Thursday, October 25, 2018

Standing Up for Abuse Victims...Three Things Literally Anyone Can Do.

I have been working with children and teenagers in some capacity for more than 20 years.  Though abuse in any form is horrifying, there is nothing, in my opinion, more vile that the abuse of a child.  I have worked with children from all kinds of abusive situations over the years and while the abuse affected each one somewhat differently, the one thing they all have in common is that they were forever changed by what happened to them.  They would never be able to go back to the way they looked at the world before.

Sadly no country is immune to this issue.  No culture has figured out how to eradicate this problem.  So, when we hear of abuse we want to stand up for those who can not stand up for themselves.  Here in the United States, if you have certain jobs (such as a teacher or pastor) you are what is called a "mandatory reporter" and if we even suspect that a child or teenager is being abused we are required to report our suspicions.  So we try very hard to watch out for those who are in our care.  But even so, the problem is still there and shows no signs of going away. It can feel like a losing battle. But then you hear a story that is so heinous that you simply can't look away from it and you realize that you MUST find a way to do something.  For me, the story of what has happened to The East Light was one of those moments.

If you are unfamiliar with The East Light, they are a Korean Pop Group that debuted in 2016.  The members currently range in age from 15-18.   Last week it came out that the group had been verbally and physically abused by their producer and CEO for nearly 4 years.  That means that when the abuse started the ages of the group ranged from around 11-14 years old.  They were children!  According to Korean culture you are not an adult until you are 20 so even now they are all STILL minors.  The leader of the group, Lee Seok Cheol (18 years old), held a press conference where he told in detail about some of the abuse they had received.  The video is hard to watch, but I urge you to watch it.  It has English subtitles and we need to hear his story.  Abuse victims feel they will not be heard or believed, this is one way we can show him that we hear him.  This young man is so brave in the face of what has to be overwhelming fear.  He talks about how he and the members were beaten with microphones, baseball bats and other things.  He personally had a guitar string wrapped around his neck for four hours and if he messed up, it would be pulled so as to strangle him.  They were threatened that they would be killed if they told their parents.  Remember this started 4 years ago when they were very young teens so it's no wonder they believed the threats.

Their company has denied the charges in some respects, but even in their denials they talk about how they knew that abuse had happened, so I'm not sure that can actually be called a denial. In their own words they found out about the abuse well over a year ago and yet the Producer in question was not fired.  He resigned recently (if I'm understanding the news correctly).  Fortunately The East Light members have photographic, audio, and text evidence of the abuse that happened.  Plus this video, which came out from The East Light themselves in 2017 is, in my opinion, video evidence as well. Starting at the 27 second mark, you can clearly hear one of the members being beaten in the background while he says (in Korean) "It was a mistake!" and "It hurts!" and you can hear him crying out in pain.  This is not something that can easily be swept under the rug.  Maybe more disturbing is that if you keep watching you see that this young man now has to join the rest of the group for the video and act as if nothing had happened.

So, you might be wondering why am I telling you this.  Many of you who will read this blog, don't listen to Korean Pop.  Here is why.  When we hear of abuse in the world, we MUST shine a light on it.  Evil thrives in darkness.  It's not about the fact that these are K-pop musicians.  It's the fact that they are children who have been abused brutally and their lives threatened.  And they are not the only ones.  This happens all over the world in all sorts of circumstances to people of all ages, races, and stages of life.  WE MUST STAND UP FOR THOSE WHO CAN'T STAND UP FOR THEMSELVES.

How?  I'm glad you asked.  Here are three things literally anyone can do.

1) Listen!  As I mentioned earlier, people who have been abused feel that they won't be heard and won't be believed.  We must listen to them.  If you are with a person who wants to share their story with you, Listen.  Don't judge.  Don't give advice.  Listen.  Those who have been abused MUST first be heard.  If you can listen in person, of course that is the best way.  But if that is not possible, if you can, find another way to listen.  For example, in The East Light situation, we can watch the press conference.  Seeing the number of views go up on YouTube would be encouraging to The East Light and frightening to the abusers. Even a small gesture like that shows that people cared enough to listen.

2) Show your Support!  In all parts of the world there are ways to show support for abuse victims.  It could be taking part in a walk-a-thon.  It could be volunteering at a center that helps abuse victims.  It could be as simple as using a hashtag like the one for the situation above (#JusticefortheEastLight) to raise awareness or signing a petition in support of anti-abuse legislature.  In whatever part of the world you are in, find out how you are able to show support, and then show it.  You might feel uncomfortable, but this is not about our comfort.  This is bigger than that.  

3) Educate yourself!  Do you know that signs of abuse?  Do you know who to call if you see those signs?  Do you know the places near you that provide services for those who have been abused?  If you answered "No" to any of those questions, then you need to educate yourself.  Because if you don't know what to look for, you may be missing signs around you that someone NEEDS you to see.  It's not hard to find this information.  Literally type in "Signs of abuse" into any search engine and you will be given multiple resources.  Sit down and read some of them.  All it will cost you is a little time.  

These are just a few small things that anyone can easily do to help #EndViolence.  If one person does these three things, it is helpful.  However, if EVERYONE did just these three things, I believe we could make an immense and lasting impact.  Why?  Because can you imagine what would happen if everyone was showing their support for those who have been abused in some small way?  How much abuse would go unnoticed, if everyone knew the signs of abuse and were actively looking for them?  What change in society there would be if abuse victims felt they could share their stories because people were taking the time to actually listen?  If we each do our part, there is no way that the world doesn't change. #DO3THINGS  

Will you join me and #DO3THINGS?  Let's change the world! 

For the USA, the national domestic abuse hotline is 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).

