Racism - an "invisible" subject in k-drama

Oh, ok… I got confused with the drama with LJS!

well again you people have got me going, I do see the discrimination of women a whole lot in these Asian dramas and movies all I could think of is their upbringing, how they were raised and all. could we say people of different cultures are looked down like say us Americans?

oh man I hope not! I have really gotten "attached to these dramas and movies, explored their culture and history. but to think I am prejudiced. I do know and realize We aren’t so perfect, with our history of racial and other things in our history.

But to see and hear what the Asians did to their children way back when really sad. and here we are in the 21st century and still have problems with race & culture. I could name some, but all of you know it.

we end this bu starting with us/me. yes, I do admit some hesitancy of mingling with other people of different races, yes I am working on that one. I do have a lot of Asian friends, afro American, Spanish, also. we do enjoy each others company and have learned a lot from each other. The Spanish food, next in line with the Asian food. Now soul food? so good too

I hope one day that we all can do that. so when we do watch these shows, just remember the culture and what they were taught, hey, we women are getting our freedom, we arent chattle anymore, pieces of furniture. Not just the women, but the children to ,so we all in some way or other" Its a small world after all" per Walt Disney
and I really hope one day the color of our skin doesn’t matter.

I’m watching Heirs, and Yes, it’s just like that, but I think everyone, poor or rich, has a difficult life. The poor ones struggle to improve their lives, while the rich ones have the entire Universe on their shoulder. Of course, I’m talking about the younger generation. The old folks are set in their Stone Age ways, and there’s nothing you can do about it. I think that’s what makes Kdramas so great… Young people doing their best to take charge of their own life.

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I can’t connect what you’re saying here with our comment about CORPORAL ABUSE. I was talking about a person has no right to put their hands on other people. You see this low class behavior that promotes violence in K-drama and they want to make it seem like is FUNNY. It makes me mad and uncomfortable.

Here in US a Chinese owner of a company beat severely a Hispanic employee for doing a mistake at his job sending him to the hospital. By the grace of Karma, everything was recorded in his own surveillance cameras. Right now, he’s doing time in jail besides all the millions he had to pay in compensations, court fees, etc…

Actually, I wanted to comment on the whole social class difference in Kdrama, but I’m not really sure how this site/forum works, so I must have messed up.

If physical abuse bothers you so much – and I completely understand – then please stay away from historical Kdramas or Sageuk as they are called. The violence in some of them is no joke.

Violence is one thing (although I do abhor it too), and it is expected in action dramas, thrillers, horror, and sageuks (either wounds or torture).
But when we’re talking about abuse it’s a less well-defined thing. As for instance in a couple, in a teacher-pupil relationship (I’ve done a lot of online research on physical punishment in Korea, the situation is still appalling in many places) and abuse from parents to children which in k-dramas is pictured as “normal”, “funny”, “an expression of love and concern” (really?)
I don’t know if you’ve watched “Another Oh Hye Young”. Beautiful drama, by the way, I warmly recommend it. Well, the heroine’s mother was shown as loving her to bits, and yet she was extremely abusive. It was not just an affectionate slap on the shoulders, it was really beating her up. And the daughter was in her late 20s or early 30s.
In “Five Children”, we see a mother in her thirties shown as very tender and loving, with a wonderful relationship with her son. Yet, when he does something she deems inappropriate at school, she takes out the cane and he prepares stoically to endure the caning of his lower legs. And another mother, of a 35-year old son, also gives him a strong beating when she discovers his girlfriend is pregnant.
Same in “Father is Strange”. These are not action dramas, but romance and family dramas!

One doesn’t mind violence so much when it comes from a murderer, a heartless noble in old times punishing his slaves, a soldier, or a person taking revenge for the murder of his loved ones…
I mean, I still don’t like watching it, but from this kind of character it’s expected and understandable, so, although it disturbs you visually, still you are not surprised or appalled in the same way as you are when violence is condoned and expected, done by a supposedly loving parent or an educator of the 21th century.

