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The language of love in K-drama

By MONIQUE TODA, The Philippine STAR Published Feb 07, 2021 5:00 am

Swoon — that is what K-dramas do to the ladies. Since it is the season of romance, what better way to commemorate Valentine’s than to depict the many expressions of love in our favorite Korean dramas and induce a collective, amorous sigh among us?

What is it with romantic K-dramas that gets us hooked and transforms us into these ultra-patient, giddy viewers? I think it is the delayed gratification that is amplified to the nth degree. The build-up is EVERYTHING.

In Western (not cowboy, okay?) dramas, the couples kiss and even go “all the way” by Episode 3, while most K-drama couples have that long-awaited kiss around Episode 13 or thereabouts. Most of these dramas are conservative and sweet. They bring us back to our wonderful days of innocence — and that is their appeal.

Let us wrap ourselves in a love haze for a moment and revisit famous K-drama kisses. As mentioned, most dramas are conservative and the culminating kiss is timid and even chaste.

Usually, it is simply the meeting of sealed lips and no more. Sometimes, it is the “dead fish” kiss where one partner is wide-eyed and shocked. Other times, there is a single tear slowly moving down the actor’s face showing how touching that moment is. We have waited so long for this scene to happen, and strangely we are satisfied. An example of this is from Crash Landing on You, when Hyun Bin as Captain Ri finally kisses Son Ye-jin, in a climactic closed-mouthed locking of lips.

   Swoon-worthy scene from My Love from a Star with Kim Soo-hyun and Jun Ji-hyun

There are Korean leading men, though, who literally take your breath away. They have mastered “the kiss” and passionately deliver. They are the champions when it comes to the smooch.

Lee Min-ho, Park Seo-joon, Gong Yoo and Kim Soo-hyun have memorable “kilig-effect” scenes, which I admittedly watch over and over again. How can anyone forget an alien Kim Soo-hyun appearing on the steps of a star-studded affair in full view of the press and fans, smothering Jun Ji-hyun with his lips in My Love from a Star?

 We held our breath watching Lee Min-ho and Jun Ji-hyun’s underwater kiss in Legend of the Blue Sea.

Charming Lee Min-ho also had an exciting kiss that took place underwater with beautiful Jun Ji-hyun, who played a mermaid in The Legend of the Blue Sea. In the classic Coffee Prince, Gong Yoo, who struggled with his sexuality, was so relieved that his love interest was a woman, it made him release his pent-up feelings in an unforgettable scene where he kisses Yoon Eun-hye on the wall and carries her to his bedroom.

Park Seo-joon as the narcissistic and dapper boss shows his true feelings to pretty Park Min-young in his home in a hot scene in What’s Wrong with Secretary Kim. These are just a few of the exceptions in K-dramas that take romantic scenes up a notch and add a little more heat.

 Gong Yoo and Yoon Eun-hye in the classic Coffee Prince.
 A Man and a Woman starring Gong Yoo and Jeon Do-yeon is a poignant love story where a couple share their common experience of  having children with mental disabilities.

Some of the most popular lovey-dovey moments in K-dramas are: when Gong Yoo as the immortal Goblin kissed his bride, played by Kim Go-Eun, after years and years of waiting (yes, years!); Park Bo-gum and beautiful Song Hye-kyo getting cozy on a hotel balcony in Cuba in Encounter; the time Suzy Bae took the lead to kiss Nam Joo-hyuk in Start Up and he responded in a more ardent manner; and in Her Private Life, where secret fan and art curator Park Min-young and sexy Kim Jae-wook show their true feelings for one another.

In Western dramas, the couples kiss and even go “all the way” by Episode 3, while most K-drama couples have that long-awaited kiss around Episode 13 or thereabouts.

There’s also the kiss of Lee Min-ho to a reluctant Park Shin-ye in The Heirs and, of course, the famous hideout make-out of Ji Chang-wook and Park Min-young in action-packed Healer. Not to be outdone is the count-to-three (hana, dul, set) kiss of Kim Soo-hyun and Seo Yea-ji in It’s Okay to Not Be Okay. K-drama aficionados know the scenes I am referring to so well.

 A piggyback moment in Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok-joo with Nam Joo-hyuk and Lee Sung-kyung

While most K-dramas are on the safe side, I was a bit taken aback with some Korean love-story movies. They were risqué and had some nudity, which is poles apart from its drama counterpart. The movies I have seen were poignant but beautiful with great storytelling.

Among the standouts include: A Man and a Woman with Gong Yoo and Cannes Film Festival Best Actress Jeon Do-Yeon, who were brought together by their shared experience of having children with mental disabilities.

A Muse or Eungyo was the breakout movie of lovely Kim Go-Eun of Goblin and The King Eternal Monarch fame. The story is about a 70-year-old poet who was inspired and a little bit in love with his star student, then writes a short story about her.

 A Man and a Woman starring Gong Yoo and Jeon Do-yeon is a poignant love story where a couple share their common experience of  having children with mental disabilities.

A Frozen Flower is a homoerotic historical love story with a love triangle consisting of the emperor, his queen and a general. The main lead is handsome Jo In-sung, who is the object of desire of the emperor and the queen. I think I closed my eyes during some of the love scenes here.

The last one is Obsessed staring handsome Song Seung-heon and Lim Ji-yeon, set in 1969. It tells the story of lonely individuals having an affair under the shadow of the military establishment.

 The surprised open-eyed or “dead fish”  kiss is common in K-dramas.
 What’s Wrong with Secretary Kim’s Park See-joon and Park Min-young

Let’s go back to the dramas. Aside from the obvious consummation of love, there are wonderful expressions of romantic affection in K-dramas. These subtle acts of love between couples are quite powerful and as swoon-worthy as a kiss. There is the kiss on the forehead, which is delightful. Another one is the piggyback ride, where the man carries the woman on his back as a gentlemanly gesture when she is unable to walk or is tired.

This makes me wonder: if I ask someone to carry me on his back, will he think me weird? Will I be conscious of my weight? Anyway, another loving gesture is the sudden back hug. It’s like indirectly saying “saranghae” or I love you.

There’s also this thing called “one-sided love,” which is self-explanatory but is worn like a badge. I also noticed the violent grabbing of the wrist as a symbol of a man possessing a woman. At first I thought to myself that if a man did that to me, I would be offended and probably slap him. Now I think it’s kind of exciting. Wow, I am a sucker.

K-dramas are perfect for Valentine’s Day as they bring you into that sphere of idyllic and pure love and it feels good to be in it. Go binge-watch, feed your sentimental side, and be transported into this addicting universe of romance and happy endings — because, in our present world, reality bites too hard.

Banner and thumbnail caption: That first real kiss between Hyun Bin and Son Ye-jin in Crash Landing on You thrilled its many viewers.