Kdrama Tropes We Love to Hate
Please note that what you are about to read is very much tongue-in-cheek. In no way should it be taken seriously. With that said, let's get started!
Asian dramas are rife with all manner of tropes, as any drama fan should know, but Korean dramas have some that are uniquely theirs. I'm willing to bet my fortune (I have no fortune) that you are already starting to think of many right now. Well, I've put together my own list of ten tropes I frequently come across when I watch Kdramas.
1. Evil Rich Parent(s)
I have to get this one out of the way since it is, in my opinion, one of the most overused tropes in Asian dramas, period. Just put a sign on them these parents that reads: Have Money, Will Evil.
These evil rich parents were more than likely forced to marry someone they ended up not having a great life with, but what does that matter when it comes to you, the main lead? They are having none of your "I'll marry who I love" shenanigans. The evil rich parent will dedicate as much time and money as they see fit to force the person of their choosing on you. Someone that you'll eventually have to boink. Yes, that's right. They are choosing your sex partner as well because how else are you going to have heirs to force the same fate on one day? It's pretty disturbing when you think about it.
2. Hospitals Are the New Coffee Shops
It's almost as if it's stylish to be admitted to the hospital considering how often characters end up there. But there are usually only a few reasons that are typical for a visit. Let's take a look at the possibilities:
All that kimchi and rice, yet so many people have such a weak constitution that it doesn't take much for a drop in oxygen in the brain to happen. Cause that's what causes fainting, you know? These folks need to re-evaluate their diets and get in some more physical activity.
Fever From a Cold
Whether it's stupidly standing around in melancholic rain, over-exerting themselves, or being literally sick from love, a couple of Ibuprofen is never enough. Especially not when hospitals are so lit. Gotta be where all the hip kids hang out.
Hit by Car/Truck or Accident while in Car/Truck
This is usually due to some other type of stupidity, like running into traffic for something they could've waited for as if cars are made of jello. Or just plain walking onto the crosswalk with absolutely no regard for oncoming traffic or crossing signs.
If you are actually in a car that's hit... well, someone probably wants you dead. And there seems to be a good discount going for kill-by-vehicle drivers. If you're really important, your enemy may have even taken the risk of driving into you themselves. How they are able to come down the other street just in time to hit you as you enter the intersection is truly a secret artform.
3. Drunk Scene
Hmmmn, this one is hard because every time I went out drinking in Korea, I did end up drunk. So, I can personally attest to how easy it is to get wasted off of soju. And I wasn't even lamenting over anything. At least I didn't act a fool and pass out, because I certainly didn't have any handsome guys around to give me a piggyback ride. Wait, actually...
4. Abusive American White Men
Foster parent, husband, boyfriend,... doesn't matter. If the setting is the U.S., and it's a Korean woman living with a white man, he's abusive. Now, this is always a trip to me. I always wonder if there is some ulterior motive here. I feel like it's a subliminal way of trying to deter Korean women from being interested in white men by portraying them as negatively as possible. Goes to show how little time they've actually spent in America, if that's the case, because it is not working.
5. Necessary Cohabitation
I guess it takes too much creativity for writers to have love build between a man and a woman without them living under the same roof. Even if it's for a short period of time, something usually comes up that requires them to sleep at the same place and share awkward moments at night. How else can their romantic feelings for one another blossom? Dates? Nah, too pedestrian. Spending less time getting drunk and/or in hospitals? Too orthodox.
6. Her = Poor + Noble Fool, Him = Wealthy + Psychological Disorder
Love, be a therapist tonight. It's rare for the two star-crossed lovers of Kdramas to be on the same footing in regard to social class, income, and career level. She... is usually poor or disadvantaged compared to him. What she lacks in wealth she makes up for in courage and implied adorably immature antics [enter stage left: eating like a toddler.] He... usually has at least a stable attractive home (if he's not rich) and a random disorder that was pulled out of a grab bag. His favorite past time is pulling women by their wrists and shouting excessively.
If writers really want to let their hair down, they'll give the girl some cockamamie disorder as well, or she might even be the only one to have a disorder. However, if it's the girl that has the disorder, you can count on it to be something made up, or in the Guinness Book of Disorders. Something like... being able to see scents. Or not being able to breathe whenever they see violence, despite being violent themselves. I'm just waiting for when a lead character will have a disorder where they can make it rain in the club whenever they drink too much. That, I can get behind.
7. Let's Break Up
You know it's coming, it's just a matter of when and for what over-dramatized reason. It's gotten to the point that if the main couple doesn't break up at least once, I can't possibly believe in the validity of their relationship. That period of causing one another needless angst and tears now seems like a pre-requisite for a lasting future relationship. Between different series, it's like there's a competition of who has the best Break-up Arc combination of long agonizing stare-downs to the backdrop of love ballads, borderline stalking, blankly staring ahead not hearing people talk, and ugly crying. As ubiquitous as it is, there should definitely be a Best Break-up Arc category at award shows. Let's start a petition.
8. American Business Grooming
If there is one trope that makes my eyes hurt from rolling them so hard, it would be the go-to-America-to-get-better trope. The characters usually can barely put together three words of English, yet within less than five years, they come back with all types of accolades and business acumen. Yea, Ok.
Let's say we ignore the mammoth-sized language and cultural barrier that would take a lot more time to overcome, but there still is the issue of the magic place in America that takes in people – specifically from Korea – who are rough around the edges and polishes them to diamond perfection while you get your oil changed. Maybe this magic place only appears behind Niagara Falls, when the sun hits a facet on a crystal that hangs in the window at the Marriott.
9. Bad Guy Black Cap
You know exactly what I'm talking about, don't you? Don't you? When someone pops up wearing that black cap, it's time to really pay attention. The black cap of Kdramas is the universal sign of there being nefarious activity afoot. You say to yourself, "Aw man, black cap! That guy is gonna do something bad!"
It could be a character that's been good throughout most of the show, but when they put on that black cap, it's like a marker that they crossed over to the dark side. I really want to know why this became the go-to garment for criminals and murderers in Kdramas. Was there a Kdrama screenwriter conference where this was discussed and decided upon? Can I file an appeal?
10. Slap Happy
The only ones that seem to be exempt from having a hand swiftly whacked across their face are elders. Everyone else is fair game! Women do the slapping. Men do the slapping. They slap their employees, their kids, other people's kids,... their son's girlfriend in coffee shops. In one scene in a Kdrama (the name of which I can't recall), a customer even slapped the convenience store worker (whaaaa?)
You'd think slapping someone was a socially acceptable way to convey strong displeasure in Korea with how much you see it in dramas (it isn't.) While I usually don't care for seeing it in a show, I did take great joy in the way Choi Gang Hee's character walloped a maid who was talking crap about her comatose daughter in Glorious Temptation. You could hear that slap all the way in the next episode!