You get the difference, don’t you?

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irmar, we meet again. :slight_smile:

I totally get it, but as a disclaimer, I grew up in a place that’s very similar to Korea, so my perspective is biased.
The mother punishes her children usually because they are naughty, even pulling the cane if necessary, and if that’s not divine punishment, then I don’t know what is. Really, it’s out of love and concern, not some sick pleasure in beating them up. True love isn’t just about being nice. It’s also about making you be nice. Truthfully, I wasn’t very nice growing up, constantly fighting with my brother and behaving badly, but a few slaps from my mother, who really is a wonderful person, made me realise that I should correct myself. I’m a better person thanks to her. :smiley:

I guess you read between the lines or pick and chose whatever you want to say. I clearly stated I’m very picky with the dramas I watch and those with extreme physical abuse, I do avoid.

Thankfully, irmar made it clear as to what I was trying to point out all this time. Thank you very much, irmar.

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@adrianmorales Thank you.

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Please forgive me for my previous comment. It’s been a long day for me. I’m usually not like this. I hope you have a wonderful day.

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It’s okey been there, done that myself and I understand.

. I want you to know that I was severely abused by my mother as a form of ‘‘discipline’’ and I don’t feel she made me a better person. What made me a better person was to make a promise to myself that my children would never go through what I went through. I raised my kids with no corporal punishment and my kids are praised by everyone, very respectful, and wonderful human beings.

I think that is why so much violence in Asian dramas turns me off and many times angers me (I can’t stand the scenes where the parent hits hard their child) some of this scenes make me cry.

I used to love Asian dramas until I saw this scenes way too often in them. The fact that they sugar coated as a funny scene, offends me even more.

Have a wonderful rest of the week and sincerely, thank you


You should have a talk with my son.
He was really nasty with his little sister when he was young and yes, he did get some slaps.
I stopped when I saw that it had the exact opposite result. It made him hurt, resentful, bitter and more rebellious. And he hated his sister even more, and bullied her even more, no matter what I did.
He still resents it, although I’ve asked for forgiveness.

Parent-child (or teacher-child) abuse is about hitting someone who is weaker than you, who cannot defend him/herself, because you are bigger and stronger. This is wrong no matter what.
You’re also giving a bad example, teaching the child that it’s ok to beat someone just because you are stronger/you have power and you can get away with it. Maybe that’s the reason of the exaggerated bullying in Japanese and Korean schools? And afterwards, in the workplace? They do to others as others have done to them.

And your anger shows a weakness, that as a parent/educator you have no other way of making the child see his actions are bad. It shows your impotence and frustration because of your impotence. I read an interview of Korean teachers who, commenting about the new laws of no direct physical punishment in school, were wondering “Without this, how can we enforce discipline?”

I’ve heard that people who were abused as children can turn out in one of two ways:
a) they perpetuate the abuse because they think that’s the right thing to do.
b) they want to make sure it doesn’t happen again when they raise their own family.


Tell your daughter to call her big brother, “oppa.” Hopefully, your boy will not only be flattered, but he will also develop a sense of responsibility and care for his little sister, as her oppa. I’m a Kdrama addict, so I hope you’re not all that surprised by my suggestion.

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I’m glad that in lieu of your bad experiences you grew up to be such a fine individual and mother. You know what, though ? I don’t believe in your promise. With or without those experiences, you would have raised your children in the same manner. You’re probably wondering how I know this… Well, you were born with a good heart. I can tell.
Anyway, I think you should stay away from Kdrama, especially since they affect you so much. Taiwanese shows are gaining momentum, so give them a try. Just a suggestion. Take care.

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Now they are adults, and live in different countries. Their relationship is much much better as a result.

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Thank you for your kind words. I really do stay away from many Asian dramas, but I also do subtitles from English to Spanish or viceversa.