Monday, October 8, 2018

Product Placement...Everywhere

One of the best parts about watching dramas and movies online is that, when you subscribe to a streaming service like Netflix, DramaFever, or Viki, you don't have to watch commercials.  HOWEVER, Asian Dramas are the kings of product placement so you see all sorts of commercials all the time without ever leaving the show.  Below are a few examples.

If you are watching a drama from the past 5 years, it is absolutely inevitable that at least two of the characters will have some sort of a meeting or date in either Subway or Dunkin' Donuts.  If they order pizza it will be from Dominoes and if chicken is on the menu, more than likely it is coming from Kentucky Fried Chicken (unless of course one of the characters owns a chicken restaurant).

Now don't get me wrong, I like the food from all of these establishments from time to time, however, if I were going to a big date, I'm not sure Subway would be my choice.  Nor would I probably choose Dunkin' Donuts as my venue of choice if I need to have a showdown with an evil mother-in-law.  Or maybe it would be...I mean you could throw donuts which would allow you to let off steam without actually hurting anyone.   Am I right?  (Side note, I'm not sure I have ever seen anyone in an Asian drama eat a donut in Dunkin' Donuts...just coffee.  Sad because their donuts are awesome!)

At any rate, these places show up ALL THE TIME and I am sure I have seen promos for them more frequently in the dramas I've watched than I ever saw through their commercials here in the States.  At least, I remember them more this way, so in that respect...I guess congratulations are deserved!

Bottled Water and Cans of Coffee
Since I don't live where I see these water bottles in real life, I generally don't recognize the brand (the exception being the Vitamin Water from the USA that is everywhere in "The Greatest Love"), but I feel pretty sure that if I ever saw them in real life I would recognize them.  Most dramas seem to have one beverage of choice that is drunk by EVERYONE.  So you see that bottle of water, or possibly can of coffee all over the place.  I will admit that I am super curious to try the cans of coffee that somehow are warm when you open them.  I've never seen any like that here.

Makeup and Skin Care Products
The final thing that you see a lot in Asian Drama is skin care and make up product placement.  The camera will have a close up of whatever product the character is using and make sure you see the name of it.  Sometimes that characters will even discuss the product with dialog along the lines of, "You're skin seems dry.  You should try this __________ lotion.  It's great. I've got an extra, just keep this one."  In the most recent version of Itazura Na Kiss called "Miss in Kiss" the skin care from Dr. Wu is practically a character in the fact, Dr. Wu is a very very very minor character.

Where watching commercials can often be boring, it's rather fun to look for the product placements in dramas.  Sometimes it's even humorous to see how the products are put into the show.  If you haven't noticed before, I hope you'll enjoy seeing them from now on.  

Until next time!  

Monday, October 1, 2018

Let's talk about Podcasts...

I tend to have to travel quite a bit as a part of my job.  There are often errands that need to be run that may include spending a few hours on the road.  I'm not a big fan of listening to the radio, but I love listening to podcasts.  And when I find one that is centered around K-Drama and K-Pop, I have found my happy place indeed.  There are basically three things I look for when I listen to a podcast:

1: The hosts are enjoying doing the podcast.  
When I find a podcast where it sounds like the hosts are laughing, having a good time and it seems like they have simply let us in on the conversation that they would have had even without the podcast, those are the best.

2: I can listen even if kids are in the room.
Anyone who has known me for very long would tell you that I am really not a fan of swearing.  It's something that makes me uncomfortable and really just bugs me.  So, the podcasts I enjoy the most are the ones that choose to be profanity least for the most part. 

3: The Audio sounds good. 
Here's the thing, I have been involved with music my entire life, and was even a Music Business major in college.  I have used all sorts of microphones and recorded in studios.  That being said, there is nothing more annoying to me than someone who is talking (or singing) on a microphone and you can hear all the "popping" from their mouths or the audio is ringing because it's too loud or not mixed quite right.  I know that those might seem like little things, but I have turned off more than one podcast because I simply couldn't concentrate for all the "extra" noises like that heard through the microphone.  

Knowing that those are my three biggest draws for a podcast, here are a couple that I have been really enjoying as of late.  

Dramas Over Flowers - This podcast was until recently called "Stars in my Pocket" and is hosted by three women, Anisa, Saya, and Paroma, who are living in different parts of the world and come together to chat together during the show about all manner of things involving K-Drama and Korean Entertainment news. Sometimes when one of the hosts is "calling in" from somewhere outside the studio where the podcast is being recorded it can be difficult to understand all that is being said, but this podcast does a good job of making each person heard well.  These hosts don't focus solely on Korean drama though, they also discuss dramas from other countries. Since I am a fan of dramas and movies from China, Japan, and Taiwan as well as Korea, I enjoy hearing their thoughts on those shows as well.  These ladies are great fun to listen to and because they don't always have the same opinion of things, you get to hear different perspectives on shows and music. And it can be fun to hear them justify why one likes a drama the others don't or hear the parts of shows that they found especially good or bad. 

Noona Ya Business - First of all, I absolutely LOVE the play on words in the name of this podcast. The word "Noona" is a word in Korean that means older sister and would be used by a younger male. The hosts, Megan and Becca, are two women in their 30's and it is so much fun to listen to them talk to each other about K-Pop and K-Drama.  They crack each other up (often to the point of tears) and you can't help laughing along with them.  When I listen, I often feel like I am sitting with "my people" because I have a very similar sense of humor to these women.  It feels like we are friends even though we have never met...except through email.  They get excited about getting to see concerts and fangirl over all the things I would probably fangirl over if I had the opportunity.  And I get a kick out of the games they play on the show too.  Often times they involve the members of Got7 or BTS and they never fail to make me smile.  Games like "Got7 as days of the week" where they match up each member of the group with the day of the week they most remind them of.  If you are not a fan of the group, it probably doesn't sound funny, but trust me...these two women had me in stitches as they placed Mark on Sunday, Jinyoung is Monday, and so on. 

