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On Returning to K-Drama, the Glue Bringing My Mom and Me Close Together

Before Squid Game became an international phenomenon and put K-dramas on the world map, audiences in Asian countries including Vietnam were enthralled by Boys Over Flowers, The Medical Brothers, Terms of Endearment, Dae Jang Geum — all of which are classics that we still look upon with nostalgic affection.

My mother and I were deeply invested in K-dramas in the mid-2000s. If we found a series we both liked, we would remind each other to turn on the TV at airtime so as not to miss a single episode. Once the whole series had concluded, we would hunt down a bootleg DVD copy to rewatch it, often together. We would laugh at the subpar voiceover and weird Vietnamized names.

Growing up, a love of K-dramas was one of the few similarities Mom and I shared, making it a precious bonding opportunity that bridged a wide generational gap. We had incredibly different tastes when it comes to entertainment; she liked Vietnamese TV series, which were always too cheesy and absurd for my taste. I liked Disney Channel and American TV series, which are in a language she doesn’t understand with no voiceover, often featuring plots that are too complex or explicit. K-dramas were where we met each other halfway. 

By high school, I had gradually grew bored of K-drama’s predictable plots, stereotypical characters and frequent use of cancer to add drama. The often histrionic performances that were once funny became tiresome. When Netflix was first introduced in Vietnam, I switched completely to American TV shows which struck me as more intelligent and interesting. For two or three years, I abandoned K-drama in favor of these English-speaking series. As a result, Mom and I spent significantly less time together laughing and talking.

I haven't been paying any attention to the new and trendy K-drama series like I once had, until Netflix added much more Korean-language content. Out of curiosity, I started watching again and saw how dramatically the genre had changed. It has grown out of overuse of cancer; and tragic, predictable love triangle setups, instead introducing more diverse themes with greater focus on visual quality and acting performance. K-drama is no longer just a go-to choice for sappy love stories. 

These days, I enjoy well-made K-dramas among other series in different languages. But sappy K-dramas are still great when I want something fun, and lighthearted that won’t leave me pondering the implications of after the series ends. More importantly, they remain an opportunity for Mom and I to spend time together, laugh, and be reminded of how much we both loved them back then. 

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