Friday Feature: K-drama adaptations

On Sunday, August 2, we will take part in a panel discussion on K-drama adaptations at KCON 2015. Here is a sneak preview into what we will be discussing.

Only 만: I think we should start with a full confession here: neither one of us has completed both the original and the adaptation of any series. But, we have opinions on things we know even less about. Why be modest now?

Junggugeo Kaenada 중국어 캐나다: Let’s review what both of us have watched, and see if we can determine a pattern.

Only: Let’s start with “Boys Over Flowers”, since you’ve seen it, and I’ve seen the Japanese version, “Hana Yori Dango”. For the first season at least, I enjoyed the blend of humour, chemistry, and over-the-top story that made up Makino and Domyouji’s ridiculous romance. How does “Boys Over Flowers” compare?


Junggugeo Kaenada: I attempted to watch “Boys Over Flowers” twice, and it was a struggle both times. I did not find any part of the drama funny. I sensed no chemistry between the childlike female lead and the one note chaebol jerk played by Lee Min Ho. This drama launched his career, but I can’t understand how Lee Min Ho’s wooden performance electrified the viewing public.

Only: It was probably his ridiculous perm that electrified the viewing public. I’m not a fan of Matsumoto Jun, but he pulled off the hair better than Lee Min Ho did.

Junggugeo Kaenada: “Boys Over Flowers” was released four years after “Hana Yori Dango”, so it is surprising that the adaptation did not improve the male lead’s hair. Also, the pacing of “Boys Over Flowers” was sluggish. It begs the question: what did “Boys Over Flowers” improve on?

Only: I do know that they transplanted the plot and characters over more or less intact, with some changes. The original Domyouji was a violent guy who lived by his instincts. I don’t think Jun Pyo was portrayed the same way.

I also think that Inoue Mao did a better job as Makino. Maybe it helped that she was an actual teenager, and therefore could play one convincingly.

Boys Over Flowers the worst

Junggugeo Kaenada: Yes, Gu Hye Sun was 25 years old when she played the teenage Jan Di. Perhaps she was too far removed from her adolescence to remember how teenage girls actually act.

However, Gu Hye Sun was not entirely to blame. I know that love triangles are a K-drama trope, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen another one where the female lead kisses the second male lead while the male lead is actively courting her.

Only: I don’t remember that in the Japanese version, though I do recall that she spent a good chunk of the show in love with Hanazawa Rui, Domyouji’s best friend.

Junggugeo Kaenada: I am sure that I am going to get an earful about my view on “Boys over Flowers” so I will stop dumping on the show now. Let’s move on to “Liar Game”. We recapped the Korean version of “Liar Game” and you watched the Japanese original.

Only: I stopped watching the show in the first place, because I was worried about spoilers. Now that I’ve picked it up again, I don’t think I needed to worry, because aside from the game and the basic sketches of the main characters, the two shows vary quite a lot. In that sense, this was the best kind of adaptation, where they took the original concept and made it their own.

Junggugeo Kaenada: I really enjoyed the Korean adaptation. I found it very fast paced and I was riveted by the plot twists. I did not care much for the characters, especially the Candy female lead. How does it compare to the Japanese original?

Only: They differ a lot in terms of plot, actually. The reality show was added in the Korean version of “Liar Game”, for example, which was great because they could use all the reality show tricks to amp up the tension without coming off as overdramatic. A major downside of the Japanese version is the excessive number of pauses for insane laughter. You know that scene in “Austin Powers” when everyone laughs for too long? It’s  a little like that, but constantly.

Junggugeo Kaenada: What about the main characters?


Only: The Japanese versions were better, to be honest. Ha Woo Jin was relentlessly grim, while Shota Matsuda was more entertaining as Shinichi Akiyama. Female lead, Nam Da Jung just came off like an idiot, while Kanzaki Nao was a tiny bit of an improvement because she did occasionally think for herself and had some principles behind her stupid behaviour. But, no question, the show was greatly improved by the addition of Shin Sung Rok as the villainous Kang Do Young.

Junggugeo Kaenada: We both recently watched “Midnight Diner”, which is the Korean adaptation of the Japanese drama, “Midnight Restaurant”. Watching “Midnight Diner”. I was struck by how unfamiliar I was with its aesthetic.

Only: “Midnight Diner” is more esthetically minimal than a typical Korean drama, but I didn’t get the same indie movie vibe that I got from the original. I was more surprised to discover that it was being remade into a Korean drama because of the content: one of the episodes features a porn star named Erect Ohki who was estranged from his family. Another one features a couple making out with natto in their mouths. There’s a gay character who has a crush on a gangster in yet another.

Junggugeo Kaenada: I have my doubts that those aspects of the Japanese version will make it to the Korean adaptation. Just as I think American shows like “Suits” and “Homeland” that are supposed to be adapted into a Korean drama, will come out considerably changed.

Only: I’m curious if they’ll shoehorn a love triangle and a crazy chaebol mom into either of those shows.

Come join us at our KCON 2015 panel discussion: Originals vs. K-Drama Adaptations – Sunday, August 2, 12:30pm – 2:00pm

Readers: what is your favourite K-drama adaptation?

1 Comment

  1. The Time We Were Not In Love is really not doing much justice to In Time With You. Production issues are killing this Kdrama remake.


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