Information, Laughter, Friendships, K-Drama, K-Pop...these podcasts provide all that and more. in fact, with both of these podcasts I find myself watching for new episodes and looking forward to what they might say.  Listening to their discussions make my time spent traveling much more enjoyable and bring me many many smiles along the way.   You should check them out and let me know what you think!  

Until next time! 

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Favorite Actors and Actresses - Part 2

As promised, here is Part Two of my list of favorite Asian Actors and Actresses.  There are so many amazing actors and actresses in the world of Asian Drama, that it's very difficult to choose favorites.  However, while this list isn't exhaustive, here are a few more that I really enjoy watching.

Park Shin Hye -  While there can be no doubt that she is a great actress, it's hard to differentiate if I like her because of her acting or because she starred in so many of the dramas that I watched early on.  Because of her roles in You're Beautiful, Heartstrings, Goong S and more she will always have a special place on my list of favorite actresses.  Though her range is bigger than this, I will always associate her with the spunky female lead who will work hard to achieve her goals no matter her circumstances.  

Aaron Yan -  From his early roles on dramas like It Started With a Kiss, where he was a support character, to dramas where he was the main lead (Fall in Love with Me, Refresh Man, Just You and so many more), this Taiwanese actor is just fun to watch.  He is the kind of actor that you find yourself watching even if he isn't the lead.  For example, I didn't know who he was when I first watched It Started with a Kiss and They Kiss Again, but even though his role is small in those dramas, it was one that stood out to me and his character was one of my favorite side characters in that series.  Later on, when I saw him in Fall in Love with Me, I was again impressed at how good he was but this time in a leading role.  And a rather complex role at that.  He is definitely an actor who I think we will continue to see grow and show even more range over the years.

Im Ye Jin -  This woman is an amazing actress.  She has been in the industry for more that 40 years and is a fixture in Korean Drama.  I can't tell you how many shows I've seen her in where she plays the mother of one of the leads, but she has played many many roles in her career.  Any time I see her on the screen, I know I'm in for a treat because no matter what role she plays she embodies it and makes it her own.  She's truly inspiring!

So Ji Sub - He is a veteran actor, having been in the industry more than 20 years and his experience shows in his work.  Of his many dramas where he has been the male lead, my personal favorites are The Master's Sun (which was much funnier than I expected) and Oh My Venus (which is just awesome all the way around).  His way of taking on a role and becoming that character is interesting to watch and though sometimes his way of acting makes roles in various dramas have some similarities, he does each role in unique way as well. I always enjoy watching him. 

Yamamoto Maika  - I will admit that I have not seen a ton of her work, but what I have seen I have really enjoyed.  I much prefer her in a "good person" role as opposed to the "villain", but she seems to be able to fit either role.  I loved her in Minami-kun no Koibito: My Little Lover, which was the first role I ever saw her in.  It was such a cute show that I just adored both the main leads (see the next actor on my list).  Maika will no doubt continue to shine in the roles she is given and I look forward to watching them.  

Nakagawa Taishi - I first saw Taishi in Minami-kun no Koibito: My Little Lover, and he was great in that drama.  However since then, I have seen him in several other roles and I am continually impressed with him.  He is still quite young (only 20 years old), but he is talented.  Given his age, it's not surprising that most of the roles I have seen him in thus far are school age characters, but in the years to come, I look forward to seeing him branch out to more types of roles in the future.  I think we will continue to see him grow as an actor for many many years to come.   


Kim So Eun - My first Korean Drama was Boys over Flowers and it was Kim So Eun who very quickly became my favorite female character in that show.  Her portrayal of the best friend to the female lead (played by the also very talented Gu Hye Seon) was probably the most realistic role in the entire series and I loved it.  Since then, I have seen her in lots of other roles and every time, whether it's a mini-drama, a web series, or a regular length drama, she always brings a truthfulness to her characters that makes you just want to sit down and hang out with each one.  And that, in itself, is a talent all it's own.  

Park Hyung Shik -  This young man is rapidly becoming one of my favorite actors from any country and genre.  Why?  Because I have now seen him in multiple projects and every time he has taken on a role, he embodies that role in a way that amazes me and each character is very different than the one before it.  Many people seem to excel in certain types of roles, but he does a fantastic job whether it is a sidekick character (like in Heirs), royalty (like in Hwarang), a CEO (like in Strong Woman Do Bong Soon) or visually impaired piano tuner (like in Two Lights: Relumino).  His acting ability continually puts me in awe and to top it all off, he's got a fantastic singing voice too.  Indeed, Hyung Shik is going to be a force to be reckoned with for many many years to come.

There are so many more actors and actresses that I would like to list, but I'll stop for now.  Do you have a favorite you'd like to add?  Drop me a note in the comments and let me know.  

Until next time...

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Favorite Actors and Actresses...Part 1

I've been watching Asian Dramas and Movies now for about two years.  I have come across many actors and actresses that I really enjoy watching.  This blog and the next one will shine a light on a few of  the actors and actresses I've enjoyed watching.  This is all just my opinion, so yours might be different, but I'd enjoy hearing your picks as well. So here are six of my no particular order.

Park Seo Joon - This actor has real acting skills.  I have not seen everything he's been in, but I have seen several of his dramas and, in my opinion, he totally encompassed each the roles no matter how different they were from other roles he had.  Whether it's a fighter, a CEO, or a part timer, he seems to just fit into the roles and become the characters. Besides his acting skills, he's a really good singer (I love when he has a song on the OST) AND he's incredibly good looking to boot! 

Song Hye Kyo - I love watching this actress.  She brings such fun to her roles and just becomes the character she is portraying.  I first saw her in Full House and I thought she was a cute and playful character, but then when I saw her in Descendants of the Sun, I was blown away by the power as well as the vulnerability she brought to the role.  Plus, this woman has to be one of the most beautiful people on the planet.  Seriously...she is just stunning.   

