K-Dramas, K-Pop, and Kerning Cultures

Zoom icebreakers are usually terrifying. I mean, how am I supposed to think of a “fun fact” when all I do is sit around all day and stare at a screen? Sometimes, though, I get lucky. Because sometimes, I am asked to “share my favorite quarantine pastime,” and I can breathe a sigh of relief because I actually have an answer to this one. 

surprised to see BTS as my top artist!

I definitely got into baking for a bit, I read a decent amount of books, and even did some at-home workouts. But if there’s anything I’ve kept up with since I returned from Morocco, it’s a sustained love for K-Dramas. What started as a “hmm we should check this show out on Netflix,” has turned into a family weekend tradition. Now, months later, I’ve watched a significant portion of the Netflix repertoire, am up-to-date on the tea on the two lead characters of Crash Landing on You (which I’ve watched twice), and can very articulately argue why am I on team Nam Do San when it comes to Start-Up. Naturally, the K-Drama obsession led to a rise in my interest in K-pop, as well. Once an on-and-off listener of BTS, I was shocked to see the band as my top-played artist on Spotify in 2020. 

practicing my messy hangul with lyrics of BTS’ “Telepathy”

For those of you who know me well, you’ll know that I get distracted by languages very easily. You may also know that I don’t really diversify outside South Asian, Middle Eastern, and Romance languages. I spent the summer brushing up Gurmukhi (Punjabi script), took some very chill Dari classes, and reviewed for Spanish and French exams. And so, no matter how much I got into K-Dramas, I didn’t think I’d try to study a language that was so far from anything I already spoke or had studied. But life happens, and as it turns out, Korean is a beautiful language. After having picked up some very basic greetings through TV, I ended up succumbing to my weakness for new alphabets and sound systems, and learned Hangul (the Korean alphabet) over winter break! It was a lot easier than I expected, yet completely different from Devnagri, Naskh, or other scripts I’m familiar with. Although my Korean is limited to words like “North and South” (thanks to Crash Landing on You) or “impeachment” (from Designated Survivor), it’s super cool to be able read and sound out words, even if I can’t understand anything. Who knows, maybe I’ll actually study Korean some day??

All of this coincided with my internship at Kerning Cultures, where I had the opportunity to help with research and production for the first episode of the season, about the K-Wave in the MENA region! So as I watched my interest in K-dramas and K-pop grow, I was also learning about what Korean culture means for young people growing up in the Arab world, as well as the connections between soft power and art. With that, I want to tell all of you all to check out KC’s latest episode— it’s an amazing, thought-provoking piece, and you can even catch me talking about BTS for five seconds towards the beginning, haha! ❤

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