Friday Feature: Sex in Korean Dramas

No one in their right mind would tune into Korean dramas for the smut. Lucky for you, we’re not in our right mind, so let’s take a look at how sex is represented in Korean dramas.

Pounding the rice cake: “Fated to Love You”

Possibly one of the most entertaining sex scenes in Korean dramas happened when Gun (Jang Hyuk) and Mi Young (Jang Na Ra) follow a ridiculous series of coincidences and a huge dose of aphrodisiac into bed. In the dark, the two of them slowly move towards each other, their limbs tangle, and they take the inevitable next step of dressing up in hanbok and pounding rice cakes. “Fated to Love You” made good use of a Korean euphemism to create what may be one of the cutest sex scenes ever. – Only 만

Drunk sex: “What’s Up Fox” and “I Do, I Do”

What's Up Fox love hotel
In both of these K-dramas, the female lead has an alcohol fueled one-night stand in a love motel with a younger man. Unfortunately, “I Do, I Do” only shows the aftermath with Ji An (Kim Sun Ah) waking up next to Tae Gang (Lee Jang Woo). They roll back and forth as both of them attempt to remain under the sheets while collecting their clothing from the side of the bed.

“What’s Up, Fox?” does offer some of the magic of the night before. Byung Hee (Ko Hyun Jung) is drunkenly sobbing when Chul Soo (Chun Jung Myung) sits down on the heart-shaped water bed to comfort her. She mistakes him for another man, and starts kissing him before launching a full on assault. The sober Chul Soo resists in slapstick fashion before suddenly giving in. The next morning, Chul Soo sits fully dressed by the bed, waiting for Byung Hee to wake up. When she does, there is more than enough embarrassment to go around. – Junggugeo Kaenada 중국어 캐나다

Candles and couple mugs: “Healer” and “Bride of the Century”

Healer_bed
It’s telling that I had to remind myself that there was a bed scene in “Bride of the Century”, even though Doo Rim (Yang Jin Sung) and Kang Joo (Lee Hong Ki) produced a baby in a later episode. Upon review, I discovered that their bed scene had consisted of the two of them sitting upright in bed, with their arms around each other, fully dressed, in a candlelit room. In voiceover, Kang Joo vows that their lives will progress together from this moment, and then the lights dim. The next morning, neither one of them even has messy hair, though they are wearing the same clothes.

“Healer” didn’t take itself it quite so seriously, and Young Shin (Park Min Young) and Jung Hoo (Ji Chang Wook) went from kissing at the end of one episode to waking up together at the beginning of another. I might not have known anything had happened (they’re both fully dressed and he was sick), if not for my Twitter feed pointing out that their shoes were entwined, and that couple mugs had suddenly appeared out of nowhere (yes, really). All I know is that I’m glad I’m not a kid watching this, because I would end up with some really strange ideas. – Only

Did They or Didn’t They? “Secret Love Affair”

Secret Love Affair Ep 8 12
Considering that the series title promises illicit sex, this K-drama was absurdly coy about its depiction of the deed. When 40 year old Hye Won (Kim Hee Ae) sits waiting in the bed of 20 year old Sun Jae (Yoo Ah In) while wearing his shirt, the next step seems obvious. Instead, what follows is a puzzling montage of inanimate objects in Sun Jae’s modest apartment accompanied by suggestive conversation between the lovers, then some panting. Did they have sex or not? Regardless, a good sex scene should not provoke bewilderment and debate. – JK

The kiss and the cutaway: “Coffee Prince” and “City Hall”

City_Hall_bed
The first K-drama I ever watched, “Coffee Prince” featured the classic TV sex scene trope, the kiss and the cutaway. Whereas other dramas left some room for doubt, “Coffee Prince” did not. Having tried repeatedly to kick her out of his bachelor pad, Han Gyul (Gong Yoo) warns Eun Chan (Yoon Eun Hye) of the consequences of staying in his apartment. Regardless, Eun Chan worms her way in, and Han Gyul’s already weak defences crumble. They kiss, he picks her up, and they get to the bed without coming up for air. Of course, they cut away before clothes come off, but when they cut back in, there’s little confusion about what went on. This scene is fantastic for many reasons: it conveys heat, intimacy, and two consenting adults who actively want to be together. There’s nothing explicit here, but their kisses were pretty fiery.