Although, I always see the first episode and decide from there if I want to do my volunteer work there or not.

I do love Taiwanese drama, and I have worked in many of them as a Spanish subber. They are more tone down, but viki site stopped offering more of those (I have seen most of the one’s I like in here so far). take care

3 observations.

  1. The only time I see multi-race issues is when drama writers use US or other Western nation citizens of color, particularly in a scene depicted in the US urban area, as typical “thugs.” That sort of casting is done with balance (people of color in postive roles) in current Western production protocols, and without that balance perpetuates a racial stereotype.

  2. Having said that, a more pressing issue is the virtual non-existence of starring and top supporting roles to Korean, Japanese, Chinese, and light-skinned Asian entities (whom I’ll refer to as “East Asians”), while relegating “Asians of color” (my term, if a more appropriate term should be used please correct me) to those of non-important roles. The only non-East Asian I’ve seen in a major supporting role was Bangladeshi Bang Dae-han, who played a team member of the workplace group that the main star was head of. Even then, his team members wished he would find a “nice, south Asian woman to date,” implying that dating East Asians or other women from ethnicities is considered verboten in Kdrama-land.

  3. I realize that the primary focus for such dramas are females, particularly those in the mid-teen to early-middle aged demographic, so that may be another issue. Kdrama’s certainly take far more license than real life would permit, granted, but for an increasingly-international and cosmopolitan viewing audience, this racial issue may have to be addressed, perhaps sooner rather than later. Perhaps by including someone like African-American Whitney (search her on Viki), whose Korean is very fluent as well as highly colloquial, can be an asset to a drama, perhaps breaking a huge barrier. Writers?

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These are insular countries for the most part. You’re Chinese, Han Chinese or you’re Japanese or you’re Korean and the first check is: do you look East-Asian and light skinned enough? Second check is how well you speak the language. And if you can pass those two tests all the doors in the world open in that country for you.

As for TV shows - it is kind of sad. Assuming they get a role where they are part of the show (and not just used as props to show off how international and “classy” a corporate event is)… non-Korean women are treated like conquests for men, or they’re part of the ‘evil’ side in an action movie the men must overcome or they’re escorts. Non-Korean men are either abusive, weird or completely non-threatening for the Korean men on the show.

I think the ultimate slap in the face has to be To Be a Better Man from China. You would think America is a place where white and black people are just waiting for honest hardworking Chinese people to scam them, hurt them, abuse them, rape them (if they’re women), etc… I was laughing through these scenes because almost none of them had American or Canadian accents for that matter. You had some Italian guy pretending to be an American cop out to extort our poor male lead.

I wish these writers, directors and producers would be a little more careful when writing minority characters. You will find the most open people in the world in these places (like America). I remember going to Washington D.C. and going through some ghettos on my way to the train each day… never had a problem once. Everyone was extremely helpful and went out of their way to be helpful. That’s not what you get when you go to Korea or China or Japan unless you know someone. That one person will try to take care of you as best they can but people on the street - even if you can speak the language? Not very helpful by comparison.

I’ll add another last note here: The drama themes where they travel a foreign country (France for example) are pretty funny. They always meet another Chinese man/woman or another Korean man/woman and then you have romance fly. Compare that to non-East Asian countries and you would get an American woman meeting a German man or a Swedish woman meeting an American man, etc… I’m a lot less critical of this as long as the non-Koreans or non-Chinese they meet aren’t stereotyped to all hell.

