The rich are common in K-dramas; we can expect them to show up like soju, ramyun, and kimchi. However, why are they so prevalent? Regardless of the protagonists being poor and probably unlikely to run into them, they often find themselves flanked with the rich’s presence.
COMMON DEPICTION OF THE WEALTHY
Rinchan: I feel it is mixed. There are some with a god complex that stinks to high heaven and need a reality check. Then there are others that don’t seem too bad and are sympathetic.
Tessieroo: True, but the majority of rich people in the dramas I’ve watched are evil—just in varying degrees. Maybe it’s the weekend dramas that are skewing the numbers a bit for me? Rich families are usually owners of a major corporation, live in a huge mansion, and don’t like each other, or they do like each other but no one else does. Inevitably, one of their kids will fall in love with someone that doesn’t measure up to their standards; so, the rich, evil parents start sending that child on endless mat-seons (matchmaking dates).
This is what’s happening now in the weekend drama “The Legendary Witch“ and to a smaller degree, “Rosy Lovers.“ In both shows, the persons the rich children have fallen for are deemed inferior, and they are threatened to break up immediately by the influential family.
Goodange: My first introduction to wealthy characters in K-dramas were exactly what you described, Tess. That was years ago, and to this day, poor female leads run into chaebol heirs in K-dramas as often as real life people see their neighborhood Starbucks barista.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Common depiction of the wealthy in K-dramas
Why are there so many rich people in K-dramas?
Rich female leads vs. rich leading men
Old money vs. self-made millionaires
Rich folks are just like the rest of us & the writers’ message
Why are so many rich characters villains?
Rich behaving badly
Baddies who find redemption
Are all the rich really evil?
Worst rich character
Favorite rich character
WHY ARE THERE SO MANY RICH PEOPLE IN K-DRAMAS?
Rinchan: They satisfy some superficial necessities like the need to have a fashionista in each drama, and they have the means to get things done. Their presence also allows a presentation of two different worlds colliding and the chaos that brings.
Tessieroo: Very good point. I think that’s it exactly! Plus there’s the idea that people enjoy stories about the upper class. There’s usually an eldest son who is the CEO and ends up falling for the poor girl. Has there been a drama with the opposite happening? You know, rich girl falling for poor boy? I can’t think of any right off the top of my head because my brain is full of names of all the CEOs I remember: CEO Kim, CEO Lee, CEO Park, CEO Jang, CEO Cha, CEO Choi … someone stop me. LOL.
Goodange: I’ve never watched the drama, but Tess, I think “My Fair Lady“ is one of a few dramas that features a wealthy heroine falling for the regular, working man. There was also Kim Sun Ah‘s TV project, “I Do, I Do.“ She starred as a financially successful shoe designer who becomes pregnant after a one-night stand with a hard up, younger man with whom she eventually falls in love.
Tessieroo: Ah, thanks, Ange! I knew there had to be, but it’s certainly not very common. I haven’t seen “My Fair Lady” either, but I did watch “I Do, I Do.” It’s a tiny surprise how blank my mind went trying to think of wealthy female leads.
Goodange: I do agree that viewers seem to like watching the rich interact with the everyday middle and lower class. In real life, it’s rare to hear of a person be plucked out of obscurity and be invited to mingle with the financially influential at a lavish party, and in that regard, a lot of poor leads are living out the viewers’ fantasy.
Also, in dramas, it’s the rich that wields the power, which is often times used to drive the conflict in a story.