All Things Korean for International Fans – Top 25 Korean Drama Cliches

Top 25 Korean Drama Clichés

Korean Dramas have reached the point of international fame; with viewers of different ages and ethnicities around the world tuning in to watch a new (subbed) episode of their favorite drama. Of course over time, stereotypes, patterns and clichés have emerged into the plots – and no matter how ridiculous or overused some of them get, fans still continue to adore them because they are, in an essence, what makes Korean Dramas.

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1. The Confession Kiss Scene:

When the two main characters finally confess to one another, that scene will usually contain a kiss. But that kiss won’t be romantic. No, their lips will barely be touching; the camera will circle in a 360-degree-slow-motion that lasts a good minute or two, with the girl’s eyes wide open in shock (because of course the guy initiated the kiss in the first place). Nothing says “I love you” better than a barely there kiss.

2. Love Triangle:

There will always be some kind of love triangle (or love square), where the girl is torn between two guys who reveal they are romantically interested in her. Occasionally it will be the guy caught between two girls; one who is the girl he has always been in love with that never paid attention to him until now, versus the main girl who he finally starts to like. But none the less, there will always be someone else to complicate the romance.

3. Poor Girl vs. Rich Guy:

The main girl will be a poor character, who lives in a rundown neighborhood in a tiny apartment. She will have several jobs because she is in debt or struggling to pay rent, but is very optimistic and usually very likable. The main guy will be rich in a huge, luxury apartment with an unbelievable view of the city. He has a high position job but he barely works and gets away with it because his family owns the company. He tends to be very arrogant, lazy and conceited.

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4. Grabbing the Wrist:

When the two main characters are fighting, the girl will try to leave and the guy will grab her wrist to try and stop her. Sometimes it works and he is able to pull her back into an embrace of some sort, but other times she will forcefully pull her hand away and walk off without looking back. Another example situation is when the girl is on a date with another guy; the main character will coolly walk in, tell the other guy the girl is taken and grab her wrist, dragging her out of the restaurant or cafe.

5. Good Guys Always Finish Last:

It doesn’t matter that the secondary guy is always there for the girl; that he is there to save her from trouble, lend her money, keep her entertained or be there for her when she is feeling down. It doesn’t matter that he is richer, smarter or nicer than the main guy because the main girl will always choose the “jerk” or “bad guy”.

6. Accidental First Kiss:

The Confession Kiss is usually not the first time the two main characters kiss. More often than not, the two will have some kind of situation in where they accidentally kiss. Either one of them trips on the other and their lips meet when they fall to the floor, or one will kiss the other to make someone else jealous or keep up a “cover story” that they were indeed dating someone.

7. The Evil Mother:

This is usually the main guy’s mother, since he is the one who is significantly richer than the girl. She will be uptight and snobby, not accepting the fact that her precious son is dating or wants to be married to someone that low in society. She will try to bribe the girl to leave her son with money or cause trouble for the girl to get her to disappear.

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8. Hospital Visit:

There will be some trip to the hospital but 90% of the time it’s because a main character fainted from shock or stress, and not because of an actually medical illness. If it is something serious then it will be something deadly like cancer or a fatal heart disease. But they don’t call an ambulance whenever said person gets sick, no usually the guy will carry the girl in his arms, running several blocks, yelling for her to wake up instead of taking a cab.

9. The Main Leads Getting Drunk:

At some point the main girl will get drunk, because she is stressed out about her job or a personal matter. The guy will come to pick her up and she will make random statements and drunken motions which will result in her passing out and the guy having to carry her or drive her home. Occasionally the roles will be reversed and the girl has to take the guy home, and more often than not, the one intoxicated will say some cryptic statement that means they like the other main character. But they are of course only admitting this because they are drunk.

10. Brand New Cellphones:

It doesn’t matter if you are dirt poor- you will have a brand new, latest edition smartphone that just so happens to be the same one as the other main character. Usually dramas will promote a certain cell phone model, so every character in the drama will have the same type of phone whether it fits their character or not.

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11. Mandatory Piggyback Ride:

The guy will usually give the girl a piggyback ride at some point in the drama. Either when the girl is drunk and unable to walk home or when the couple is together and he willingly does this sweet action for her. The guy will make some joke about the girl being “too heavy” (but of course this is never the actual case because the main female character will be unbelievably skinny).

12. The Tragic Car Accident:

Apparently no one in Korea can drive well because there are always one or more tragic car accidents per drama. A) Either one of the main character’s parent (or parents) died in a car accident when they were little. B) They get in a car accident themselves and lost their memory or C) someone close to them like a best friend or a first love was in a car accident and died.

