We're still celebrating the podcast's 5th Anniversary, so here is your next instalment of What Would Dramaland Do? This time, an out-of-towner wants to know how things are done in Dramaland when it comes to dating and confessions. Luckily, we know all about 'ships and how to sail them!
Look for a new post in this series next week, and if you missed our live discussion of writing and storytelling in K-dramas, you can still find the replay exclusively through our newsletter. Don't forget to sign up!
I am from Norway. I got into Tae Kwon Do as a teenager and it helped me find meaning in life, as well as my greatest mentor. Sabu-nim is from Korea so I have been connected to Korea and Korean culture for the better part of my life. I feel more at home in Korea than I ever do in my country.
I've been writing to a Korean penpal for a year. I'm currently visiting Seoul: we've been meeting but my friend keeps changing her plans so we can meet more.
I want to ask her what she thinks about dating... but now I'm overthinking it. Like there are tonnes of weird guys online who fetishise Asian women and I want to be cautious and not assume anything. We were speaking formal language up to a month ago, you know? And being also kind of oblivious re: relationships anyway—I'm more a longboats than courtships kinda guy. My last relationship was probably last century, also long-distance, and didn't end well.
What should I do? Should I wait for her to lead, or should I just be blunt?
I should add, I don't actually watch K-dramas much (I'm more into films) so I await your expertise.
A Viking in Seoul
Dear Viking in Seoul,
First: watch more K-dramas. For the most heart-fluttering lines, we recommend anything by Ha Myung-hee on a good day. You may find the first 4 episodes of Temperature of Love most magical instructive.
You can wait for her to take the lead, but do you want to? Can you be sure she will? Maybe she’s waiting for you to take the lead. I’m as good an overthinker as anyone, but here’s the clincher for me and maybe for you: do you want to lose your chance with a great woman because you’re spending too much time in your head?
Get out of your head and into the present. Since you don’t watch dramas, you may not know that I actually do favour being direct: you can’t get more blunt than a Truck of Doom, eh? “Say it with wheels” is my motto, but that’s because I don’t have a mouth.
Now as for how to say it, any drama can tell you: it starts with a gobaek, the love confession type. You can say, “I like you,” or “Shall we date” or “Let’s have ramyun” (okay maybe not the last, that doesn’t mean what you think it means 😬).
(Language note: not every gobaek is a love confession, but every love confession is a gobaek. Not to be confused with daebak.)
Here is one of the loveliest gobaeks of all time:
And if you want to play it safe, you can throw in a casual, “If no, then let’s say this never happened,” and return your friendship to a comfortable place. Cool-hage. Be cool, you are a meocchin namja. If you want to lean in close to her and LOOM, with your hand braced on the wall above her, that might work, too. Or it might not if she’s not into macho alpha-male lead behaviour. You’ll have to judge it for yourself. (Note: see guide image at the top.)
Other suggested activities are: piggyback rides (mind your manner-hands), aegyo, first date at an amusement park, strolling by the Han River at night, buying matching couple clothes that are embarrassing for both of you, and somehow persuading her to call you “oppa”—or if she’s older, perhaps you can try calling her “noona”?
And if it doesn’t work out and she throws a glass of water in your face, no problem, you can run away forever all the way back to Norway and nobody need ever know!
Crazy love aside...this is your friend whom you know better than I do. So find a way to communicate your feelings respectfully, don’t let her feel pressured to accept, and centre her in your considerations. Don’t look to Dramaland for a magic formula (even though some of my concoctions are pretty great, though I do say so myself! Take I’m Not a Robot or Sassy Go Go, for example), but think of what she thinks and likes, and what you have together.
Remember: nothing ventured, nothing gained. But also, kindness and respect are the best qualities any male lead could have, and that’s why everyone loves Junho in Just Between Lovers. And whatever you do, do not take relationship advice from outdated monstrosities like Boys Over Flowers or Full House.
Do take moody showers, though. Preferably where your ladylove can see your biceps. Muscles maketh the man—or so the ladies tell me. As a disembodied entity, I can tell you it takes much more to make a man, but muscles are definitely a good start.
Until next time.