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[GER] K-Drama Recommendations: 5 Korean series to search for on Netflix in times of self-isolation

Is the ceiling already falling on your head thanks to forced or chosen self-isolation in times of the coronavirus? Hopefully my K-Drama recommendations today will help you against the impending boredom, so I'm sharing 5 Korean series to search for on Netflix!

Would you like more K-Drama recommendations?Here's the latest post with 7 great K-dramas for autumn 2020!

The world is going crazy right now and we all have to do our part to contain the dangerous coronavirus. The best method here is self-isolation - in other words, staying at home as much as possible. Depending on how rapidly the virus will spread in Germany, it could even turn out like it did in Italy and we are all threatened with curfew for several weeks. I don't want to support scare tactics now, but rather look very soberly and rationally at what may still lie ahead of us.

In fact, the best thing you can do as a healthy and, above all, flexible person is to isolate yourself as much as possible, stay at home and even work from home if possible (which is done by many companies is currently also made possible). But, oh man, it's not easy to be stuck in the apartment for so long. Boredom is inevitable, maybe even irritable nerves if the whole family crouches on each other thanks to school closings. In this case you have my very special sympathy, although as a childless single I currently mainly talk to myself or my smartphone and get stuck in less than 35 square meters - not a hit either.

So if you are sitting in front of your laptop or television and clicking aimlessly through the Netflix streaming program, unsure what else is new ... I have an idea: K-Drama! Especially in times of stress, panic and insecurity, Korean series are as calming as a warm blanket or a long, relaxed bath. Sure, the stories are often clichéd, the art of acting - as with the German soaps - not always a hit, but nothing is as charming and light-footed and playful as a good Korean drama.

First, I'll tell you a little about the very special genre of “K-Dramas” as a first orientation aid for newbies, then I'll give you recommendations for 5 great Korean series that you can conveniently stream on Netflix with German subtitles.

Korean series - Dramatic, romantic, and mostly very tame

For several years now, the “Hallyu Wave”, the wave of success in Korean pop culture, has been booming, mainly thanks to the Korean export hit K-Pop. But Korean series are also becoming increasingly popular, especially in other Asian countries and the USA, where there is a large Korean-American community. K-dramas like Boys Over Flowers led to downright hysteria all over Asia, and Korean superstars like heartbreaker Lee Min-ho or the ultra-cool Hyun Bin are real superstars far beyond the borders of Korea.

I have to admit that I'm actually more of a “J-Drama” fan, so I appreciate Japanese dramas more, but in the last two years in particular, the K-Dramas have developed very positively. So far they have often been more than problematic, especially when it comes to gender roles - with passive, tearful and almost always very young heroines, whom the often rabid hero conquers through aggressive hyper masculinity - the genre has really changed a lot. More and more women beyond their 20s are playing a leading role, and the actresses are allowed to show themselves as multi-layered female characters.

Sure, the usual clichés can still be found, as is the case with romantic dramas, even here in the West. In a way, that's why Korean shows feel so comfortable: the stories change, but the framework remains more or less the same. There is almost always a love story between a hard-working and good-natured heroine who comes from a poor background and a filthy rich, often edgy-arrogant hero. They meet each other through very crazy events and at first don't like each other at all. Often the two are linked by a traumatic experience from childhood, sometimes suppressed by amnesia and only revealed gradually, and the parents of the rich hero are fundamentally against the connection.

Certain, classic scenes can also be found in pretty much every K-drama, such as the obligatory shower scene of the well-built hero, the very tame first kiss in which the camera circles the two standing actors, many cute scenes in which the hero is the heroine "cared for" in some form (cooks for her, nurses her health, bandages a wound, piggybacking her home after too much alcohol ...), and of course lots of misunderstandings and dramatic obstacles.

All of this sounds a lot like a western daily soap, but there is one important difference: Korean (and other Asian) series generally only have a single season, with a few exceptions, and usually around 14-16 episodes. So you can search through an entire series very quickly and have a completed story, which can be very pleasant compared to eternal series like Grey's Anatomy.

Another difference to western series with a romantic plot is the lack of explicit sexual scenes, since Korea is at least officially quite conservative. Here, too, there are certain exceptions, but as a rule very little “skinship” is shown in Korean series, so there is little or very little contact between the future lovers. This can sometimes have very strange excesses, for example when two people in their early 30s suddenly behave like young teenagers and even blush when they hold hands. At the same time, it's kind of nice to see that you don't have to show dozens of sex scenes to build up romantic tension - in K-dramas a lot of subtle romance and sexual attraction is conveyed, mostly through looks or very brief, careful touches, and of course the Kiss that is usually worked towards very slowly.

