Gomabseubnida, annyeong, saranghae. Three of the many Korean words I’ve added to my vocabulary in the past year.
How did I learn them you may ask? Rosetta Stone? A Korean language class? The Duolingo language app?
Nope. None of the above.
Would you believe me if I told you I’ve unintentionally learned simple Korean vocabulary just through watching Korean television shows, better known as K-dramas? More than just the language, I’ve been pleasantly surprised with how much I have learned about South Korean culture.
Apart from the handsome leads and intense plotlines, K-dramas have a certain cultural appeal that I find very intriguing. From the fashion, food, music and more, I never thought I would learn so much.
To provide you with some background information, The Korean Wave, Hallyu, refers to the increase in global popularity of South Korean culture since the 1990s. The wide popularity of South Korean television, film and music that is spreading around the world has undoubtedly caught my attention.
Now, my goal here is not to convince you to watch K-dramas specifically, I just firmly believe that media in our day and age can and should be utilized as a learning tool with the potential to introduce us to new cultures.
The following reasons are why I think the spread of South Korean culture is so valuable. Keep in mind, these are all based off of my own specific experience with K-dramas, so they may differ from your own.
- The producers know how to keep you hooked.
Now we can probably all admit to having binge watched a couple of shows in our lifetime, but dramas are on a whole other level. I swear the producers have this special way of keeping your attention. Each episode seems to end with some sort of conflict or cliffhanger that needs to get resolved, so naturally you have to start a new episode and see what happens.
- The love triangles.
You’d think the simple love triangle plot would get predictable and repetitive, but variations in characters, plots, settings and other outside factors keep you on edge. You never know who will develop feelings for who, and who will come in and ruin the already existent love story.
- The celebrity culture.
Through my experience with watching dramas and being a K-pop fan, I have learned so much more about the celebrity culture in South Korea, specifically how famous personalities seem much more respected and idolized. Although there are still harsh critics and crazy fans, celebrities seem to be respected more, especially with their private lives.
- The soundtrack.
Each of the series I’ve watched so far have a single song that is replayed from episode to episode. The show Descendents of the Sun uses the same song “ALWAYS” by Yoon Mi Rae from episode to episode. By episode 4 or so, I’d say I knew the melody of the song pretty well.
- Dramas are typically only one season long.
It’s sort of comforting knowing that there are only 16 episodes for the entire season of most dramas. This way, you’re able to set yourself up on a timeline and know how soon you can get through all of the episodes realistically.
Not that America doesn’t already provide me with quality content, my curiosities just led me to new shows with a language and culture very different from my own.
If you’re interested in watching, here are my top three recommendations. What’s Wrong With Secretary Kim, Strong Girl Do Bong-Soon and, as mentioned earlier, Descendents of the Sun.
I encourage you to branch out of your comfort zone. Watch or listen to something you normally wouldn’t. You never know how much you’ll learn and appreciate something new.