13. Random U-turns:

Driving rules seem to not apply to the main guy because there will be at least one scene where the guy makes a random U-Turn (but of course coincidentally there will be no other cars around the area for him to hit). They make this type of spontaneous action because they A) receive some urgent call from a family member or loved one or B) realize they have to go back to say something to the main girl before it is too late.

14. The Estranged Parent:

One or more character will have bad relations with their parents. Either they abandoned them when they were young, or they disapproved of their career/life choices and cut them off financially (and emotionally). Most of the time this is occurs between the main guy character and his father, because the son does not want to take over the family business.

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15. Airport Scene:

A character decides to move to another country but before they leave, their loved one will go chasing after them, telling them not to leave. This usually lasts for about five minutes of one character running at lightning speed through the airport while the other one causally strolls with their heavy suitcases to their terminal. They either miss each other by a second or the person arrives right on time, finally having caught up with the walking person.

16. “Engrish” (Bad English):

If a character studied abroad then they went to America (or more specifically New York). The character will have “great” English abilities making them highly desirable in the work place and automatically makes them that much more attractive to any Korean person. However, when they express these tremendous English skills with a line or two, native speakers will cringe at the accent and wonder how the scriptwriters could get away with adding a foreign line for an actor/actress who doesn’t know said foreign language.

17. The Nicknames:

The main characters will always have nicknames for one another. If they are made by secondary characters then they are usually endearing and sweet. But if they are nicknames made by the main guy and girl (for each other) then they are “mean”, teasing nicknames towards each other.

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18. Cross-dressing Females:

Whenever there is cross-dressing in dramas, it is usually done by the female leads. With a simple short haircut they become a convincing pretty boy (well…some of them…), and use this disguise to obtain a job opportunity they wouldn’t have had if they applied as a female. They spend a majority of their time trying to keep their identity a secret from their co-workers and boss, one of which is always the main male love interest, and by default there are several comedic moments when they were almost discovered.

19. The “Almost” Meet-Up:

Either from the very beginning, there will be a scene where the two characters are in a common location (before they have even met) and they barely miss each other, someone turning one way at the incorrect time. This also happens when one character is trying to find someone else in the drama. They will look everywhere but from their certain angle they can’t see the person they are looking for but the viewers can. Or when a character ends up eavesdropping on a conversation and hears something they weren’t supposed to hear.

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20. Shower Scene:

There is always that one scene where the main guy is pondering over something important. But of course what better place to think about life choices than in the shower! Foggy shots of the handsome actor with a set of six-packs, with water dripping down his body and he is running his hands through his hair like a model. This trend in Korean dramas is pretty new, but none the less extremely liked by the female audience.

21. Taking out the Cellphone Battery:

It’s not enough to simply turn off your phone, oh no, Koreans find it necessary to take out the cellphone battery whenever they are avoiding someone’s call. Instead of putting their phone on silent or ignoring the calls, they tend to throw their phones to the opposite end of the room, physically separating the battery and cell phone so there is no chance to receive a call.

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22. Phobias:

The men in Korean Dramas tend to have certain phobias; weakness to show their “tender” side that they hide behind their arrogant, pretty, rich faces. Whether it is rational or not, the rich male lead will either have a phobia towards heights, germs, crowds, in-closed areas, transportation vehicles (cars) or large bodies of water (pools). The main female will usually help her love interest overcome this fear.

23. Norebang:

Koreans (and most Asians) love their Karaoke. In Korean, the name for Karaoke is “norebang”. Norebang is a must to bring co-workers closer together – for how can you not bond after singing, dancing and drinking into the early mornings? In dramas, this is an opportunity for the comic side characters to bring laughter to the audience with their off-pitch singing and girl group dancing. Also, this is a chance for the male lead to show off his amazing singing abilities and serenade the main girl (though not directly) with a sweet, slow, love song.

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24. Saunas:

Koreans have their own type of saunas called “Jjimjilbang”. These bathhouses have hot tubs, showers, ice rooms, massage rooms, exercise rooms, saunas (of course) and many other forms of relaxation for the tired business man or overly active family. In dramas, there is usually a visit to a type of Jjimjibang combined with the orange, blue and pink famous matching clothing, the ‘Princess Lea’ towel buns, and the boiled eggs these scenes always release the tension of the drama and bring a comedic moment.

25. Couple Items:

Who wouldn’t want to be in love in Korea? When there is literally couple items for anything you can think of. It’s not just matching T-shirts, but full length outfits from head to toe and any other accessory (cellphone charms being the most popular). In the sweet moments of dramas, when the main leads are enjoying the calm before the storm, producers like to include fluffy scenes of the couple getting matching items to show the world their cheesy love.