Kim Min Suk - This actor is usually one of the supporting characters in dramas, but he always stands out to me.  He portrays the side characters in a way that draws attention to them and moves the story along, but doesn't overshadow the lead characters.  I am a person that gets easily bored when I watch dramas and often fast forward through some of the side character story arcs, but I find that when Kim Min Suk is playing a side character, I don't want to fast forward that part of the story.  I want to see what he does and how he portrays his character.

Ha Ji Won - I first saw this actress in Secret Garden and she was amazing in it.  Then later I saw her in Hospital Ship and once again, she was awesome.  The roles were so different, but she did them so well.  She can be feisty, she can be sweet, she can be vulnerable...her acting range is quiet vast.  She's been in a ton of other dramas as well and her experience shows.  She is great!

Lee Jong Suk - Ok, literally every role I have seen this actor in, has totally captivated me.  From the teenage roles to the adult characters, he plays them with a finesse and charisma that pulls you into the role.  Even when I didn't like the drama all that well, I would finish it because I liked his role.  He is another person who seems to melt into whatever character he portrays and you find yourself cheering for him.

Gong Hyo Jin - I enjoy watching this actress.  There is just something fun about her acting.  Don't get me wrong...she's a really good actress who plays her roles well, but there is something about her that makes watching her a treat.  I'm not sure I can put it into words, but it's there.  I have only seen a few of her dramas and of those, honestly, some of them don't rank that high on my list of shows I like, but I like her, so I will be watching more of her work in the future.  The fact that I can see more than one drama she's in and not particularly love it, but still love watching her says something about her acting ability.  One show I did love was The Master's Sun.  She is fantastic in that drama and I will probably be rewatching that drama many times.  She is coming out with a new drama in the near future and I'm looking forward to seeing it. 

As I was writing this, other actors and actresses kept coming to mind because there are dozens that I could put on a list like this.  But this is a start.  What are your thoughts? 

Until next time!  :-)

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

My Least Favorite Trope...

There are lots of drama tropes in Asian Dramas.  There's the one where the rich guy falls for the poor girl, the one where the main leads fight until they fall in love, the trope of someone getting hurt, sick, or drunk and MUST be piggybacked to some location, the wrist grab, and lots more.  Most of time I enjoy watching these tropes play out and lots of them really do move the story along.

But there is one that I absolutely hate.  I hate it to the point that I will often fast forward through the majority of the episodes that are necessary for it to play out.  That is the trope of one character breaking up with their significant other "for their own good".  Oh My Stars!!!!  It has to be the worst reason ever for breaking up.  Why?  Because it always entails someone not actually sharing the reason for the breakup with the other one. 

For example:

Female Lead is threatened that if they don't leave the Male Lead something awful will happen the Male Lead.  Female Lead breaks up with Male Lead without actually telling him about the threat.  Male Lead is crushed.  Female Lead is crushed.  Emotional Trauma ensues until the Bad guy gets caught and the Leads get back together anyway.

Literally the entire thing could have been dealt with with a conversation if everyone would just talk to one another.  It's not always a "villain" that's the cause. Sometimes it's an illness, or a truth that one person is trying to hide.  But it's some variation of the idea of "you'd be better off without me...but I'm not going to tell you that, I'm just going to leave." 

Why does this trope bug me so much?  I think it's is because it is the most unrealistic trope of them all.  In real life, people who care about each other talk to each other.  They go through the good and the bad together and only those who are wildly immature (like young teenagers) would ever think that simply giving in to a bad guy/girl or hiding from the one they love is going to fix an issue.  So when it is supposed to be adults doing this very thing, it's really hard to swallow.  Honestly, I don't think it would bug me as much if the characters had a real conversation about the situation before the break up.  But they don't.  It's usually one of them just drops out of sight leaving the other to be totally confused as to what happened.

Now, I can hear you saying, "Toni, it's a tv's not real!!!"  That's true, and I get that, but here's the thing...most tropes have at least enough basis in reality that you can wrap your head around why it's there.  This one simply flies in the face of anything real so I find it beyond frustrating. 

I was going to list some shows that have this trope, but in the effort to not give away spoilers, I won't.  However, there are a BUNCH of them.  I was looking through my "completed" list of shows on the My Drama List site and I hadn't even gotten halfway through my list and I'd already come across 37 shows that had some variation of this trope.  *Sigh*  I said it frustrates me, I didn't say I didn't watch the shows that uses it.

So that's my most hated drama trope.  What's yours? 

Until next time...

Monday, August 13, 2018

Learning Korean is a Challenge...but I love it.

I'll be honest...when I first stared learning Korean, I never dreamed it would change my life the way it has.  I mean, I had taken French in High School and I enjoyed it, but it was nothing like what has happened through this language learning process.

When I first started, it was basically just trying to sing along with some K-Pop songs.  Then it turned into really trying to learn the language.  At first I was watching Korean television and movies for entertainment, then it also became a way to hear pronunciation and learn new words. I started searching for Korean Restaurants, Korean Grocery Stores, Korean books and now it's to the point that I am always on the lookout for things connecting to my Korean language and cultural studies.  Even my friends have started looking out for me.  People in my previous churches send me Korean food recipes and stories that they find.  It's amazing.  Next to my walk with the Lord, this has indeed been the most life altering experience of the life.  But why?  Here are my thoughts on that.

1)  This journey is difficult and unlike anything I've ever done before...and I am determined to succeed.  I want to be a decent Korean speaker.  I want to be able to talk with someone who's native language is Korean and be able to hold up my end of the conversation.  This can be accomplished without major financial costs, and I have the necessary tools for the job.  That means that the only thing that can keep me from accomplishing that goal is my own laziness, so I refuse to lose.  I remember a teacher telling us in one of my choral classes in college that the pieces that we had to work the hardest on to perform well, would become our favorites.  That teacher was correct and the same is true of language learning.  I have to work hard to learn and that makes the learning all the more satisfying.

