The underlying culture differences that give another dimension to Korean romance
In his presentation, director Yun Seokho mentioned the assumption of an everlasting love in Korean drama. He therefore referred to how it impacted the development process for Autumn in My Heart, in which case Choi Eun-suh, the lead female character, dies. After she died, there was a question of how and whether they should pursue the story. The writer then came up with the conclusion that it wasn’t possible to continue the story and that her lover had to die, otherwise he would carry the burden of sadness until the end. That is something UK audience members do not always understand as, according to Yun, we would consider that Yoon Joon-suh would be able to heal, carry on and slowly get over it. That is not something that would happen in a Korean drama.
Another cultural specificity as seen in Korean drama, is the use of fantasies to express the characters’ feelings indirectly. Such depiction of a pure, beautiful and warm love story provides a sort of emotional catharsis to Korean viewers.
That innocence is all the more emphasized by the lack of physical interactions that characterize love relationships in Korean, and to some extent Asian, culture. That is something that is still widely shared among East Asian nations, even after China became communist and Japan lived through several decades under strong American influence following the Second World War. Contrary to Western culture, the expression of love goes essentially through strong emotionality and symbolism, and less through kisses and sex (e.g. the shared umbrella in Love Rain). Therefore, while in the West break ups happen fast, in Korean drama, they tend to be very elongated, and when portrayed on screen, accompanied with lots of music, close ups and tears. Close-ups serve indeed to depict the psychological affection, in opposition with body language and the quick pace that characterize Western drama. In other words, as accurately put by Yun Seokho “Korean-style love story is like a love kept in one’s heart rather than showing it.”
Finally, another key dimension in the definition of love in Korean culture is that it does not involve only two individuals but is part of the wider community, while in Western culture, that is purely an individual choice. The legacy of Confucian spirit is that family approval is important for Korean lovers. As family values are widely share among Asian nations, it explains why Korean dramas resonate so well across Asia and why it is not uncommon in Korean drama to see blood-related characters to become emotionally involved.
Credits: Yun Seokho
Image Credits: KBS / Cnunism