The City Hunter
A couple of years back, my daughter introduced me to Korean telenovelas. Between work and writing, I didn’t have a lot of time to invest; but since school is out for the summer, I’ve come across several surprisingly great series, including The City Hunter.
It’s fairly easy to write a series where the misunderstood hero battles the corrupt officials and kills them one by one. It’s much harder to write such a character who is noble and uses the law and nonlethal means to take out the officials at great personal cost. The City Hunter repeatedly throws the hero in tense situations where his ethics are at stake against someone’s life. And the writers are creative enough to some up with truly exceptional solutions that violate neither the story line, nor the hero’s character.
One of the major differences between Korean series and American soap operas (which I despise in all forms and varieties), are the length of the series. Each series is short, running 22-24 episodes and none of the series leaves the viewer hanging at series end wondering what happened. (Lost being one of the most notorious of the more recent nighttime soaps). A second difference is the length of each episode. Viewers get a full one-hour of action packed adventure, and each episode leaves the viewer wanting more.
Other outstanding differences between Korean television and American television focus on dialogue (yes, it probably loses something in the translation, but the gist is still there), character development, and some of the best plot/counterplot writing I’ve seen in either television or books recently. While the American trend is to “dumb down” plot, as if the viewer isn’t intelligent enough to keep up with all the twists and turns, Korean drama is rife with political intrigue, plots and subplots; and just when the hero thinks he’s got a handle on events and beginning to gain ground against the enemy, wham! Another breathless plot twist keeps you guessing right up until the edge-of-your-seat resolution.
There’s another feature of Korean dramas I find a vast improvement over American television: the elegance of romance. While American viewers watch actors and actresses eat each other’s face in some sort of animalistic expression of “romance,” Korean television generates passion with a single look, or touch of the hand, or a solitary, chaste kiss. More elegant, more passion, and you can actually watch it with your kids present. Actually, in a way, it’s more expressive of real love and romance than the trivialized American “one-night stands” or the “I just met you, let’s go to bed.”
And oh yeah, the best part: happy endings. No matter how tense, no matter how hopeless the situation, the hero wins and gets the girl.
In the final analysis, you can keep your Grammy and Emmy award winning series and movies. I’ll take Korean telenovelas every time.