Media Watch: Korean Dramas – How the Media Creates or Changes Perceptions

Language Skills

I started watching these shows, since Hulu added this category. What’s interesting to me, is that I’m beginning to understand what the characters are saying in Korean. Words are floating around in my head, because they’re repeated so often. I can read a few words in some languages, but I’ve never picked up a language as fast as this one. I’ve always viewed myself as foreign language impaired. I’ve had Spanish in school. I’ve listened to Spanish for years, and I still cannot make heads or tails out of most of it.

In the Korean Dramas, the people speak slow enough that I can tie the English subtitles to the spoken words. The dialogue isn’t complex, very long or involved. On occasion, some characters that supposedly spent time in the US, or are Americans, make a determined effort speak to English. Although badly. Nearly everyone mumbles words they need to enunciate.

Media Image is Everything

Since watching these programs, I’ve come to realize that they aren’t made just for a Korean audience. They are created with an awareness that the rest of the world will be paying attention.

These shows have given me a different impression of Koreans, as opposed to the ones I’ve been acquainted with here in the USA. Do I see the portrayals as realistic? I don’t think that’s the point of the programs. Whatever images there have been of Korean men, have been modified, if not overhauled, by these shows.

According to a Washington Post article (from 2006), the success of the revamped or enhanced image of Korean men have done the following:

In recent years, the wild success of male celebrities from South Korea — sensitive men but totally ripped — has redefined what Asian women wantGone are the martial arts movie heroes and the stereotypical macho men of mainstream Asian television.

…Yoshimura signed up last year with Rakuen Korea, a Japanese-Korean matchmaking service, to find her own Korean bachelor. And she is hardly alone. More than 6,400 female clients have signed up with the company…

In part, the new allure of Korean men can be traced to a larger phenomenon known as the “Korean Wave”…

…the number of foreign tourists traveling to South Korea leapt from 2.8 million in 2003 to 3.7 million in 2004. The bulk of the growth, South Korean tourism officials say, stemmed from Korean Wave-loving Asian women. Partial statistics for 2005 indicate the feminine tide has not yet let up.

For the South Koreanswho have long suffered discrimination in Japan and who have hardly been known as sex symbolsit all comes as something of a shock.

Entertainment industry leaders in Seoul credit the phenomenon to good marketing coupled with an uncanny response throughout Asia to the expressive nature of the South Koreans — long dubbed the Italians of Asia. A hearty diet and two years of forced military duty, industry leaders and fans insist, have also made young South Korean men among the buffest in Asia. Most important, however, has been the South Korean entertainment industry’s perfection of the strong, silent type on screen — typically rich, kind men with coincidentally striking looks and a tendency to shower women with unconditional love….

Throughout Asia and other countries, women are watching TV shows and movies to such an extent that they have become enamored of the fictional representation of a specific group of men. So here we have proof that there is a direct connection between a positive image of a group and the corresponding response to it.

What Some of the Guys Look Like

I find some of the Korean male actors smoking hot, some cute and others moderately good looking. Although I find the “fashion” on the shows rather odd looking, but hey, I congratulate men who aren’t afraid of being edgy.

Cha Seung Won

Cha Seung Won: He's able to look so different each time.
Jung Gyu Woon: I have yet to see a show where he doesn't end up fighting.


Kim Sung Soo: Love those lips. Puts my dirty mind into overdrive.


Kang Ji Hwan
Kang Ji Hwan: I love his nose.


Positive propaganda: is enhancing imagery to increase the desirability of a group.

The entertainment industry, basically the media, alone is responsible for the complete overhaul of the image of Korean men, so much so it has made the men hot commodities for the women who travel the country looking for one as a husband. It’s overturned reality and made such an indelible impression on women just from watching Korean Dramas.

In case you ever wonder why black women have negative, degrading stereotypical images, always remember to thank Hollywood and our media. Think about it the next time you think it’s important to embrace the “othering” of black women with those “keeping it real” negative images.

