Many people love watching romantic dramas. It is so heartwarming to see the lead couple meet, bicker, fall in love and then finally get together. We laugh, we cry and we feel good when the leads get their well-deserved happy ending. They make you want to experience falling in love all over again. However, we all know that reality is not like that. The truth is maintaining a relationship requires more than just loving one another. It requires commitment, compatibility, hard work, patience, shared values, trust, and so many others. Some of these things you can actually learn from watching Korean romantic dramas. Here are Korean dramas with lessons on love and relationships. Just a reminder before reading, there are spoilers ahead.
1.Cunning Single Lady (2014)
This is a story about Na Ae Ra, a divorced woman who is having a hard time trying to make ends meet and Jung Woo, her ex-husband who is a top rich businessman. It is a drama about ex-lovers who are still living in the pain of their divorce and yet too proud to admit that they still have feelings for one another.
In a marriage, both husband and wife have roles to fulfill. If these duties are not met, conflict arises. Generally in many cultures, the husband is supposed to be the provider and protector of the family. If the husband cannot fulfill these duties, it is normally the wife who suffers the most. It will be too much for the wife to handle if she will have to take on the role of the husband in addition to the duties that are expected from her as a wife.
Another lesson from the story is the importance of communication. Good communication is an integral part of any healthy relationship. Couples can refrain from needless arguments. It can prevent misunderstanding. It can also make resolving conflicts easier. The leads were only able to settle their differences when they started to understand one another.
2. Go Back Couple (2017)
Go Back Couple is the story of husband Choi Ban-do and wife Ma Jin-joo. They met each other as university students, fell in love and married each other. Unfortunately, things didn’t work out the way they imagined it to be. Now, they are both frustrated, exhausted and unhappy with their relationship.
In the drama, the two found themselves back to their 20 year old selves and were given a chance to redo their lives. Unfortunately for us, this does not happen in real life. We can no longer undo what we had done in the past but we can always correct it. The “happy ever after” in fairy tales is not guaranteed. A relationship needs work. Everyday is a decision. Every little thing that you do to your partner on a daily basis can pile up. And in the future, it can make or break the relationship.
The lesson here is to never take your partner for granted. It is so easy to be caught up with life that sometimes we forget that relationships need nurturing. Show your appreciation, say you love your partner, share stories about your day, give them a hug, surprise them and go on dates. These are just some things that you can do for your partner to make them feel that they are not alone. And equally important too is to love yourself. Stay beautiful, take care of your body and pursue your passion. Marriage does not mean forgetting your individuality. Remember, you cannot love somebody truly from a place of lack.
3. Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha (2021)
Yoon Hye-Jin is a successful doctor from Seoul who ended up resigning from her job after she got into a conflict with a senior dentist. She could not find a single job in Seoul so she opened up a clinic at a provincial seaside village. There she met Hong Du-Sik, an unemployed handyman who helps people around the village. For someone who values wealth and success, the drama showed how a person like Yoon Hye-Jin had a hard time adjusting to the simple village life.
Just like Yoon Hye-Jin, we are all programmed by society to subconsciously judge people based on their wealth and success. The same is true when looking for relationships. For many people a perfect partner is someone who is wealthy and successful. But is that what truly matters in life? Does a successful and wealthy partner guarantee a lifetime of happiness? This drama teaches us that the house, car and title of a person is not the true worth of a person. Sometimes, true happiness can be found in the simplest of things.
4. My ID is Gangnam Beauty (2018)
Gangnam Beauty is a deregatory term in South Korea pertaining to people who are beautiful only because they underwent several plastic surgeries. In this drama, Kang Mi-rae is a college student who has been bullied all her life because of her looks. She decided to change all that by undergoing multiple plastic surgeries to become attractive.
Although Kang Mi-rae succeeded in changing her outer appearance, her insecurities are still there. No matter how beautiful you are on the outside, it does not matter at all if you feel bad about yourself.
Self-esteem is important not only in our general well-being but in a relationship as well. A low self-esteem will lead to misunderstandings and lack of self-confidence. Just like Mi-rae, she had a hard time believing that somebody who is handsome and popular like Do Kyung-Seok will actually like her. When you feel bad about yourself, you will have insecurities in the relationship. You will be more anxious. There is a tendency to be clingy and over jealous. You will have trust issues. You need to develop your self-esteem first before you can be in a healthy relationship.
5. Our Beloved Summer (2021)
What happens when the best and the worst students in class ended up dating? In the drama Our Beloved Summer, the relationship of Choi Woong and Kook Yeon-Soo ended. Surely this is bound to happen when one person is driven and ambitious while the other one is free-spirited and laid back. Ten years later, they ended up working together to shoot a sequel to the documentary video that went viral when they were in high school. But this time, the situation was switched. Genius Kook Yeon-Soo is an employee at a small firm while Choi Woong is a highly successful incognito artist. Will there be a second chance for the two of them?