In the last few years you can see more and more dramas that consciously play with the clichés or take a clear stand against them. Especially when it comes to the passive heroine, lost without the hero, there is a lot going on, and I am often positively surprised at how many strong, self-confident women of all ages can be seen in the series. The K-drama “Witch at Court”, for example, shows a public prosecutor who regularly outperforms her male colleagues and doesn't mince words, no matter how often she is referred to as unfeminine and hysterically annoying. Or think of the cold-blooded, hyper-ambitious mothers from the drama “Sky Castle”, which was not the most successful K-drama of all time for nothing.

My 5 Korean series recommendations for K-Drama beginners and advanced users:

If you are overwhelmed by the extensive range of K-Drama on Netflix, start with these 5 Korean series - from classic love drama to crime, everything your (bored, self-isolated) heart desires!

1. Sky Castle (2018/19)

As already mentioned above, Sky Castle has become a cult hit in Korea and many other Asian countries - it is by far the most successful K-drama of all time, and became a real “street sweeper” almost overnight, which in times of streaming really only becomes rarely occurs.

Highly cast with Korean superstars like Yum Jun-ah, best known from the Korean horror film A Tale of Two Sisters, Sky Castle is all about maternal ambition (and paternal incompetence, in my opinion). A group of highly successful doctors, politicians and lawyers live in the luxury complex Sky Castle and try every possible means to make their offspring just as successful. And in Korea that means: to get access to one of the most prestigious universities in the country, especially the Seoul National Medical University.

This is the job of the mothers, because raising children is considered a woman's job, while the men just bring in the money and are rarely seen at home. If the child fails, the mother fails too, and this unbelievable pressure on both of them is sometimes exaggerated in the drama, sometimes absurdly comic, sometimes tragic and very touching.

The actors in this unusual drama without a love plot and instead with a lot of relationship and family drama really give 200% with their performances, and you learn a lot about Korean society and above all the incredibly hard times that school children go through. Although this is satirically exaggerated as far as the methods of being accepted at the elite universities are concerned, according to many voices from Korea it does not seem too far from reality.

I found it especially impressive that women over 40 were shown here in strong, multi-layered leading roles, and especially in roles that are uncomfortably dark, sometimes downright psychopathic. There are no lovely, nice and innocent-naive heroines here, at least not those who manage to assert themselves for a long time in the elbow company of Sky Castle ...

2. Memories of the Alhambra (2018)

This K-drama, co-produced by Netflix, was also a super hit! Sure, with the successful duo of Park Shin-hye, who can play the naive, lovable and virtuous heroine like no other, and the arguably most beautiful man in Korea, Hyun Bin, Memories of the Alhambra could only be a success.

The Korean series mixes reality with fantasy in a somewhat confused plot in which a tech investor tries to get the rights to a young developer's augmented reality video game, but it has disappeared without a trace. That's why Yoo Jin-woo travels to Granada in Spain and meets the developer's sister who runs a run-down hostel rather badly. Jin-woo logs into the game at a medieval fountain and the wild hunt begins!

Those who love classic romantic comedies with breathtakingly beautiful landscape shots will get their money's worth with Memories of the Alhambra as well as science fiction lovers. The technology behind the video game often makes little sense and it is best not to question any of it too much, but the crazy battles against knights, archers and black-clad soldiers are very entertaining, as is the dynamic between the two romantic main characters.

3. My Holo Love (2020)

And another Korean series in which a romantic plot was mixed with a lot of high tech and sci-fi elements. Here, too, it says: It's best not to question the technology, because it seems to be used very “deus ex machina” to advance the action. Why I love this drama, which was produced especially for Netflix, is the cute love story and lovingly written characters.

The lonely young So-yeon happens to be the owner of a personalized hologram that only she can see. “Holo” is a kind of virtual assistant and helps her to open up at work and in her private life, because she suffers from a facial recognition disorder and is therefore afraid of new acquaintances. Little by little, So-yeon begins to settle into the A.I. To fall in love with the program, he looks just like a real man. Complicating matters is the fact that Nan-do, the developer and “template” of Holo, falls in love with So-yeon.