“City Hall” also featured mature leads who both soberly consented to have sex, and enjoyed it. Frankly, their first kiss was much hotter, but Shin Mi Rae (Kim Sun Ah) and Jo Gook (Cha Seung Won) are notable, because they took the unusual step of planning sex ahead of time. – Only

All talk, little action: “I Need Romance 3” and “Soulmate”

I Need Romance 3 Joo Yeon and Wan
These two K-dramas took inspiration from “Sex and the City” for a purported frank look into the contemporary dating scene in South Korea. Unfortunately, both shows featured more lip service than action. “Soulmate” secondary character, Min Ae was a sexually aggressive woman who sleeps with Ryohei on their first meeting. Though, we can only construe this based on the fact that he makes her breakfast the next day in her kitchen. Plus, Min Ae gets punished for her sexually liberated ways, most notably by having water poured over her head.

The audience and Wan, male lead of “I Need Romance 3” are introduced to Joo Yeon with her feigning an orgasm over the phone. Thereafter, it’s all conversations about sex rather than engaging in it. Even at the end, when Joo Yeon and Wan are in bed, the deed is only confirmed when Joo Yeon says she is hungry, and enjoys being hungry after sex. Excuse me while I vomit a little in my mouth. – JK

Love is the moment: “Heartless City” and “Heart to Heart”

Heartless_City_bed

“Heartless City” and “Heart to Heart” are the only two shows on this list to actually depict the deed. In “Heartless City”, Soo Min (Nam Gyu Ri) is poking light-hearted fun at a silent Shi Hyun (Jung Kyung Ho), when he grabs her hand, and kisses her. She more than meets him halfway as the room spins on its axis. They move locales to her apartment, and it’s not long before the two of them are sharing a tender moment in bed. I had to pick my jaw up off the floor as he kisses her and starts moving. To clarify, this scene was by no means explicit (it’s still a K-drama); it just got further than any other drama I’ve seen before or since.

In “Heart to Heart”, Hong Do (Choi Kang Hee) and Yi Seok (Chun Jung Myung) got as far as taking their clothes off in bed, but cut away before they got further. It’s in the next episode’s flashbacks that we see what happened, when Hong Do is reliving the night before while hiding in the closet. Again, nothing explicit, except for an intimate look at post-coital cuddling. What actually made me blush (no, not really) was how happy they were together. – Only


Readers: Which Kdrama scenes made you blush? Let us know in the comments below.


30 Comments

  • Have you watched any episodes of The Lover yet?
    One of the couples experiment with edible undies – he’s later in the bathroom with remnants all over his face and chest.
    Another couple had a statue of a rearing horse that photo-bombs every “naughty scene” with a husky neigh. Hilarious.

    • I am kind of watching “The Lover”, and I agree: it is quite saucy. However, I can’t say I am officially watching it, because I fast forward to the couples that I am interested in.

  • Twelve Men in a Year was one of my first kdramas and it is quite frisky – although, being a tv show – it is all about the kiss and the cutaway. Although my favorite story is that of the second lead, Tanya, and her habit of tattooing butterflies on her lovers.

    • Thank God, someone remembers the time when cable channels were not caught up in this vortex of being prudish. I could understand the major-3 trying to fit into some standards given by the Governement but not the cables. Is being sexy (and by “sexy” I don’t mean vulgar by no means) a crime nowadays? I’m so dumbfounded…

  • LOL. Some really funny ones here. I don’t mind the old pan and fade to black. It worked for Casablanca–a great romance even if we never see Rick and Elsa having sex. (What an awful thought!) BUT it drives me nuts in K-dramas when they’re so coy I have no idea if they had sex or not. Huh? Isn’t this a plot point in a romance? The tvN dramas like INR 3 don’t necessarily show more sex, but their “sexier” because they don’t leave us in the lurch wondering what the heck happened.

    Ironically, My Name is Kim Samsoon, way back in 2005, was more straightforward about sex than most things today–it at least gave us the sight of Hyun Bin running around town desperately looking to buy condoms. I haven’t seen that scene repeated in any other dramas, which is kinda nuts. You’d think it would be a trope unto itself! But maybe it gets too close to admitting that the OTP have sex.

    • IKR…What happened to kdramaland the last decade? Instead of upgrading the human relationships between adults by including some more intercourse than the past dramas (or hints of intercourse, at the very least) things keep moving backwards. Adults seem to be having high school romances and platonic affairs. It’s a bizarre phenomenon that has left me scratching my head time and again…

      • I agree that there appears to have been a regression in the amount of PDA shown in dramas. I wonder if this is a result of the increase in export of Kdramas to more conservative cultures. Grown women flinching in prudish panic when a man touches their hand and declarations of undying love before lips even touch push the boundaries of believe. I can do without simulated sex, but couples in love should want to touch each other. In the older drama Love and Marriage, the right amount of PDA makes you believe the main couple are feeling the giddy hormones of new love.
        The marriage bed scene in Bride of the Century was laughable. She had on an elaborated jewel necklace and I think he still had on his blazer. At least in Playful Kiss and Fated to Love You they wore matching pijammas to bed.

