Ten Laws of the Kdramaverse: A Survival Guide for Heroines

[Don't ask me where this post came from. I think my brain has rotted from watching too many dramas.]

So you’re on your way to work one day, rushing to the bus stop because you’re late, and something nags at the corner of your mind. It has to do with your slightly dowdy short haircut, you think as you cross the street, your sudden burst of goodwill and patience toward others. Then there’s the recent string of bad luck you’ve had: man trouble, financial trouble, family trouble—

OMO! That fancy car just missed hitting you and suddenly your nose is inches from the pavement. You get up, fuming. Okay, what kind of jerk—

The kind of jerk who is now striding across the asphalt toward you, dressed in clothes so expensive you wouldn’t know where to buy them, with sunlight glinting off his sunglasses, his watch, his shoes. His hair is perfectly styled, his face perfectly chiseled by the hand of God (or perhaps a plastic surgeon). He stops in front of you. The only thing more deafening than your heartbeat is the intensity of the epithets he starts to heap on your head.

That’s when it hits you: you’ve landed yourself in the shoes of a kdrama heroine, and the only way home is a Happy Ending.

DON’T PANIC. (Don’t get too excited either.)

In the new branded handbag draped over your arm (didn’t notice that yet, didja?) is a handy survival guide for kdrama heroines, left for you by the kdrama fairy godmother. Yes, she is the one responsible for the over-representation of Cinderella stories in kdramaland. The Powers That Be put up with it because they need her services too much to argue.

Ten Laws of the Kdramaverse

(Yes, only ten. You figure out the rest. Also, your fairy godmother takes no responsibility for variations on the kdramaverse in your particular case. Use your plucky and indomitable spirit to deal with them. And your brains, if you get to keep any.)

  1. Mouth-to-mouth resuscitation is a sign that you’re fated. You are so fated that the universe itself is forcing you to kiss. So think carefully the next time you’re about to do CPR. Unless you want to marry the guy lying unconscious in front of you, don’t save his life.
  2.  

  3. Your true love will most likely misunderstand you, yell at you, abandon you by the side of the road (probably on the way to meet his beautiful ex-girlfriend), try to kick you out of the house, and/or tell you you’re ugly. Don’t worry though, these are all signs that he’s losing his heart to you – he just doesn’t know it yet.
  4. On the other hand, a total prince is going to show up in your life soon. He will be gorgeous, kind, and will see your worth when no one else does. You’ll become friends. He’s going to do incredible sweet things for you, but sadly you’ll never know about half of them. He’s going to break your heart at some point, not because he doesn’t love you, but because he does – because against all appearances, he’s not the one for you. You probably won’t take this advice, but don’t get too close to him. You’re only going to feel very guilty later. Instead, share the wealth and set him up on a blind date with your single best friend.
  5.  

  6. Although you are a poor worker who lives in a tiny apartment, you will inexplicably find your closet full of the latest brand-name clothes and accessories. Don’t question how they got there and just accept them – they’re a gift from the Powers That Be. Think of them as extra help on your quest, like finding bonuses in a video game.
  7. Do wrist exercises for ten minutes before bed each night. This will strengthen the tendons and muscles, which is necessary because your wrists are going to endure a lot of grabbing, pulling and squeezing in the near future. Also stock up on vitamins.
  8.  

  9. Keep a face towel handy in your bag once you start dating your non-prince. You might get a face full of ice water from your future mother-in-law any day now. Look on the bright side – it’s good for your skin. Just make sure to moisturize afterwards.
  10. You’re also going to have to face another enemy once you become Official: the jealous ex-girlfriend. Be prepared for cruel and often incomprehensible behaviour, often with a bafflingly entitled attitude that would imply she was the girlfriend and not you. Don’t believe anything she says, and pray every night that she leaves to study abroad. Also, don’t stand for any wishy-washy stuff from your guy just because the ex guilt-trips him. Stand firm, but if he proves trustworthy, trust him.
  11.  

  12. This one is technically against the rules, but this fairy godmother is tired of heroines standing like dead fish when their hard-won hero is finally kissing the daylights out of them. Kiss him back! Fortunately the newer girls have been taking my advice. Heh. The Powers That Be still don’t know who is giving them these subversive ideas, so keep this between us, okay?
  13.  

  14. You’re going to face a large conflict, probably a result of the vast difference between his status and yours. There will be separation, and tears. Drink lots of water and send each other mushy text messages every night. If he disappears and cuts off contact for an extended period, focus on your work and plan a different revenge, one for each month he’s gone.
  15.  

