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K-dramas provide comfort, escapism in a time of pandemic

Jessicha Valentina
Jessicha Valentina

The Jakarta Post

Jakarta  /  Mon, October 5, 2020  /  05:10 pm
K-dramas provide comfort, escapism in a time of pandemic

This undated handout picture provided on Feb. 13 by South Korean cable television network, tvN, in Seoul shows a scene from television drama series 'Crash Landing on You' starring actress Son Ye-jin and actor Hyun Bin. (tvN/AFP/File)

The COVID-19 pandemic has completely changed our lives.

Vera Valentina, a mother, market researcher and owner of breast milk boosting drinks, loved to keep herself busy in the pre-coronavirus days. But the pandemic has forced her to spend most of her time at home.

Putri Natalia, a housewife and mother of 3-year-old and 5-year-old daughters, finds it harder to breathe these days, as she’s no longer able to take short breaks from her busy schedule. 

In this strange time, Vera and Putri have found solace in Korean dramas, popularly known as K-dramas.

In the pre-coronavirus days, K-dramas were the farthest thing from the daily lives of Vera and Putri. Now, they’re K-drama devotees and watch the series daily.

“I felt bored spending my time in front of a laptop from morning to evening, as I could not go anywhere,” Vera recalled the early days of the large-scale social restrictions (PSBB), which led her to work from home.

“I began to feel interested in K-dramas and the first series I watched was Hi Bye, Mama! as the story is quite relatable for a mother like myself,” she told The Jakarta Post.

“I watch K-dramas every night when my children have gone to sleep,” she said, “It’s my me time.”

Putri said that she started watching K-dramas because she had run out of American television series to watch at the beginning of PSBB.

“My friend recommended Itaewon Class, saying that the main actor [Park Seo-joon] is handsome,” she said with a laugh. Since then, Putri has watched K-dramas between her routine chores, saying that K-dramas serve as a sweet escape from this stressful time.

In her household, Putri’s husband Prawira Artha has also become a fan of K-dramas.

Prawira admitted that he was curious upon seeing Putri glued to the screen and laughing whenever she watched K-dramas.

Following Putri, he started with Itaewon Class, which he discovered entertaining as it highlighted the hardship of developing a business. Since then, he has devoured other titles, including Descendants of the Sun and Prison Playbook.

Vera, Putri and Prawira are among those who find comfort and escapism in K-dramas during the pandemic.

Read also: K-drama addiction spikes during COVID-19 pandemic, survey finds

A survey conducted by the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) discovered that viewership of K-dramas spiked in Indonesia as the pandemic forced people to spend more time at home.

The research, which involved 924 respondents aged between 14 and 68 years old, found that 91 percent of the respondents watched K-dramas regularly. Seventy three percent said they started watching shortly after the pandemic hit Indonesia in March.

When asked about the elements they loved from K-dramas, Putri said that the light stories kept her engaged.

Vera said that in addition to unpredictable and smart plotlines, she could relate to the culture showcased in the series.

She cited Hi Bye, Mama! as an example. In the series, the main character is hit by a car during the third trimester of her pregnancy. This happens after her mother told her not to go anywhere when she gets pregnant.

“We will not find this kind of [cultural references] in American television series,” she said.

BASE Entertainment's producer Shanty Harmayn agreed with Vera, saying that K-dramas display some elements of closeness to fellow Asian countries.

Shanty also mentioned PSBB and video-on demand (VOD) services, such as Netflix and Viu, among other factors that boosted K-dramas’ popularity during the pandemic.

“We’re all forced to stay at home during a pandemic and then we look for entertainment,” she said.

Shanty also noticed that K-dramas feature various genres, such as romance in hit series Crash Landing on You; young adult on Itaewon Class and Fight for My Way; and comedy dramas with social commentary as featured in popular K-dramas Reply Series and Prison Playbook.

“There’s a variety of stories,” she said.

From a filmmaker’s point of view, Shanty discovered some impressive features from K-dramas.

She admitted that she became a fan of K-dramas after watching the fantasy drama Goblin.

“I watched Goblin because I like Gong Yoo, the actor in one of my favorite films Train to Busan. It became a turning point, as I knew he’s quite picky in choosing his roles,” she said.” I was impressed with Goblin's high production values, fresh storyline and interesting storytelling.”

In recent K-dramas, she saw that story ideas had become more complex, contemporary and relevant, especially for non-Korean viewers

She believes that the storytelling technique has also improved compared to old K-dramas, which were usually slow-paced. 

“The most noticeable [element] is the difference in production values. [More K-dramas] use varied locations and sets, [some series feature] action scenes and many are even shot overseas,” she explained. (wng)

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