  • Have you seen Marriage Not Dating? The writer/director trolled everyone so much with what seemed to be a promise of a scene at the beginning of one episode, but it never happened…

  • Ive been dumbfounded about the ott prudishness in kdramas as compared to kmovies for a long time. The divergence is bizarre! Sex aside, even the cardboard kisses are surreal. I felt rather let down many times …recently the ending for lets eat 3. All that angst, longing and pining and THATS the resulting level of passion? Haha…..i’ve become accustomed tothe childishness, I suppose. I found Healer and I Need Romance 3 quite steamy by comparison. Although Sung Joon could make anything steamy. A witches Romance should be mentioned as well. That scene up until she saw his ID was very intense for a kdrama.

    • It’s so astonishing that kdramas and kfilms are products of the same country’s industry, imho. After having watched lots of films, I first thought SK tv would have been on a similar basis artistically speaking, that’s why I started watching dramas. Although some of them do have compelling plots and/or amazing acting, the overall result seems indeed somehow childish and surreal compared to movies. In time I’ve come to the conclusion that cimema directors, and productions in general, have nothing in common with tv products even though actors are usually coming from the same pool. It has probably something to do with the audiences they address to; cinema viewers and tv audience are not quite similar as it happens everywhere else worldwide. Nevertheless,the huge gap between cinema and dramas, especially on how they portay human relationships repstectively,is worthy of a sosiological study!

    • That scene in Witches Romance is my favorite boundary pusher. The dramas are so modest it’s a shock they even show two people on a bed together. (LOL, Park Seo-Joon in that scene…poor puppy.) I agree with Haria about perhaps the audiences for movies and dramas being different. I suspect it has a lot to do with what is exported overseas. I think the most successful Korean exports might be the ones that are modest enough to be hits in conservative countries (a few have been hits in Iran.) The US has saturated the market for risque stuff. While the movies (because of government protectionism?) have been profitable without big overseas markets. I’ve been trying to find out more about this.

      Sung Joon could make reading the phone book steamy.

  • I find the roofied scene in Fated rather offputting because I don’t find that funny or anything to joke about but maybe that’s my issue. As for Secret Love Affair, the slow pan across the room is a classic cinematic technique that often indicates sex or passage of time or both. As there was no major time jump 1+1 equals sex LOL. By the way there’s a slow pan across the room scene in flower boy next door that is so subtle not many people caught it. Coffee Prince is just such a great drama and the kissing scenes are probably the most real. Bride of the century, The silliness of the bed scene is likely tied to Hong ki being an idol.

  • You forgot scent of a Woman, Lee dong wook and Kim Sun ah are really good and the best sex scene ever in a Korean drama other than Lovers ep 18 it was so hot the writer was sanctioned by the government and she decided to add the candles ans cut the sex scene in City hall a year later. It is not that their people is prudish it is the perception by the government that they have to be so they are protecting them with their ridiculous laws.

  • click submit and only half saved… Who are we kidding even teens accept on TV they have watched porn, why then hide it on TV. They do it because they have laws that censor them, which I think is ridiculous, it is the 21st century and we are more advance I think… Who in his right mind thinks a 30 year old man stays home being all pure and he has no experience or that a woman at 30 is still waiting for Mr right so she just plays chess at home while he comes along. Seriously.

  • I find Kdramas refreshing. I’m not a prude and enjoy stuff like Spartacus (2010-2012). But it’s nice that without the in-your-face sex, it makes the writers have to be witty. It reminds me of U.S. tv in the 1960’s (although not so prudish as having couples sleeping in twin beds). There is nothing quite as good as double entendre (spellcheck, where are you when I need you) in the push-pull relationship.

    Parents today know nothing about being able to watch a show with small children in the room because they would never know, or even ask, what’s going on because the dialogue would fly right over the kids’ heads. Yet everybody could still enjoy the show.

    I must disagree that Healer was vague at all, especially with all the diving under the covers and ensuing giggling. Even the “after” morning glow as he dries her hair and follows her -spooning while standing up – around the kitchen gives off a just-had-sex (and probably his first time ever) vibe.

