Korean Romantic Drama and me.



As growing up in Vietnam, one of the country under the effect of Korean Wave or Hallyu Stars, I have been watching a lot of Korean dramas. I still remembered the first time I watched Korean drama: The Winter Sonata in 2004. It first broadcasted in South Korea in 2002 and became regionally famous when crossing Asian borders to reach Japan, China, Vietnam and Thailand. The drama is a romantic melodrama about a guy who has a painful childhood and suffers from amnesia with his first love after ten years of separation. The drama is the first milestone to introduce to Korean Wave to Asian and to the world. In this blog post, I want to specifically talk about Korean dramas, especially romance in Korean dramas.

After reading Ellis et al, I have learned that autoethnography is an analysis and research to provide a thick description or value of a particular culture. I have thought again and again about this and decided to step into the same topic ‘Korea Wave’ but deeper as ‘Korean drama’. In this post, I am going to point out my key findings while watching Korean dramas, along with research and interviews with my friends to strengthen my viewpoint or question the previous stereotype. Then I will finish with a case study of ‘The Descendants of the Sun’ to demonstrate about different points that I have made.


chasingskyorstars.wordpress.com/2015/02/01/how-do-girls-generation-snsd-members-workout/ (SNSD Girls’ Generation)

Firstly, the first thing I realised about Korean dramas is that all actors and actresses are extremely beautiful. When mentioning about ‘beautiful’ here, I am talking about Asian beauty: white skin, slim, high nose, red heart- shaped lips, etc. In every single drama I have watched so far, there are absolutely no leading characters not possessing these physical appearance. As I grow up, I have known that Korea is the origin of cosmetic surgery. Moreover, Korea is known for having one of the most purchased cosmetics brands.



As you can see from the chart above, Korea’ ranks are really high comparing to other countries in guaranteed quality, choice and price points, promotional offers and attractive packaging. I still remembered my one trip in Seoul, South Korea. I got very surprised at the popularity of cosmetics products in Korea. Wherever I go, there are cosmetics shops everywhere. They offer variety of products along with attractive promotional offers and completely difficult to avoid buying. But while staying in Korea, I have learned a lot of how much value they put on for physical appearance. From my Korean friends, I learn it is unacceptable or sometimes offensive to look at someone when they don’t put make up on. In Wheeler’s weblog (2012), it is claimed that “anyone who has visited Korea or is familiar with its cultural practices will tell you that Korea is obsessed with image”.  For a girl who rarely put make up on like me, Korean cosmetics culture is like a different but attractive candy. Growing up in a family who never make up, I think make- up is like putting on a mask which covers all of the marks on your face and make you no longer a natural beauty. But then, one of the most interesting things about Korean make- up culture is that men have their own make- up brands for themselves. I believe this is quite novel for the global community. It is common knowledge for me to see guy using perfume but while staying in Korea, it was quite a shocking fact for me when I realise that there is a whole section for male make- up products such as washing cream, moisturizers, essences and toners.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8bLYquTvcuQ (Korean guy before and after putting make- up on)

In conclusion, make- up is a part of Korean culture. It can be something new or even weird to some countries but it is a normal part of the culture.

Secondly, while interviewing Jessie David, my DIGC330 teammate and classmate, we both share the same view about Korean drama’s story: couples in dramas always face with extreme bad situation to make them realise that how important they are for each other. I have bear the idea that Korean drama always ends by one of the leading character having cancer or terminally ill. For example, in the drama ‘Winter Sonata’ at the end of the drama the leading male character has a tumour in the brain which makes him either die during operation or lose his eyesight and die after a few months. Moreover, there are a range of Korean dramas with an extreme sad ending such as the glass slipper, autumn in my heart, sorry I love you. Moreover, it is also very typical for me to see Korean couples in dramas have a happy ending after fighting against ‘the whole world’. It is very highlighted or repeatedly for Korean drama couples to face with the objection of their parents, the emergence of the third person in the relationship, the misunderstanding due to ‘too much care and love’ for each other. For instance, in the drama ‘Boys over flower’ in 2009, the couple Jan Di, a very poor girl and Jun Pyo, the chaebol of a rich family, have faced a strong objection from Jun Pyo’s mother, who believes her son deserve a more beautiful, smarter and richer lady. The drama reaches its peak in viewers rating as the beauty of the main casts but also because of their love story. To complete her goals, Jun Pyo’s mother doesn’t mind doing anything. She firstly pays Jan Di an enormous amount of money, then buys her house, makes her whole family not have a place to live, hires people to destroy her small street vendor, and multiple other things. However, Jun Pyo and Jan Di have hold hands so strongly until the end and proved to Jun Pyo’s mother that position and money don’t have anything to do with their love. The drama is a happy ending but as an audience, I have to say that it is so impossible to have such a tragedy in life and can find someone to overcome with.




