KDRAMALOVE KOREAN DRAMA REVIEWS

MASTER COMPREHENSIVE LIST OF
170 KOREAN DRAMA CLICHES OR TROPES


Created Jan. 2018 by the Message Board Members of Kdramalove
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1. Piggy Back Rides.



2. Love Triangles or Quartets.



3. Rich boy, Poor girl plots.

4. The Evil or Interfering Future or Present Day Mother-in-Law.



5. Back Hugs.

6. Fix The Boo Boo Scenes.



7. Staring at the loved one while they are sleeping.

8. In sad scenes it often rains to make the character(s) look more pitiful, and they often lack an umbrella.



9. A girl will walk into oncoming traffic and a hero will pull her toward him to save her life.

10. A girl will have an accident, like falling into a ditch, and the hero will rescue her.

11. Car or motorcycle accidents are in practically every drama (except for historical ones, of course).

12. The proverbial white truck almost hits a person but someone rescues them. The truck is ALWAYS white.



13. Characters sitting at the back of a bus.



14. 2 Characters on a bus together, it stops short, and the heroine falls onto the hero's body.

15. Making kimchi scene, often a couple or family / friends combined effort.

16. Rich people sleep on beds, poor people on the floor on mats or blankets.

17. The forced wrist grab.


 

18. Getting drunk on soju scene.

19. Girl getting drunk on soju and then vomiting on the male lead.

20. Everyone eats ramen for a quick meal, rich and poor alike, and often combine it with kimchi.

21. If a girl is a tomboy she gets a bowl cut.

22. If a girl is pretending to be a boy she gets a bowl cut.



23. Confession of someone's romantic feeling and desire to kiss, only to find out the other person has fallen asleep or is passed out from excessive drinking.

24. Still about to kiss, someone will appear to interrupt or a cell phone will go off.

25. Open eyed kissing scene (poor Park Shin Hye often gets blamed for this but it's certainly not limited to just her dramas!)



26. American characters are played by Australians because their actors live closer to Korea and cost less to employ.

27. The lead couple whom you know will end up together at the end do not get along at first.
 

28. Bromances.



29. Second Male Leaditis: Dramas written so that the 2nd male lead is nicer than the 1st male lead, which causes the audience to develop fondness and loyalty for the 2nd male lead first, and sometimes permanently.



30. Elevator escape scene. Door closes in nick of time before the chaser could stop it.

31. Umbrella sharing scene when it rains.
.

32. Learning how to ride a bicycle scene or couple shares one bicycle while riding together.



33. Male lead preparing a meal for female lead (who sometimes doesn't know how to cook), or vice versa.

34. Male lead confessing his love by serenading in song (i.e. Bing Goo).

35. A couple fall in love only to discover they might be siblings or half-siblings (older plot device not used as much anymore).

36. Amnesia Plots. Lots and lots of amnesia plots!



37. Someone wakes from a coma and can see ghosts or possesses another supernatural power.



38. A chaebol (mogul) who has only loved and trusted money his whole life falls in love with a girl out of his class, and in helping her to grow stronger he reforms himself into a better person.

39. Opposites attracting.

40. Couples getting together for the first time making an issue of their ages. The older one is supposed to be treated with more respect and more formal language than the younger one.
 

41. "Ahjussi!" "Ahjumma!" "Aggasi!" "Oppa!" "Noona!" etc.



42. The prevalence of Loan Sharks.



43. Shower scenes so the male lead can show off his naked torso. Usually happens in episode 1 (as if we women won't watch a drama unless this happens).



44. Skyscraper Rooftop Scenes and Rooftop Apartment Scenes. It doesn't seem to matter if you make a small salary, somehow you get the top floor of an apartment building with the most expansive view. It doesn't seem to occur to most K-drama writers that it's not easy access to get to the top of a skyscraper to conduct a conversation or to have a violent scene take place. Only authorized personnel get keys to walk around the rooftop of a skyscraper. The doors are kept locked otherwise.