Are you totally honest with your beloved? The reason why their relationship failed is that both leads are wounded souls who were not totally honest with one another. Kook Yeon-Soo grew up in poverty with her grandmother. Beneath her achievements lies an insecure individual. She hid this fact from her peers including Choi Woong. Woong on the other hand, is actually an abandoned child. The trauma of being abandoned by his father is still with him. And like Kook Yeon-Seo, he also kept this side of him a secret. Since neither of them were fully honest with one another; the relationship is bound to crumble because they do not understand where the other is coming from.
The lesson here is again authenticity and honesty. Maintaining a social mask in front of your lover is doomed to failure. A successful relationship is based on trust, honesty and being true to one’s self.
6. The King 2 Hearts (2012)
The King 2 Hearts is about a South Korean prince, Lee Jae-ha who fell in love with a North Korean special agent, Kim Hang-ah. The two characters are polar opposites. They have different personalities, economic and social status, nationalities, upbringing and even ideologies but in the end, they did manage to work through their differences.
While it is true that opposites attract, many believe that such a relationship will not last long. After all, it is easier to work on a relationship where the couple share a lot of things in common. On the contrary, just like the couple in the drama, opposite personalities can work well together. They can complement and encourage one another. They can also compensate for each other’s weaknesses. The key here is that there should be mutual respect and commitment. Both parties must be willing to compromise and understand each other’s differences.
7. Twenty-Five, Twenty-One (2022)
Love is not just about finding the perfect partner, it is also about perfect timing. Even if you did find the perfect person, if you still have a purpose to fulfill in life; then the two of you cannot be together – at least not yet in some cases. It is normal to start a relationship with someone right away if you love a person. But sometimes, it pays to wait. What if you are not ready or the other person is not yet ready? Being in such a relationship can only lead to heartbreak.
This is what happened with the main couple in this drama. Na Hee Do’s high school fencing team got disbanded; which is supposed to be her stepping stone to enter the national fencing team. On the other hand, Baek Yi Jin’s family business went bankrupt amidst the South Korean Financial crisis. Two broken souls met each other. They became each other’s support in the face of these difficult times.
Although the couple did not get their “happy ever after” towards the end of the drama; how the couple supported each other’s realize their dreams and become better persons is truly an inspiration. Just because the couple did not end up together, it doesn’t diminish the fact that their love was not real. Life’s journey is really like that, we meet significant people along the way but it does not necessarily mean that they will be beside us every step of the way until the end of our life. What is important is the impact that they have had in our lives.
8. Two Outs in the Ninth Inning (2007)
Hong Nan Hee and Byun Hung Tae have been best friends since childhood. They are there for each other in their ups and downs. Both of them have seen each other’s best and worst. They laugh, cry, comfort one another, criticize each other and fight with one another. Due to unavoidable circumstances, Hong Nan Hee moved into Byun Hung Tae’s apartment. And soon, they began to develop romantic feelings for one another.
That is how it is with human relationships, people tend to look for the right one everywhere when they fail to notice the person that is right in front of them. Sometimes, we don’t need to look far. The perfect person for us might just be right in front of us all along. It is just that we never really noticed before.
9. Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok-Joo (2016)
Inspired by the true to life story of a South Korean Olympic Gold medalist, the drama is about a group of young athletes fighting for their dreams. Kim Bok-Joo is a weightlifter who found herself enrolling in a Weight Loss Clinic in order to be near the man of her dreams. As a weightlifter she is supposed to be gaining weight. But because she is trying to impress the guy that she likes, she tried losing weight. Although she did not end up with the man of her dreams, she did find the love of her life through her childhood friend, Jung Joon-hyung.
Kim Bok-Joo tried to change herself in order to be noticed by the man of her dreams. She even had to compromise her dream. Should you change yourself for someone you love? The answer is no. If you try to change for somebody, you might end up losing yourself in the process. If somebody really loves you, he/she will accept you for who you are. If change needs to be done, you should change for you, not because of someone else. Just like Kim Bok-Joo, there will be somebody out there who will love you for who you are.You will only find the perfect partner if you are being true to yourself.
10. Wonderful Life (2005)
This is a story about two strangers, Han Seung Wan and Jung Se Jin who ended up sleeping together while on a trip. The girl got pregnant and decided to keep the baby. As a result, they were forced to get married by the parents for the baby’s sake. The story showed how the couple navigate their way through challenges in their married life.
There is a season for everything. It is a part of the natural cycle of life. There is a season to study and find yourself and a season to be single and focus on your career. And, there is a season for starting a family. Problems arise if you will not follow the seasons in life, just like what happened to the lead couple.
The couple in the story had to struggle a lot because of the unwanted marriage and unprepared parenthood. The natural course in life for couples is that you fall in love, you get married and then have children but this couple had it backwards. In addition, all these things happened when they were too young to start a family and still in the process of pursuing their dreams and aspirations.
If you follow the season of life, there will still be challenges, but at least you will be equipped and mature enough to handle whatever life has in store for you.
How about you? Are there other Korean dramas with lessons on love and relationship that you can recommend?
Updated version. First published in Pinoy Smart Living on 07.04.2019