Korean Drama Tropes

I love Korean Dramas.  There.  I said it.  I have a subscription to Dramafever and Viki because…why not?  Korean Dramas are amazing.  There’s always a beginning and an end – each show is about 16 to 20 episodes long.  Most of the time, the writers have the entire script for all episodes before shooting begins, so there’s never an ending that just peters out (I’m looking at you Lost).  Sometimes they fail at the ending, but most of the time they wrap it up nice and neatly.

With all this said, there are tropes that are found in almost every Korean Drama.

Chaebols – A chaebol is an insanely rich person that usually owns some huge conglomerate in Seoul.  They are always good looking, arrogant, rude, self-entitled, but most of all they are looking for someone to fill the empty void in their heart.  Enter the poor sassy girl.


Poor Sassy Girl – The poor sassy girl is flat broke.  Her parents usually run a run down restaurant or a laundry mat.  She always tries to find the silver lining to every situation and reluctantly falls in love with the Chaebol.  Also, Poor Sassy Girls like to eat…a lot.

Rich guys poor girls Things I learned about Korea from Kdramas kdramafighting dramafever

Dick Under Glass (DUG) – The Dick Under Glass, or what my husband and I refer to as the DUG, is often the Poor Sassy Girl’s first crush.  He wants to take care of her and be near her to protect her from the Chaebol (which may or may not be his best friend).  Also known as Second Lead Syndrome, everyone wants the Poor Sassy Girl to hook up with the DUG, but she never does because she falls for the bad boy Chaebol.  But not for his money.  She never wants his money.


Chance Meetings – The Poor Sassy Girl usually runs into the Chaebol by accident.  She does something to offend him and he treats her like crap for it for probably the next 2-3 episodes while they continue to “accidentally” run into each other.  She usually rises to the challenge and attempts to put the Chaebol in his place.  This usually makes the Chaebol fall in love with her because he’s never had someone have the audacity to insult him.


Blind Dates – Chaebols are usually set up on blind dates by their mothers.  The blind date is usually the antagonist (along with Evil Mothers – more below) and also a Chaebol that comes from a wealthy family.  Parents in Korean Dramas see marriage as an investment to merge or strengthen each other’s companies.  But the Chaebol always waves off the Blind Dates or tries to avoid them all together because he is in love with the Poor Sassy Girl.


Hospital Scenes – At some point the Poor Sassy Girl will have worked herself to the bone at part time jobs to help her family with money.  This usually turns into a scene where she gets a nosebleed and passes out or a cold and passes out.  Instead of calling an ambulance or his chauffeur, the Chaebol usually carries her on his back and runs to the hospital.


U-Turns – A U-Turn follows a phone call, some emergency, or the realization that he can’t be without the Poor Sassy Girl.  If you are in a Korean Drama, traffic laws don’t exist and you can bust a U-Turn at any time.


Evil Mothers (usually of the Chaebols) – The Evil Mother will always try to keep the Poor Sassy Girl away from her Chaebol son.  She will offer the Poor Sassy Girl a large sum of money to stay away from her son.  But the Poor Sassy Girl always rejects the money in the name of love.  Sometimes a scene like this is followed by the Evil Mother throwing a glass of water at the Poor Sassy Girl.  When the bribery doesn’t work, the Evil Mother will try to ruin her life by hurting the Poor Sassy Girl’s friends and family.  This will make the Poor Sassy Girl submit to the Evil Mother but the Chaebol finds out and comes to the rescue of the Poor Sassy Girl.  Usually by the end of the drama, the Evil Mother accepts the Poor Sassy Girl for her tenacity, or at the very least gives up on trying to keep her away.

evil moms Things I learned about Korea from Kdramas kdramafighting dramafever

Pressing Lips – Very rarely will you see a full on kiss.  Most of the time, the Chaebol surprises the Poor Sassy Girl with a kiss and when this happens their lips press together and they stay very still.  The Poor Sassy Girl’s eyes are usually wide open from shock.

kiss eyes open Things I learned about Korea from Kdramas kdramafighting dramafever

Wrist Grabbing – If the Poor Sassy Girl gets angry at the Chaebol and tries to walk away, the Chaebol will grab her wrist and spin her around.  Their eyes meet and suddenly she’s not angry anymore.  Sometimes the DUG steps in and also grabs her wrist, which creates an anomaly called the “double wrist grab”.


Falling in Love – Eventually the Poor Sassy Girl falls in love with the Chaebol after he shows signs of weakness.  For example, they could be caught in a strange situation (like a stalled elevator) and the Chaebol or the Poor Sassy Girl gets sick.  One of them spends all night caring for the other.  Or it could just be a completely awkward situation, like hiding in the bathroom to avoid your current crush (a.k.a. the DUG).


Loan Sharks – Gangsters, gangsters and more gangsters.  The Poor Sassy Girl is usually on the run from Loan Sharks because her parents ran up a debt and for some reason, it becomes her responsibility to pay back the loan.  Sometime down the road, the Chaebol usually takes care of the loan for her.


Back Hugs – There will be a point in the drama when the Chaebol/Poor Sassy Girl is sad and tries to leave the Chaebol/Poor Sassy Girl.  S/he thinks that he is ruining her life because the Evil Mother keeps interfering.  Realizing that s/he can’t live without him/her, s/he runs to him/her as s/he’s walking away and hugs him/her from behind.  This will lead to the Chaebol/Poor Sassy Girl stopping dead in his/her tracks, wide eyed and may also lead to pressing lips.


Amnesia – It’s not uncommon for the Chaebol to wind up in an accident where they lose their memory.  It is at this point that the Poor Sassy Girl tries her best to make him remember her.


Travelling Abroad – Usually this happens towards the end of the series.  Either the Chaebol or the Poor Sassy Girl is given the opportunity to study or learn more about running a business in America.  Love endures while they are apart and when one or the other returns, they live happily ever after.


These are but some of the common tropes found in almost every Korean Drama.  It’s cheesy and corny and recycled to death.  But you know what?  I love these tropes.  It always works, every time.


Every. Time.

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