As summer is near ending I’ve been immersed in my Korean language studies and have been watching 4~5 Korean dramas (*I am not a K-drama fan), which is a rarity for me. In my recent drama/language study binge I started to wonder if the feelings that Korean men and women express in Korean dramas is really type-cast or a cultural norm.
In Korean culture, the expression of one’s emotions can be riddling. Korean people are very expressive, but only in certain instances or moments where being expressive is permitted. Among many Koreans I met during my three years in Seoul I found many of them to be quiet and reserved in matters relating to love, including my own boyfriend on occasion.
From general observation I noticed that Koreans though quiet and reserved in matters of love admit transparent feelings. These transparent feelings are shown through devoted time in meeting someone, openness to help someone, forwardness to pay for stuff for someone, or pick someone up, or even wait for someone coming from an appointment, school, or work. In these small moments feelings are easily transparent.
Similar to an open book, these feelings are clearly visible. However, in Korean dramas often times these same moments take place and yet the feelings do not seem to be obvious to the receiver. Instead, the awareness of the giver’s feelings are not revealed until the producer’s decide to reveal them. Watching more Korean dramas for the first time since I began studying Korean started to make me think about the expression of feelings between Korean men and women in real life vs in Korean dramas. Based on what I’ve noticed in some dramas, feelings expressed are meant to be non-transparent and yet they are seemingly done in the most transparent ways. In addition, referencing type-cast I’ve noticed that some actors/actresses are type-casted into roles based on how well they can express their
feelings on the screen.
In some Korean dramas the protagonist and their lover are loud and expressive and in some they are quiet and reserved. In either instance, feelings should be visible or apparent. But, unfortunately the feelings expressed by Korean men and women in Korean dramas tends to get lost in order to create more content for the drama overall. This holds true based on the fact that Korean dramas do not represent reality.
In reality, Korean men and woman do portray their feelings or emotions transparently. However, the way in which they express their feelings follows a form of nunchi (눈치) in Korean. Nunchi is the Korean concept of understanding an individual or group’s feelings and behaving according to them. This is also true in matters of love. When in love many Koreans, young and older express their feelings to their significant other transparently. Depending on how close they are and following nunchi they express their feelings in the best way possible. This can be in the form of couple clothing for young school-age couples, or in the form of a 2-3 part date (i.e. movie, dinner, after dinner-fun) for an older couple.
My boyfriend expresses his feelings transparently as well. He likes to express his feelings in more small ways than large, such as waiting for me at a bus stop, or going grocery shopping with me, or meeting me prior to work to spend time together on a weekday. These were simple expressions, but very transparent in showing his true feelings.
Being transparent or open like a book in no way holds any negativity. I actually find the cultural norm in Korea to be quite chivalrous in part on how I’ve seen Korean men express their feelings for women they like. As for Korean women, they too, in small and large ways express their feelings in lovingly transparent ways.