How K-Dramas Kept Me Going Through Lockdown

This is an essay submitted by a Hello Hallyu guest contributor.

When the pandemic struck I, like so many others, turned to TV for entertainment. If I spent an hour per day before, it grew tenfold after. Which meant I was going through shows at the speed of light. That’s when a friend suggested a Korean drama — ‘Crash Landing On You’. Banking on the faith of a 9-year friendship, I gave it a shot. I even roped my family in on it. One fine evening we watched the first episode of what we would soon affectionately call ‘CLOY’. An episode which was the first fleck of snow in a full-blown avalanche.

Truth be told, I found it alright at first. But then each episode drew me further into the story of a South Korean woman landing in North Korea. I began to adore Yoon Se Ri’s confidence and feel for Captain Ri Jung Hyuk’s reserved nature. I fell for the supporting characters too – the lovable soldiers and the quirky ahjummas. I went from appreciating the actors to swooning over them. I went from liking the show to falling head over heels in love with it. Stuck in the drill of pandemic life, CLOY had me tumbling down the K-drama rabbit hole with reckless abandon.

Crash Landing On A Routine

And let me tell you, it was great. Crash Landing On You nestled became a post-dinner ritual. For about one hour, I left behind work calls, spreadsheets, and deadlines. Suddenly, each day wasn’t the same boring routine, it was a new chapter in a story. In fact, the promise of an episode made me work faster, just waiting for the clock to strike CLOY Hour. For a little while, those dismal Covid statistics faded into the background.

While our bodies were stuck at home, our minds journeyed to new places. We explored North Korea, laughed with the soldiers and watched the star-crossed lovers fall for each other. When the hour was up, the TV was switched off but the show’s enchantment lingered. With the K-drama music going on in the back of my head and the mountains playing across my imagination, I would fall asleep to the thought of Ri Jung Hyuk’s charming dimples making their first appearance. Isn’t that a nice way to end the day?

A Whole New World

Looking back, CLOY was like a gateway drug. It opened up the door to K-dramaland and welcomed me with open arms. The everyday romance in ‘Something in the Rain’ was like someone tucking you in a blanket. ‘Descendants of the Sun’ gave me a refreshing dose of adventure. ‘Healer’ introduced me to the wonder that is Ji Chang Wook, who can somehow be romantic, mysterious and funny all at once! There was an entire world to discover. I scrambled to learn everything about Korea. I looked up their customs, read about actors, even downloaded an app to learn the language!

The standard Korean greeting of bowing down felt a little different at first. But it soon became as normal as a handshake. When restaurants began home delivery, my sister and I wasted no time in ordering Korean food. After months of seeing mouth-watering presentations of jajjangmyeon on screen, we could finally enjoy it in person. It may sound like an exaggeration, but I felt like I’d found a new purpose.

K-Dramas As An Antidote To Loneliness

The best part was, that I did none of this alone. K-dramas forced me and my family to sit down together for one hour, which we may not have done otherwise. Commenting on the characters and making wild predictions made it all that more fun. Even amongst my friends, the craze grew. Our video calls went from the same old how-are-you-i’m-fines to fangirling about the newest show. Together, we dreamt of going to South Korea one day. With every show, we added another name to the list of places to visit — from N Seoul Tower to Jeju Island.

And there were the characters themselves. The protagonists of ‘Fight For My Way’ understood my struggle with kicking off a career but also gave me a boost of hope. Jun Ji Hyun’s antics as a mermaid on land in ‘Legend of the Blue Sea’ made me laugh out loud. And, of course, nothing says family like ‘The Reply’ series, which follows a set of childhood friends. The show wrapped me up in a tight hug! It made me feel like I belonged to that group of oddballs and shared in their inside jokes. It warmed my heart better than a cup of coffee, which is saying something.

Goblins and Gumihos That Made Me Smile

Then came the fantasy phase. Having seen some Indian fantasy soaps in which tacky CGI turned women into snakes, I wasn’t very keen on fantasy K-dramas. But I gave it a shot. And it was totally worth it. Amazing CGI aside, these shows had a way of making ordinary life feel special.

Sounds fake, right? But Myulmang, a literal deity, wishes he was human instead of immortal (‘Doom at Your Service’). I mean, being the destroyer of the world is a grim job so I guess it’s not that hard to believe. But Kim Shin, a Goblin (immortal being with god-like powers), also dreams of spending an ordinary human life with the woman he loves (‘Guardian: The Lonely and Great God’). Lee Yeon, another immortal…you get the point.

Other shows had kings wanting to let go of royal duties for ordinary moments of joy. Or an alien willing to relinquish his superpowers for daily life with his loved ones. Separated by grand obstacles like immortality, entire universes, or even death, the lead pair’s end goal was the simple drudgery of everyday life. Isn’t it amazing? When the lockdown routine had reached max levels of monotony and I was wondering what the point of it all was, K-dramas convinced me that this — an ordinary life — was invaluable.

And it goes on. Almost 30 K-dramas down the line, the magic continues. Of course, they aren’t perfect. Loopholes do exist. Every time a woman dramatically falls into the man’s arms, I do roll my eyes a little. But I can never forget that when a worldwide disaster struck and we were forced to re-evaluate everything, K-dramas gave me a warm hug and said everything was going to be okay.

About the Author

Rati Pednekar is a writer based in Mumbai, India. She holds a Master of Arts in Creative Writing and works as a freelance writer. Her work has been published in online magazines like Kitaab, Aloka and The Bombay Review. She loves coffee, painting, and stories about everyday life.

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