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What I learned from K-dramas

By MONIQUE TODA, The Philippine STAR Published Aug 15, 2021 6:00 am

We are on our third lockdown and there is a way to keep my sanity. It’s either I am riddled with anxiety and wait for the daily 4 p.m. announcement of new COVID cases, recoveries and deaths; or carry out what I have learned to expertly do — which is to escape.

My escape’s destination today is “K-land” or the world of Korean dramas. There is a global pandemic so just indulge me in my “kababawan.”

Lately, I’ve watched some K-dramas that deal with some very real and unreal love and life lessons. Some have moved me deeply while others make me laugh hysterically. So let’s have fun and check out the “nuggets of wisdom” according to these K-dramas. Ready?

Love (ft. Marriage and Divorce)

Cast:  Sung Hoon, Lee Tae-gon, Park Joo-mi, Lee Ga-ryeong, Lee Min-young, Jeon Soo-kyeong and Jeo No-min
Lesson: All men are cheaters.

The stories of their seemingly picture-perfect lives, and how conflict is inevitable for any couple, more so married ones. 

On its second season, this soap opera-ish drama tells the story of three women, namely Sa Pi-young, Boo Hye-ryoung and Lee Si-eun, who work for a radio show. They are all of different ages, economic backgrounds and even have diverse looks and styles, but they have a common denominator — their husbands are cheating on them.

The husbands are not the playboy types. In fact, they are pretty decent — a professor, a doctor and a lawyer. Somehow, they were ensnared by women into adulterous affairs. The wives are no pushovers, though.

 The men and women of Love (ft .Marriage and Divorce)

As the story unfolds, the infidelities are uncovered. A cheesy dialogue between cheater lawyer Pan Sa-hyeon and his hesitant soon-to-be-mistress Song Won in a romantic scene goes like this:

Cheater Lawyer: “I know now what love truly is and what it really feels like.”

Hesitant Mistress: “Please protect my dignity.”

Cheater Lawyer: “Forever.”

Love (ft. Marriage and Divorce) is a drama with full-on confrontation scenes complete with sabunutan and sampalan which, under the circumstances, is quite satisfying.

Move to Heaven

Cast: Lee Je-hoon, Tang Joon-sang, Hong Seung-hee, Ji Jin-hee
Lesson: Respecting death is respecting life.

  Move to Heaven is one of the best dramas this year.

This is one of my top K-dramas, which also stars one of my favorite Korean actors, Lee Je-hoon. The plot may seem gruesome, but I assure you that this series is, well, moving. Not to mention unusual.

Move to Heaven tells the story of a young Han Geu-ru who has Asperger’s syndrome and his father Han Jeong-u. They are “trauma cleaners.” Their two-man company (also named Move to Heaven) cleans up and sorts out the deceased and his/her belongings. It’s the worst job ever, but someone has to do it. As they respectfully go through the dead’s former belongings, they believe that these remnants tell each person’s story.

Humanity may sometimes be heartbreaking, but in its entirety, it is beautiful.

This drama depicts the lives of those who died and the circumstances of their demise. The father and son honor their lives by piecing together their wants, dreams, as well as mundane daily routines. They even have a ritual to introduce themselves and release the souls.

 Move to Heaven teaches you more about life through death. Photo courtesy of Netflix

A twist of fate then happens when the father suddenly dies and ex-convict uncle Cho Sang-gu (Lee Je-hoon) is assigned to take care of poor Geu-ru. Although this new relationship is rocky and problematic, Uncle Sang-gu ends up helping his nephew finally accept his father’s death.

The scene that made me cry was when Geu-ru performed the ritual to “let go” of his own father. “Mr. Han Jeong-u, on April 13, 2020, you passed away. I am Han Geu-ru, a trauma cleaner from Move to Heaven. Now, I will begin to help you with your final move.” He then proceeds to sort out his father’s belongings.

Humanity may sometimes be heartbreaking, but in its entirety, it is beautiful.