  16. Enjoy your Happy Ending! And try not to mind too much if you end up there there because of a strange turn of events, or a series of unbelievable coincidences, or if your love story became a thriller, a horror story or a family drama there for a while. This is the kdramaverse, after all. The magic is inexplicable.

And also… the spell is over, Cinderella. Don’t cry too much, and try to think of it as a beautiful dream.

Oh, and you can keep the bags and shoes.

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94 thoughts on “Ten Laws of the Kdramaverse: A Survival Guide for Heroines

  1. Yay, so thrilled to read another post from you, Laica!! Thank you so much. I giggled like a loon reading this. LOVE your survival guide; so witty and spot-on! Muah!!

    • Thank YOU for the hilarious pictures! Especially love the one of the Perfect Oppa from Heaven from BL, and the last one. Not exactly what I meant, but it’s perfect! :)

      • You know why I chose that pic of Lee Tae-gon, right? Yup, he be the oppa from Assorted Gems who “disappears and cuts off contact for an extended period,” grrr!

        And oh yes, Perfect Oppa from Heaven Park Jun-se!! *swoons*

        • Ah, I was wondering where I recognized him from. Honestly I couldn’t get past epsiode 13 of AG because I found all the characters so annoying and/or selfish. I always wondered what everyone else saw in it that I didn’t. But from what I hear about the ending, I guess I didn’t miss much. :)

  2. Great post, thanks. Out kdrama heroine is indeed so perfect, so full of virtues (and gas and/or constipated so that our hero can bravely come to her rescue: see Flower Boy Ramyun Shop or Ojakgyo Brothers and so many others). Our heroine drinks and eats like a pig but of course the hero is so pleased about it. Etc, etc.

    • Oh yes, the toilet humour that we can never get away from. I will never understand how a hero can bond with a heroine over the state of her bowels. Cause, you know, nothing says I love you like Woo-roo-roo-ssa.

  3. Hee. Nice one!

    Also, “Slap on the mascara and smear on the eyeliner with reckless abandon. Now that you are a kdrama heroine, your eye make-up will never run however much you cry. Also, you can start sleeping with all your make-up still on and you won’t get zits. You’re welcome.”

      • Not quite ‘magical’ makeup. Have you tried Japanese fibre mascaras? Those waterproof suckers never ever run. Promise.
        I’ve dropped unconscious on my bed on many a work night without having the energy to remove my bb cream and I’ve yet to get any pimples.

        But I do protest Choi Gang-hee’s wardrobe from Protect the Boss. For an unemployed bum those were some expensive-looking rags *drools*, I do work and yet can’t even dream of affording half that stuff she wore. I need to marry a chaebol, toooo. Shame all guys in suits who drive fancy cars are ponces. Yes, all.

        • Interesting. What is this bb cream I’ve heard so much about? Is it a kind of foundation?

          Even though I mock the expensive clothes our “poor” heroines wear, I have to admit one of the things I really enjoy about kdramas is the fashion. What can I say, sometimes you just want fantasy in your entertainment. :)

    • Thanks! :D

      Yup. The fairy godmother is tired of seeing all those perfect men end up heartbroken. Sometimes they’re the only ones who deserve a happy ending. There is also a decided shortage of awesome best friends in the kdramaverse. Someone needs to get on that. Powers That Be, I know you’re secretly reading this – do something!

  4. Laica, fantastic post, thank you. I have watched very few K-dramas but can still appreciate what you wrote. The heroine who disappointed me most, alas, rejected the total prince in No: 3. Bae Soo Bin – and his eyelashes – will be turning 35 tomorrow so your witty post is especially welcome.

    Signed: someone who does go on a fair bit about BSB – no apologies for doing this :)

    • Thanks. I’m still bitter about Bae Soo-bin. He’s pretty much the best oppa ever. And he’s got those puppy eyes that just break your heart. One of my very few instances of second lead syndrome.

  5. Re: no. 6. Would I have to start worrying about the possibility of being homeless too? Oh noes. The prince had better be worth it!

  6. Perfect perfect perfect, Laica!
    Love the image of an expensive bag materializing out of nowhere on your arm.

    As far as this:You’re also going to have to face another enemy once you become Official: the jealous ex-girlfriend….Don’t believe anything she says… SO much pain and confusion could be avoided if she would CONSIDER THE SOURCE and only listen to people she trusts!!!

