FINALLY, a Way to Study Korean Through Dramas!


If you’re a Western student of Korean, then probably you’ve experienced the same dilemma I have: you’d like to watch dramas to improve your listening ability and get a handle on everyday language, but are put off by their excessive melodrama, cliches, and often poor quality. Which is not to say that all of them are bad of course, but when you do find one you like, then you can struggle in vain to find Korean subtitles to them. For Korean torrent sites naturally don’t bother to provide them, and Koreans’ rampant illegal downloading means that it’s extremely difficult to find DVDs of Korean dramas (if they even exist).

So, either you have to watch dramas with distracting English subtitles, or struggle to understand the stories with none at all. If only there were some alternate way to study the dialogue in advance, or read it as you go along. Sure, Dramabeans’ detailed synopses of each episode of most dramas are very helpful for the gist, but I think I speak for most when I say we’re really after something more akin to transcripts…

Enter “드라마사진만화”, or “드라마영상만화”: a little like manhwa books, but with photo stills from the drama, rather than hand-drawn pictures. Please see Shanna’s post about them at Hangkukdrama and Korean here for more information, and which so impressed me that I immediately ordered some for Secret Garden. And you can just imagine how I felt when I read that she’s had some for over 3 years, when this is the first I’ve ever heard of them!

Does anybody else already used them? What did you think?

17 thoughts on “FINALLY, a Way to Study Korean Through Dramas!

  1. When I visited Korea, as you say, Korean DVD Boxsets of dramas are hard to find. Surely, tons of them exist, but it seems that official ones are few and the rest are bootlegs. Occasionally you’ll find that MBC America has boxsets out before the Koreans themselves have released a series. I went to an electronics/DVD shop with a list of dramas I intended to purchase or at least consider purchasing, and I was surprised to find only three of the twenty-something I was searching for. Many of the official ones I find do have English (but no Korean!) subs to read (possibly for the English-learning benefit of Koreans?), but I wonder about the quality of those subs. And the long (say 50+ episode) dramas don’t see store shelves at all. It’s a real shame.

    And the graphic novels for the shows, they are very useful. I can’t follow fast enough or hear Korean sounds well enough to distinguish the words being used, so having these books (I’ve only used one a friend had, but haven’t bought any myself) is nice. It at least gives me a chance to pick of vocabulary in context I would have missed otherwise. The English subs can help, but sometimes I just don’t know which Korean word corresponds to which English word.

    So, if more of these could be produced for dramas, it would be great for Korean-learners, and if more dramas would be released on (legal and official) DVD (or even Blu-ray, since Blu-ray is scare in Korea it seems too), that would also be grand.


  2. I’m currently learning very elementary Korean (mainly the characters and not romanizing the pronunciation) so I’ll definitely have to check that out! I agree with the uh, lack of quality the dramas have. I had to grit my teeth and soldier on after episode 12 of Boys Over Flowers. Reading the Hangul for songs along with what is hopefully a decent English translation has also been helpful.

    I’ll have to hunt some down and report back. :)


      1. Aaargh! Only now do I find out!

        But seriously, thanks, although may I ask how recently you used scripts from there? I’ve been playing around with the links there ever since you wrote your comment, but many seem to be dead, and/or require a LOT of technical messing around if you don’t already have Hangul Word Processor pre-installed on your computer (which, with English Windows, I don’t). Frankly, now that I’ve got the books (well, they’re en route), then I don’t think I’ll bother.


      2. I initially picked BoF because I heard most people were fawning over it. In the end I found pretty much all the characters unlikeable and hated that Jan Di’s character kept flip flopping from assertive and independent to helpless and clueless. That series in itself is worth an in depth analysis about Korean culture. Don’t worry, Coffee Prince is next on my list along with Secret Garden. :)

        Do you ever watch telenovelas? I think there’s something about dramas that inherently brings out the over the top quality of acting and plot lines.


        1. James – I downloaded the Hangul Word Processor (it was pretty easy, if I remember correctly), and that worked for My Name is Kim Sam Soon in January. Then Coffee Prince, in March, I was actually able to view with Word. But ah, I just tried Mixed Up Investigative Agency and it’s gone. Yeah, I think you might be better off with the books!

          C – Yeah, Jan Di was frustrating, and Gu Joon Pyo was the single least likeable drama hero I’ve ever seen. I agree, it says some interesting (depressing) things about Korean culture that we were supposed to root for those two! Though actually, I had a similarly difficult time with Hyun Bin’s character in Secret Garden – I wonder what you’ll think of him.
          No, I haven’t watched telenovelas, but I know they’re famous for the overdoing it too. I think you’re right about dramas – I’ve always thought that in a series that doesn’t have some other focus (like crime-solving) they have to do weird things with the characters to keep viewers interested. Though I’m not sure if that explains the acting!


  3. Korean dramas are also all on Hulu, but you need to download hotspotshield or something so that you can watch it outside of the U.S. The subtitles aren’t perfect but they’re pretty good.


  4. Very interesting post. I’ve experienced all these hurdles, too. I remember a few years ago, a Korean friend tried to help me buy some boxed drama sets with subtitles – Korean and English would have been nice, but mostly I wanted Korean. After lots of calls to various sellers, we finally ordered two boxed sets, which the seller assured us were fully subtitled in both English and Korean. Alas, the truth was disappointing. One drama had English only, the other had nothing.

    A similar exercise in futility was searching for music videos on DVD (this was about 10 years ago, when I was first hooked on K-Pop). I stopped into every video and DVD shop whenever I ran into one. I almost always left empty handed, although I do have an interesting box-set collection of pre-2000 K-Pop music videos, and one most interesting one of Lee Hyori. For those familiar with DVD specifications, this is one of the only DVD’s I have ever seen with multiple camera angles. I imagine the delight of cameraman for Angle #3, who came to work and was told his job that day was to zoom in and focus on Hyori’s chest all day.

    But back to drama comics, I just ordered a few from G-Market. They were scattered around, lots of choices of sellers, but seemed like few choices of dramas. Difficult to sort by seller or drama either one. Is there any other more organized site these? Or are they carried at any of the brick-and-mortar stores? (looks like one of the online sellers is Bandi N Lunis, so I was just wondering…)


    1. Thanks for the comment. I too noticed more sellers than books of different dramas being available, although I personally will still have enough to keep me busy for quite a while.


  5. Despite being a dedicated student of Korean, and despite acknowleding that watching Korean dramas (and gameshows, with their constant thought/speech bubbles and on-screen text descriptions) would be good for improving my Korean, I don’t have a TV here because Korean television is so utterly, utterly awful. I seriously can’t watch for more than about three minutes. I still see a lot more TV here than I’d like as so many restaurants insist on pumping hot gobs of blaring telly-pap into your face while you’re eating.


  6. Hi, I saw on the cover of the book there is a “1”.. does that mean this drama manga comes in more than 1 book? Which means in order to have the whole story, there are maybe 2 or even more books we need to purchase?


  7. Hi, I’m not sure how useful this would be because it’s been a long time since anyone has posted, but for those watching SBS dramas, if you go to this site: and you find your drama, you can go to whatever episode from that drama, and the entire transcript will be under the tab 자막보기 right next to the video. Hope I helped!


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