Hallyu, or the Korean Wave, is at a peak these days and only continues growing. Korean music and drama are attracting fans, not only out of Korea or even Asia, but all over the world. Fans from all over the Americas, Africa, and Europe are going crazy over Kpop idols and romantic heroes and heroines.
I’m certainly someone that got caught in the Korean wave. But for me, it was back in 2007 and probably in the most unexpected way.
I knew almost nothing about Korea at the time. I may have heard a little about hip-hop group Epik High back then, but I probably didn’t even know they were Korean. I knew of no one in my family having Korean blood, nor did I even have any Korean acquaintances.
As many overseas Filipino families do, we subscribed to The Filipino Channel (TFC), the international channel for Philippine network ABS-CBN to broadcast their programs worldwide. So, we (back then) enjoyed all the Filipino soap operas and comedies and variety shows TFC had to offer. But in 2007, TFC suddenly began airing mysterious commercials of an Asian (not Filipino) couple dancing in a ballroom. We wondered what in the world it could be for.
Then TFC aired the first full trailer of what we would soon find out was a Korean drama entitled Lovers in Paris. Our first thought, why would The Filipino Channel air a Korean drama. And our second thought, how cheesy to have it be dubbed in Filipino.
But, we decided to check it out anyway. You might as well, right?
After the first episode… we fell in love.
Lovers in Paris‘ first week easily sold us and reeled us in. A big part of that was its star Kim Jung Eun. Her portrayal of Vivian Kang (Kang Tae-young) was loveable and easily rootable. The story was simple, two men fighting over one woman. But it was Kim Jung Eun’s spunky and charming personality that shone through her character that really hooked you. A romantic drama with plenty of fun and breezy adventure and traditional soapy elements, Lovers in Paris couldn’t have been a better series to introduce me to the world of Korean drama.
My interest in Korean drama now piqued, I stumbled upon another Korean drama on the International Channel. The network, owned by Comcast and would later become AZN Television, aired various programs from around Asia. Around the time Lovers in Paris was airing on TFC, the International Channel was airing the drama Someday in its prime 7pm timeslot.
Wanting to check out more Korean drama, I decided to jump right into the series, thankfully only 4 episodes in at the time.
Someday stars Bae Doona as Hana Yamaguchi, a successful manga artist in Japan. After her comic gets canceled, her grandmother sends her back to Korea where she tasks herself with looking into the history of an elderly streetsweeper and her neighbor. She doesn’t believe in love herself, but as she searches through Korea, she meets private investigator Kim Seok Man (Lee Jin Wook), doctor (and a fan of her work) Go Jin Pyo (Kim Min Joon) and animation producer Yoon Hye Young (Oh Yoon Ah). The foursome, all oblivious to love at first, slowly grow and learn to open their hearts.
It was a story I’ve certainly seen many times before (having grown up watching the likes of Days of our Lives or years of repetitive Filipino soap operas).
But, while Lovers in Paris was a more mainstream, bigger budgeted series on a broadcast network, Someday aired on cable network OCN. But its more subdued production translated into cinematic visuals that took advantage of its atmospheric setting to mesh with the graphic novel fairy tale that weaved through the story.
Its beautiful visuals and strong cast elevated the series and, for me solidified my interest in Korean drama. Both Someday and Lovers in Paris were fresh and different, yet familiar at the same time.
Because of these two dramas, Kim Jung Eun, Bae Doona, and Lee Jin Wook have remained three of my favorite Korean actors. And it was because of these two dramas and shows I’d watch after, that got me listening to Korean drama soundtracks which in turn got me listening to Korean music and was just around the time Korean pop music, better known as Kpop, was starting to explode at a lightning fast rate.
And here we are today. Here I am today, a big fan of Korean drama and music and film, fully entrenched in the Korean Wave. And it’s been a great ride so far.