The Account of my K-addict journey

Here, a long, completely indulgent account of how a person dwindles into k-drama addiction. You have been warned.

When exactly did I go completely nuts? A first wash of Hallyu wave came unannounced and swept me away. The wave was called Stairway to Heaven. It came at the right time in 2005 (when I was so badly stressed with exams) and I would watch without fail, eyes fixated on tv, cried “Unfair!” at Choi Ji-woo’s endless sufferings, swallowed whatever angsty shenanigan bait they throwed at me with passion. It was sweet. Stairway wasn’t my first Korean drama – it was a Chinese dubbed copy of All About Eve from years earlier – around 2002-2003 me thinks). About the same time I went gaga for a Taiwanese drama called The Prince Who Turned Into A Frog, which is populated with cliches as dense as Ming Dao’s eyebrows. He’s a rich mean bastard, she’s poor and plucky! He forgets and becomes nice! He remembers he’s mean and forgets about her! Back then I didn’t know those are standard formula, I just gushed “This is tragic! Riveting! Asian dramas are cool!”

However, it wasn’t until three and a half years ago, when I started to have more free time and acquired reliable broadband internet connection, that I decided to reap more of this newfound hobby. Light entertainment, ogling hot guys, are what I was after. Nothing more! So, those hit romcom trendies can do me no wrong! I remember a friend raving about Full House and started to tune into a popular streaming site (that was once awesomely crunchy but now criminally, utterly useless). The first few episodes were amazing – funny, cute, addictive. Since that time my parents were visiting, they were super worried that their daughter would dwindle in addiction instead of studying for exams. They were right actually, I was so happy on nights of relegating myself to the sofa bed, watching until 4am in the morning, laptop and self  burrowed under the blanket so no one knew I was actually awake watching drama.

But the last quarter of Full House, or half, actually, just got really dull and made me completely bored. I finished it anyway, then proceeded to watch Delightful Girl Choon-hyang, followed by Witch Yoo-hee. I started to see a pattern here. Started promising, gone bad after the half mark, just running around filling time with unnecessary angst. “You are good entertainment, k-dramas, but I can’t take too much or I’ll get sick” was my general attitude. Then I accidentally found a very funny recap when browsing the net, it was very detailed, witty, snarky. Gazillion times more enjoyable than the drama itself.

First learning jump: yeap you guessed it, dramabeans (nee Javabeans). Man, what an eye opener it was. Smart, smart cookie, that lady. Appeals to the mainstream taste but also very thoughtful and encouraging discussion. Perfect for hanger-ons who might want to upgrade. Since her blog, Korea has dominated my choice of Asian dramas and I kinda forgot about other countries and my first Asian actor crush Ming Dao, although my general attitude remained the same.

I stayed in this state for a quite a while… three years? Thanks to dramabeans’ recommendations, I’ve watched some amazing dramas and avoided lots of overrated teenybopper crap. Watching an episode followed by reading her recaps became a ritual. With killer titles like Bad Family, Que Sera-sera, Flowers For My Life, Story of a Man, I was completely hooked. I started to know names like Jae Hee, Kim Kang-woo, Kang Hye-jung, Lee Jun-ki and Lee Da-hae, Gong Yoo and Yoon Eun-hye. Hong sisters, who make fresh and funny trendies. I started to know words which don’t mean a thing before: noona. oppa. chaebol. micheoseo. makjang.

From humble beginnings – unable to even differentiate Korean from Japanese when I first heard them (blasphemous, I know), I learned so much it’s overwhelming. That  “Kajima!!” means don’t go. That Shin Ramyun is not the only noodles – there are also jajangmyun and jjampong. That the L in “Lee” is silent. That k-drama universe is not just limited to four gorgeous people, two guys and two girls, bitching and wailing for love and dying with cancer. That there exists a small but vocal group of people who tirelessly, selflessly provide their labour of love. I became a loyal follower. I even watched a few K-movies, some of them completely dislocated my jaw and thrashed it to the floor. Titles like Bin Jip and The King and The Clown.

 

cuter than a bunch of kittens

 

My next two dramas marked new heights, or where I sink into the dark world of insane fangirls. You’re Beautiful made me check dramabeans incessantly every five minutes for recaps and read every single fangirly comment. The second one is an accidental found, What’s up Fox. I noticed Go Hyun-jung for her natural, overall awesome acting, and of went completely bonkers for Chun Jung-myung. My heart soared everytime I saw him, I wanted to grow up quick and became a noona. That adorable slice of Pie (as the netizens so accurately christened him) is the start of me looking up Korean actors obsessively, and became a permanent lurker in Soompi. I was so happy because I discovered him at the time he got out of the army. He’s a walking contradiction of masculine and cute, when so many other actors take pride in looking like girls! So adorable and charming. And natural. And that very thoughtful drama starring him, Goodbye Solo, was great as well, even if the low-key execution and the cleverness of it all prodded me “I’m not your usual light entertainment. You need to think. Are you ready to handle me?” It was like high quality literature, sometimes too much too handle.