2)  The language and culture is fascinating to learn.   The Korean language looks nothing like English and even it's creation is an interesting story.  (It was created by a King back many many many years ago).  The culture is full of interesting things that I find so intriguing.  Even ages are calculated differently in
Korea.  (Not sure that I like knowing that I'm even older in Korean age, but let's not think about that.)  I am constantly coming across some piece of tradition or cultural etiquette that I just love learning about.  I am still not good at Hangul (the written language), but I continue working on it and I will get it eventually.

3) I've given myself a goal.  In the fall of 2020, I will be taking a trip to Seoul, South Korea with a few friends.  As of now, I'm the only one learning Korean, so I need to be at least semi fluent before we leave.  As a part of this trip, I'm also working to lose about 100 pounds.  That's another goal that is difficult to reach, but I am determined to succeed.

Since I've given myself this goal, I found that I needed a better way to practice what I was learning as well as keep a record of what was happening, so I started a YouTube Channel called "Learning Korean, Losing Weight, and Loving Life."  Here is the thing about me...Strange and often funny stuff just happens to me, so I figured those things would be fun to share and I could practice the Korean I'm learning at the same time.  So if you are interested, feel free to check out the channel.  Most of the videos are only a few minutes long so.  I'm hoping that if any Korean speakers happen to watch the videos they will correct me when I'm wrong.

Well, that's it for now.  I'll be back with a more "entertainment centered" blog next time.  :-) 

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Wait, What? A K-Pop Group without any Koreans?

Today is my day off and I decided to do a bit of internet surfing to see who the new artists are in the world of Korean Entertainment.  I came across something totally unexpected.  It's a K-Pop group that originated in the USA and has zero Korean members.  WHAT!?!?  I needed to investigate this a bit more.  So I did and what I found was fascinating and honestly a bit inspiring.
Photo Credit to EXP Edition FB Page

The name of this K-Pop group is EXP EDITION and it is made up of four young men from the USA.  As I understand it, Frankie, Hunter, Koki, and Sime all auditioned to be a part of this group in New York.  The group was a part of a documentary and thesis project for Bora Kim that was specifically to see what would happen if you formed a K-Pop group without any Koreans in it.  So, it basically started as an experiment and ended up a real thing.  How cool and interesting is that?  It sounds like a strange way to start a music group, but actually it's not that far off from how other groups started that became HUGE.  Ever heard of a little band called THE MONKEES?  Seriously...that was a band put together specifically to be the cast of a television show and they became enormously popular.  So, this way of starting a group isn't so wildly strange.

However, what makes this group so very different and interesting to me, is that while these guys are from varied places and backgrounds (Sime was born and raised in Croatia, Frankie is Portuguese raised in the USA, and Koki is Japanese who was born in Hong Kong), NONE of them spoke Korean to begin with and yet they chose to sing K-pop. AND they decided to move to Korea to do so.  That is incredibly impressive to me.  It's not easy to learn Korean (trust me, I've been working on it for quite a while now), and throwing yourself into a totally different culture, language, and country simply to follow your dream is a level of dedication that you don't often see in any part of the entertainment industry.  And the world of K-pop is not an easy world either.  It is full of people who expect and attain near perfection in their dance routines and performances.  It entails crazy schedules and demanding hours of practice.  If you simply wanted to be a singer, there are easier genres to tackle, but these guys chose to walk this demanding road and that is inspiring to me.

So, I'm going to keep an eye on this group.  I'm impressed with them so far and I look forward to seeing how they continue to grow as they blaze trails that can inspire those who follow after them.  Keep up the good work EXP EDITION!  FIGHTING!!!

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Great Shows For K-Drama Beginners...

If you are new to watching Korean Dramas, it can seem a bit odd at first.  Just getting adjusted to reading the subtitles is something that can take a couple episodes to get
used to.  Plus, there are cultural differences to adjust to as well.  So in this blog, I want to give you a few things to be aware of when watching Korean Dramas and then I will give you short list of a few that you might enjoy to get started.

First, physical contact is a big deal.  It's not unusual for the main characters in a romance to not even hold hands until a few episodes into the series.  In fact, there is a term for physical contact.  It's called skinship and this refers to literally any kind of physical contact.  From hand holding to putting your arm around someone to's all skinship.

Second, we are used to there being lots of special effects or cgi in the shows that are popular in the USA, but those are not as common in Korean Dramas.  That's not to say it never happens, but its not the norm. It is my understanding that most Korean Dramas are airing even as they are being filmed so not a lot of time is allotted for editing and special effects.

Lastly, there is often bullying of some form in the shows.  Sometimes it's in a school, sometimes it's a parent to the girlfriend/boyfriend of their child, and sometimes it's someone else.  But bullying is awful in Korean shows.  It can be cruel and sometimes hard to watch because the people are so mean...though it is rather satisfying to see them get their comeuppance in the end.  So, fair warning...

Ok, now to introduce you to a few Dramas that are good for the beginner to K-drama.  These are all available through Netflix,, or if you are looking for a place to watch them.

Let's start with a mini-drama.  These are usually only a few minutes long and are a great way to begin your viewing.  Dream Knight (available on Netflix and Dramafever) is an idol drama starring the members of the K-Pop group GOT7.  This is truly a bubblegum type show.  Somewhat silly, somewhat funny, somewhat cheesy, but that being said, I like it.  In fact, I am currently watching it for the 3rd time.  Why?  Why not!  First it is short.  There are only 12 episodes and each one is around 10-12 minutes long.  Plus, I like the music in it and the story is cute.  It reminds me of the kind of shows I watched as a teenager like "Saved by the Bell" and "California Dreams".  Just fun and easy to follow.