Cast: Song Kang, Han So-hee, Chae Jong-hyeop
Lesson: Don’t ignore the red flags. Nevertheless…

This ongoing drama gives me college feels. It is centered on the tension-filled romance of pretty Yoo Na-bi and Park Jea-on (played by dreamy Song Kang). Na-bi, who has been hurt by a past relationship with an unfaithful boyfriend, finds herself attracted to mysterious fellow art school student Jea-on.

There is a butterfly theme fluttering about in this K-drama. The female lead’s name Na-bi means butterfly; and there is a butterfly tattoo on the nape of the sexy male love interest. He even sculpts art inspired by butterflies. Come to think of it, the pace of this drama is like that of a butterfly flying about in a garden — and it somehow draws you in.

 Nevertheless is a modern romance drama starring the dreamy Song Kang and pretty Han So-hee.

There are many scenes with the couple stealing glances and just looking at each other. They stare at each other with such longing, you get impatient. Na-bi is hesitant to get into another relationship but can’t resist the alluring charm of butterfly boy Jea-on. He has a reputation of being a ladies’ man (Red Flag No. 1); doesn’t want to commit to her despite sleeping over a few times (Red Flag No. 2); and is always seen with another girl (Red Flag No. 3).

The question is: is he a player or just misunderstood? In comes a childhood friend who has been in love with Na-bi forever. He is wholesome and “safe.” This then creates a love triangle. Does Na-bi go for the safe choice or go for “butterfly boy” despite the red flags?

The usual pick-up line in Korean dramas is “Do you want to eat ramyeon (noodles)?” In Nevertheless, it is replaced with “Do you want to see butterflies?”

 In keeping with the butterfly theme in Nevertheless, Song Kang, the male lead, has a butterfly tattooed on his nape. Photo courtesy of Netflix

True Beauty

Cast: Moon Ga-young, Cha Eun-woo, Hwang In-youp
Lesson: True beauty lies deep beneath all your makeup.

If Nevertheless gave me the college feels, True Beauty gives me high school flashbacks. The story revolves around Lim Ju-kyung who is mistreated because of her ugliness. She is bullied terribly in school (wow, are teens this cruel?) and treated differently even by her family.

  True Beauty focuses on what truly counts.

She contemplates suicide but is stopped by Lee Su-ho, played by handsome Cha Eun-woo. She then transfers school, masters the art of makeup, and is reborn as a “goddess.” Coincidentally, Su-ho transfers to the same school but doesn’t recognize this beauty from the ugly girl he saved.

This drama is mostly Ju-kyung trying not to be found out. She eventually overcomes the insecurity over her looks. Of course, it helped that there were two handsome boys who liked her for who she really is. Some quotes include: “I am Ju-kyung, a goddess. But only until I wash off my makeup”; “Looking ugly without makeup is not a crime”; and “No matter how you look, with or without makeup, you are still you.”

Ah, the teenage years. I have good memories — but I definitely don’t miss it.

  True Beauty transformation from ugly duckling to goddess. Source Dramabeans

Taxi Driver

Cast: Lee Je-hoon, Kang Ha-na, Kim Eui-sung, Pyo Ye-jin
Lesson: Revenge is sweet and sour.

 Taxi Driver is a gritty drama with revenge on the agenda.

Another star vehicle for actor Lee Je-hoon, Taxi Driver is a gritty revenge-fueled drama. It’s dark, violent and looks like all the underworld characters are represented here. A group of victims of heinous crimes who have lost loved ones have banded together and put up the Rainbow Taxi Company.

Not your usual car service, this company offers revenge. They provide their own brand of justice when the system has failed the citizens. You meet all manner of shady characters and serial killers in the 16-episode drama. The Rainbow Taxi Company has noble intentions but what they do is unlawful.

The series continues to get darker and the various situations take its toll on the four members of the revenge outfit. They have made many enemies and, eventually, each has to confront their trauma of losing someone in a violent crime. They say revenge is sweet but it also has its consequences. In my opinion, forgiveness is far more powerful.