  • I’ve always just wondered if the general populace of Korea is so chaste. It seems impossible to be so innocent at that age, with shy 30+ year old virgins in some of the dramas, I have been really surprised by the general portrayal that anyone who isn’t prudish about sex is a player or a ‘bad girl’. I have to say that Seo In Guk seemed to be an awesome kisser in King of High School, but I don’t remember any bed scenes, just coy jokes. Sung Joon has displayed some awesome kissing ability, but I haven’t seen him in anything more compromising. I do remember Lee Jun Ki saying in an interview that he practiced kissing on his own hand from lack of experience, and that in the first kiss scene on Arang he heard people cussing in the first takes because he did it so badly. Maybe he just wanted to seem pure for his fans, But that was pretty funny. Possibly if netizens weren’t up in every actor and idols business, they could get more first hand experience without worrying about fans.. 🙂

  • Sungkyunkwan Scandal had, ironically enough since it’s a Joseon-Era drama, some cute scenes. The female lead implied more than once that she knew what she’d do when they were alone, since she translated erotic books in the past, and at the end he pushes her on the floor and, while on top of her, grabs the sex book to further educate himself. I thought that was quite cute, nothing daring or spectacular though. For all the passionate kisses that Queen Inhyun’s Man had I was disappointed that it didn’t show more sexy times.

  • I watched Heartless City because it was mentioned in this article and not only was it interesting to watch a dark k-drama, the sex scene did make my jaw drop. After the passionless deer in headlights kisses, it was nice to see a woman want to be touched and be an active participant and, to see a couple in bed together without that damn blanket covering their bodies.

    It was steamy without being explicit and I admit I re-watched it a few times.

    Why do other k-dramas build up the tension and disappoint with those awful kisses? Heartless City has shown that adult relationships can be depicted without being explicit and it would be nice to see more of that in other k-dramas

  • I’m glad I found this article because I started watching k-dramas a couple of months ago and even though, for instance, I LOVED “Fated To Love You”, the way the physical interactions between 2 adults (often way) over 30 left me puzzled, to say the least! It’s not like I’m searching for a “Game Of Thrones” level of sexy times, LOL, but believable kisses yes, I like to see them! Most of the times women are like: “OMG, this handsome man I’m head over heels for is kissing me, ME who barely know what kisses are -even though I’m something like 35!-, so I’m going to stay with my eyes wide open, without moving my mouth, because he’s acting like a pervert!” 😀

    And I’m well aware that they’re doing this because of some censorship laws they probably have, but a few k-dramas here and there, like the ones you guys mentioned, have proved to be capable to show adults’ love life without turning the show into a porn, which means it can be done! 🙂

    Out of the ones I watched so far, I’d add to suggestions:
    -“Marriage, Not Dating” (a pure rom-com, well acted and funny, the kisses feel real and even though you obviously don’t see actual sex scenes, there’s no doubt in the aftermath)
    -“It’s Okay That’s Love” (very beautiful drama, yes the female lead is over 30 and never had sex at the beginning, but there’s a reason… I can’t say more!)
    -“I Need Romance 2” (didn’t like 1 and 3 very much, this one shows realistically how 2 people in love with each other can grow apart, but it also have the concept of friends with benefits and cute kisses and love scenes… even one in a shower! Oh, and a very nice soundrack!)
    -“Reply 1997” (very cute drama, mostly a comedy, which plays with past and present time à-la How I Met You Mother without the awful ending! 😀 Again, nothing too racy but at least believable and it’s clear when people spent the night together).
    -“Last Cinderella” (it’s a Japanes drama, quite funny. It’s not too shy, and people is shown half naked in bed… probably in Japan it’s different?)

    And… that’s it. Besides “Fated To Love You”, the only other show I watched where sex has been implied, but less openly than the shows I just mentioned, is “Oh My Venus” (because, how can you have So Ji Sub and just staring at him? LOL) 😀

    I strongly recommend to stay away from “Birth Of A Beauty”, where the two leads live together, have lots of chemistry, even joke about Kamasutra… and then share only 1 kiss (and an awful one) in 21 episodes! Similarly, “One More Happy Ending”, which starts with some sort of Sex And The City vibe and ends closer to a Disney show. Why, oh why all the teasing? 🙂

  • Ha I love you article! i am a big Kdrama fan, but it is true I am always surprised how Kdramas are prude, naive and sex-less especially considering that Korean movies on the other hand are super steamy! There are so many Korean movie with VERY explicit sex scene rarely seen in western movies.

  • When A Man Loves (Song Seung Heon) had a really steamy almost love scene with the heroine and the second lead. The crazy thing is – this was my first Kdrama and I thought the scene was horribly awkward. But after watching hundreds of kdramas since, I rewatched this series (for love of SSH) and now that scene is HOT! I’m sure I only think it’s hot because of lack of anything steamier in kdramaville. lol (I think it’s Episode 8)

  • It’s okay it’s love wasn’t quite explicit, but they bought condoms and had sex on the beach. It was cute and funny through

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