I loved the drama Something about One PercentThis is a remake of one called 1% of Anything (Both can be found on Dramafever), but I like the new version much better than the original.  It's a fun and sometimes funny show about two people who get thrown together through very strange circumstances and end up falling in love.  It's such a cute show.

As for classics in the K-Drama world, I really enjoyed Boys over Flowers, Goong, and Full House. All of them are romantic comedies and all are fun.  Boys over Flowers has literally every drama trope there is within it's 25 episodes, but it will always hold a special place in my heart because it was the first K-Drama I ever saw.  Goong and Full House are both dramas that follow semi-forced marriages between couples who either don't know each other well (Goong) or don't like each other (Full House).  Goong is about a prince who must marry and the non-royal girl who it was arranged he would marry when he was born.  She has to adjust to both marriage and being royalty all at the same time.  Full House follows a woman whose goes out of town and finds that her home has been sold when she returns.  She makes a deal with the man who bought her home and all sorts of craziness ensues.   I liked both of the shows and, personally I find them all re-watchable as well.  All three of these can be found on Dramafever and Viki.

If you are looking for something with a bit more action, may I suggest Descendants of the Sun. I loved this drama and have watched it twice.  It has action, romance, humor, disasters, heroic events and more.  The four main characters are all great fun to watch...especially when they interact together, but the extended cast is top notch as well.  It was a super popular drama when it aired and I can easily understand why.  This show can be found on Netflix,  Dramafever, and Viki.

So, that's my intro to Korean Drama.  I'd love to hear what you think if you are just starting your journey to Dramaland or if you've seen these shows. 

Until, next time...


Monday, February 19, 2018

A Few "Truths" according to Kdrama. :-)

When I started watching Korean Dramas, there were a few things that made me pause because they seemed to be universally true in Dramaland and yet were so very different from what I was used to in Western Dramas.  I have come to love these little quirks in the shows, and I'm pretty sure I'm not alone.

1) Water is dangerous.
Watch out for the water!
 Anytime someone gets unintentionally wet, they will probably come down with an illness that will incapacitate them to the point that someone else will need to take care of them for at least a few hours.  Generally fever, chills, weakness, and possibly fainting will occur as a direct result of getting wet.  If you get caught in the rain, fall into a pool, or even get splashed by a large puddle (say because of a passing car), you are in grave danger of the above mentioned illness.  However, this does not seem to happen if the person meant to get wet.  For example, if a person goes swimming in a pool for several hours in a swimsuit...all will be well.  However, is same person falls into the swimming pool fully clothed for three seconds...illness will strike shortly thereafter.

2) Korean First Aid kits are no joke!
In most K-dramas (actually in most Asian dramas in general) someone will injure themselves at some point.  The injury is generally minor such as a sprained ankle or slight cut, but you would think that those slight injuries were major wounds based on the treatment of them.  Very often the injured person will not be able to walk if their leg/ankle/foot is even slightly sore.  Someone will generally need to carry this unfortunate soul.  However, if the injury isn't bad enough to need to go to the hospital, someone will break out a first aid kit and 90% of the time, it will be large enough that it could double as a tackle box.  I'm not sure what all is needed in a K-drama First Aid kit, but I am convinced that there is enough equipment and supplies in them that a doctor could perform minor surgery with one if it was necessary.  Most First Aid kits I have seen here in the States are rather small and generally include band-aids, rubber gloves, some sort of antiseptic ointment, perhaps some gauze and that's about it.  But not so in Dramaland:  Those kits seem to have the entire pharmacy in them.  It's truly amazing!

3)The Music is Awesome!
Prior to watching Korean Dramas I have never listened to K-Pop.  Now I'm a huge fan.  I love how most dramas have a set soundtrack so that you hear the same songs over and over.  At first I found this rather annoying because the songs would often get stuck in my head and I didn't understand why I was hearing the same ones in every episode.  However, I have discovered that if the right songs are chosen, those songs become a big part of the story and I find myself looking for them on iTunes to add them to my collection.  

4) KDrama Villains are without question the most evil people on the planet.  
I thought I had seen bad guys/girls before.  I thought I knew what to expect.  I was very wrong.  The Villains in Korean Dramas are their own category of evil.  They don't just want to hurt a person, they want to crush them, their families, and anyone who ever smiled at that person.  Just when I think I've seen the worst person they could come up with, in will come another drama with someone who is even worse.  Seriously...did someone hurt these writers?  How do they come up with such awful people?  On the other hand, it's always such a good feeling to see the good guy/girl win over them in the end.   

I'm sure there are more things I could list, but I will stop for now.  These things are just a few of the reasons I have fallen in love with watching Kdrama.  What are your favorite quirks of Kdrama?   


Thursday, January 18, 2018

Warning: Watching K-Drama Makes You Hungry...

As I have started watching Korean TV, one thing seems to be true across the board.  Watching K-Drama makes you hungry.  So many shows feature eating that at times I wonder if there is anything else at all to do in Seoul.  And it's not just the dramas.  Some of the variety shows are the same.  For example, if you watch any given episode of "We Got Married" or "Roommate", they will sit down to eat or drink something multiple times.

That being said, certain foods seem to come up the most and I really want to try them when I visit Seoul in 2020. Here are a few types of food and drink that I see most often in my viewing.

Ramyun:  For real, Ramyun shows up EVERYWHERE!  I never really ate much of it growing up, though it was something we often kept around in college because it was cheap.  However, there are Ramyun Shops and all kinds of stuff that people put in ramyun that until I started watching Korean television I would never have thought about.  Shin Ramyun (a popular Korean brand) is VERY spicy for me.  I've been buying it as of late so that I can get used to the spiciness of it.  I've not yet been able to use a whole packet of the seasoning, but I'm up to half a packet and will continue to work up to using a whole one some day.  After I started watching Korean television I started to crave ramyun and I have discovered that putting eggs, cheese, meat and veggies into ramyun is truly delicious and it's a meal that I really enjoy.