If anyone really wants to improve the desirability, popularity and increase of desire for black women: the best looking have to be highlighted, the most sophisticated has to be highlighted and the most engaging, lively and lovely ones have to be embraced.

Otherwise, we’re just shooting ourselves in the foot.

So, think about who you are embracing if the only thing they highlight about black women is constantly negative or off-putting. Those people aren’t doing you any favors. They’re deliberately sabotaging you.


Update: Korean Men Marriage Rates

I was asked to provide some data, so I dug up some stats. If they seem funky to anyone, please put up the correct numbers.

Throughout the world, more males than females are born. This imbalance is natural. However, in Asian countries it is exasperated by female reduction from sex selection in the womb (abortion), export adoption of girls, and other extreme methods. The result is a population of males outnumbering females. Based on the gender imbalance in Korea, social changes, population movement to urban areas, there are more men than women available and interested in marriage.

So, whom do Korean men marry? Funny enough, it turns out they marry all women. Although black women are a miniscule portion of the population in Korea, there are likely marriages between the two. With the USA having 1.3 plus million Koreans, it turns out that they are the East Asian men black women are most likely to marry. Certainly not in significant numbers overall, but it does happens.

And I’m just as surprised as y’all are by that information.

In 2005, 14% of all marriages in South Korea were marriages to foreigners (about 26,000 marriages); most were Korean men marrying other Asians. Government figures show the number of Koreans marrying foreign spouses increased from 4,710 in 1990 to 33,300 in 2009. And numbers are expected to continue rising. More than 100,000 women among South Korea’s 1.2-million foreign population are estimated to be foreign brides.


YouTube link: the marriage between a Korean man and an African American woman. The wedding is awesome; sexy and sweet too.


13 thoughts on “Media Watch: Korean Dramas – How the Media Creates or Changes Perceptions”

  1. Pop star Rain, who starred in Ninja Assassin is very handsome. Plus the IR pairing with Naomie Harris was nice.

    GoldenAh: That’s why I went to see it. The last quasi-pairing was Aaliyah and Jet Li, which wasn’t much of anything. Plus, Li was too old. I liked this film. It was much better. In my review on Ninja , I thought it was so weird how wooden Rain behaved, because the guy can really act.

    KDrama on has a show, Full House, where you can see Rain show off his stuff (unfortunately not the buff body), but the man has some serious acting range chops.

    Great to hear from you, Faith. 🙂

  2. Tee Pee stepped up when no one was producing anything. If we look at the body of his work, it’s all dramedy, and he filled a hunger for “churchified black soaps” that black women wanted to see.

    I don’t know if it was that no one was producing anything as much as it wasn’t mainstream (though I will concede your point about some of the black indie productions). The 80s and (early to mid) 90s seems to be the pinnacle of TV for blacks, in that we were shown as HUMAN BEINGS, with a range of experiences and backgrounds, rather than just walking stereotypes.

    But then, there was a lull in that type of programming, for whatever reason, and TP came along with his stage plays and built-in audience. That said, as I mentioned on WAOD
    , I don’t attribute the success TP has enjoyed in film and TV solely to black women. We’re too small of a group to be the BULK of the paying audience and TP has made hundreds of millions of dollars domestically. In my opinion, when someone becomes a mainstream success in the United States, it’s because a majority (in this instance, whites, among others) supports it. With regard to black womens’ image, his productions are along the same trajectory as The Help and Precious, which were also successful, particularly the former.

    I think it’s a challenge for black women collectively to take hold of our image in the US because we’re not a majority, and more importantly, never had a foothold in media control here (the bulk of black media was founded/owned by black men), which was why I wondered about black countries, who would presumably be more likely to own and shape their media. I’d forgotten about Nollywood, though!

    And if we point out what the problem is, black people act ignorant and pretend it’s about hating on Sheryl.

