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    I Made My Indian Family Watch Their First K-Drama — And Their Reactions Were Priceless

    “When can we go visit South Korea?” - my family after watching Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok-Joo.

    When trawling through Netflix on a late weekday night, it is nearly impossible to not notice the incredible amount of Korean TV shows and movies. The content, falling under the umbrella term of "K-Drama", boasts a variety of romances, comedies, historical dramas, and more, certain to suit every interest.

    Studio Dragon / The Swoon / Netflix

    The term "K-Drama" refers to televised Korean-language dramas made in South Korea, and often created in a miniseries format. Popular shows, such as Crash Landing On You (2019) , Strong Woman Do Bong Soon (2017) , and Rookie Historian Goo Hae-Ryung (2019), combine catchy soundtracks, emotional back-stories, engaging characters, and fun friendships to create a set of episodes that are as compelling as they are addicting.

    And it’s not just the acting! Fashion lovers, film enthusiasts, and music lovers alike can tune into these shows to appreciate the characters’ wardrobes, beautiful set locations, and unique OSTs. With their high production values and increased accessibility, thanks to large streaming platforms such as Netflix, South Korean culture and its respective media has rapidly expanded past its once considered "esoteric" beginning.

    Chorokbaem Media / The Swoon / Netflix

    A large part of its appeal can only be attributed to its transgenerational watchability, and continued watchability. One only needs to go on the K-Drama specialised playlists on Spotify to see that the old OSTs are still beloved by fans, long after the shows have originally aired. These shows can be enjoyed by older generations and their younger counterparts, depending on the preferred genres. Shows that do not have fantasy elements, murder mysteries, or chaebol heirs, are classed as "slice of life" dramas.

    So I, a K-Drama newbie, encouraged by endless nagging from my K-Drama-obsessed friends, decided to willingly start my addiction...and drag my family along with me. Because why not? We’re all still stuck in lockdown anyway. On further verbatim research, we decided to watch the popular show Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok-Joo (2016) on Netflix.

    Chorokbaem Media

    The series originally aired on MBC from November 2016 to January 2017, and has garnered a global obsession since. The heart-warming show follows the busy lives of young athletes in college, specifically the protagonists — weight-lifting student Kim Bok-Joo (Lee Sung-Kyung) and swimming student Jung Joon-Hyung's (Nam Joo-Hyuk).

    The show is an honest exploration of what it means to be a young person today, and on top of that, an aspiring national athlete. Despite being named after the character of Kim Bok-Joo, it very much chronicles the lives of their whole gang of friends and extended family. The show explores deeper issues commonly faced by young people, such as friendship troubles, navigating college life, relationships, dealing with trauma, therapy, parental expectations, and of course...the complexities of falling in love. It’s a coming-of-age story that can only be described as wholesome, and watching it with my family was only proof of its legacy as one of the most beloved K-Dramas.

    As we watched each episode (crammed into the span of a week, because WE WERE OBSESSED), we laughed, cried, and loved each character as they went through their own awkward growing pains and dealt with failure, loss, and unrequited love. So of course, I had to document our thoughts and reactions to share with you, in hopes that you either watch this show, or rewatch in order to fall in love with it all over again.

    Ketki Mahabaleshwarkar

    1. “The on-screen chemistry of the two leads is *amazing*”

    Chorokbaem Media / The Swoon / Netflix

    The characters Kim Bok-Joo and Jung Joon-Hyung have an interesting history. Once childhood classmates who drift apart after Joon-Hyung moves away, they are reunited in university. After a comical (and chaotic) recognition scene, they go from irritable acquaintances to fast friends as Joon-Hyung "helps" Bok-Joo get closer to her crush, Jung Jae-Yi, who coincidentally is also Joon-Hyung’s older brother. Does this sound a bit Shakespearean to you? However, in true rom-com fashion, Joon-Hyung finds himself developing feelings for Bok-Joo as the series progresses — yay!

    2. “It shows STRONG and INDEPENDENT women!”

    Chorokbaem Media / The Swoon / Netflix

    Something my mom immediately noted within the first few episodes. Bok-Joo and her two best girlfriends are shown to be bold, loud, and unabashedly themselves. Despite facing teasing, bullying, and harassment because of their profession of weight-lifting — they bite back, and in the best way possible. They fight, stand up for each other, and constantly challenge the notion of women looking and acting stereotypically feminine.

    3. “Do the supporting characters also get together?”

    Chorokbaem Media / The Swoon / Netflix

    My brother questioned, as nearing the middle of the series, characters started to "couple up" — some comical pairings and some genuine. If the show paired the protagonist’s best friends off together, it would just be too convenient, wouldn’t it?

    4. “What is aeygo, and why do characters do it so often?”

    Chorokbaem Media / The Swoon / Netflix

    ...because cuteness, I guess? Usually it’s used in a flirty or silly way.

    5. “Bok-Joo’s dad’s temper is so relatable...”

    Chorokbaem Media / Netflix

    Okay, sure mom and dad, I’m sure it is. Although my parents don’t quite get as fired up as Bok-Joo’s father when he hears about his daughter’s secret visits to the weight clinic, they certainly relate to the general exasperation felt by any parent when seeing their kid do dumb stuff.

    6. “...but so is his pride.”

    Chorokbaem Media / Netflix

    Nothing is more wholesome than seeing Bok-Joo’s father and uncle beam with pride seeing her break records and win medals for weight-lifting. The way they lovingly feed her plates and plates of fried chicken and other delicious dishes is relatable because if there’s one thing Indian parents believe in, it's that food is a love language.