Add a villain who wants to steal the holoprogram and reprogram it, and you have a shallow, but very amiable and dramatically impressive drama. I would say that My Holo Love is a good choice, especially for beginners when it comes to K-dramas, as it only has 12 episodes and a relatively straightforward plot. And - that is maybe my very personal opinion now, but ... Yoon Hyun-min in his double role as Holo and Nan-do is simply wonderful: As Holo, a “perfect friend” who does everything right, as Nan-do taciturn and brusque, but of course actually very vulnerable and so wonderfully confused by his own feelings.

Another practical feature of this Netflix series from Korea: It offers a complete German synchro, so if it annoys you you can even watch without subtitles!

4. Crash Landing on You (2019/20)

The K-Drama hit of the last few weeks and now, thank goodness, on Netflix! Crash Landing on You wasn't just a ratings hit, it became a cultural phenomenon in South Korea. Because this is about a very extraordinary love story: The successful business woman Yoon Se-ri is blown over the Korean border by a paragliding accident during a tornado and is now stranded in North Korea.

The North Korean officer Ri Jeong-hyuk - again Hyun Bin, this time with short hair but just as beautiful as ever - and his troop of slightly chaotic soldiers, who are lovable despite their national pride, rush to her aid. The task now is to find a way to bring Seri back to South Korea and, above all, to prevent the military upper class from getting wind of a South Korean woman in the north.

Crash Landing on You has been researched with great care and attention to detail - even the differences in the dialects between south and north are shown, which is of course a little lost in the German subtitles. Several refugees from North Korea, who now live in the south, helped as advisors to portray the scenes in the north as true to the original as possible. Viewers and critics particularly praised the fact that this K-drama portrays North Koreans with a lot of compassion and positive qualities, not just as dangerous “followers” ​​or enemies of the South.

5th signal (2016)

This drama was recommended to me by one of the nice employees of One Wave, the German importer of the Korean natural cosmetics brands Whamisa, URANG and CHOBS at Vivaness 2020! In fact, it's a very unusual K-drama with a rather dark atmosphere and an incredibly suspenseful plot. I haven't finished watching it yet, so I don't know how it will all turn out, but my head is already spinning from all the intricacies and plot twists.

With Signal, too, you first have to turn your “logic switch” to “off”, because the premise for the series is pretty crazy: A young police officer and profiler finds an old walkie-talkie and can magically (?) Contact you through it Police officers record in the past. Now the two exchange information about cases that have remained unresolved in the present and try to solve or even prevent them in the past.

Sounds crazy, but it's an incredibly well-done drama with fantastic actors, especially Kim Hye-soo as Cha Soo-hyun, a policewoman with nerves of steel and more courage than most of her male colleagues. Incidentally, many of the criminal cases in Signal are based on real cases, which gives the whole thing a special and often very shocking atmosphere.

Korean series - not for everyone, but definitely entertaining!

Korean series are not for everyone, you have to get involved, similar to Bollywood films, which I appreciate and love just as much. Of course, other cultures also have other norms and focal points in pop culture, and especially when it comes to the image of women, I sometimes have to swallow hard.

At the same time, however, I also notice that just like the Korean culture, the Korean series have changed a lot in recent times. There are actually moments when K-Dramas seem even more advanced in terms of gender roles than their western counterparts. Here in Germany it is difficult to find series that would stage such dark personalities as the ladies from Sky Castle so prominently and uncompromisingly.

And as for the men: They are allowed to cry indefinitely, openly show vulnerable feelings and are happy to be shown as caring towards the heroine. And, since the target group of the dramas are mainly women, it is usually the men and their bodies that tend to be sexualized rather than those of the women, a nice change compared to western dramas!

Perhaps the unwanted extra time at home due to the corona crisis gives you an impulse to try new things on Netflix, because soon we will surely have worked through all of our lists of popular and well-known series and films. There is something very calming about Korean series and often help me to alleviate moments of panic and uncertainty a little and simply switch off - exactly what we can need in these troubled times.

Take care, dear ones! We can only do this if we all do our part to slow the spread of this virus and, most importantly, stop stashing toilet paper. Seriously, be fair and think of the people among you who do not have the money or the mobility to buy monthly rations of essentials.

Even more keen on K-dramas? You can also read my latest K series recommendations for Fall 2020 on Netflix!

Tell me in the comments: Are you already fans of Korean series? What are your personal favorites?

Take care, my sweeties - and please stay at home if you can!
Your Sugarpeaches





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