The dashing hero reaches out and holds the hands of his beloved. A gentle wind blows. Our captivating heroine with perfect makeup shyly looks up at the charming lead, who has risked life and limb to defeat all sorts of demons to reach this exact moment. Somehow cherry blossoms are falling around them like a flurry of snowflakes, even though there isn’t a cherry blossom tree in sight. The charming couple locks eyes, they move in for the grand finale: the kiss. They inch closer. And we all swoon when the much anticipated lip lock happens as an upbeat OST track plays in the background, signaling the end of a 20-episode run. We feel good. We are content, satisfied that that couple we had been cheering on for weeks has achieved their happily-ever-happy ending. Right? A recent trend in K-dramas explores the other side of the grand finale and the big kiss. What happens, say, when our couple wakes up and realizes that despite all their eloquent and fervent declarations of love, they actually know nothing about each other, perhaps they got married a bit too quickly, or worse, they find out that love might not conquer all. In what I will call “Second Chance K-dramas,” but what others may call “Divorce K-dramas,” the premise is pretty standard: a couple gets divorced but, for various reasons, the story between them isn’t completely finished, and we get to watch as they struggle with both marriage, divorce, and all the messiness therein.
Why Second Chance K-dramas?
These K-dramas are appealing because they are able to tackle other aspects of a relationship that otherwise wouldn’t be explored in a couple’s first go-around. A huge element of the unknown has already been settled in these Second Chance K-dramas. The big questions are not of the “Does s/he like me?” “Do I actually like him/her?” variety but rather run in the more sobering “Can we make this work?” or “Can I continue to live like this?” vein. Watching a marriage fall apart is at times uncomfortable and harrowing, and there is a real sense of tragedy in the recognition that a couple, for whatever reason, just couldn’t make it work in the end. Yet if we didn’t have these divorce dramas we would miss out on such emotive and, I would argue, necessary scenes, such as that critical moment when a couple finalizes their divorce and must re-define themselves post-marriage, post-relationship. Or even something a simple as when a husband or wife has to take off their wedding band for the first time and suddenly finds him or herself in an almost unfathomable reality. These moments are as poignant and heart-stopping as any grand finale, any big kiss. And while the angst levels can be high in Second Chance K-dramas, that doesn’t mean they are all sob fests without hope or any kind of lightness in sight. Not so! Another draw to these kinds of k-dramas is that they are full of potential and rife with all-sorts of redeeming qualities—that a relationship, as flawed as it might be, can be better than it once was, that a husband and wife can become better to each other than they once were. If you’re in the mood for a bit of angst, interesting and dynamic plots, and want a break from high-school antics or family trees full of birth secrets and mistaken identities, then don’t miss out on these Second Chance K-dramas.
“Emergency Couple” (2014)
This year’s “Emergency Couple” starring Choi Jin Hyuk and Song Ji Hyo. A couple, divorced for five years, find their paths crossing again as interns in their workplace of choice: a hospital. And if you thought divorce dramas were full of melodrama geared to pull at the heartstrings, “Emergency Couple” is here to prove that you can have laughter and slap-stick shenanigans without compromising on the heart of the story. It’s all the fun of a workplace drama served up with all the delicious “will they/won’t they” anxiety.
“Cunning Single Lady” (2014)
Another Second Chance K-drama of this year is “Cunning Single Lady.” The twist is that it pits its leads, Lee Min Jung and Joo Sang Wook, against each other as a bitter divorced couple vying for the upper hand. Hubby Joo Sang Wook has used the rejection and disappointment suffered at his ex-wife’s hands as motivation to become successful, rich, and Korea’s biggest hotshot in the tech world. Meanwhile, wife Lee Min Jung, barely getting by, swallows her pride and uses every charm in her arsenal to try and get back in his good favor. It is the ultimate get-back-at-your-ex-by-becoming-fabulous-and-affluent story meets cunning feminine wiles and prowess.
[tv]Watch Cunning Single Lady on SoompiTV![/tv]
“Can’t Lose” (2011)
One of the most endearing and well-executed Second Chance K-dramas, in my opinion, is 2011’s “Can’t Lose.” Yoon Sang Hyun and Choi Ji Woo, both lawyers, fall in love at first sight, get married, and open up a law firm together. Sounds like the ideal marriage wrapped up in a pretty bow, right? Unfortunately, it becomes apparent that they have opposing opinions on how to run the law firm and how to manage their finances. What is clear is that the couple loves one another, but whether it is enough to weather the storms of their marriage lies at the heart of the story. \
“Alone in Love” (2006)
We can’t talk about divorce dramas without talking about 2006’s “Alone in Love.” It is, for me and for many, the quintessential K-drama that paints all the grittiness of love, marriage, divorce, and what remains in a realistic and, often times, unflattering light. Son Ye Jin and Kam Woo Sung are brilliant as a couple who have long divorced but still meet and contact each other. Lines get blurred and crossed, romance wears many masks, and nothing is as simple or as neat as we like to believe. Although “Alone in Love” is the oldest k-drama on this list, I think it still holds up to the test of time because the cast give great, emotional performances, the story is as complex and as beautiful as life can make it, and at its core is an idea that love isn’t perfect. Have you seen any of these Second Chance K-dramas? Let us know what you thought in the comment section below!