Samgyeopsal-gui:  This is BBQ grilled pork belly and it looks so delicious that I am really looking forward to trying it sometime.  To my eyes it looks like thick sliced bacon being grilled and what's not to like about that?  Plus I like that you get to grill it at the table so you can chat with your friends as you cook.  It just looks like it would be a fun meal to have in a group.  If you watch this video you can see how it's grilled and then you eat it in a lettuce wrap of sorts with several other ingredients like garlic and sauces. looks delicious and every time I see it on a show, I want to try it myself.

Coffee and Pastry:  Anyone who has known me for more than five minutes could probably tell you of my love for coffee.  Coffee, for me, isn't just a warm beverage, it's something that you enjoy, savor and share with others whenever possible.  It's been called a "hug in a mug" and I totally agree.  My understanding is that coffee making in Korea is often more of a process than what we generally see here in the States and I'm so stoked to try it out.  Plus, many coffee shops also serve interesting desserts and pastries that are fancier than what we generally see in our coffee houses as well.  I found this video of some coffee houses in Seoul and it shows what I'm talking about.  I'm thinking that when I go, at least one of these places will be on my list to visit for sure.  And there are some others I've heard about too.  Just so much's a beautiful thing.   

There are lots of other foods that you will see on Korean television and if you watch for very long I think it's safe to say that you will start craving some of these foods too.  And if you do, tell me about it.  I'd love to hear your thoughts.

All this makes me wonder if watching American television makes people hungry?  It doesn't generally when I watch, but maybe I'm used to it?  What are your thoughts?

Until next time!

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Variety Shows...

As I have been learning Korean, one of the most helpful ways for me to hear "normal" conversations has been by watching Korean Variety shows...and I LOVE them.  First of all, they are very very funny.  I can not tell you how long it has been since watching an American Variety/Talk show made me laugh out loud.  Very often American television relies on sexual humor or vulgar language in order to be what is considered funny by many Americans.  However, I do not find that kind of humor funny at all.  In fact, it truly irritates me.  So, finding these Korean Variety shows that have truly witty hosts who have real talent as comedians without stooping to those types of jokes was AMAZING!

One show in particular, called "Happy Together" often makes me laugh out loud and one of the reasons I love it is because the conversations they have (albeit with celebrities) are the same types of conversations my family has when we are sitting around a dinner table.  I told a friend of mine that if someone put a camera up at one of our family dinners, we could be this show.  HA HA!  The clip I posted shows how the show is put together.  It's just a fun and comfortable show that always brings a smile to my face.  You can find full episodes on youtube and on Viki.

Another show I really liked was called "Roomate" and while it's no longer airing, both seasons of the show can be seen on Drama Fever.  I love this show because it was so fun.  It reminded me a little of the "Real World" that was on MTV, but this show was way way better because it was so inoffensive and clean while being interesting to watch.  I liked seeing and learning about different celebrities from various forms of entertainment.  Some of the cast were actors, come were musicians, some were comedians, and at least one was a sports figure.  They were of various ages and stages of life and that too made watching their interactions interesting.  Plus it was neat how each episode was narrated by a different cast member.  I really enjoyed watching this show.  This clip from youtube shows just a bit of the very first episode.  You really have to see more that this to get a feel for the show though, so I highly suggest watching the episodes on Drama Fever.

I also really enjoy watching "Running Man."  That show gives me such great game ideas that I can use for my work.  I know it might seem odd that I would need games for work, but I do.  You see, I am a Pastor and I also plan events and help with programming such as Camps for kids and families, so many of the games shown in this series, with a little tweaking can be used for the things we plan.  For example, the game shown in this clip, just needs to be played at a kids camp sometime.  Don't you agree?   Plus, the cast is really fun and I often find myself laughing out loud at their antics.  You can see this show on Drama Fever as well.

However, my favorite variety show that I have come across is "We Got Married."  This is a show that seems like it shouldn't work, but it does and I can't resist watching it.  The basic premise is two celebrities come together and fake a marriage for a certain amount of time.  They refer to each other as husband and wife (even when not filming the show, but are on other shows), wear wedding rings (or couple rings), and even share the same house during filming.  In the States this type of show would deteriorate into something filthy very quickly, but this show doesn't do that at all.  In fact, it's very clean, very chaste, and just super fun to watch.  Often times, even though it is totally a fake marriage, it seems like they become a real couple...even if they don't really become one.  I always hope they end up really good friends though.  Not sure how you could film a show like that and not become friends since you have to be together so much.  Anyway, it's my favorite.  You can see episodes of this show as well as the Global Version on Viki.  The above clip shows part of an episode with Yook SungJae and Joy who were one of my favorite couples on the show.  They were just too cute.

So those are a few of shows I've enjoyed.  There are others, but those will have to wait until another time.  What variety shows do you like to watch?

Until next time!

Monday, January 1, 2018

How I found K-Pop...

I quite literally came across K-Pop through watching K-Dramas.  I would hear these songs repeatedly during the dramas and wonder who the artists were.  So as I watched more Korean Drama and Variety Shows I continued to look up the artists that were interviewed or whom I heard on the soundtracks of the shows.  That being the case, I first came across groups like T-Max and SS501 whose songs were used A LOT in "Boys over Flowers."  Then I came across other artists through various variety show appearances and dramas like Henry, FT Island, EXO, Twice, Red Velvet and more.

It's really hard to choose favorites for me, but three groups I really enjoy are CNBlue, Got7, and Super Junior.  And when it comes to solo artists, my favorite right now would probably be Eric Nam.