    Yeah…I don’t understand rebuttals of “Sheryl is educated, with graduate degree(s), etc.” Doesn’t that make her look worse? She’s a smart woman and CHOSE the image she projects. She CHOOSES to project a stereotypical image. And that’s her right to do so, but that doesn’t mean anyone has to co-sign that. Critical analysis doesn’t make one a hater.

    GoldenAh: Oh yes, I agree that those who are making TP richer now are non-black audiences. You are so dead-on correct about film and media. That has always been a male endeavor. So these horrid images of black women is something else we can thank black males for. ‘Cause they cannot say they’ve never been able to make films.

    Sheryl’s gotten the wrong kind of education, but like the Harvard grads that run BET it proves all that schooling doesn’t confer dignity, self-respect or common sense.

    I never expected to look back at those shows from the 80’s and 90’s and see them as “the good old days”. I really did expect things to get better.

    Our history with stereotypes is like that Greek character Sisyphus who has to keep pushing a rock up a mountainside after each time it rolls back down again…

  3. Asian men here in Atlanta (particularly Chinese and Korean)seem to be benefiting from this reinvention of their image. They are very confident and are not afraid to approach black women. I went to my favorite Korean-owned New Orleans-style seafood joint and saw the most attractive AM/BW pairing. The guy looked like the guys posted here. Buff and stylish.

    I wish that bw could see this kind of image reinvention. The last catalyst for change in the way the media viewed black folks had was the Cosby Show. Mainstream media will feed you the fact that they are only a handful of attractive or desirable bw on the planet. If their names aren’t Halle or Beyonce, there are no attractive bw let them tell it. A lot of times when there are opportunities for diversity, mainstream media still fails. Anyone, see that Sheryl Underwood has replaced Holly Robinson on the Talk? Sheryl Underwood?! They want to be able to hold on to the stereotypes.They want to keep them alive (just as much as TP). There is comfort in it for them.

    Also, I will check out some of these shows on Hulu.

    GoldenAh: Great point you’ve made here: self-confident men DO step to us. How is that not sexy? ‘Cause I have no patience with advice that we need to chase after any man. Initiating a light conversation is fine, but I don’t like this position that we should be treated different than other women, because we’re “difficult to approach”. So are many other races of women. If he’s interested, he’ll say something.

    Hollywood / media knows they can disrespect black women without consequences, or wont be refuted by other sources like another movie industry. Yeah, I saw about that messy switch-up regarding that talk show. It’s so blatant, eh? Point blank: these folks are evil. There’s just no dancing around it.

    And if we point out what the problem is, black people act ignorant and pretend it’s about hating on Sheryl. She can work, but she must be accompanied by all the other women on the show looking and acting the same way. My feeling is: if the host is a petite, fairly attractive skinny little thing, then so should all the other women.

    I’m not about supporting BW continuing to be the “other”. We must fit in with the rest of the women, and not be the weird standout.

    Watch out for those dramas now, they can be addictive! Ms. V. Charles talks about the addiction: quite funny. – easier to watch sometimes – information about the latest stuff

    Love the feedback, Likewaterforchocolat.

  4. I thought I would put my 2 cents in here since I currently live in Korea. There is def. a sense of pride in the Korean people, that they are starting to do better economically and as this article is saying,they are doing better representing themselves. Now every korean man doesn’t look like what you see in those pictures. However what i do love about them is their dedication to family. You see it everywhere. Oh and they can wear the hell out of a suit.

    If you should come Korea, you would think the whole country is in love because you will not miss a couple walking past you…however they only imitate what they see in movies, which brings me to my next point.

    In Korean, just about everywhere you will see Korean adveristisments, korean movie posters, etc. Everything is about uplifting their people. They make excuses and go find a mixed korean with white/black/any other race. They will only advirstise those who look like them.

    The women are not made out to be caricatures and the men are not made out to be sexless/ unromantic. It is a simple balance between men and women. Normal relationships.

    If I were to compare Korean media vs. Black media…Koreans win by far! There’s no doubting that.

    However there is a dark side to that factor, Koreans are obessed w/ white skin…just not on white people. I have come across whiting lotion and sun screen. There are Koreans w/ darker skin, but unfortunately they feel that they are not beautiful due the image that is portrayed of them. You won’t find a darker Korean in the dramas unless they are playing someone who is poor.

    In addition they have an obession with “small faces” as they call them (oval shaped faces) because many koreans have a wide face. Also I didn’t realize until I was teaching a group of kids, they are sensitive to eyes. they would prefert to have bigger eyes just like the western world. One of my students came up to me lamenting that her eyes were small and wished that they looked like mine. I simply told her that her eyes were beautiful and God made no mistake about making her eyes the way they were.

    Plastic surgery is another biggie. If you look at the before and after pics of many of the Korean stars you would not recognize them at all.

    One more thing about IR dating in KoreanI was surprised by how open they are about it. Oh course the women, are, but the men also have no problem dating a “foreigner”. However all Koreans would have another Korean as their first choice and then a foreigner.

    GoldenAh: I was watching a clip about Ward Hines going to Korea. It’s an amazing story. It sounds like the culture has changed when it comes to IR. His mother had a hard time, and when he came back with her they were treated like royalty. Of course, being famous in the US doesn’t hurt, but I suppose change does come from positive exposure.

    I like to travel, but heading to the Far East never interested me. I HATE long flights. Plus, I was suspicious. If I’m spending a lot of money to go someplace, I have no interest in funky 2nd or 3rd class treatment.

    So, I really appreciate hearing feedback and seeing clips about how we (black women) are treated over there, because the information has helped me changed my mind. I can put down a country or two on my travel list as places I wouldn’t mind checking out.

    Thank you so very much for your input about Korea, JQAbroad. 😀

    And folks need to peep your website too:

  5. YUM at the Korean men!

    @Betty Boo:
    I think some blacks are so insistent on being included in media and such that we miss the marketing aspect of it. That’s why you have otherwise sane people defending, say, Tyler Perry, since he at least “hires black actors and actresses, and will hopefully pave the way for other black directors/screenwriters/producers.” Never mind that he does the same thing white Hollywood does – draw from the same well most of the time (so it’s not like all of these unknowns who were toiling in obscurity suddenly get more exposure). And never mind that he only blazes the trail for more productions just like his, not for more diverse productions for blacks. So if it is not in the likeness of Madea or some other kind of struggle/pain porn, Hollywood probably won’t greenlight it.

    Anyway, there is such a thing as bad publicity, which is why I’d rather be ignored than negatively marketed just for the sake of seeing someone who looks like me on TV/film.

    I think South Korea is a great example of a country that decided to take control of its image. Makes me wonder if there are majority black countries who have done something similar.

    GoldenAh: As BET has shown, even when black people are at the helm (and they are Ivy League graduates) they cannot come up with anything besides garbage. I honestly wonder what’s wrong with these people. Why so much self-loathing?

    Tee Pee stepped up when no one was producing anything. If we look at the body of his work, it’s all dramedy, and he filled a hunger for “churchified black soaps” that black women wanted to see. He found a niche and made it work. Plus, the artistic “high brow” material produced in obscurity by black directors never make any money, because frankly the stuff isn’t all that riveting or good.

    I would rather not see another black woman on TV and film just so I can be spared the kind of depictions that are coming out these days. I don’t care if they say they need to eat, they can do some other kind of work. Folks need to reclaim their dignity, otherwise they’re no better than crack-whores.

    Nigeria (Nollywood) makes a lot of films like India (Bollywood). And there are a few other African countries trying to make headway with a film industry. I used to watch Indian films, but I cannot take all that dancing, and the content is a little too repetitive and restrictive for me (along with not enough English subtitles).

    I guess the Koreans have figured out a successful formula that makes their entertainment worth watching. I believe having a muscular bare chested smoking hot guy, with a seriously deep deep voice, every couple of episodes doesn’t hurt. 🙂

    Great to hear from you, Daphne.

