Skip to main content

My winter of snow and fantasies

I've seen snow falling only twice in my life, but for some reason, I've always been fascinated by it. The first time I witnessed it was magical, and at the time, I never imagined so many years would pass before I could see it again. It's all over my Instagram, but I don't know if or when I'll actually get to be around snow. It's not even cold where I live. 

So I've been living vicariously through my latest obsession: Korean dramas. I'm not sure why it took me this long, or what exactly helped me make up my mind to watch them, but there's no going back. As of yesterday, I've finished six shows and one Christmas web series, and that's not a lot by any means. (I can also read/write a bunch of words in Hangeul now!) But a few patterns have begun to emerge, and I'm eager to learn more about this world.

All the shows I've watched so far have been essentially romances of different types, so perhaps these features are characteristic of the genre. As a writer, I'm blown away by the symmetry and poetry of the scripts, with so many elements woven in gradually and then tied together at the end. Each episode tends to be an hour or more, and a season is 16-20 episodes, so there's plenty of time to really delve into character building and complex plot twists. All the shows I've watched so far are limited to a single season, which also means the story is complete in itself and progresses quite swiftly, which explains why they're so flippin' addictive. 

I'm really intrigued by the use of the cold opens and tags, and the editing in general – various shows use them differently, but often these repeat a scene from the perspective of a different character, like in Crash Landing on You (a cross-border love story), or depict a sliver of a scene that should have fit in the narrative of the episode but has been taken out and tagged onto the end for greater effect, as in Hometown Cha Cha Cha (big city girl moves to a small fishing village)

Many of the stories feature flashbacks in which the lead protagonists have a prior connection and were fated to meet eventually. The concept of fate versus coincidence has been (literally) spoken of in one way or another in all the shows I've watched so far, like in the scene below when Yoon Hye-jin and Chief Hong realise they've actually met twice before (Chief Hong ends that dialogue teasingly, saying it's a coincidence, but then acknowledging that they found each other once again).

I'm also loving the fact that a majority of Korean dramas are written by women, and in my humble opinion, you can totally tell. While there is no dearth of shady characters, many conflicts are resolved gracefully, men are depicted as sensitive (and cry more than any other dudes I've seen on TV), women are nuanced and independent, and emotions and mental health are openly discussed and subtly handled. I like the emphasis on emotional connection over physical, and I'm finding Western shows almost jarring and gratuitous in that respect now. I'm a huge fan of scenes depicting the culinary expertise of male leads, and I'd definitely be up for some of Heo Joon-jae's tomato pasta from The Legend of the Blue Sea (based on a Joseon legend about a mermaid).


Food seems to be quite an important theme, with groups of characters forming friendships over meals. Other recurring motifs include umbrellas, fireworks, shoes and photographs (these deserve a whole separate post). There are damsel-in-distress scenes, but often they're reversed during the course of the show to equalise the relationship. The cinematography and visual language is consistently stunning, and the music sticks – select songs and tunes repeat throughout the season until they pretty much become associated with the characters. I've never been into K-pop or Korean music, but my Spotify now has a "Korean Mix Tape" playlist comprising songs from the soundtracks of these shows. I listen to it every single day.

Another theme I noticed pretty early on is that of seeking and finding, not just between the lead couple, but also between children and parents who are sometimes separated for years before finding their way back to each other. In many storylines, the two protagonists also undergo a period of separation due to their circumstances before coming together in some way (though I have to admit it seemed completely unnecessary in Oh My Venus, hmph). 

This leads back to the fate/coincidence dichotomy I mentioned earlier (obviously the writers believe it's fate), but there's also a Korean concept called han which permeates pop culture and is said to be internalised in the Korean collective consciousness as a result of their shared and difficult history (American invasion, Japanese occupation, division of the country and the Korean war, among others; incidentally I just attended a talk about India's little-known involvement in the aftermath of that war and repatriation). Han is difficult to describe, but encompasses emotions including sorrow, anger, regret and longing, and perhaps this trope of separation involving complex and lingering emotions is the writers' way of acknowledging their history.  

Most of all, though, I'm enraptured by the snow. It's not just the beauty of these scenes or the cosy clothes (big yes to guys in lime green fluffy sweaters); it's also the cultural significance, especially of the first snowfall of the year, a day called Soseol (소설). Yoon Se-ri explains to Ri Jeong-hyuk in Crash Landing that the day of the first snow in Seoul is riddled with accidents because everyone is trying to set up a date with their crush; it is believed that love that begins on this day is destined to last, or a wish made will be granted. K-dramas use this motif generously, resulting in soft, pristine, sparkling scenes straight out of fantasies. I'm not complaining.


  1. This post made me smile on a cold, smoggy Delhi winter morning and now I want to watch a cosy and romantic K-drama with some hot chocolate!

    1. I'm glad :) Hometown Cha Cha Cha might fit your criteria!


Post a Comment