age, that willingness to work hard is often exploited and never rewarded.
We see it all the time with unpaid internships, work experience needed for entry level jobs, companies pushing overtime instead of hiring new staff.
All kdramas seem to do is reinforce how toxic the workplace can be and how there is still not enough being done to create a supportive and encouraging atmosphere.
Whilst I do take pride in my work, it shouldn't be a priority over my time with family, friends, or in solitude.
Now that the overtime I've had for the past 6 months is over, I'm so happy to spend my time off doing what I love, exploring new places and reading and watching dramas.

Thank you for the write-up @missvictrix

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Maybe this sounds weird, but i think dramas do inspire me to work harder, ironically, since they're also a huge time sink. I really liked that in dramas, any development that comes to the characters is only achieved after hard work. In american shows, a lot of times I would just get a small montage of people working, and then BAM- they're magically masters at whatever they were working towards. (ex. Kung fu panda 3) That felt totally unrealistic and would blow my interest off. I realize that in real life, working hard doesn't necessarily guarantee anything, but at least it serves as proof to yourself that you've tried. Also following many kpop idols and listening to them talk about their trainee days, I hear that many of them went through intense training before debut, but basically after they made it through, they felt it was a good thing that at some short period while they were young, they had put their entire heart into doing something. I wish i can find something I feel that strongly and passionate about in my own life. I know i'm lucky to be able to say this, but I've never felt that I've worked hard or pushed myself to my full potential at anything. of course, beating myself up about it is counterproductive though, not everyone is meant to find something that's really worthy of that level of dedication.
I do think more dramas are focusing on the importance of rest, though. Little forest comes to mind, parts of Because this life is our first, and possibly upcoming I'll find you when the weather is nice. A lot of this recharging has to do with people going on trips or physically moving their residence. Maybe the Let's eat series could be seen as having an approach to rest by balancing out the workday with good food. Or Aggretsuko gives us advice on how to let it all out when we're stressed. We need more tips as to how to incorporate good quality rest in our daily lives. let's work hard and play harder!

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I read an article in a magazine. This guy take sabatical year periodically to do something completely different. Cant remember exact number, just say 1 yr off for every 3 or 4 years.

Now this guy own his own design company and used that time to gain new experiences/ ideas to enrich his future works. It's a luxury most of us, myself included, can not afford. But the idea does intrigue me. Imagine not having to wait to retirement age to do something you want even if its off kilter...

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This is such a wonderful and timely piece @missvictrix. have really enjoyed all the thoughtful comments by the beanies on this thread.
I always thought k-dramas treated these crazy work hours as run of the mill and the matter of fact-ness of 'work till you drop' ethos in most of them is more of a reflection of the way of life in the current world in general and SK in particular.
SK notoriously has a difficult CSAT(Suneung). The amount of coursework these teenagers are expected to master is no joke. Cram schools and 12+ hours of school work looks to be the norm. Out of the youngadult dramas that show the pressures of academia,my stand out 'Drinking Solo' also shows the moments of rest that the young'ns and the adults in their sphere take. Interestingly these moments of rest are also tinged with an aura of isolation from their immediate society. It was a jolt to read of the untimely death of a crew member from the show when the show seemed to champion the need to slow down, breath and reflect.
Even if you somehow make it through the punishing student years, the job market competition is shown to be crazy for regular Janes/Joes a la Radiant office.
And the expectation of overwork doesn't seem to let up even once you have had your foot in the adult world - Misaeng, Secretary Kim,WWWSK and many more..

It's be remiss of us to just down play some of these as specific quirks of the society. But there are the glaringly universal tales of capitalism/patriarchy in these dramas that speak of the collective human experience:
Kim biso in WWWSK is shown to be every bit as competent as her boss.But by virtue of the birth lottery he is already in a position that she could never aspire to be in. It takes close to 9 years of slogging in a supposedly high paid job for her to barely get out of debt and finally chuck a job she has had her shackled.
The Candies in k-dramas aren't unfamiliar to any one who has seen the fairy tale where the hardworking Cinderella is rewarded a life with Prince charming.

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