In love with South Korea

Updated: 30 August, 2020 08:55 IST | Aastha Atray Banan | Mumbai

Indian viewers, especially women, are lapping up South Korean dramas thanks to the good looking men, family ties and fancy aesthetics

Extracurricular deals with a student who is caught in illegal dealings and then blackmailed by a classmate
Extracurricular deals with a student who is caught in illegal dealings and then blackmailed by a classmate

This year, in March, the Korean black comedy Parasite won the Academy Award for Best Picture. Everyone, everywhere wanted to watch it. The only other Korean movie that had made such a splash was Train to Busan in 2016. Many caught Parasite at the movie halls (box office collections stood at R2.34 crore in India) and on Amazon Prime before India moved into lockdown. If Korea was gaining attention before the lockdown, once people had nothing to do but binge watch web shows on OTT platforms, its popularity shot through the roof. Korean dramas, or K dramas, now seem to appear on every hot blooded Indian woman's list. While the Korean wave or "Hallyu" dates back to the 1990s, it seems to be seeing a second resurgence. Shows like Crash Landing on You, Extracurricular, It's Okay to Not be Okay, My Holo Love, Hospital Playlist, Something in the Rain and Kingdom are finding a place in the top 10 trending now lists in India.

My Holo Love is the story of a girl who suffers from face blindness and falls in love with an AI hologram
My Holo Love is the story of a girl who suffers from face blindness and falls in love with an AI hologram

Last week, direct-to-home service provider Dish TV India Ltd. announced the launch of Korean Drama Active, to be available on DishTV and D2H platforms; it gives users access to premium Korean drama content dubbed in Hindi.

Crash Landing on You is about a South Korean heiress who accidentally glides into North Korea and falls in love with an army officer
Crash Landing on You is about a South Korean heiress who accidentally glides into North Korea and falls in love with an army officer

As this writer watched select shows to "research" this piece, she found herself hooked too. The leads are usually good looking, the aesthetics and locations are stunning, the script is witty, and somehow, it feels like South Koreans aren't that different from Indians. "The family unit is at the core of many shows. They aren't like American shows, where the focus is on leaving the nest, and being ambitious. Here the focus is on carrying the family along as well. Their value system is similar to India's," says Evita Marie-Marques, 22, a fan of K Drama since she was in college. "I watch even the lesser known shows, which are thrillers, or deal with mental health. Right now, I am hooked to Hospital Playlist. It's a story about doctors, and is quite medically intricate and accurate. I have grown up on Sanjay Leela Bansali's Bollywood aesthetics, and Koreans seem to have a good eye too. So the locales are usually lovely, the cinematography is great, and all the leads are just so beautiful. The main lead in Crash Landing on You, Hyun Bin, is like the Shah Rukh Khan of Korea," says Marie-Marques, who works in the Mumbai office of an entertainment channel. Like Hyun Bin, his co-star Son Ye-Jin, who also stars in Something in the Rain, has become a recognisable face.

Mihika Morris
Mihika Morris

Indian viewers see their own environment and world view reflected in the personalities on the shows. Couples seek family approval when they fall in love, respect the elders, and are coy in their dealings of love—story lines that may seem regressive to millennials but attractive to the '90s kids. Mumbai-based Iman Roy, 36, who works in banking, brings up an important point. "How do most American romances start? Couples sleep together, and then fall in love. I'm not sure I'd do that. Korean shows are more my speed as they track the building up of emotions. They depict the sort of romance I want in real life." No wonder she is hooked to Crash Landing on You, where a celebrity paraglides her way into North Korea and falls in love with an Army officer.

Evita Marie-Marques
Evita Marie-Marques

For some though, it's just a way of watching light-hearted fare that handles depression, love, and other social issues in a less morose way. Luxury brand trainer Mihika Morris, 30, says they often take up issues that are less discussed, like the age difference in a relationship depicted in Something in the Rain. "And they add their brand of humour, so, you escape into a fantasy world. In the times we live in, that's most welcome!"

Iman Roy
Iman Roy

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First Published: 30 August, 2020 08:37 IST

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