Here is the link for some top Korean meanest mom in drama. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0DKePNmPaGY

So, as you can see, the beautiful and concrete love story in Korean drama normally faces with extreme and severe conditions which we rarely have in our life.

Finally, before coming to my case study ‘The Descendants of the Sun’, I have always wondered if there is actually a love story like Korean Drama in real life. From my own point of view, the love story in K- dramas is too beautiful, too artistic that is so impossible to become the truth in real life. Finding that someone who is willing to hold your hands under any circumstances is extremely difficult, not mentioning that he needs to be super handsome, super gentle and always does everything that ladies dream of. I have interviewed my Vietnamese and international friends. They all share the same answer with me although some of them believe that it is flexible and depends a lot on the person. So, what about you guys? Please leave some comments or your thoughts below my post.

Last but not least, I am going to look at the drama ‘The Descendants of the Sun’ to highlight some of my own viewpoints. The drama is made in 2106 and became a big hit in South Korea where it reached 38.8% of audience share and gained a huge popularity across Asia. I have remembered that when the drama first air, all of my Vietnamese/ Asian friends talk about it all day. They complement handsome Yoo Si- jin (Song Joong Ki), beautiful Kang Mo-yeon (Song Hye- kyo), manly Seo Dae- young (Jin Goo) and attractive but not feminist Yoon Myung- ju. There are two couples in this drama Yoo Si-jin with Kang Mo-yeon and Seo Dae- young with Yoon Myung- ju. Their love stories are a huge success across whole South Korea and Asia, brings up the name of the actors and actresses once again receive the love of thousands new fans internationally. The drama received in total of 6 awards by Baeksang, and Daesang awards.



The drama is not just a simple love story between a guy and a lady but a love story between two people sharing their love to their country, to kids and the elder. It is not just a romantic story with a lot of kissing scenes but a love story that makes my heart flutter because of action scene and the underground battle between North and South Korea. It creates once again a popular Korean wave in Asia and the main casts of the drama have become so much more famous than ever. Wherever they go, they get most of concentration about themselves. With a single search on ‘Descendants of the Sun Fan’, I received 6,370,000 results in 0.65 seconds. If you are a fan of the drama, you can use this website to check official fan page: https://www.pinterest.com.au/xinyue1824/descendants-of-the-sun-official-fan-page/. Song Joong- ki and Song Hye- ko after the success of the drama become one of the most powerful K- biz couple and their fans all around the world have hoped that their idols will be a real couple. In early this year, the couple announced that they were dating and going to get married on 31 October 2017. Their information has been updated every single day since then. The official fan page such as Song Jong- ki Asian fanbase updated regularly about their wedding information. Just with a search on twitter ‘the Descendants of the Sun’ there were a lot of wishes and congratulations from fan locally and globally sending to Song- Song couple.


newburghgazette.com/2017/10/31/marriage-of-song-joong-ki-song-hye-kyo-shrouded-in-complete/ (Song- Song couple on their wedding day 31 October 2017)

The drama ‘Descendants of the Sun’ is a typical but new Korean drama: love stories under extreme severe conditions with beautiful girls and handsome men.

In conclusion, Korean dramas have given me a very good angle to learn about Korean culture. As a girl who growing up in Vietnam, a South East Asian country, the Korean Wave, especially Korean dramas has spread and brought up Korean cultures to introduce with Asia and international community.