Sunday Drama Review – Coffee Prince

(커피프린스 1호점) The First Shop of Coffee Prince

One sip is all it will take to become addicted to this drama

Coffee Prince (1) Summary: The First Shop of Coffee Prince (or better known shortly as “Coffee Prince”) tells the story of Go Eun-chan, a 24-year-old tomboy who is the “head” of her household and has many odd jobs to support her mother and younger sister. When a string of bad luck causes her family to go into more debt, she seeks employment at “Coffee Prince”; a brand new coffee shop opened up by Choi Han-gyul, the only grandson of the CEO of a Coffee Company. Coffee Prince however, only hires beautiful “prince” like guys, so Go Eun-chan disguises herself as a boy and lands herself the job. Among the many adventures with the other coffee “princes” – playboy Ha Rim, mysterious Sun Ki and loveable Min-yeop – Go Eun-chan finds herself starting to fall in love with boss, Choi Han-gyul…except he thinks she is a guy.


Coffee Prince (4)Go Eun-chan (played by Yoon Eun-hye) is the lovely protagonist of this drama. She has always been mistaken as boy since she keeps her hair very short, so she has no problem pretending to be a guy at “Coffee Prince”. Since she was young she had to take care of her family, so she is very mature and logical and tries to keep an optimistic personality even when times get rough. She is a very lovable character, making her almost impossible for people to hate.

Choi Han-gyul (played by Gong-yoo) is the thirty year old, only child from a wealthy family. Coffee Prince (5)He was sent to study abroad and learn about responsibility but he comes back, still as unprepared for the world as when he left, and very determined to stay as a carefree bachelor. His tough grandmother decides to fix this problem by setting him up with his first ever job – managing the First Shop of Coffee Prince. If he is able to triple the sales then he will have proved to his family that he is mature enough.

Coffee Prince (8)Choi Han-seong (played by Lee Sun-kyun) is the older cousin of Han-gyul and an established music producer. He already knew Go Eun-chan before she started her job as a Coffee Prince waiter, so he helps her keep her secret from his cousin so that she can continue working there. Coffee Prince (7)Han Yoo-joo (played by Chae Jung-an) had been dating Han-seong for nine years when they broke up and she moved to New York to pursue her work as an artist. Now she is back in Korea and wishes to rekindle her romance with her first love. This of course brings discomfort to Han-gyul as he has always been in love with Yoo-joo but gave her up so that she could be with her cousin – now he is torn on whether or not to steal this second chance from his cousin.

Jin Ha Rim (played by Kim Dong-wook) is Han-gyul’s younger best friend, who enjoys all the attention he gets for being a cute waiter at Coffee Prince. He is a playboy by nature but very funny, with his occasional sweet moments. Noh Sun-ki (played by Kim Jae-wook) is the Japanese waffle chef at Coffee Prince. His handsome looks gather a lot of female fans, but he chooses to ignore them and keep his mysterious personality – not even the other employees know why he is in Korea, or why he is always so serious. Hwang Min-yeop (played by Lee Eon) is the youngest of the group; and even though he is big in size he has the heart of a teddy bear. He might not be the brightest, but he is extremely loyal to his friends. He is also the faithful boyfriend of Go Eun-sae (played by Han Yeh-in), the younger bratty sister of Go Eun-chan.

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“Grab onto him. He liked you even when he thought you were a guy. Who knows, maybe he won’t go.” – Sun-ki.

The most obvious problem in the drama is that Go Eun-chan is pretending to be a boy, which of course leads to a complicated mess of tangled feelings for Han-gyul. He feels himself drawn to Eun-chan but the fact that she is a “boy” confuses him since he is 100% that he is straight and loves women. Yet, this is first time he feels any sort of emotion towards a male and this leads to his own inner conflict (which was beautiful portrayed if I may say so) of deciding whether to act upon his feelings and get rejected by society. With homosexuality being such a taboo topic in Korea, it was wonderful to see an attempt at confronting the issue, even though the situation wasn’t actually a case of being homosexual.


“I want to live with you. For the rest of my life, I want to eat together, talk together, sleep together, be together. Do I need any other reason?” – Han-gyul.

With most Korean Dramas, it seems the norm for romantic couples is to stop at kissing and forget about the “other” stuff. But this drama forges ahead and ignores the trend of hiding the human instinct of sexual desire, and makes an accurate, realistic representation of how couples actually are. It doesn’t go raunchy, nor does it try and cover up what it is; it simply shows sex as the loving act it is.


“The moment a man makes a woman his, the man wants that woman to live according to his wishes. But just because he’s won her over, can he force her to do as he wants?” – Han-seong.

