Feature: Still in Seoul
Happily drowning in the hallyu
Where I fess up about coming late in the day to Kdramas but becoming an addicted consumer soon enough.
Maybe I need to check myself into a de-addiction clinic, like now. A Kdrama de-addiction clinic.
The hallyu crept up on me so slowly, so stealthily, I didn’t realise I’d caught the bug till it was too late. Hallyu, for those who don`t know, is a term to describe the Korean Wave, signifying the global popularity of South Korea’s cultural economy as manifested in its music, movies and TV dramas. Where I`m concerned, though, it`s only the last I watch. And watch and watch.
The first symptom manifested itself when I was reading an article on hyposmia, a medical condition, and kept reading it as hyposeumnida. The addition of `seumnida
at the end of sentences, as any K-fan knows, is a polite honorific. Obviously, I didnt glean many medical facts from the article but I did recognise the red flag of addiction.
The other symptoms came thick and fast. After a few hours (okay, sometimes as many as four hours) of immersing myself in the Kdrama du jour, I`d return to the real world, hear English spoken around me and start to wonder why they spoke it so funnily, meaning so differently from the Koreans!
I`d use `Yaa! to express surprise, annoyance, stupefaction. The other evening, I asked for a glass of soju (the alcoholic beverage of Korean origin) instead of Sula, earning myself some very strange looks indeed.
Since I now know that the first snowfall is a significant event in Kdramas, I have this yearning to head to Srinagar to catch the first snowfall, with my Significant Other… or maybe my K-enablers! Closer home, my eyes instinctively search for falling stars…because that too is a thing in that world.
And the final indication of my addiction came loud and clear when I found myself increasingly reluctant to pause my dramedy watch to take in something solid/ substantial/ serious like the new Lijo Jose Pellissery film or Ralph Fiennes’s new movie, or even an indie flick that my friends assure me is right up my street.
Actually, I`m eating humble pie. I was smug as anything when my K-enablers got me hooked to this drug. I won`t ever binge- watch, I promised myself and them, ignoring their `we`ve-heard-this-before` expression. In any case, I was not the bingeing type. I don’t watch any television beyond the news. Also, I am a veteran watcher of world cinema – Italian, French, Chinese, Japanese, you name it — and have never been hooked hard enough to be addicted.
That smug confidence evaporated after I sat down to watch this delightful serial called Healer at 12 noon one afternoon and finished up around 3.15 am, not fit for human consumption the next day with my fogged brain and bleary eyes.
My K-enablers? I have two of them on speed dial. One of them is my own flesh and blood, The Kid, a Kdrama vet for well over a dozen years now. She had tried at least twice to get me to watch a particular favourite of hers but both times what I watched hadn’t held my attention or interest beyond the first ten minutes. And so she gracefully let go. As she is now gracefully letting go the temptation to crow, watching me sink deeper into this very enjoyable quagmire.
What The Kid does, though, is recommend serials she thinks I will like, and download some of them for me to watch at my own (rapidly accelerating) pace.
The other enabler is my Tai Chi practice friend. She too isn’t crowing but she now wants me to start watching Kfilms, serious ones, murder mysteries, dark tales and the like. No, no I protest, Kdramas are my ideal cuppa joe only because I`m drowning in a surfeit of bad/worse/terrible news in real life, and desperately need an escape route consisting of funny situations/witty dialogue/slow-cooking stories /sweet dilemmas and sweeter resolutions.
But this I have to say. While I am unashamedly drowning in Kdramas, some level of distancing remains. I still like my noodles dry, not floating in a sea of broth. I still don’t slurp food down the way they do in the serials I avidly watch. Sometimes upon meeting someone, I feel a bow coming on but I stoutly desist and join my palms in a namaste instead.
Also, watching Kdramas is a purely private pleasure. I won`t be joining any Kdrama groups or chat rooms or even reviewing them on social media….the last because I`m still too young to die at the hands of irate fans who prefer Jung Woo to Taek from Reply 1988, and suchlike.
However, to become serious for just a mo, there`s much in Kdramas that I relish. The unhurried pace, the old-fashioned sweetness at the core of the story, the preferencing of love over lust, the playing for breezy laughs. Yes, there are zombies, aliens, goblins, superheroes, totally evil politicians, but they are – thankfully — devoid of that ugly edge found in most modern-day serials and movies. These dramas are a hark back to the family sitcoms of some decades ago but sharpened with just enough touches of modernity.
The other bonus points are learning about another culture, listening to the lilt of another language, and yes, finding the ideal escape activity for now.
On second thoughts, I`m scrapping that rehab idea. Because I`m enjoying myself too much with my daily fix and so, I`m gonna be still in Seoul for a while longer.