My Tryst with K Drama
Close to 7 or 8 years ago a friend from the Northeast spoke about K pop and its appeal in Nagaland and the Northeast. I was clueless about anything Korean at that point apart from my very sketchy knowledge of the tension between North and South Korea. She also spoke highly about Korean fashion and cosmetics and how it was revered back home. Later I chanced upon an article about how second hand Korean clothes have a big market in Nagaland. Over the last few years though, I have seen a surge in connoiseurs of Kpop, korean food and drama. Apart from watching Parasite I was a virgin to Korean culture.
The pandemic and Netflix changed that — my discovery of K drama started with Crash Landing on You (so kill me, I’m a romantic, what can I do). Around the same time that I was exploring this genre and trying to find out why there was a huge draw for Korean music and drama in India, my 8 year old neice, who stays in a tier 2 city, sent me a clip of herself singing a song. When her mom explained that it was a Korean pop song, she was quick to school both of us saying “it is not Korean pop it is K-pop”. Well so much for wondering about the reach.
As I lost myself in the series on Netflix, I saw so many similarities between traditional Indian cultural sensibilites and Korean sensibilities. Age and seniority is respected, family and sense of duty to one’s family is very high. A sense of propriety about what is acceptable in public — including display of affection which is very similar to conservative- traditional India. I also realized that they are not subtle and quiet in how they speak — being loud seems to be ok. I do want to point out here that a lot of these traditional sensibilites are not blanket sensibilities in India anymore — especially not in metros. There are certain pockets which would like to keep it that way and would like to ensure that all culture and traditions remain untouched while a lot of us have adopted and adapted.
A lot of my preconceived notions about food habits were also shattered. I was under the misconception that Korean food was largely meat or protein based or to put in Indian lingo — non veg based. I discoverd that bean and lentil based porridges and vegetarian dishes figured prominently in Korean cuisine and probably contributed to their great skin. There is a great emphasis on beauty, being well groomed and looking good as well and probably that’s why Korean skin care products seem to be so popular and gaining populariy across the world as well.
Another series that I watched was one called Sky Castle with a focus around education. Kids spend long intensive hours in school with little or no time for anything else. The pressure that kids go through to get into the best medical university is no stranger to India. Every Indian parent who can afford to put their kid in school wants their kid to study to be a doctor or engineer. The burgeoning coaching classes are proof to that. There is a town in western India which has schools whose USP is taking in high school students and promise parents that they will get the child into a premier technical institution. The rise in depression and cases of suicide among young teens because of this pressure has caused many parents to rethink how they position academic excellence — however for the majority the pressure still prevails, sadly.
Culture, ambition and traditions apart, I think the real appeal is in the understanding and subtle way of depciting emotions and relationships. At the end of the day that is what connects us to each other and draws us to others and what we look for in the literature we read and in what we watch. This is where they seem to have got it right with their winning formulas. Go on, log in to Netflix and explore some K drama and share some recommendations with me if you have watched anything interesting.