Here are a few epiphanies that I have found while watching romantic Korean dramas which is pretty interesting as well:

  • The respect towards the elder: in all types of Korean dramas, it is essential and very important to bow down while meeting the older. Unlike English, Korean people use honorifics while talking with the elder and people with higher position to show their respect towards the people. Here is a video giving examples of the situation to use honorifics as well: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SygPSMN3IA4
  • Kissing scenes in dramas are too impossible to be real. I have found a very good youtube video to express my meaning: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x2TeAMme4SQ
  • It is very funny while I watch some Korean dramas which at the start, the guy is very shy and doesn’t know how to confess his love. But at the end of the drama, the leading male character because of his love for the female character, becomes a very professional and romantic love confessor. While comparing to real life, I found out that guys with the same background like the characters in the dramas would probably do something silly. In Korean dramas, even how bad they are at talking with a girl, they are professional and romantic when it comes to express love.


  1. Ellis, C., Adams, T.E., & Bochner, A.P. 2011, Autoethnography: An Overview, Qualitative Social Research,

< http://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/1589/3095>

  1. Wheeler, C. J 2012, The Korean Wave: Multiculturalism, Foreigners and Cultural Backwash, The Korean Movie & Drama Database, weblog 2 June, viewed on 1 November, <http://www.hancinema.net/hancinema-korea-s-diary-the-korean-wave-multiculturalism-foreigners-and-cultural-backwash—43367.html#!prettyPhoto>



Sailor Moon: Art Styles and Epiphanies


After reading Ellis et al, my understanding of autoethnography is that it’s a process. A process of methodologies that require personal experience. Simplistically put, you identify a part in a culture you would like to further understand or analyse, for example my group’s autoethnography project was on Japanese dating sims. We identified this billion dollar industry but were unfamiliar with the games, how it became popular, why it became popular and how it has influenced the Western cultures (if so).

After identifying the area of focus and researching everything you can about the topic, the next progression stage is immersing yourself in the experience. Whether it’s playing games, attending events, making something – whatever it be, immerse yourself in that cultural experience and then document it. This is one of the most critical and most stressed points in autoethnography. In the Autoethnography journal, Ellis et al clearly states, “‘auto’ is from personal experience, ‘ethno’ is to understand cultural experience and ‘graphy’ is the approach to research and writing that describes and analyses (Ellis, 2004; Holman Jones, 2005). Obviously alluding to the final progression stage, describing and analysing your experience and findings.

I applied this autoethnography method through my individual research of Sailor Moon. I so far have made two videos available on YouTube where I give my first account and experience, and secondly, where I analyse the account through my own cultural framework and how it structured my investigation.

As I have been going through the process of autoethnography I have had my own epiphanies of realisation. When I say epiphanies, I’m not relating to Ellis et al’s definition, I will get to that in just a moment. I’m talking about the epiphanies I had through the process itself and through my gradual understanding of autoethnography. As you will see through my videos and blog posts, I experience stages of interpreting autoethnography as I carry out my research and even correct myself for the misunderstanding a couple of times.

The epiphany distinction I had to make is different as Ellis et al states in their journal, “…epiphanies that stem from, or are made possible by, being part of a culture and/or by possessing a particular cultural identity”. This distinction is clear, however, it is not to say I did not have epiphanies as I became a part of the Japanese culture by watching Sailor Moon and researching anime.

As mentioned, in my second video I analysed my initial account and how it structured my investigation. In the attached written piece, I confess as I critique myself, “I was somewhat unclear as to the direction of my investigation. I couldn’t quite articulate the differences I was seeing between the two shows and I put it all down to the lack of experience I have in watching anime”, therefore I came to the conclusion that I need to narrow the focus of my investigation.

As I watched and compared Sailor Moon (1992) and Sailor Moon Crystal (2014) I had an epiphany, I noticed that both versions are similar with their use of expressions and tropes. Although I also point out that Sailor Moon had a stronger emphasis on her expressions than that of Sailor Moon Crystal, which led to my assumption, that due to the change in art style (graphics) and minimised expressions, Sailor Moon Crystal has changed for a more western audience. As I later find out, this isn’t true. The change in style is actually due to Japan’s economic decline and using computers in an effort to save money during the 1970’s (Clements, 2013).

