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Introduction to korean historical dramas

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Did you know it is possible to learn about Korean history, even about the contemporary one, through dramas? Korean dramas are a guilty pleasure that many have; however, we don’t usually think it is possible to learn about the history of the country of our dreams through these productions. For instance, they can help you to understand a little bit more about some key historical figures such as King Sejong or the Flower Warriors well known as Hwarang. In 2016, a drama named Hwarang: The Poet Warrior Youth was released with Park Seo Joon as one of the main characters. What many don’t know is that the Flower warriors existed as an elite group before the 10th century in the Kingdom of Silla, a time when Buddhism was enjoying a boom. In fact, certain social, hierarchical, and economic aspects of a period of time can be learned from dramas. However, WARNING! Dramas are not textbooks that bring real data directly to the viewer, fiction and reality are intertwined, but dramas give us clues about the history of a particular period.

Jet Dela Cruz Unsplash

Audiovisual productions of a historical nature are common around the world, even in Colombia we can find some examples such as La Pola (2010) or Bolívar (2019). South Korea is not an exception, there are productions such as Tree with Deep Roots (2011), Six Flying Dragons (2015), or Youth of May (2021). 

Fiction is a common feature in dramas, certainly, it is one of the elements which allow us to enjoy these dramas the way we do. However, behind all those layers of fictional stories and unreal characters, there are characters based on real events and historical figures. Some dramas are categorized under the historical type for the epoch in which they take place, especially those depicted before the XX century. This is not necessarily because there are remarkable real facts within them, but because it is also possible to learn from them. As a matter of fact, it is undeniable that scriptwriters research a lot in order to bring credible scenery to the viewer with appropriate spaces, costumes, and apparel. To give you an example, men used to have long hair a few decades ago in the Korean peninsula and they even used some accessories to show their social status, such as the Gat, a type of hat, in the Joseon Dynasty.

Carl Kho Unsplash

According to Yu Shen Wu (2021), in her article about the boom of historical movies and their impacts, explains that: “Korean historical film is also a unique pattern to commemorate the history in order to make Korean people remember how they and their formal generations have got through the hard times.” It means that the patriotic feeling is taken into account when products of this kind are made, even if indirectly done for the audience. It is possible that this kind of sentiment is also present in audiovisual productions such as dramas; so both patriotism and lessons on the history of past generations are embedded into entertainment and great romances. 

There are many productions that fit this description, with being to some extent, based on real events and their characters based on real historical figures. They even attempt to bring out the patriotic feeling of the people. We are going to talk about some of these dramas in an upcoming entry. Meanwhile, we want to ask you:  Which historical drama do you remember that taught you something about Korean history? 

Written by: Andrea Ramirez Buitrago

Edited by: Angie Salavarria

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