Thursday, November 3, 2016

Jumping into the Korean Wave

Over the last 3 years, I got hit with a lethal 1-2 combo punch: Korean TV shows and music, AKA K-dramas and K-pop. I’m here to say that I’m a better person for it. And 20 pounds lighter, as well!

OK, get over your giggles because I’m going to stick with this declaration and make my case. The world-wide wave of Korean culture and arts (even Noodles & Company recently featured Korean BBQ Meatballs with Gochujang Sauce on their menu) that had its very beginnings in the late 1990s finally came to my door during a lull in my Japanese anime binging, I mean, viewing, in early 2014.

I was hooked almost instantly. Thanks to readily available streaming services with rapid subtitling, I was soon diving into all sorts of stories, characters and lives from the other side other world. I was intrigued by differences but comforted with similarities as well. Love, humor, revenge and longing speak to all of us and I thoroughly enjoy watching Korean actors and actresses ply their craft in ways that are substantially less explicit than in the United States television scene. Shows like Kill Me Heal Me, Dear My Friends, Signal and Healer speak volumes about the human spirit.

While K-dramas make extensive (some would say, excessive) use of theme music, I resisted diving into Korean Pop (K-pop) for quite a while. I viewed myself as too old and the industry as too industrialized to mesh well. Perhaps all that streaming helped make this middle-aged woman’s body go south but eventually I realized I needed to exercise regularly again and that’s when I entered this other auditory world.

Knowing almost nothing, I chose a Korean Pop station on Google Play and began thumbing up and down. Some artists confirmed my original fears. Fairly quickly, however, I was blown away by a number of bands that exude energy, drive, intensity and fun that make a workout session (almost) fly by. There are both boy bands (BTS’s Dope, Bigbang’s Tonight) and girl bands ( 2NE1’s Ugly, Davichi’s Beside Me) with tunes that can drive you through a floor, weights or running routine. Bands like BTS have amazing dance moves and English/Korean lyrics that, even when fully translated to English, don’t make you rush to cover your kids’ ears and eyes. In fact, their lyrics can be quite inspiring.

Sharing our lives and daily routines brings us together. We can do that now easier than we’ve ever been able to. Whatever culture it may be, give it a try! You’ll be richer for the experience.

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