    Thahks for a good laugh on a snowstormy Thursday!

    • Thanks, Jomo. I know, right? These kdrama heroines, really. But then, to be fair, they aren’t often blessed with many brains. It’s a trade-off for the super-amazing wardrobe, the hot and rich guy, and the happy ending. If they were smart too, the universe might stop revolving from the karmic imbalance. :)

  7. THIS. IS. SO. SPOT-ON. I love it! Tsk tsk the logic fails of poor, plucky heroines never reusing their clothes and having lots of them. Haha! And really, Junse oppa in Brilliant Legacy breaks my heart even up to now, the peak of my second male lead syndrome (or so I think, there’s Yoo Ah In in SKKS). Had so much fun reading this! Thanks for the post, Laica! :D

    • Totally agree with Junse oppa being the peak! Same here. Not even Guh-ro broke my heart as much. at least he had Yong-ha to love him and nurse his wounds.

    • oh Junse oppa… still is my number one and undefeated champion of the the second lead syndrome in my heart. Unbeatable hands down!

  8. Hilarious post! I think in addition to the wardrobe, we need to mention that even if you get thrown onto the streets and your fated one is with his ex, you will have a up to date, snazzy cellphone that comes with texting and 3G access, courtesy of product placement. :)

  9. Sooo funny!!!!!

    Too, beware the soju: it always moves your relationship with Prince Alarming forward in unexpected ways! :)

    • Hehe. You’re so right. Often leads to the Fated Piggyback. Or the Fated Kiss. Too bad the heroine’s usually too drunk to enjoy it and/or throws up afterwards. Poor hero.

  10. This totally made my day! The sad thing is that you’re not even exaggerating – it’s all true! Too bad kdrama heroines don’t really have a Guide like this. Wait – that would make a fabulously meta kdrama. Someone should get on that!

    • Aw, thanks. Ooh, excellent idea. The kdramaverse might just collapse from such blatant satire, though. Then again, maybe it would lead to better stories.

  11. Awesome post and very spot-on! Jun-se is the oppa to beat, in my opinion. He would even cut her meat for her at the dinner table! *swoon* Still the perfect Mr. Perfect. Even when all her friends tell her what a great guy Second Lead is, our k-drama heroine will never listen. Sigh.

    • Thank you. Jun-se is still my top oppa of all time, too. Though I don’t find a guy cutting my meat romantic… I’m not a child. Just me. He can cook for me anytime, though!

      By the way, I’m behind in my watching, but I absolutely LOVE your TWDR recaps. :)

  12. I absolutely loved this post – so true! I never realized that yes, those shoes/jackets/bags appear from no where (perhaps k-drama heroines also collect an awful amount of debt). Ooh, and how our second leads will always accompany the heroine in a classic drunken rant at your local pojangmacha,

    • Heh, thank you. No, they’re a magical gift – the debt is always left by a useless father who borrowed money from loan sharks and split, leaving his kid to be harassed and work 17497 part-time jobs. Also do contract relationships with hot rich guys. :)

  13. Wonderful and well said! I was trying to explain my addiction to these crazy dramas to my daughter, my guess is that this would not help LOL Thank you for this great post.

    • Yeah, sometimes when I actually stop to think about all the ways in which kdramas are ridiculous, it’s hard to explain why I love them so much. It’s magic, I guess. :)

  14. Also, never visit the Han River on a date. No good has ever come from this.

    Oh, and poor Bae Soo Bin – he’s forever going to be the poster boy for #3.

  15. That was a fun post to read! I especially thought of #4 since it’s so true that all the kdramaverse girls seem to hail from poor families, but always wear something different and fashionable every episode. It made me think of in Brilliant Legacy when my mom pointed out all the cute and pretty purses and hand bags that Eun Sung carried and my first thought was: “I thought she was dirt poor. How is she affording a new bag every time she leaves the house? I KNOW she’s not taking money from Grandma just to carry a different bag every episode.”

    Thanks for the post. I also root for #8 and love #3, because the hot kisses are always welcome and I think every girl (kdramaverse heroine or not) should have a Perfect Oppa somewhere.

    • Yeah, it was especially ridiculous in BL because the fact that she was poor and refused to take the money was such a HUGE plot point. You’d think they would have bothered to have verisimilitude in at least that.