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I was not referring to that at all. You refer to racial preferences when casting their usual romances or action or melodramas. I was referring to the scripts. The fact that in the scripts you don’t see anywhere how Koreans view other races (let’s call them races for now, although today they try to eliminate this useful word).
I also didn’t mean that I’d expect a screenplay to have racism as its main issue. But at least include it, give it some space instead of ignoring it as if it didn’t exist.
As for instance “Father is strange” included the huge problems pregnant Korean women face in the workplace, to the point of being fired or encouraged to quit. It’s not the drama’s main plot but it gets extensive attention for a few episodes, enough to make the viewers think. (A more extensive treatment of the subject, extended to a pregnant unwed mother, is in “I Do I Do”).
Remarriage of divorcees with children was clearly one of the themes in “Gentleman’s Dignity” and, by the way, it wasn’t shown in a progressive way. If you don’t mind a mild spoiler click to read the blurred part. It was shown as a real problem that the leading lady was right to think was an obstacle to her marrying her love.“I don’t feel confident in raising someone else’s child” (the “child” was almost an adult). Infuriating! Whereas in “Five Children” the issue was shown in a much more sensitive way. The backwards mentality was mouthed by the traditionalist mother-in-laws, where it was realistic.
Or some school dramas which tackle school bullying not just as a small but normal everyday occurrence but as a real horrible problem which can lead to deaths (only one, “Angry Mom”, had it as its main theme).
As I said in my original post, the only time I saw racism as a main subject matter was “A Wonderful Moment” a.k.a. “My Little Hero”.

No, I would not like at all to have a person of another ethnicity as a main lead of a K-drama as you suggest**. We watch k-drama to see Korean people act in Korean stories amidst Korean culture in a Korean setting. If I want to see an Italian, French, Spanish, Indian or Black American hero, then I can see European, Bollywood or Hollywood content (which I do). And especially not Whitney, that pathetic person who makes clown faces thinking she’s funny. I was asked to segment in that team and I declined with thanks because I couldn’t stand her antics. (Plus I like at least the 4 leading characters to be at least passably good-looking since we’ll be looking at them most of the time, often in close-up, for 16 hours). If I want to see regular or ugly people I can always talk to my neighbours. It’s bad enough that k-dramas focus on the looks of the male leads only while extremely plain girls with elf ears get a pass without even acting skills to make up for it. Actually if the person is a very good actor I stop caring about looks completely.
To go back to foreign actors. The German professor, the handsome black guy (we are not told his nationality) in charge of student security and the Thai student in “Moorim school” were perfectly okay, because they were not main characters, and, most importantly, they were organic to the story about an international school. They were not trying to pass as regular Koreans, their being foreign had a valid reason.

And I get very angry with the pressures on American media where you always have to put the token number of black people, and for every negative black character there should be a positive black character. (Coincidentally this doesn’t happen for other minorities like Italians, Latinos, Chinese, nor, for that matter, for white characters - there could be a film full of negative white characters and a negative white main lead and nobody would protest). Like in that recent film, “The Beauty and the Beast”, where a small 18th century French village was full of black people in regular jobs with nobody finding it strange. I get it that it’s a fairytale, but still it was jarringly ludicrous, especially since we all knew it was done not for artistic purposes, not because it was a quirky vision of the creators, but because of external dictates.
Going the colour-blind way works only in operas and musicals, especially in romantic operas, where realism is banned anyway and where (if you’re not sitting on the first 8 rows) everyone is tiny as an ant. In cinema and TV with their close-ups it doesn’t work that well. And not in realist operas like Comencini’s La Boème with Barbara Hendricks. They went into great lengths to bring the action a century later to justify her presence, but…no! It also doesn’t work in things like European fairytales, which are already ingrained in our imaginations with a certain look.

Of course this is my personal preference, everyone is free to disagree.

I can think of at least one very popular Korean historic drama that focused on a positive female role, Dae Jang Geum, who became the first female physician to the royal family. On the other hand almost all of the historic dramas depict the Han Chinese as the bad guys. Although I will let that slide since from the Korean perspective it matches history. Also, High Kick Through the Roof, and High Kick 3: The Revenge of the Short Legged feature a Canadian-Korean actor in a prominent role. I am sure there are other Korean media that have positive messages of diversity. Some are mentioned in prior postings in this page.