CNBlue I like for several reasons, but first it is that since I have seen all of the members on various dramas and variety shows, it's easy to feel like you know them and therefore want to support them.  Anyone who knows me would probably find that an odd statement because I often tease my family members about being fans of sports figures that they have never met, but I think I can understand a little now how they feel.  Secondly, these guys have real talent and it shows in their music (and in their acting as well).  There are not a lot of full bands in the world of K-Pop (at least not that I have come across yet), so that makes this group stand out too. I like their song "Starting Over" a lot.  The video is so fun and the song is just cool!

Got7 is a perfect example of a group that I came across because of a drama.  They were in a mini-drama called Dream Knight which is where I first came across the group. The show was super cute and made me curious about the group.  When I started to look for their music I could quickly see why they were so popular.  They are very talented singers and dancers, plus they tend to make music that  is easy to remember.  Their song "Stop, Stop it" gets stuck in my head on a regular basis.  I love it!

Super Junior is also amazing for several reasons.  First, they were one of the first groups I came across that had so many members.  Currently there are only 7 active members (plus 2 who are serving in the military), but at one point there were 11 members.  That seems huge to me.  Even 9 seems big (when the two in the military come back).  When I was in choir, I'm pretty sure that many members would have made you an ensemble or choir, but these guys don't give off that feel at all.  They dance together with amazing precision that is hard to look away from and they have great voices as well.  It really is a powerhouse group.  They are not the only large group out there, in fact there are quite a few, but they were one of the first I came across and so will hold a special spot on my list. Also, I should point out that one of the members, Lee Dong Hae, was the lead in the drama Miss Panda and Mr. Hedgehog, that I talked about in my last post.  Several of the other members have been in dramas and on variety shows as well, and they are always fun to watch. Currently, I'm listening to "Black Suit" fairly regularly which is on their current album. 

When it comes to solo artists, I will admit that I am a bit bias when it comes to Eric Nam.  After all, he's from Georgia and as a Tennessee girl myself, you have to cheer on the southern guy!  But, it's not just where he's from.  He's has a great voice, and his talent goes farther than the music world.  He is also fun to watch when he is on variety shows or does interviews with people from across the entertainment industry.  His song "Good For You" is currently one of my all time favorite songs and never fails to put a smile on my face.

These are a few of the groups that I've come across and enjoy.  Who do you listen to?  How did you find them?  I'm always interested in finding more artists and groups to listen to.

An Entirely New World...

About a year and a half ago, I started watching Korean Drama and suddenly an entirely new world opened up for me.  I came upon it, looking only for a way to pass some time. 

Let me explain...You see, about a year an a half ago my Grandmother passed away.  At the time, I was living with her and helping to care for her and when she passed, that house seemed rather large all of the sudden.  I was working...A LOT.  But when I would go home, the house just seemed big, and in the evening, it just seemed strange for it to be so quiet.  So, I opened up my Netflix and a K-drama that I had seen show up in my "recommendations" was there once again.  I had ignored it for literally years, but this night, I thought, "You know, I'll give it a try.  I will have to read the subtitles, so at least it will keep my focus on something other than this empty house."  And with that, I began my journey into the world of Asian Drama.

The first drama I ever saw was a classic in the world of K-drama (though I had no idea it was at the time) called "Boys of Flowers."  This was a show that revolved around the lives of some very very rich and popular boys, with the nickname of F4, and one very poor girl who rather accidentally comes into their world.  It is far fetched, it's got some crazy hairstyles and fashion, it is even rather unbelievable in parts, and it had me seriously dealing with second lead syndrome (where you want the second lead guy to end up with the girl because he's a way better match for her) but I loved it.  It was a fun story that totally took my mind off of what was really happening in my life and that was what I had been looking for.  And it introduced me to K-pop for the first time.  I was looking up the groups that sang on the soundtrack and downloading some of the songs because they would get so stuck in my head.

From there, I started watching other Asian Dramas.  Not just Korean, but also Japanese, Taiwanese, and Chinese too.  I had to very quickly realize that the titles in English sometimes sound quite strange and didn't always reflect what the show was really about, but I loved the shows.  Some of the first ones I watched were:

Miss Panda and Mr. Hedgehog:  This is another Korean Drama. The story of a patisserie chef and the girl he works with.  This one had not only a cute romance story, but also an interesting mystery and every episode showed them making some sort of amazing sweet food that had me craving cake like you wouldn't believe.  In fact, I scoured a Dollar General store looking for Little Debbie's one day because I just couldn't take it anymore.  I NEEDED cake.  HA HA!  (True story...the Dollar General had remodeled and I couldn't find those cakes until I had been through the place like 3 times.)

Minami-kun no Koibito: My Little Lover: This is a Japanese Drama.  It follows the story of a high school girl who somehow shrinks to about 3 inches call.  She is found by a neighbor boy who was a childhood friend and they try to find a way to get her back to her original size.  It's super cute and just fun to watch.  

Inborn Pair: This is a Taiwanese Drama.  I really enjoyed this show too and it was one of the first I saw that dealt with an arranged marriage.  It was fun to see the two leads literally forced into a marriage that they had not planned on and watch them realize that they are, in fact, perfect for each other...though it will not be an easy road to get to that realization. 

So, why this blog?  Well, the reality is that I know very few people who share my interest in K-drama and K-pop and I wanted an outlet to share my thoughts.  So I plan to post on here about the shows I'm watching (or have already watched), the music I'm enjoying, and even about how I'm learning the language.  If you are interested in these things I hope you'll follow along and share your own thoughts and recommendations. 

Korean Food: How it helped me lose 100 lbs.

Stir fried kimchi (left) and my favorite ramen I started on my current weight loss journey in about 2019.  Something that has always been a ...