There I was, all excited about his upcoming drama Cinderella Unni and started to plan a life where I would watch not just one, but three dramas at once. I got mum to watch Cinderella Unni with me (she really likes Lee Mi-sook there). So many wonderful performances in there, but it started to pull those crazy angsty shenanigans and I bailed out. But the damage is done and my love for PIE waned (oh the tragedy! But I hate his wimpy character over there! Please be in a good drama soon! Luckily his upcoming movie Blue Salt looks really riveting). Yeah, ok, dramas, I’m close to puking in your face. I love you but I won’t go deeper than this. I’ll keep up-to-date with dramabeans, interspersing K-dramas with Western tv series, and I’ll be happy with that.

Or so I thought. One day, I read about Moon Geun-young, who’s taking the plunge into theatre (Closer, no less!) looking absolutely stunning, in the embrace of an older guy with an intriguing look. I’d say he’s swingin more towards ugly. But he looks sinister and dangerous. And really sexy. Who is that?

 

His became the most photoshopped face, replaced by Chun Jung-myung or Jang Geun-seok... Poor guy! I wouldn't have it any other way...

 

Second learning jump: Eom Ki-joon. Excuse me for a moment *melts into a puddle*

*solidifies* The sexy guy is called Eom Ki-joon, a seasoned actor in theatre, and he starred in a drama called Worlds Within. I groaned a little inside. Watching another Noh Hee-kyung demands that level of concentration, and the drama has been dismissed in many discussions. But, with determination and nerves of steel, I watched anyway.

True. His bastard director character, Sohn Kyu-ho, was delicious and riveting, and when he showed that vulnerability in episode 9, it was love. From getting increasingly annoyed at Song Hye-kyo, to tolerating her and getting really pissed off with Hyun Bin instead, I endured it all (well actually the drama is pretty good, the broadcasting story is interesting, and Daniel Choi is also another brownie point). Then I caught an episode of a drama called Life Special Investigation Team (because I know it’s got him in it) and was caught off guard by how easily he shed off sexy and put on dorky. Just… a revelation. What a chameleon. So I learnt another important lesson: actors with theatrical background are a force to be reckoned with. Plus, he’s got this deep irresistible singing voice. Squeal!

It’s time to look for a new drama and Life Special looks like stuff worth downloading. So I began perusing for new dramas, with the following brief in mind: “a light romcom which is not too addictive, but a sweet and easy watch, so that it purely serves as light entertainment but won’t disrupt my uni stuff.” In the same process that led me to What’s Up Fox, I scrolled Javabeans’ rating page, looking for anything that caught my eye. I found a line that said, “Yoon Eun-hye is forgettable, but Oh Man-seok is great.” Hmm, Oh Man-seok is another guy who’s also in the Korean musical Hedwig and The Angry Inch. He should be good. But her last five words is the testament that made me start The Vineyard Man.

Third learning jump: Daheefanel, thundie’s prattle, and….. pause for effect…. Oh Man-seok *went berserk!@#$%%^%^!!!*

Two weeks after I swore my allegiance to Eom Ki-joon, I had to take it back. The mind is that fickle.

I didn’t go through The Vineyard Man leisurely as planned. As expected the drama was nothing great, first two episodes were pretty awful, Yoon Eun-hye was annoying, and yet…. and yet… I completely ravished every episode just to see Manzzang.

By the end, I wanted to marry a farmer.

He’s not exactly a looker. Tanned. His Taek-gi character is rough, uncultured, spoke with a funny accent (even my unKorean ears could tell). Even so, the man’s completely exploding with charisma and is so at home with his character. Sometimes he looks ugly, sometimes he looks impossibly hot. Contradiction! It’s the first time I felt such a gravitating pull from the small screen, it scared me a little. Are all theatre guys this irresistable?! (I’m totally setting up a module for a Hedwig degustation plate soon. Just you wait, Song Chang-eui, I don’t know you yet but I’ve got my eyes set on you.)