This is where I focus my investigation once more. Anime in general is very broad with many avenues to explore which often intertwined in research, so I needed to narrow it once more to clarify where I was heading with the investigation, and its clear focus. With this is mind, as well as still using Sailor Moon as a basis, I narrowed my research to the simple yet obvious question I found in my video, ‘how and why has the art style changed between Sailor Moon (1992) and Sailor Moon Crystal (2014)’.

To start off, the obvious visual answer to the difference between the two styles is stated in a blog post by Crunchyroll, a global video service for Japanese anime and Asian content. Here they describe the differences between the 90’s anime art style and the 00’s. The 90’s art style consisted of thick lines, a strong emphasis on pen pressure, a defined shadow and highlight, big hair with bundled strands, large highlight in the eye with black pupil, eyes are shaped as oblong circle, nose drawn as hiragana (Japanese writing system, in English it looks like an L) and a mouth placed in a high position. In contrast, the 00’s art style consisted of thin delicate lines, conservative use of shadows and highlights, less hair volume and without bundled strands, small highlights in eyes, pupils aren’t filled, circular shaped eyes, nose is expressed as a dot, and mouth is placed low on the face.

However, this is just an overall perception. In comparison between Sailor Moon and Sailor Moon Crystal, the main features that changed were her eyes (they’re now bigger and more round), her chin is pointed as is her nose, the colour of her eyes have black pupils and also have highlights and shadows, giving her eyes a 3D look (Crunchyroll, 2013).

Mentioning 3D, it’s also obvious that Sailor Moon Crystal has been made with 3D computer graphics. Until the mid 1990’s animators continued to work with pencils, the lower levels of inbetweening (which is a frame between two images giving the illusion of motion), and colouring to capitalise the labour-saving functions of computers (Clements, 2013). Jonathan Clements states in his book Anime: A History, “the close of the twentieth century saw several productions jostling for the chance to claim the cultural capital of being the ‘first; fully digital anime” (Clements, 2013). This clearly showing that the main reason for style change between both versions of Sailor Moon is due to the advancement of technology and the eager adaptation of computers in Japan. The introduction of computers made it easier and more efficient for animators to create and edit their work, however Japan has had a love-hate relationship with 3D graphics with an apparent desire to cling to 2D animation, or to 3D animation that looks like 2D (Clements, 2013). There’s nothing in my research that says that this -in anyway, was included in the Sailor Moon series, so purely off my own observation, I don’t believe that Sailor Moon was affected by this love-hate relationship. If anything, I think the graphics in Sailor Moon Crystal are used in praise.

Overall, the answer to ‘why’ Sailor Moon has changed art styles is simply because of the adoption of computers in Japan. So, my assumption that it was because of audience change isn’t correct. However, western cultures are becoming more influenced by anime productions and the industry. As for the ‘how’ Sailor Moon changed art styles, it’s mostly visual changes including the change between pencil drawing production to rendered 3D graphics. Unfortunately, there isn’t much on explaining the artistic differences for Sailor Moon, especially in terms of film direction of the show. This would most likely require further research and investigation by contacting the production company Madman.

Other epiphanies I had throughout my research that I found interesting but weren’t specific to my investigation of art style change, were:

  • The difference between ‘anime’ and ‘cartoon’. Anime in Japan is shortened form of ‘animation’ where as to the western audience, because of the distinct stylistic difference, anime refers to an animation made in Japan.
  • Shape-shifting into an animal or demon comes from Japanese fairy tales, which actually derived from Franz Kafka, a novelist and short story author born in Prague during 1883, and who often had works based on transformation and its effects (MacWilliams, 2014).
  • This can relate to Sailor Moon who, through her series, relinquishes shape-shifting demons
  • In Sailor Moon Crystal, Usagi (aka Sailor Moon) is constantly seen playing a Sailor V game at the arcade, which could be a nod to the evolution of the Japanese gaming culture and its capital in animation such as Street Fighter II: V (Clements, 2013)
  • Anime isn’t just for children, it can also for a more adult audience, making animation films with in depth character and plot development, as well as realistic character designs. For example, Ghost in the Shell, and Perfect Blue.
  • There’s a large relationship of influence and history between Hollywood and the anime/manga industry
  • Character designs represents their personality





https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1h-ZYtHCB4k The Evolution of Anime Character Designs, AnimeEverday

