It felt like I was the last woman standing.

All these years, I had never caved in to the call of K-drama. I lived in Seoul, South Korea, for two years in the early 1990s. It was another life, I was a young wife and mother of a toddler. When I left in 1993, I never returned. It was a happy time, it was a sad time too. It was a very different South Korea from what it is today.

The doors opened for Hallyu (Korean Wave) in 1999 when the government put in place several reforms that helped boost its economy into the force that it is today.

Korean Wave refers to the global popularity of South Korea’s cultural economy exporting pop culture, entertainment, music, TV dramas and movies. To the uninformed, which includes myself before this writing, “Hallyu” is a Chinese term which, when translated, literally means “Korean Wave.” A collective term used to refer to the spectacular growth of Korean culture and pop culture.

Twenty-one years late to the K-drama party, there is now no turning back. I intend to make it part of my life. It has become one of the best stress-busters I have discovered.

Rave reviews

What convinced me to finally cave in to this year’s biggest hit on Netflix, “Crash Landing on You” (CLOY) were the numerous comments of friends on social media, Facebook in particular, extolling the virtues of CLOY. I was struck by the number of male friends, and people whose opinions I respect, doctor friends etc.—all raving about the show. “Hmmm. There must be something here,” I thought. When I asked friends on Facebook to give me one good reason I should watch CLOY, two replies stood out for me. One, “because it will make your heart happy” (thank you Ina and Vladz), and two, because according to my friend, Boboy, “You’ll go to bed with a smile on your face.” For me, those two reasons were more than enough. To stay healthy, one needs to keep a happy heart, and well, who doesn’t want to go to bed with a smile, right?

I completely got hooked because of three things—the amazing and engaging storytelling—the way these writers make us feel so deeply for the story and the characters is something I have never encountered; the way positive values are woven into the storyline and presented in each scene without being preachy or corny; and the rich dialogue with words that touch the depths of one’s heart and soul.

What matters

In CLOY, and I suppose in the other K-dramas, you will see and feel what you need to see and feel. The stories remind you of what matters in life.

The storyline extols the virtues of unconditional love, friendship, duty and honor. A deep love of family and nation is a thread that runs through the 16-episode series. CLOY provides us all a respite from the sadness and stress that daily life brings. It makes us aspire to be better.

A dear friend, who is going through a challenging time, said it best, “I feel like Hyun Bin is holding my hand through this transition period. K-drama is giving me something else to focus on as I wrap up this chapter of my life. Instead of being a sobbing mess as I pack 17 years of my life in boxes, I’m distracted by the need to pay attention to subtitles. My mind seeks refuge in the promise of the kind of love and passion that I hope to find in my next chapter. As fantastical as the premises are, the stories give a glimmer of hope. They are preparing my heart for what’s to come. They strengthen my resolve to seek what it is that I’m looking for.”

Sibling love

Because I’m a writer, I’m a sucker for dialogue that moves and inspires. Through the entire series, I would pause the episode to take copious notes. Here are some of my favorites. Warning: some spoilers ahead.

“The wind needs to keep moving for me to fly.” This line by Yoon Se-ri, the lead female character, just before she embarked on what would be her greatest adventure, resonated with me. Often we are afraid of the winds of change but the truth is, we need those winds to help us break out, or leave our comfort zones and take us into places we would never imagine. Next time, change comes, face it, and welcome all the new beginnings that come with it.

“A second feels like an eternity if you don’t know if your family member is alive.” Sibling love and rivalry is a running theme throughout CLOY. Captain Ri and Yoon Se-ri’s concept of family love are polar opposites. Watching this series will either make you appreciate your siblings more, or if you already have a fractured relationship, it can trigger deep-seated emotions and make you think more deeply about the future.

“The world isn’t a flower field. You shouldn’t be good to people who beat you up. Those who throw punches don’t know how much it hurts. Only those who take punches do.” The world is filled with bullies. We can build a better world by choosing to be kind.

Long-distance relationships

“We don’t have to live together to be in love. True love is engraved in our hearts.” I always like to say that Captain Ri is the benchmark of a long-distance relationship (LDR) so those in an LDR will absolutely love the dynamics between the two star-crossed lovers in CLOY. Real love, after all, knows not the barriers of time or space. And in today’s world, there is always FaceTime.

“In times of crisis what holds us together and gives us strength are happy memories or thoughts of those we love.” In times of crisis or sadness, what helps keep us afloat are precisely the memories and good thoughts of those we hold dear. After a loss or a separation, looking back on those moments provides great respite from the sadness.

“You shouldn’t yearn for your first love for too long. It’s not good to drag on with anything. Whether it be people or love. Love from afar for a brief moment. That’s the best for everyone.” Essentially, what is being said here is that when it’s over, it’s over and one must move forward. Keep the good memories in your heart and continue to love them from afar and wish them well.

“The person you should never forget in your life is not someone you hate but someone you like. While keeping someone you hate in your heart, your heart will be scarred and hurt. It will only be your loss. Keep only people you like in your heart. Only then can you eat well and sleep well.” Forgive and let go. It is the letting go that keeps one’s heart happy, and in the process, with time, forgiveness comes.

Cheesy

“Those who love each other will always meet again. No matter how far you are, you’ll always come back to each other. True love will always return.” Sounds cheesy but it’s true. This doesn’t just pertain to romantic love but also to friendship and family relations. I’ve lived long enough to see this happen in my clients, friends and in my own life. We love people, we lose people due to circumstances, events, choices. But always, those who are meant to be in our lives will always find their way back, or we always find our way back, no matter how long it takes.

“I hope you won’t miss the small happiness that you can and must find in your everyday life.” In spite of everything that’s happening in the world, or in your life, happiness is something we choose every day. Life is too short to waste on moments being angry or sad about silly things. There is grace to be found everywhere. Some days you just need to be still and look a little harder, but it’s there waiting for you.

Yoon Se-ri: What do I do if I miss you so much?

Captain Ri: Just wait, and pray desperately.

Light in the dark

You asked if you can meet someone you miss that way. You can. There is a beautiful scene, and it is my biggest favorite of all (SPOILER!) where Se-ri is lost on a dark and lonely road, in a place completely alien to her. She stands in the middle of the road as people rush past her, looking anxious and afraid. Against the dark skies, a light emerges, and there he is walking toward her from the other end of the road his hand holding up a candle, lighting up the darkness, illuminating the way toward each other.

Sometimes in life we lose our way, and by grace, we meet people who show us the way back through the light they bring into our lives. In that scene, I imagine Se-ri must have prayed for her Captain to return and find her. And he did amid all obstacles and odds. I love the way he assured her—“Just wait, and pray desperately…” Captain Ri, a man of honor, duty, valor and faith. The loved ones we miss or long for, we keep in our hearts, and meet in prayer.

What’s next after CLOY? Well, there’s a whole list of shows I’m eager to watch, maybe basic Korean lessons, and perhaps a long-overdue trip to Korea after COVID-19 departs. INQ

Email storiesbykate@gmail.com

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