    7. “How does this guy have a new coat every episode?! And where can I buy them?”

    Chorokbaem Media / The Swoon / Netflix

    Seriously. Not only does the character Joon-Hyung have impeccable style, his specific wardrobe of coats is unparalleled. Oftentimes boasting two unique coats per episode, watching this show just made me want to order, like three new winter coats for my own collection. Parkas, trench coats, duster coats, and even fuzzy ones, the styling choices for Joon-Hyung’s winter wardrobe are on point.

    8. “Where can we find best friends like Tae-Kwon, Seon-Ok, and Nan-Hui?”

    Chorokbaem Media / The Swoon / Netflix

    Not only do they put up with the main characters’ sneaking around and general crush-motivated antics, they are the most fun-loving, loyal, and caring friends a girl or guy can have. My IRL friends take notes please! Only accepting dinner-dates where we order too much food and fight random men in restaurants.

    9. “And where do you find older brothers like Jae-Yi?”

    Chorokbaem Media / The Swoon / Netflix

    The character of Jae-Yi (Joon-Hyung’s older brother) is as kind as he is fun, always caring for the people around him, especially his younger brother. As a member of the lead cast, Lee Jae-Yoon effortlessly plays the loveable older brother.

    10. "SO. MUCH. FOOD. “Why is this making me so hungry!?”

    Chorokbaem Media / Netflix

    This was repeated constantly by my dad. If there’s one thing this show will definitely make you feel...it’s hungry. They show characters repeatedly go out to eat chicken wings, steak, fish sticks, churros, and much more. Do not watch this show hungry, because it will make you hungrier.

    11. “Do they….study? Or do anything educational?”

    Chorokbaem Media / The Swoon / Netflix, Chorokbaem Media / Netflix

    Not to poke fun, but is this not THE most Indian parent reaction you’ve heard. Despite the explanation that yes, they’re literally training to be national athletes for the South Korea team, my parents seemed unconvinced they had nothing else going on except training. “Not even like one language module or something?”

    12. “It’s the insults for me.” - my brother.

    Chorokbaem Media / Netflix

    Again, in classic "irritable acquaintances to best friends" format, the interactions between Bok-Joo and Joon-Hyung are comedic and insulting. And we love them even more for it.

    13. “This is the most accurate depiction of burnout, and feeling lost in your early twenties.”

    Chorokbaem Media / The Swoon / Netflix

    Watching a particularly heart-wrenching episode where Bok-Joo temporarily quits weight-lifting due to feeling unhappy, prompted a deeper conversation between my family, where we spoke about the realistic effects of burnout and feeling a little bit lost in your early twenties. The show is incredibly perceptive and realistic in its portrayal of losing motivation, drive, and feeling overall tired of your present path. These are emotions not only felt by young people who are figuring out what they want to do with their lives, but older generations too, who may change their career-paths and plans in life.

    14. “Collegiate life looks so fun.”

    Chorokbaem Media / The Swoon / Netflix

    With their midnight adventures, rooftop hangouts, and random sports team beef, Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok-Joo depicts university as such a fun time in a young person’s life. My teen brother is definitely excited.

    15. “The uncle and dad argue so much...like an Indian soap.”

    Chorokbaem Media / The Swoon / Netflix

    I laugh thinking about drawing similarities to classic Indian soap operas, but one area that overlaps with K-Drama is definitely the portrayal of complicated yet strong familial relationships. There’s no fighting over inheritance or a shared love interest, but Bok-Joo’s dad and uncle do argue over whose soup has more meat in it.

    16. “Bok-Joo is badass...and not afraid to call out BS.”

    Chorokbaem Media / Netflix

    Something we LOVE in female characters is when they stand up for what they believe in and set healthy boundaries with their significant others. Bok-Joo tells it like it is, even if other characters may not want to hear it.

    17. “Younger child favouritism behaviour.”

    Chorokbaem Media / The Swoon / Netflix

    Okay, my family didn’t say this. It was me who called it out. Seeing Joon-Hyung get lowkey babied by his family made me point out similarities in our own...like hello? Youngest kids get away with everything. As expected, this was met with firm denial from my parents.

    18. “Why does their hair...like always look good? Even when they’re swimming, weight-lifting, or working out.”

    Chorokbaem Media / The Swoon / Netflix

    Seriously, K-Drama actors and actresses need to drop their hair routines ASAP. Give the people what they want!

    19. “The characters partying and drinking is a big mood.”

    Chorokbaem Media / The Swoon / Netflix

    What shows like this do is provide a sense of escapism to the audience; one that is badly needed in our current socially-distanced situations. Seeing the weight-lifting team party after a big win or the coaches go out drinking almost feels nostalgic. You’ll be missing late nights spent hanging out with friends, whilst living vicariously through the characters of the show.

    20. “Do you like Messi?”

    Chorokbaem Media / Netflix

    A technique I have yet to try and test. I’ll keep you updated.

    21. “When can we go visit South Korea?”

    alimacdoodle / Via giphy.com

    Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok-Joo is a pretty window into the city, night-life, university campuses, beaches, and secluded streets of South Korea. They show us cozy dorm rooms and huge amusement parks. It’s impossible to miss the colourful foliage on the walls, picturesque backdrops, and the glowing cityscape of Seoul, as you watch the show. The production is incredible and you will leave the series itching to book the first post-pandemic flight to South Korea to experience the culture and sights for yourself!

    22. To sum up our collective feelings:

    me after I finished the last episode of the drama i'm attached to:

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