*Originally posted on dongsaeng's personal private blog on 3/13/12*
I have had a couple of people unfamiliar with K-ds refer to them as "Korean Soap Operas". Granted this is mainly my fault as that was the description I first used a year ago. But since that time, this label has grown to bother me. The term "soap opera" has an automatic negative connotation associated with it. It also gives the wrong idea of what they really are. After all, they aren't called soap operas, they are called dramas.
Let me give you an example. I know quite a few people that have fallen in love with and were completely hooked on the show Downton Abbey on PBS. That's awesome. It was a good show. It is also the closest comparison I can make between dramas of the English-speaking world and those of the Korean. The main difference is that the Korean ones tend to be longer but only one season. That and I have to read my English instead of listening to it.
Some K-ds do tend to be more melodramatic and more along the lines of what we think a "soap opera" would be, however, what I see as a big difference is the limited number of episodes. Whereas an American soap opera lasts for years if not decades, Korean dramas are only 16-24 episodes. Therefore the story lines, while branching out a little, tend to stay within parameters limited to the duration of the show. Do they have a lot of scenes shot in hospitals, uhm, yeah, but no one is dying or comatose (typically). Are there love triangles/quadrangles? Of course, but you don't see cheating/partner swapping going on. Are there all kinds of coincidences that wouldn't normally happen in real life (like all of the characters being somehow tied together). Yes. Definitely. But, you know, it's for the sake of the dramatic in the story and you just have to deal with it.
Are they perfect examples of literary genius? No. Are they flawed and sometimes come with a side of ridiculous? Yup. Do we love them anyway? Of course! There's just something about them. Something that causes an obsession we can't ourselves explain. They are clean, fun, emotional roller coasters of pure entertainment. Just please, do us a favor, and don't call them soap operas. ;)