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ZQ0EZp0dzk When anime went digital, AnimeEverday

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dwj2ahYnci4 The Stylistic Evolution of Anime, AnimeEverday

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v3hjtUYPtns Why Does Modern Anime Suck? AnimeEverday




https://books.google.com.au/books?id=6dDfBQAAQBAJ&pg=PA82&dq=stylistic+changes+in+anime&hl=en&sa=X&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=stylistic%20changes%20in%20anime&f=false Japanese Visual Culture: Explorations in the World of Manga and Anime, M.W. MacWilliams, 2014

https://books.google.com.au/books?id=UQMVCwAAQBAJ&pg=PT340&dq=stylistic+changes+in+anime&hl=en&sa=X&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=stylistic%20changes%20in%20anime&f=false Anime: A History, J. Clements, 2013

https://books.google.com.au/books?id=yPDHCgAAQBAJ&pg=PT121&dq=anime+art+style&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwihke-13pfXAhVJmJQKHYXfARkQ6AEIWTAJ#v=onepage&q=anime%20art%20style&f=false Manga and Anime Go to Hollywood, N. Davis

https://soundcloud.com/user-972508607/sailor-moon Sailor Moon, Wizard and the Bruiser

Autoethnographic Photography

After some deliberation on my previous blog posts, This Cambodian Life, and Ellis, Epiphanies and Photography, I decided to complete a personal autoenthographic photo series.

As a result of the Pol Pot regime, where all photographs were destroyed, modern Cambodian photographers have had to re-establish collections of photographs. Here, photographs of day to day life has immense value.

Inspired by Cambodian photographers, specifically, Vandy Rattana, Neak Sophal, Vuth Luyno and Pete Pinh (their works can be viewed here and here) – I photographed my final day of classes at uni.

At first, I thought the task would be simple – it was not. Photographing my life, with the sole purpose being to capture the moment, instead of focusing on making it look aesthetically appealing, required a shift in perspective; I was not looking for a good angle, but to snap it how I see it. The purpose of this task is to collect memories of my every day life. However, when I now look back on the pictures, I do see the beauty in every day actions, especially my morning beach yoga views and mediation incense burnings.

The photo series below consist of 57 individual images. It is not necessarily each individual picture, but the collective impression portrayed when scrolling through that captures the sounds and sights of my day.

“You can hear something a thousand times and not know it; yet if you see it with your eyes just once, you know.” — Khmer proverb.

Ellis, C., Adams, T.E., and Bochner, A.P. (2011) ‘Autoethnography: An Overview‘, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 12:1. Available at: http://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/1589/3095























































A Gaijin’s Guide to Instant Noodles

i am conor oleary

When I was speaking about this the response from my friend Minh was a disappointed  “White man advises fellow white men on entry level supermarket snacks.”

So here it is.

Throughout my life there have been a few experiences where I’ve just thought, “Damn, I’m very white”.  Now that’s not to say that there’s anything wrong with that, there are some situations where you can feel a little out of place.  Preparing for this digital artefact was one of those times.

It was after work on a Monday night, the city was bustling; suits on their way home, others doing their shopping.  I was making my way downtown, walking fast, faces passed en route to Citi Super, the Asian grocers at Town Hall.  I go there often, so it’s not an unfamiliar place but that doesn’t stop it from being somewhat intimidating.  I didn’t grow up with much of the…

View original post 931 more words

Your Name – An Autoethnographic Study of Shintoism


The area of study which I chose to explore was centred around spirituality in anime with a focus on the successful film Your Name. Throughout this project I have been able to immerse myself in the Shintoism and try to cultivate my understanding and knowledge in relation to Japanese culture by employing my own cultural framework and assumptions (Ellis, 2011).

I found, in my experience, that a few key moments or epiphanies stood out to me, being transformative to my own understanding of Japanese culture and spirituality. I was able to understand this through identifying and analysing the following phenomena and evaluating their transformative effects through qualitative research and experiences relating back to my own cultural framework (Moore, 2017).

