How Korean Dramas Are Brainwashing Its Viewers

Korean dramas are popular worldwide. Despite most watchers being unable to understand the language, they provide a universal sense of entertainment for all age groups. However, K-dramas have built certain expectations for both Koreans and foreigners. There are groups of people who believe they have to be a certain way to be accepted in Korea, while other groups believe that the Korea in dramas is an exact replication of the Korea in real life. There can be some overlapping similarities; however, most of the time, K-dramas set unrealistic standards for what people are like in Korea.

1. Good-Looking People

Korean actor Song Joong-ki in the popular K-drama Descendants of the Sun. Source by SBS PopAsia

Not all Korean female and male actors are Barbie Dolls! Like in any other country, there are the unattractive, the regular, and the good-looking. K-dramas, however, only cast people that fit into Korea’s high standards of beauty. Most people who have never been to Korea assume that all the guys and girls there would look like the actors in the dramas they watch, but it’s very rare to find people like that. “Many of my friends told me they would like to go to Korea, as there would be a lot of good-looking guys, but there really isn’t many that would meet the standard of a Korean actor,” a native Korean but now student at SAS, Park Jihyun commented. “Some of my friends who have been to Korea were also disappointed with what they saw.”

2. The Perfect Partner

Steve of Asian Boss interviewing Korean citizens about Korean dramas. Source by YouTube

Romance, as it is portrayed in K-dramas, is the ideal concept of love and happiness. Many, especially women, believe that in Korea, you would be able to find “the perfect partner” who’s not only good-looking but also good at everything else and has the best personality. Sadly, that is not true. In a YouTube video published by Asian Boss, the host, Steve, went around Korea asking Koreans if they think there are any guys that exist in Korea that are like a particular actor, and many answers were “definitely not possible” or “there are no guys like that.” Not all men in Korea are as chivalrous, romantic, and perfect boyfriend material like the male leads are in dramas.

3. Koreans Never Gain Weight

A scene from the Korean drama “Let’s Eat Season 2.” Source by Quasar Zone

In Korean dramas, the actors and actresses eat a lot of unhealthy food, such as ramen, pork belly, rice cakes, and fried chicken and still manage to remain skinny without exercising. “Whenever I’m out to eat with my friends, they are always envious of how much I eat as they think I’ll never gain weight. When I tell them I do, they’ll start to compare me to the actors from Korean dramas,” Korean SAS Student Ryu Jin commented. Sadly, as much as I wished we don’t, Koreans do gain weight too. After all, we are human beings. Because of the harsh standards in Korea, there are still many who suffer and go through immense criticism for being “fat,” even though it’s the average weight of a person. Not only that, some go under the knife to meet these beauty standards. Even Korean actors and actresses go through rigid workout routines and extreme diets to maintain their beauty standards.

4. All Koreans Are Fashionable

Korean fashion portrayed by Girl’s Day, a K-pop group. Source by Pinterest

Clothing that is usually worn by actors and actresses are all very fashionable, and normal sweatpants are portrayed as “ugly.” With this, Koreans, especially women, start to get the idea that they have to dress like them to be “normal.” Most of them start to buy outfits that the actors they saw on television wore, and the clothing that female characters wore on the shows are often sold out immediately after it airs. Now, most Korean women think it is natural to have several high-end designer bags that cost way more than their paychecks.

5. The Beauty Standards in Korea

Korean actors Lee Min Ho and Park Shin Hye. Source by Soompi

Being pale, skinny, and beautiful are the “beauty standards” in Korea, and most actors and actresses have them, portraying that others also have to be like them to be considered “beautiful.” Because of this, those who are not are typically bullied or go under the knife, distorting their natural look. Additionally, being skinny in Korea is usually below the average weight in other countries. Most Americans love to be tan, while it’s the opposite in Korea and other Asian countries. Some even go for skin bleaching just to be paler. “You don’t live here right?” is a question my sister, Hyun Jin, and I hear frequently whenever we visit Korea as we are on the tanner side, according to Korea’s standards. Furthermore, while it may be odd to some, having a small face and double eyelids are also a beauty standard to most Koreans. If you have a small face, you get complimented a lot in Korea. Not only that, it is said that double eyelid surgeries are the most common in Korea, and parents even use them as graduation gifts to their kids. This beauty standard has influenced not only Koreans a lot but also others, especially Asians.

A scene from Gag Concert, a Korean sketch-comedy show. Source by YouTube

Koreans themselves commented that Korean dramas are fun to watch because they’re so unrealistic and almost too far removed from reality.  Generally speaking, Korean dramas can be very entertaining, but they shouldn’t be portrayed as the reality of Korea, and they shouldn’t build stereotypes that can’t easily be achieved.

Author: Hyun Ju

Hyun Ju Lee is currently a senior and this is her second year being part of The Eye. She is a Korean that was born in Boston, but raised in Singapore since she was two years old. She can be contacted at

2 thoughts

  1. It was really good to read this, have a good reality check about these dramas as I too have the tendency of getting carried away by a swoonworthy romance.


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