45. If you are rich, you tend to be a jerk.

46. If you are poor, you are an angel.

47. You are poor, an angel, and also you are not too smart so people take advantage of you.

48. If you are not smart, but try to do better in school, you don't know you are studying really hard until you get a nosebleed.

49. If you get a nosebleed, guess what, it's probably cancer (usually leukemia).

50. Stalking Scenes. When a male lead character becomes fascinated with a female lead character he will follow her around secretly, sizing her up.



51. Fascination with Snow, playing with snow, building snowmen.
 

52. Everyone has a family picture hanging on their living room wall and it's HUGE!



53. Funerals are always held in hospitals, not funeral halls, with the dead person's formal picture surrounded by mountains of flowers.

54. Suicide attempts, often by young people being bullied, often while standing on top of a rooftop of a school, or deliberately walking into traffic. Someone almost always saves them in time, or convinces them to come down of their own accord and start their life anew.
 

55. When couples go into coffee places to sit together and drink and have a conversation an argument usually results and one person will leave with tears in their eyes, while the other sits at the table all alone, looking sad.



56. Every Korean home's kitchen must have a rice cooker, and the thing is always left on and the rice warm for whenever anyone is hungry. Apparently no one has heard of instant rice in Korea or just making a small batch in a regular pot.

57. Even if a character is poor they wear designer clothes or carry the latest cell phone..

58. Crazy Driving: even cops and emergency vehicles can drive like crazy people, and anyone can make dramatic U-turns on the road whenever they want, with never any police around to give them a ticket.
 

59. There is a hospital scene in practically every drama and often the patients just get up and walk out any time they want, without paying their bills or even getting their diagnosis!
 

60. If someone is in a hospital room for an extended stay there is always a humidifier placed nearby putting mist into the room.


 

61. Children grow fond of each other, are painfully separated in some way, and then meet later as adults and don't recognize each other.
 

62. Contract marriages. The older generation tries to arrange marriages for their children, and the two people barely know each other, or even like each other.

63. The jealous ex-girlfriend tries to break the lead couple up, or the ex-boyfriend tries to make his old girlfriend feel guilty about liking someone else.

64. Sometimes the exes of the main couple, or the 2nd lead characters who want to be with the main characters, conspire together to break them up. That always backfires.

65. Beach scenes. Some couples fight on them, some are reunited on a beach after years of not seeing each other, some just stare blankly out to sea and talk gibberish to each other, some just run around and kick sand and water at each other and laugh, and sometimes someone actually dies on one.



66. When there are beach scenes there's never anybody else enjoying the beach, the characters are alone with each other so there are no distractions.

67. Whoever goes to the US to study always comes back as professional / more successful and polished person.
 

68. Someone goes to Europe, comes back as a Chef or Barista or Fashion Designer.

69. If you stayed in Korea for education you are deprived, nothing changes except maybe your hairstyle.
 

70. You have to go to US / Europe for advanced medical treatment because apparently Korean medical care stinks.
 

71. Only First Loves Matter! No one can really be happy unless they marry their first love.
 

72. The height of fashion in Korean dramas is to wear T-shirts or sweat tops or other clothing with words printed on them (especially if it's a Gong Hyo Jin drama!).



73. "You must have saved the country in your past life." Common saying when one character is complimenting another character for their good deeds or character.

74. Fathers are often violent. Sometimes they will even hit their grown sons with golf clubs, to keep them in line.

75. A couple who are attracted to one another are in a car together for the first time and one forgets to put on a seat belt (usually the girl) and the guy leans over her, touching her body with his and yanks on the seat belt and fastens it. Immediately afterward they have a staring contest moment when they look at each other with interest, as if they are frozen in time.

76. Noona Romances (Older Woman, Younger Man).



77. If there is a chase scene the characters always end up in a marketplace and end up knocking over carts of fruits or vegetables that peddlers are selling.
 

78. If someone dies everyone grieves vehemently ... and then seem to forget all about the person come the next episode.
 

79. Wild Nightclub Scenes - none of the people in them are old, fat, average looking - rather they all have perfect figures and hair and makeup, but act like tramps and gigolos. It's scenes like those that make foreigners ask, "Is everyone beautiful in Korea?" when there are actually plenty of average looking people.



80. In the Wild Nightclub Scenes there's people having drinking contests.
 

81. Bad guys hang out in pool halls.

82. Time Travel or Time Warp Dramas. If they are medical based the modern doctors traveling into the past always end up saving patients who would have died otherwise without their modern medicine skills - even if they failed to grab antibiotics or stitches or scalpels before they left the modern world, but only a battery operated light.



83. Modern friends/lovers from countryside get separated because someone moved to the main city and they totally lose communication. Everyone forgot how to send text messages, call from their phones or even send e-mails.
 

84. Everyone always has a cell phone, but nobody thinks to use it to call 119 (the opposite of America's 911) when there's an accident ... and so often, if the male lead is involved, he'll resort to running through the streets piggybacking the invalid.

85. For whatever reason, the heroine leaves home, packing up only a small valise or suitcase. Nevertheless, in the ensuing scenes one sees her wearing a seemingly infinite number of fashionable coats or carrying a similarly infinite number of designer handbags.
 

86. Characters who are police always seem to go into a crime scene without backup. They NEVER call for backup and then they get badly hurt or someone else gets hurt because there wasn't enough manpower there to stop a crime. They think they can handle it all on their own.
 

87. There never seems to be any labor protection laws in Korea. Someone can be fired from a corporation at the drop of a hat, for any reason.

88. There seems to be no health insurance in Korea. Characters die or are permanently injured because they can't pay their bills and are turned away from the hospital doors because they are poor!



89. Product Placement Scenes (I hate these! They should put all ads in the end credits like they did in the old days).



90. The characters will talk to a big stuffed animal.



91. Romantic shows will feature their own necklaces (Winter Sonata, Master's Sun, etc).



95. Bathroom scenes. Lots and lots of bathroom scenes. Characters defecating appear to be very funny to the Koreans. We also see scenes with characters brushing their teeth or plunging their faces into a sink full of water.

96. The camera will pull away from the actor's face and focus entirely on their hand clenching into a fist to show frustration. This is practically in every K-drama now.
 

97. If the female character lives in an apartment away from her family she almost always has a roommate and that roommate is never as pretty as she is. The friend can never overshadow the main female character in physical attractiveness. She's only support.

98. The lead male character's best friend is the same. He's usually on the homely side, fat or with a comic face. He can't overshadow the lead male character in any way in physical handsomeness. He's only support.

99. One of the leads is always running after a car or bus that the other lead has gotten into. Usually waving their arm in the air to get their attention.



100. If couples or friends go to the movies or the theater there is always at least one person who will cause a disturbance or get up and leave, causing annoyance to the rest of the audience (i.e Personal Taste, Goblin, Descendants of the Sun, etc).

101. In a Revenge Drama the person seeking revenge almost always dies. Wait for it. Otherwise there is no point or moral to a drama where the lead is seeking revenge. Are you going to tell your audience it's perfectly okay to seek revenge? Even if the revenge seeker mellows out later he still has to pay for the revenge he sought earlier. Because criminals and killers like Son of Sam claimed to become born again Christians in prison does that mean they should be released? Nope. People have to pay for their sins and crimes in the physical realm, even if they are forgiven later in the spiritual realm.

102. Attraction at first sight but not "Insta-Love". True love has to be earned.


 

103. Unique hairstyles on some characters so they stand out from the crowd.
 

104. No high school character can make it through high school without being bullied.

105. Often near the beginning of a drama the main couple cross each other on the street or in a building and they don't know each other yet, but the camera slows down as they pass each other, or bump into each other, signifying that Fate will eventually bring these two strangers together romantically.


 

106. Falling asleep while riding a bus then head resting on someone's shoulder.
 

107. If someone gets knocked out cold they always awake with temporary memory loss. They gain it back eventually, but usually only when they meet with another accident and their head gets hit again.

108. The 360 degree camera revolving kiss scene.



109. The frozen or static kiss scene. Open your lips why don't you??? You're not statues!

110. Best friends become enemies and then go back to being best friends again.

111. The Time Gap in the second to last or last episode. Often a whole year will go by where our lovers are not together - sometimes for more education, sometimes for illness purposes, sometimes because one lover thinks the other is dead but then they return. (To me this is another common writing cliché that should go by the wayside. The audience feels cheated out of a whole year seeing our lovers grow as people. Then suddenly they are back together and it often feels unnatural).

112. Flashbacks. Often to childhood days. Lots and lots of flashbacks.



113. Music themes that play over and over again in the background of the dramas and fixate in your memory (and heart) forever.

114. Scenes that make you laugh one minute, and then the next minute you are crying (and vice versa). Koreans definitely do that on purpose to us. (So many times I don't have a chance to wipe a tear away from one scene yet, but I'm already laughing at the next scene).

115. Visiting burial graves that are built over the ground, not underneath the soil. 



116. Bringing liquor and food to the grave or to the person's death memorial ceremony. (I always say that if I were homeless in Korea I'd hang out in cemeteries to get a free supply of food and drink).

117. Family secrets, like birth secrets, being revealed midway or near the end of the dramas.

118. Dramatic Airport Scenes. Usually one person is chasing another or they are rushing to say good bye to them for what they think is the last time.

119. Unless a dead body is recovered, the person is alive. Typical examples, one jumping from a bridge, shot but fell to a river (or creek, sea, etc).
 

120. Or, if nobody has said someone has officially died, yet their ghost comes to visit you, you know they are not officially dead yet, they're rather in a coma, and you can stop panicking.



121. Characters making heart signs with their hands or arms or crossing their fingers meaning I Love You ("Saranghae!").



122. Amusement Park Scenes, couples often go on carousels or roller coasters.



123. Mothers are sometimes abusive to their children, hurl insults, will repeat old sayings like "let's go die together" when they are annoyed.
 

124. Shaving scenes. The female lead shaves the male lead after he's temporarily grown a mustache or beard.



125. Forced Living Conditions. This is in practically all romantic K-dramas. The writers have to bring two people together who often don't even like each other in the beginning, so they have to use an exaggerated method of doing so: forcing the couple to live together platonically, either because of debt, some misunderstandings, an accident, saving face due to career choices, awkward family situations where one of the couple (usually the girl) feels embarrassed to live with them anymore and due to some emergency situation ends up living with some guy she barely knows.

126. Along with Forced Living Conditions are the scenes in many K-dramas where the two main characters are inadvertently locked in a room overnight by accident, often a store room, a school room, a barn, inside a restaurant, etc. If they didn't get along before, this forces them to deal with each other for the first time in a more intimate way.


 

127. Group singing the catchy tune, "Congratulations!" or the Happy Birthday Song, "Sangachuckah hamnidah!"
 

128. Almost everyone has a cell phone, but you rarely see people charging them, which must be why their cell phones are always dead or dying at a critical moment. Sometimes if they want to silence their cell phone they actually take the batteries out instead of just turning them off.

129. Of course, there are the phones that are flung up into the air when the heroine’s arm is knocked by a passing bicyclist or motorcyclist ... which often leads to the hero’s replacing the phone with the latest model.

130. Delayed notification. Characters are forever declaring that they need to tell someone something but saying they’ll do it tomorrow or later, but then they get in an accident or somebody else spills the beans before they have a chance.

131. Characters talking out loud to themselves instead of using voice-overs to reveal their inner thoughts.
 

132. In every K-drama there is one place in at least one scene where the year of the drama made can be seen. Usually a calendar on the wall, or a date on a sign somewhere. I've noticed this for over a decade. It's like they fear the date of the show will be forgotten or something. I think it's really cute they do this, they don't do it in American shows. Watch for it next time you watch a drama from the beginning to the end. You will see it, guaranteed (except in a non-fusion sageuk).



133. Occasionally high heel shoes are meant to be broken or purposely removed and the lady ends up walking barefooted or would lead to the unfailing piggy back ride.
 

134. If a character is hit by a car they ALWAYS bleed from only their head. The camera will focus on the body either dead, or clinging to life by a thread, laying face up on the road and suddenly blood starts gushing from their heads, never anywhere else on their body, just their heads.



135. In every romantic K-drama you can practically guarantee there will be an Eavesdropping Scene where the rival lover will hear the main couple chatting privately, or the main lead lover will hear the female lead chatting intimately with the second male lead.



136. If two main characters are destined to learn some big secret revelation about themselves, then people they know who surround them on a daily basis (friends, relatives) will accidentally meet first, to pave the way for the big revelation to follow. For example, the secondary characters will physically bump into each other, important papers will drop on the floor, both will exclaim "I'm sorry!" and pick up the wrong papers, which will reveal some big secret to them first, before the main couple discover what it is later.

137. Love confessions come about half-way through a K-drama. If a drama is 16 episodes look for the confession around episode 8. If it's 20 episodes look for it around episode 10.

138. The liberal use of wonderful older character actors playing parents, bosses, or mentors. You tend to see the same actors so often they begin to feel like family to you.

139. Someone needs a bus/train ride but has no money? No worry, a Good Samaritan will offer his/her ticket or will volunteer to pay the fare.

140. If there are jealous girls who are against the female lead character or a secondary character they almost always come in packs of threes.



141. Facial Mask Scenes so the characters can improve their skin. Both men and women. Sometimes one character will take a picture of themselves wearing one and send it as a picture attachment on their cell phones to the loved one. No brands are ever specified so this doesn't fall under the category of Product Placement, rather simply comedy.



142. In historical dramas there are always torture scenes. We hate them but they are there, to remind us of the brutality of those times, especially when the King and/or Queen on the throne are mentally disturbed individuals.



143. Sauna Scenes, with the silly hats, often the characters are seen eating a hard boiled egg and/or cracking the shell over someone's head in these scenes.



144.  Finger flicking the Forehead, and wrist thwacking, either as a game itself or as a punishment for losing a game.



145. The weird love that chaebols seem to have for plants - especially orchids - obsessively cleaning and watering them. Perhaps keeping their hands busy allows them time to reflect on their next course of action! Of course, plants are also convenient locations for hiding things, like flash drives, wills, listening devices, or hidden cameras or for burying evidence.

146. When a female character gets angry she will yell "HYA!" The English translator will translate it as "Hey!" but what we are hearing each time this happens is a much funnier "HYA!"



147. Loud exclamations: "AIGOO!" "AISH!"

148. Clothing Weirdness. A) How can people in Kdramas show up at a restaurant and not need to remove their heavy winter coats? Aren’t they dying of heat? B) How can people go to bed wearing the same clothes they wore all day? C) How do people slip their shoes on and off so quickly? Don’t the heels of their shoes get worn down from the abuse they take? D) Who wears high heels in an airport except a stewardess?
 

149. In a hospital someone is always pulling out their own IVs without any help from medical staff, many times it's just taped on, so they just rip the tape off.

150. At some time during practically every drama the first male lead or the second male lead (and sometimes together) have to take on a whole big group of bad guys, and they succeed in knocking them all out every time! 1 against 10, no problem! 2 against 20, a cinch!

151. Lead actress who is in disguise as a man is usually unmasked/uncovered first by the lead actor's best friend/rival (i.e. Splendid Politics, Moonlight Drawn by Clouds, etc.)



152. Sharing one coat in the cold (often goes along with the back hug).


 

153. Loser parents: i.e., one or more parents is a feckless ne'er-do-well, has problems holding onto a job, is an habitual gambler, has a problem with alcohol or lends/loses money to a friend or business partner. This can lead to 1) death, 2) the other parent abandoning hearth and home, 3) constant visits by loan sharks, 4) one of the children becoming the main support of the family, usually at the cost of losing an opportunity to attend university.

154. Occasionally some dramas will show one-night stand story lines, usually prompted by the over-consumption of soju, often leading to pregnancy, with various scenarios playing out: 1) forced marriage, 2) characters rediscover one another after a break in time and their relationship is rekindled, etc.

155. Characters watching dramas or referring to dramas or characters from folk tales or the use of music from well-known dramas.

156. Obsession/possession with high power telescope. Use for star gazing or spying. (i.e. Master's Sun, My Love From Another Star)



157. The accidental reveal (partial or full) of enticing body parts (though the actual parts are camouflaged by the camera).



158. No one eats Western style food unless it's Italian pasta or pizza, or Subway. Rarely if ever does anyone in Korea bite into a hamburger.

159. Whenever Koreans order coffee it's always "I'll have an Americano".

160. Nosy neighbors who spy on what the main cast of characters are doing, a la Gladys Kravitz in the old American TV show Bewitched.



161. Korean remakes of famous Japanese or Chinese dramas that end up being better and more famous than their originals (i.e. Boys Over Flowers, The Suspicious Housekeeper, Liar Game, Scarlet Heart, etc).
 
162. Whenever characters drink soju it is literally ALWAYS the brand in the green bottle with black letters on white label. In 12 years of watching K-dramas I've never seen the characters drink any other brand. It must contribute a steady amount of advertising monies to make these dramas.



163. If one character is really ticked off at another character (especially if they've bested them in a conversation) that character will throw a drink of water (or wine or soju, whatever is handy) in the "offending" character's face.



164. Common Laundry Scenes - often characters will wash their clothes in a big basin filled with water and soap and one or both characters will enter the basin and stomp on the wet clothes like they are pressing grapes for wine. Sometimes girl characters will feel embarrassed when their male love interests see their wet underwear hanging out to dry, and they quickly try to get them out of sight.

165.
When the main couple, after fighting in the beginning of the drama, start becoming friends there is almost always one trip to the grocery store together. I've seen this in so many K-dramas I've lost count, from I'm Sorry, I Love You to Personal Taste to Angel Eyes to Goblin and on and on. They often argue what they should buy for dinner.



166.
Getting wet for fun (i.e. water fight, pushing/pulling someone to the pool, splashing water along the shore line, etc.)

167.
Wonderful scenes and vistas from various places in Korea that leave one yearning to see and experience them in person.



168.
A chaebol's (mogul's) son / daughter starts working in the company as a trainee (rank and file). Their iidentity is kept secret to be revealed later (i.e. My Love From Another Star, High Society). 

169.
Fake Dating for an ulterior motive (i.e. Master's Sun (to dispel rumors), Coffee Prince (to ruin blind dates fixed by family) and Full House 2 (get rid of scandals).

170. The biggest cliché of all: Cliffhangers. At the end of every episode there has to be a dramatic scene that keeps the audience coming back for more. Usually the biggest cliffhanger in a 2 episode pair per week comes at the end of the second episode of that week, because the writers know that an audience needs to come back after 7 days, so what better way than to have a cliffhanger of an intimate nature so that it looks like the main couple will kiss or become closer physically / emotionally. It's all planned and it snares them in every time. If it's a revenge / thriller / political type of drama some big catastrophe will happen, someone will get hurt and you're not sure if they will die or not, someone will be chasing someone else, leaving you wondering if they will catch the person fleeing the scene, etc.







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