This was a more subtle theme, which appeared at the very beginning and then disappeared until the end when the strong female protagonist brought it back. Because Go Eun-chan’s father died, and she was the oldest child, she took on the responsibilities of the household, therefore turning the family into a Matriarchy. When topics of sex, marriage, and work comes up in the drama, Go Eun-chan demonstrates a very feministic mindset: she doesn’t want to get married until she has an education and career in place, because she doesn’t want to depend on her husband or anybody else. Koreans tend to lean towards a Patriarchy society, so it was wonderful to see such a strong female role.


No (obvious) symbols were present in this drama. And you know what? This drama ended up working perfectly fine without any. So bonus points to this drama!

*Spoilers* (Do not read if you don’t want this drama spoiled for you, you have been warned!)

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Things I liked:

  • ·         Yoon Eun-hye as a Boy: Coffee Prince was one of the first, and so far has done the best job with the “girl-pretending-to-be-a-boy” theme. After this drama’s popularity, many others tried copying this loved plot, but in my opinion no one has been able to pull it off better than Yoon Eun-hye. She became her role by not only cutting her hair and dressing like a young boy with loose t-shirts and tomboy shorts, but also adapting the mannerisms of a male. She walked, talked and ate like a teenage boy and she did such good job that sometimes I forgot that she was actually female.
  • ·        Coffee Prince (10) Realistic Romance: I have never seen another drama that was able to portray a love between a man and a woman so realistically. Never mind the fact that it was also ridiculously adorable and cute to watch, but they actually behaved like a real couple – they kissed a lot, they snuggled and cuddled and even *le gasp*…had sex! (Which according to usual Korean dramas…never happens between a couple. If so then how do they have kids then? Do they just magically appear?)
  • ·         Coffee Prince “Bromance” or Friendships: The four coffee “Princes” held such a strong friendship that was evident every time they came on screen. They started off as strangers that didn’t really get along, as all of them have such dynamic personalities that get under each other’s skin every now and then. But after working together from literally the very beginning of Coffee Prince (when it was nothing more than a run-down shop), they have formed loyal connections. One clear example of this was when it was finally revealed that Eun-chan was a girl: Sun-ki didn’t see anything wrong with it, because for him it didn’t matter if she was a boy or a girl, she was still the same person. Min-yeop was stunned at first, but then after he found she was a girl he became protective of her like an older brother would (even though he was younger). 04 Coffee Prince 129And Ha Rim of course threw a fit a first; he first priority was his best friend Han-gyul and he knew how much his friend was hurting because of this secret so his immediate reaction was to be mad at Eun-chan. The idea of her actually being a girl however did not bother him (except for the embarrassment of having revealed “guy” secrets to her, along with other personal body parts).
  • ·         Strong Secondary Characters: Han-seong and Yoo-joo were two of the strongest secondary characters I had ever seen. Their story was not just back a back-drop for the lead romance, but held its ground all on its own. Even influences several decisions for the main couple; for instance when they decided to get married, that sparked the controversial discussion between Eun-chan and Han-gyul on when they should get married that spanned over several of the ending episodes. Even this couple alone, both individuals made things difficult for the lead couple (with their own intentional/unintentional interference) yet they never made it so that the viewers disliked them because they were such like characters even with faults.

Things I didn’t like:

  • ·         Coffee Prince (6)Go Eun-sae’s lack of development: Go Eun-sae played the irritating character of the drama, and in my opinion did a better job of being disliked that the secondary girl (which is usually the one viewer tend to dislike because they get in the way of the main romance). Her bratty persona did a lot of diversity to the drama, however I would have preferred if there was more character development. That she started off bratty but then learned that that is not the way to keep friends or her devoted boyfriend. When Min-yeop stood up to her, I was very proud of him. But then even though they made up and got back together at the end, I wished her character could have shown that there was a possibility of her changing to become more amiable to others.

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Author’s Final Remarks: 9.6/10

~Coffee Prince is a classic among Korean Dramas; a timeless romantic comedy and one of the best (if not the best) renditions of the “girl-pretending-to-be-a-boy” theme. It’s a great summer time drama, full of cuteness and fluff, without being overly nauseating, that shows the most realistic romance that sweeps one of their feet. You can’t help but fall in love with all the coffee princes; from Han-gyul charisma to his adorable affections towards his family (and let’s not forget the dress shirts that make him too hot for summer!). Go Eun-chan’s lovely personality that makes her a great role-model for all young girls. Even the princes, all had their own charms that made them loved. This is a drama that I never get tired of watching, and I’m amazed that I still get the same fluttering feelings like the first time I watched it. I dare you to find someone who doesn’t like this drama, because that’s how confident I am that anyone who watches this drama will love it.