Why are Korean dramas so obsessed with first love?
June 14, 2012 11:28 AM   Subscribe

Why are Korean (melo)dramas so obsessed with first love being your one, true love which can never be changed?

Okay, so some will turn this trope on its head,* but in others it is taken to insane degrees - in one the couple met as 8 year olds and sat on a tree together for an hour and she was still his first and only love years and years later. I know that this trope is not exclusive to Korea, but it is used incredibly often in Kdramas (far more so than in Japanese or Chinese dramas as far as I can tell), especially in the variation of children being separated young and still holding onto that love beyond all others no matter what. (Good god, in Spring Waltz the heroine turned down Daniel Henney for her first love! Admittedly he was a famous concert pianist but still...) Is there any culturally specific reason why? Are there good books or articles in English that explore this and similar tropes in Kdramas?

*My Girl and Bad Love both come to mind, but this isn't that common in my experience.
posted by lesbiassparrow to Media & Arts (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'm not so sure that it's only Korean melodramas that do that. There are a lot of Western stories that use this trope too -- the For Better or For Worse comic strip being a recent example (and yes, I know how lame it is that that's the first example that has sprung to mind for me).
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:43 AM on June 14, 2012 [3 favorites]

The obligatory TV Tropes links:

First Love
A variant: First Girl Wins
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:50 AM on June 14, 2012

In terms of social utility, in a context of arranged marriages it might actually serve to stabilize such marriages by making the prospect of finding someone you love much more than you love your current partner effectively hopeless, so you're better off staying with them.

posted by jamjam at 11:51 AM on June 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

Noticed this trope too. Korean dramas tend portray relationships extremely ideally. Namely, a couple never grows tired of each other or has strains in their relationship-- the only thing separating them are external circumstances. (star-crossed lovers trope)

jamjam's theory is interesting too. Although another trope is that the character abandons their current "grown-up" partner for their first love. The trope also includes the first love being flawless too...

Additionally, Asian dramas seem obsessed with having a child stage, separation, 8 years later, an adult one. Then everything comes to a nice resolution as they find each other and have a "full circle" kind of ending. I guess it's all just very ideal.

Where you watching The Moon that Embraces the Sun?
posted by ichomp at 12:04 PM on June 14, 2012

My mother would say that it's because "first/greatest love" stories are invariably the most heartbreakingly poignant, and Koreans take a back seat to no other culture when it comes to producing monumentally tearjerking entertainment. I remember taking her to see "Titanic," and her dry-eyed response was "What's the big deal? If you want to see something really sad, watch a Korean soap opera."
posted by El Sabor Asiatico at 12:44 PM on June 14, 2012 [3 favorites]

Wild ass guess: because first loves lost hurt the most, so we enjoy seeing what could have been.
posted by gjc at 1:06 PM on June 14, 2012

Nostalgia seems to me to be a much stronger theme in Korean culture than in the English-speaking cultures. See also all the Korean film/literature/TV/popular song about how your ancestral village has your heart, etc.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:49 PM on June 14, 2012

For many Koreans, nostalgia/lost love/childhood longing isn't just a drama trope, it's every waking day of their lives ever since their country got split in two. This schism is deeply ingrained in the psyche of most Koreans, even if newer generations seem to have moved on. It's natural that themes of loss, separation and reunion will be heavily mined in any storytelling medium, but especially tear-jerking soaps.
posted by war wrath of wraith at 7:50 PM on June 14, 2012 [4 favorites]

In China I know some girls are looked down on for being dirty, or used if they break up with their first boyfriend, so there is a lot of pressure to stay with the first guy.

Here is an American movie similar to My girl, it's called "Waiting for Forever"

posted by crawltopslow at 8:42 PM on June 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

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