K-dramas as my timekeepers

These days, I look forward to Mondays. No, I haven’t suddenly woken up and discovered an unending love for my job. It’s just that my current favourite drama — Racket Boys— airs on Mondays and Tuesdays.

It feels silly to admit that as an adult woman, the only thing I look forward to some days is the prospect of seeing the next episode of a drama I’m watching.

An hour of pure fun and wholesomeness

I didn’t think I’d feel this way again. I wrote in a previous essay about how this feeling was one of the things that kept me going when my father was undergoing chemotherapy back in 2018. He recovered. I found other things. I worked in Auckland, New Zealand for a year in between. I went on lovely walks and hikes in the forest reserve in the neighbourhood I stayed in. I took buses and ferries and trains and was immersed in the rhythm of a new sort of daily life. At that time, Korean dramas were just an additional comfort once in a while, an indulgence.

Now, however, stuck in my room which feels both like my kingdom and prison, between four walls and three screens, it’s back to feeling like Korean dramas are my only source of mental nourishment, comfort, healing, and sustenance almost. Watching dramas these days (and I’m currently watching 7 that are airing) feels ritualistic. A day doesn’t go by without a new episode of a drama, or the anticipation of a new one in the next few days.

What is time when you live your life in a room?

I haven’t been to the neighbourhood supermarket in 11 months. I haven’t been to a bookstore in more than a year. I saw the sky today, after 10 days of a routine of waking up (in my room), working (in my room), eating (mostly in my room) and sleeping (in my room). It was a spectacular grey brimming with rain.

What changes for me each day is the story and world I get sucked into via a new episode. On Mondays and Tuesdays I watch the delightful and wholesome story about friendship and found family in Racket Boys. I also spend some time seeing what a trio of misfits are up to in At a Distance Spring is Green. I’m not sure I like this drama. I watch it without fail though, on the day that it airs. I don’t need to wait for subtitles. I also just started You are my Spring, which is dark and melancholy and I don’t know where it’s going to go, but I’m along for the ride.

On Wednesdays and Thursdays, I watch Monthly Magazine House. Kim Ji Seok and Jung So Min are really great. I love Jung So Min, but Kim Ji Seok’s character harks back to the tsundere tropes found aplenty until the mid 2010s. Rich man who is horrible to the poor female lead, but of course, he’s actually, you know, a softie, and ends up liking her. I’m not sure I like this one either,  but that’s the thing, I watch it anyway. I crave that change, the sense that there’s something new and nice that a day brings.

At work, my day is filled with different activities. I attend workshops, conduct demos, meet with clients, troubleshoot, research – but over the course of the pandemic, as different as these are, they blur together in my mind. If you asked me what I did last week at work, I can only summon a hazy picture. I’m not sure I could even tell you without having to look up my calendar. But I can tell you for sure that these dramas aired. That I watched them all.

Looking back at the last few months, Korean dramas are the only things that gave me the sense of time having moved. Of things that happened. Of the days in a calendar actually having shifted.

My timekeepers.

When I look at what the pandemic has brought upon us, I suppose I have to be glad there’s something, anything, to look forward to, and have faith that someday I’ll have other things to measure the passing of time by. Meanwhile, there are dramas. And always more around the corner.

Author: Sadhana C

I'm interested in technology, culture, and the business of Hallyu. I currently work full time as a product manager and have previously reported on start-ups. In my free time I like to read fiction and learn languages.

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