  6. Those Korean dudes you posted are hot. 🙂

    Very interesting post Betty. Thanks for writing it. I don’t know why folks (especially “us”) don’t realize the power of the media, both negative and positive.

    GoldenAh: The bodies of some of these guys are ridiculous and sick. And it’s amazing how deep their voices are too. {{Drooling}}

    Thanks for stopping by, Lisa. 🙂

  7. @Betty you said:

    “Since watching these programs, I’ve come to realize that they aren’t made just for a Korean audience. They are created with an awareness that the rest of the world will be paying attention.”

    YES!!!!! That is why it annoys me greatly when people especially those in the black community defend things like Soul Plane, some of the Tyler Perry buffonery, and the objectifying of black women through the hip-hop/rap videos (but unfortunately for every one black girl who will not allow herself to be objectified there are 100 behind her willing to do it and sleep with the crew too!…smh) and other venues with the exception of a few voices as a whole dismiss it as entertainment and continue to support it. They finance the foolishness and support the sabotaging imagery.

    My question is can anything realistically be done that will make flood of positive propaganda of black women more powerful than Madea, Saphhire, Jezebel, and Mammy and re-vamp the black woman’s public image like it did the Korean men?

    GoldenAh: It is the drug dealer ethos: doesn’t matter to them how much damage they cause, they only care about how much money they make. And no matter how negative the content, black people are fixated on this stuff like it’s crack. The “keeping it real” crowd is so brainwashed that positive uplifting images are probably viewed as “insulting”.

    Well, the Korean government and entertainment industry seems to have an overall agenda to “lift their people” up. They have a specific quota devoted to creating content about themselves versus letting Hollywood, and its white-washing, dominate. We don’t have that here. We’re on our own, and we’re up against a tidal wave of damaging self-perpetuating idiocy.

    Perhaps the best bet is to say we’re not the same group of people and work up from there. Leave the crabs in the barrel.

    Since our resources are meager whenever we find a positive image, let’s highlight it and pass it along.

    Thanks for commenting, Betty Boo. 🙂

  8. Adding: the cussing and fussing does come with voice overs for the psycho-dramatic cartoons that I create, not in my “Dee Dee TV” girl-voice. Thus I am not considered angry nor loud. Heh.


    Not to toot my own horn, ok I will! For the reasons you note & more, since 1995 I have dedicated 16 years of producing a weekly cable access TV show in SF starring moi and my cocoa skin. The artsy, fun loving Black bohemian chick! The press and fans ate it up. Looking at my awards on the shelf now. I get very buck-wild womanist while looking very damn pretty and guess what? My BIGGEST fans are….. BM! Why? I tell it like it is while looking pretty and feminine. Lots of pink feather boas, pretty makeup, never black clothes and no wild cussing & fussing.

    More Black women need to create broadcast media, public access/training is very low cost. I say do that with YouTube. I learned the power of TV is TREMENDOUS. Now, for a few months I’ve been on sabbatical from the show till November 2011, but everywhere I go, once they see my face or hear my “Dee Dee TV” voice I get love for everybody cause I have given them a positive perception of BW… my very own agit-prop.

    Which is why I will arm-wrestle anyone who dogs Oprah 🙂

    GoldenAh: Awesome. I think that’s great. I bet it’s fun too. I admit I know zero about public access / TV. But as you’ve said YouTube can give creative people a wonderful forum.

    Always toot your own horn… I like people who do. 😀

    Great to hear from you, Dee Dee.

  10. This is interesting post Miss Betty, especially that article you quoted. But the information that is missing for me is has the average Korean man’s dating fortune increased? That would be the clincher for me.

    GoldenAh: Good point, Sherry. I would think that with the large number of women joining dating sites specifically for Korean men, along with visiting the country it would make a difference. I don’t know if they were hurting for women before the Korean Wave occurred.

    I’ll see if there’s something more recent addressing this phenomena. (I’m slow, so it will take a while.) 😀

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