[Note from Frolic: Today, we welcome the Dramas Over Flowers podcast to our Frolic Podcast of the Week series. Saya, Anisa and Paroma are Korean Drama experts, and they’re sharing three K-Dramas that are perfect for book lovers!]
Since quarantine living has slimmed down our social lives and made us maaaybe just a little bit lazier than usual, Korean dramas are everything right now—and even better, they’re everywhere. It has never been so easy to curl up with your remote, your favorite snacks, and perhaps your favorite creature (human or otherwise), to nom your way through sixteen hours of delicious words, gorgeous clothes, superlative music, so many, many feelings, and above all, a proper ending.
At Dramas Over Flowers, the three of us were book-lovers before we’d ever heard a word of Korean, and if books are stories you watch in your head while the words you read translate seamlessly into images, Korean dramas are exactly the same, except you get to watch it on your screen (and size really doesn’t matter!).
We’ve picked three of our road-tested favorites for you to try (so you can be sure that they end as well as they start), but a word of warning: don’t stay up all night, the drama will still be there tomorrow!
To make life easy, you can find all our picks on Netflix:
1. Romance is a Bonus Book
Paroma: I’m always drawn to friends-to-lovers stories, and when that change creeps up gradually and sucker-punches the heart, it’s a hilarious ride to watch the friends struggle against the inevitable.
Dan-i is a freshly divorced single mother, back in the job market a decade after exiting a promising marketing career. She finds that none of her past accomplishments can get her a position at the companies she interviews at. So, instead of giving up, she pretends to be less qualified and takes up a job as an intern at a publishing house.
At first resentful, Dan-i comes to realise that while the system is unfair and needs to be changed, she also needs to start fresh and learn how the art of marketing has evolved in the last few years. And while she travels this hard path to a job she loves, she finds herself boarding with a school friend she’s always regarded in the light of a younger brother. But Eun-ho, a boy she once rescued, and who’s grown up to be a successful author, isn’t content to stay a reliable friend for the rest of their lives, and soon Dan-i begins to see him in a new light.
This show ticks another box for me too. The creators of this drama love books! Not just the stories inside, but the process of their birth and distribution. One of the most poignant scenes in this love story is when Dan-i first visits the factory where unsold books are scrapped. The camera lingers on the torn pages carpeting the factory floor like it’s a grave. For the characters in this story, each book printed is a book in search of a home. And that’s a sentiment any avid reader can understand.
When I think of this drama, I always think of a warm romance, strong bonds between good people, and beautiful dialogues that linger in your heart after the episodes end.
2. Rookie Historian Goo Hae Ryung
Anisa: Rookie Historian is the perfect show for anyone who loves Jane Austen, costume dramas, history—or all three! This fierce and funny ode to self-determination centers around a fictional court historian during the Joseon Dynasty in Korea. Hae Ryung is a spinster at the ripe old age of 26, impatient with her family’s plans to marry her off and yearning for the quiet life of a scholar. It’s an impossible dream for a woman of her class, raised solely to become a respectable wife—until the king announces a new position for female court historians. As she struggles to adjust to her new job in the palace, she meets Rim, a captive prince who secretly writes banned romance novels.
The drama is wonderfully acted, beautifully written, and a gorgeous feast for the eyes. Hae Ryung finds her vocation and her handsome prince, balancing work and love for an unconventional happy ending that’s the perfect blend of realism and fantasy. It’s reminiscent of a fairy tale, but with a flipped dynamic between the leads: Rim is basically a Disney princess, and Hae Ryung is the one who vanquishes the villains with her wit, bravery, and a little help from her friends. She and her fellow historians wrestle with the risks and rewards of speaking up for justice to a ruling power that could crush them, a theme as relevant now as it was under the absolute monarchs of Joseon. All that, and it’s hilarious! It’s a show with a big brain, lots of heart, and a heroine for the ages.
3. I’m Not a Robot
Saya: I’m Not a Robot has the wackiest premise, but somehow, it takes it all and turns it into no less than a luscious, poignant modern fairytale.
The leads, Yoo Seung-ho and Chae Soo-bin, are two of my favorite young actors. Yoo Seung-ho plays an eccentric, lonely recluse with an allergy to humans (practising isolation and extreme social distancing long before the rest of us!). He’s rich as a prince and gets himself the latest AI robot as the next best thing to human contact. But thanks to a series of accidents, instead of being sent the robot, he’s sent a very human girl instead, who has to pretend to be the robot. It’s a venture that can easily go wrong, and to be quite honest, it does! But Chae Soo-bin brings a no-nonsense warmth to the “fauxbot”, and is so much more than just an average heroine. She’s entirely her own person, and handsome hermits notwithstanding, she’s intent on achieving her goals, even when the world tries to tell her “no”.
Their chemistry is absolutely off the charts, and as ridiculous as the premise may seem, it’s impossible not to buy into it. At its heart, it’s about loneliness and making connections, about acceptance and the courage to face yourself, about what it feels like to be seen and known, about grief and healing—it’s all that, but also, it’s very, very funny. It’s a show that made me cry with laughter as much as heartbreak—and don’t let that put you off. From someone who always hates the angst parts of relationships, the angst this show serves up is the purest, most exquisite I have ever tasted and I would not want to live in a world where I hadn’t felt what this show made me feel.
Now go ahead and glut yourself on all the beautiful stories! If you need to decompress afterwards, come and find us, we’re always talking about what’s worth watching on our podcast! We also write more about K-drama on our blog at https://dramasoverflowers.net/, and you can connect with us on Twitter @dramasoverflow, or Instagram @dramasoverflowers_.