It’s like I was reborn. I started to get really really greedy on Manzzang and I scoured every corner I can reach to find more about him and swoon when he sings. What he’s like, in and out of character, who his buddies are, his life – Gosh rereading this I squirmed and cringed… this is sad. What a stalker. Should this post be renamed Diary of an Obsessed Psycho? – Which is a dangerous territory because hypothetically I don’t want to ‘celebritise’ him and start to see anything other than the actor, which is only detrimental (as we can see to so many Hollywood actors), even if the man’s a damn good actor. But I just can’t stop myself

Then I found two blogs: Daheefanel (also completely under Manzzang’s spell) and Thundie’s prattle. So much I’ve learnt. So much. Not just about him, but also a million other things outside my tiny k-drama universe. That you can learn so much about humanity k-dramas and that I have the concentration to marvel at really long, intelligent essays on the net. That among these vocal group of people who tirelessly, selflessly provide their labour of love, lies a guru, so wise yet so grumpy. That sooner or later, I have to muster the courage to dip my toe into the deep and dangerous waters of sageuk, where I will find beautiful ungulates.

 

Hopefully will be my next watch

 

So we’ve arrived in the now. In the throes of addiction. Still learning, still hungry for words, still in love with Manzzang, still spending time unwisely – I am actually induced to revive this forgotten two-year-old blog (which was formerly dedicated for foreign and indie movies) and fill it with many many words on each post, although normally in life I’m more of a graph and calculation person. I wasn’t even that good in writing, and a true phlegmatic, I can’t do snark. But look, almost 2000-word on a blog post?!

According to thundie’s Six Degrees of Separation, it’s unclear where I am in the hierarchy. I’m still relying heavily on streaming sites (hanger-on, much?), I know a bit about softsubs and the right media player to use. I don’t know the heights of my favourite actors though. However, ever since I saw those MU links dangled to me temptingly, I gulp them greedily. And, to my absolute horror, I realise I have just reached a point where I’m starting downloading five dramas at once.

 

The two who elevated me towards new heights of addiction. They're buddies!

 

To date I’ve completed 24 Korean dramas, dropped 4 about midway (Bad Housewife, Cinderella Unni, Personal Preference, Triple), dropped many after a single or very few episodes (Pasta, 9 Ends 2 Outs, Attic Cat, Biscuit Teacher Star Candy, Capital Scandal, That Fool, Smile You, Queen Seon-deok – cemented respect for Go Hyun-jung, Oh Phil Seung Bong Soon Young).

Miraculously I’m only watching 1 drama at the moment (Hyena. So good!!!). And, to wash away the stains and shites of bad writing from That Botched Mangled Job, I’m also furiously downloading 5 for my incoming vacation, after sampling the first episodes cautiously:

  • Evasive Inquiry Agency (goodness, there are still kind souls seeding! Must be some die hard fans out there)
  • Alone In Love (started many years ago due to Gam Woo-sung, but foolishly dropped it. Now I’m picking them up again, and the first ep is so delightful!)
  • Shin Don (which hopefully will be my first completed sageuk. The first episode left such a deep impression, it’s wonderful to see how intense everyone was)
  • My Girlfriend is a Gumiho (just because I don’t want a Hong sisters’ to suck the life out of me when I need it most)
  • Life Special Investigation Team
  • Sungkyunkwan Scandal (2 episodes watched. Holding back furiously because now is so the wrong time to be addicted. I love Moon Jae-shin.)

Holy goats it’s 6!! Not 5!

So, yeah, k-drama. It looks like I’m sinking deeper and deeper. I still like my other American TV and stuff, but right now, I only see you. Interesting to see how worse my addiction can get, after I finish all those 6 dramas later. It will be 2011, and it looks like a promise for another testament.

Advertisements

About toopai
part time couch potato, full time movie and drama enthusiast.

4 Responses to The Account of my K-addict journey

  1. I like your writing style! And I also like the dramas that you like! Heehee! I think I’ll be here frequently. Haha! Thanks to the kdrama gods that there’s dramabeans because seriously, I just read recaps there when school’s such a pain and I have no free time. And I love Moon Jaeshin too! My heart aches for him every time and hello, I’m just reading recaps! I dunno what will happen when I actually watch SKK. Heehee 😛

    • tupai says:

      Oh! Thank you for the lovely comment! 😀 Yeah Dramabeans and all the selfless fansubbing folks are amazing aren’t they. As for SKKS, I kinda regret reading recaps because it does diminish the awesomeness – but at the same time it got me super excited in the first place. Double edged sword indeed hehehe.

  2. Sunny says:

    Tupai, thanks for your interesting post! 🙂 I also became an obsessed psycho after watching Manzzang. He is amazingly irresistable who just sucks you in to his acting and breathe/feel with him. He blows life into his every character with ease and whola, they became flesh-n-blood on TV! I don’t declare being a fan to anyone – – but I simply cannot resist the charisma of Manzzang! Keep on writing – – I will look for your future postings!! hehe 🙂

    • tupai says:

      Hello Sunny, fellow Manzzang devotee! More of us should make ourselves known… the man is out of this world. Sigh, when will he ever know my name? Thanks for your appreciation, do keep coming 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: