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
3. Rich boy, Poor girl
4. The Evil or
Interfering Future or Present Day Mother-in-Law.
5. Back Hugs.
6. Fix The Boo Boo
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
lead couple whom you know will end up together at the end
do not get along at first.
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
31. Umbrella sharing
scene when it rains.
32. Learning how to ride a bicycle
scene or couple shares one bicycle while
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
37. Someone wakes from a
coma and can see ghosts or possesses another supernatural
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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,
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
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
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
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
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
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
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,
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
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,
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.
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
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
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
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:
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
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.
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
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"
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.)
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
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.