In this way, as a storyteller, I used the medium of YouTube and video to convey my message to an audience suited to my chosen area of study (Allen-Collinson &…

View original post 920 more words

DA: Translating English to Japanese to English

As someone who was born in Australia in a family where Tagalog is the first language I’ve picked up on both English and Tagalog growing up. During Primary School I’ve also picked up Japanese as well. Japanese media was a huge part of my life since it makes up a huge portion of not only my childhood but my current interests and hobbies as well. Ranging from building Gundams to playing the next big JRPG a year before it’s English release.


Growing up with a family that speaks Tagalog at home, friends that speak English and studying Japanese in my own free time. I’ve been exposed to a wide spectrum of perspectives regarding Asia and the west. One of my most fond memories of my childhood was watching Cartoon network shows such as Foster’s home for Imaginary friends and The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy. The writing behind the two series is amazing and all the jokes have impeccable timing.

Since I know more than one language, I figured it’d be interesting to see how those two made the transition from English to Japanese. But on top of this, I’ve translated it back into English to see how it compares to the original English script.

Part of the idea came from putting 少年 (shounen/boy in Japanese) into Google translate, reversing the translation from JP > EN to make it JP > EN then switching the 2nd language to a different one. This could be done to a point where the word has changed completely. It’s kind of like Chinese whispers but for Google actually now that I actually think about it.

During this digital artifact I’ve come across a few epiphanies regarding translation from one language to another. The biggest one that came from this project is that a 1-to-1 translation is never recommended, at least for English to Japanese or vice versa. Literal translations never come out well.


Here’s what it looks like if you aim for a 1-to-1 translation.

Translation is all about having something make sense for a foreign audience while retaining the original message behind the medium. It’s absolutely key to retain the original experience the original audience had and let a foreign audience experience it the same way. Despite this being the key point of translation however, fan subtitles can fall into this trap. Duwang translations of Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure being among one of the most infamous.

Even though, fan translations are generally of lower quality, they’re quite popular for Japanese video games (Lee, HK 2011). One of the best examples of a fan translation is the one for Phantasy Star Online 2. I mention this one specifically because while it is a fan translation, it’s a fan translation of an MMO. MMOs generally take 4 – 5 years to create. Part of this large process is due to the script for NPCs, story and quest text. PSO2 has yet to be released in English however the fan translation team has translated 99% of it and are keeping up with the game’s constant story/quest updates.

Another thing I learned from this Digital artifact is that, adding subtitles to something is more time consuming than expected. Going in I thought adding text to a video was simple. I mean it was, but aligning the timing of the words with the subtitles is was took the most effort, especially for longer sentences. Getting the timing down for subtitles to stay on screen long enough for the audience to read but not have it too slow was something I had to keep in mind.

One final thing that I took away from this project is that it’s difficult to make Japanese seem have a lot of flair in comparison to English. At least in regards to the cartoons I’ve translated. This is the dialogue in the cartoon network shows are very direct and lack a lot of the nuance that made them so fun to watch years later. While it may seem small, this difference in language vocabulary and structure is what leads to what works in each language. Slapstick comedy shows such as Gaki no Tsukai  are more popular than ever in Japan, but stand up comedians such as Louis CK is what’s popular in the west. Slapstick comedy is straightforward and requires no build up while stand up comedy is quite the opposite, relying on how it’s set and built up.

To end this project, take a look at the results: (I used vid.me because youtube takes too long to upload)




Reference List

Ellis, C, Adams, TE, & Bochner, AP 2011, ‘Autoethnography: an overview’, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, vol. 12, no. 1, viewed 15 October 2017, <http://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/1589/3095&gt;

Lee, HK 2011, ‘Participatory media fandom: A case study of anime fansubbing’, Media, Culture & Society, vol. 33, no. 8, pp. 1131-1147.

V-pop (is NOT K-pop!)

Hey everyone!

This blog post is just here to accompany my podcast for my DA!

My Podcast (For some reason it wouldn’t upload to Soundcloud… .-. :

My Notes:

MV Research: