On Grandly Narrating…Korean Dramas?

Misaeng(Source: The Huffington Post Korea)

Sorry for the slow blogging everyone. Not just for the last few weeks, but for the last few months. Many of you have noticed and have been wondering, so I thought I should offer a quick explanation.

Long story short, I’ve got much less time than I had in 2014.

I’m doing a Master’s again. I’m teaching more classes this semester. I’m working on my first academic journal article. My daughters have started a (lovely) alternative school for multiracial children, which is a long commute away; it’s nice spending the extra time with them, but that’s another 10 hours a week that I used to spend on other things. And so on.

Still, I could and did work on the blog a little. But then I caught an on-off, debilitating flu for over a month. As you can imagine, now I’m behind on just about everything.

All that said, after 8 years of blogging, I am in a bit of a rut with regards to topics and style, and am looking for new ideas to motivate myself—and hopefully to interest and entertain you too. One possibility might be an episode by episode discussion of the recent(ish) drama Misaeng, which I’ve heard was a very realistic portrayal of Korean corporate life, and especially of the position of women therein. I’ve already watched the first episode, and, although it wasn’t earth-shattering, it was refreshingly free of K-Drama cliches, especially the childish female roles. If, like me, you’ve been disappointed with “progressive” Korean dramas before, this might finally be one worth getting stuck into.

If you’re interested in following along with me, at the pace of one episode per week say, please let me know in the comments. And/or, about anything else you’d like to see more of on the blog. Thanks!

Update (July): Thanks for the comments everyone, and sorry for the false starts in June. I’ll start sometime this month.

p.s. Three Cheers for Halcion, the only way I managed to finally get a good night’s sleep last night!

15 thoughts on “On Grandly Narrating…Korean Dramas?

  1. Sounds good. I’ve watched the first few but haven’t watched it for a while. Want to get back into it, and following along with others could be good.


  2. Good choice! It was my top Korean drama of all that I watched last year (a non-spoilery review can be found on my WP site). I’ll happily weigh in with you on the ins and outs, ups and downs of Jang Geu-rae’s fortunes!


  3. By far two of the best dramas last year were “Misaeng” and “It’s Okay, That’s Love”. The latter one on occasion falls into the drama cliches you mention, but it more than makes up for it with the superb story development, emotional acting and incredibly appropriate music score.


  4. I think you will find you have a lot to say on how women are treated on both a personal and professional level after watching “Misaeng” I might also recommend the currently airing drama “Heard it through the Grapevine” for it’s portrayal of several strong ladies in different roles: mother, daughter, professional woman, and service worker.


      1. Sorry for my own very late reply. And for ultimately wasting your and everyone else’s time with this post. Honestly, I can’t really remember what transpired between writing and finally being able to actually watch Misaeng, but somehow all my initial enthusiasm for it had already waned, and the first episode put me off for good. I just found the main character to be too pitiful and full of self-recrimination to feel any sympathy towards him and get invested in his story, and already I was a little annoyed with the suspension of disbelief required when he somehow entertained an American businessperson with baduk for an hour despite being painfully shy and not speaking any English. (Pretty tame by Korean drama standards, I know, but still.) The annoyances of Korean workplace culture were well covered of course, but that hardly gets once enthused about watching a drama, and definitely wasn’t enough to compensate for my dislike of just about all the characters!

        That’s all just a matter of personal taste of course though, and after many false starts like this I guess I’ve just confirmed for the final time that Korean dramas just aren’t for me. But I’ve already almost bought the original manhwa books several times, so all is not lost!


  5. Well. I’m late to the party, but – Misaeng was, in my opinion. the best crafted K-drama I’ve ever seen (and I’ve been watching almost everything available in the US for about 4 years – old and new). And Shamrockmom3 has it right – Heard it through the Grapevine is (so far) another stunning tour de force. Both rise far above the usual romantic/revenge/vampire fare out there and are worthy of consideration. I’m tempted to encourage you to look at Grapevine first, since it’s airing now and I, for one, have it more freshly in memory I’d like to wait a while before re-watching Misaeng.

    In terms of women’s issues, I think Grapvine is far more complex. Misaeng is an appalling slice of present reality. Grapevine is a clash between middle class culture and the severely traditional wealthy class. It’s interesting to compare the role of – and power of – women of the last generation in the wealthy household with the mother in the middle class home, and then there is the current younger generation of both. The clashes and assumptions of each are fascinating, and would love an analysis and discussion.


    1. Sorry for my late reply. You give many good reasons to go with Grapevine first instead, and objectively I probably should really. But honestly, I’ve actually had my heart set on covering Misaeng pretty much since it came out really, so thinking about going with something else instead just leaves me feeling crestfallen sorry(!). Also, not insignificant, after many weeks of bugging her, I’ve finally persuaded my wife into watching it with me too (the first thing we’ll have watched together since we stopped The Good Wife and Grey’s Anatomy a couple of years ago), but she seems much more reluctant (I did ask!) to consider Grapevine instead for some reason.

      On the plus side, this will be my first time covering a drama, so I’m sure I’ll make many mistakes as I figure out what post format and style readers prefer, how best to generate discussion, and so on. Which will mean I’ve have learned from my mistakes when I look at Grapevine the next time around! :)


      1. If your wife is on board, you should certainly do Misaeng. I”ve just re-watched Sam Soon and Pasta for the second times, and that was very interesting – how much my understanding of the culture – and how much I care about women’s roles – has changed in the last few years. I’m looking forward to revisiting Misaeng again with you!


  6. Hi! I’ve been reading your blog for a while now, I don’t know how I found it but I am happy I did. I am generally interested in sociology and topics regarding gender. I live together with a Korean man in Sweden and we have twins, your blog helped me a lot to understand korean culture more. Anyway, thank you for your blog. It has been really interesting reading your posts and I will keep on following you even if you don’t post regularly!


    1. Thank you very much, and for linking to your own blog; I subscribed as soon as I noticed you had English translations at the end of your posts!

      As for my own posts, I finish teaching in 2 weeks, and just have paperwork (and my journal article to work on) after that, so the posting should be much more frequent and regular over the summer at least :)


  7. Will have to make the post next week sorry; I was very sleep-deprived this weekend, and had the pleasure of looking after my constantly demanding I play with them, constantly hungry daughters all by myself too. After 8 years, you’d think I’d know better than to commit to deadlines!

    p.s. Three Cheers for Halcion, the only way I managed to finally get a good night’s sleep last night!


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