      One of the uncountable things I loved about Can You Hear My Heart was that the heroine was poor, and actually dressed like a poor person. Her fashion and hair were questionable, which is NOT necessary for someone who’s poor, but she actually wore the same clothes multiple times, and usually ran around carrying that red backpack. Except when she was trying to dress up a little, and even then it was only one bag, a nice one, that she carried in the later episodes. And at least her nice stuff came from somewhere – the shopping trip with Maru Oppa – and had narrative purpose. (Ooops, went off on a CYHMH rave again.)

  16. Love it! I especially agree with 3. I often feel frustrated when our heroine doesn’t see the great guy who is next to her. At the same time, the good guys tend to have trouble asserting themselves and truly turning up the romance. But in true K-drama fashion, it is written, that you too will fall in love with the jerk because by the end, he will transform to prince charming.
    I also liked 8. I can forgive the first kiss being a bit stiff and awkward but after that…. girl better show her man some lovin’!

    • I remember being disappointed with the kisses in YB. The leads had SO much chemistry, and there had been so much tension between them in earlier episodes… and then they just stood there, frozen, with their lips attached. Especially the kiss at the movie theater.

      • oh yes, the kiss in YB was really WTF… kdrama writers should learn from Flower Boy Ramyun Shop & City Hunter. Those are the two that i can think of right now with kisses that did not look like two dead fish liplocking. Prosecutor Princess was okay too

  17. “Do wrist exercises for ten minutes before bed each night. This will strengthen the tendons and muscles, which is necessary because your wrists are going to endure a lot of grabbing, pulling and squeezing in the near future. Also stock up on vitamins.”

    LOL! Hahahahaha, so true! This is one of the reasons why I dropped Me Too, Flower. The girl is a cop and her prince charming boyfriend swing and pull her arms back and forth like as if she were an air doll. Oh, and she also likes to play with handcuffs and to point guns to him, just to show how badass she is, since she probably lost the self-defence classes.

    • Yeah, this drives me crazy. I’m not watching MTF, but that’s one of the things that is starting to annoy me about Flower Boy Ramyun Shop. It’s still a fun and addicting show, but I wish both the guys wouldn’t drag Eun-bi around and manhandle her so much. Neither of them has any respect for boundaries. Which I guess is understandable considering the way Chi-soo grew up, but at 31, Kang-hyuk should know better. I think we tend to forgive our kdrama heroes a lot for their hotness.

  18. What a fun post!
    I also love the one small magical suitcase our poor, plucky, homeless heroine uses to tote around
    her inexplicably unending supply of said designer clothes, coats, shoes, and handbags. I’d love to have one of those. Maybe if I put it on my Christmas list for Santa?

    • Haha, you’re so right. You should ask UEE where she got hers, it’s small and white and she’s moved in and out of that farm house (Ojakkyo Brothers) countless times with it. And it full of the most gorgeous clothes.

  19. Great post, Laica! Thank you. :)
    May I add that our kdrama heroine should be wary about when and how loud she should confess her feelings to her one true love? Sometimes the Powers That Be would give her a break and have the guy hear her say she likes him even if he’s standing 10 feet away (Scent of a Woman). But more often than not, just as she plucks to courage to say these things, her one true love would miss hearing it even if they’re just a few feet apart (too many kdramas to mention). lol

    • Haha. It’s the kdrama law of overheard conversations – only the ones who need to hear it for plot purposes can do so – regardless of how far away the person is or how loud they were talking. :)

      • That is so true! But not just in K-dramaland. So, so many rom-coms seem to suffer from that law where only the ones who need to hear it for plot purposes can do so. It gets even more frustrating when an entire series worth of misunderstandings is centered on the main lead walking in on the wrong end of a conversation or NOT hearing the most important part of it.

        This isn’t a K-drama example, but Hong Kong drama series Ups and Downs in the Sea of Love REALLY played on the misunderstandings due to the main leads NOT hearing significant parts of conversations. In fact the entire series’ love line conflict was based on an unheard part of a serious conversation, thus ending up in twenty episodes of a bickering couple who hate each other until SOMEONE finally decides to communicate the problem at hand. Oh… so much in drama land conflict could be cleared up if people would just talk to each other without jumping to wrong conclusions. But then we’d have no story to watch.

  20. Wow! xD If it weren’t for the lack of Boys Over Flowers screencaps I would have thought you were talking entirely of that drama. Lol! xD

  21. I liked this article a lot, thank you!

    Yeah another great candidate to wonderful secondary male is Pil Line from Greatest Love. Share the love and introduce him to a good friend indeed :)

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