It seems like every Korean drama has a few scenes that never fail to make an appearance throughout the series. From the piggy back ride to the wrist grab, the slow motion back hug to the drunken stumble home, there are certain scenes that K-drama viewers have come to accept as normal (no matter how many times they see them). Apart from these repetitive scenes though, there are also an abundance of overused (and overly dramatic) plots that K-drama writers tend to use. Have you seen them all? Check it out in our list of “10 Overused K-Drama Plots We Love to Hate.”
10. The Extreme Makeover Plot
Let’s start with a plot that is tried and true! Our drama generally starts off with a hottie in disguise, before going through a total transformation to win the heart of the other lead. Whether the person in question is Kim Soo Hyun in “Dream High,” Lee Jong Suk in “Pinocchio” or Shin Min Ah in “Oh My Venus,” somehow these extremely gorgeous people hide their looks with a messy hairdo or a few extra pounds.
9. The Gender Bender Plot
You know when you just have one of those situations when you need to disguise yourself as a member of the opposite sex? Yeah, me neither. Evidently this is a common occurrence in Korea though because we have seen girl after girl who cuts off their hair and can magically pass for a guy. Check it out in dramas like “To The Beautiful You,” “Coffee Prince,” “Nail Shop Paris” and “You’re Beautiful.”
8. The Childhood Trauma Plot
While Korean girls go around disguising themselves as guys, Korean guys usually go around trying to forget their traumatic childhood experiences. They’re all so busy that it’s no wonder it usually takes them 12 episodes before they realize they have feelings for each other. Prime examples of the childhood trauma plot include Hyun Bin in “Secret Garden,” Jo In Sung in “It’s Okay, That’s Love,” and Joo Won in “Tomorrow Cantabile.”
7. The Second Lead Syndrome
This common plot is also known as the “She Should Have Fallen in Love With Him, But She’s Too Stupid” plot or by it’s shortened name “Nice Guys Really Do Finish Last” (Okay, no one really calls them that except me, but I’m hoping it will catch on). One of the most overused plots in K-drama history, the second male lead is always polite, rich, caring, and gorgeous. However, they never get the girl. For two of my favorite second leads, check out Choi Jin Hyuk in “Fated to Love You” and Choi Siwon in “She Was Pretty.”
6. The Childhood Friends-Turned-Lovers Plot
When I think about my early childhood, most of my memories are fuzzy at best. Even when recalling my first big crush, I can’t remember much beyond his bouncy blonde hair as he ran around on the playground. It seems like the inhabitants of K-drama land have super memory, as they can recall minute details when it comes to childhood romances. After losing touch, they generally meet again years later as part of fate’s ultimate plan. Check out just a few of the many examples of this plot in “Panda and Hedgehog,” “Bubblegum,” and “She Was Pretty.”
5. The Evil Chaebol Plot
This common (and overdone) story generally involves a wicked chaebol mom who plots evil deeds in the name of money. Although “Boys Over Flowers” shows the stereotypical evil mom character, there are also dramas which branch out into the evil, chaebol families. “Hyde Jekyll, Me” has an evil, chaebol cousin. “Fated to Love You” has an evil, chaebol aunt. “Birth of a Beauty” has an evil, chaebol stepbrother. Moral of the story? Marrying into these uber-rich families comes with a price in K-drama land.
4. The Poor Girl-Rich Guy Plot
Following in the genre of rich-beyond-belief families, the “poor girl-rich guy” plot is also one of the most overdone storylines in dramas. There isn’t much explanation as to why the poor person is always female. Without a doubt however, the female lead will almost always be a down on her luck, hard-working, plucky, adorably goofy girl who attracts multiple hot, rich guys like bees to honey. Some of the dramas that contain this classic plot are “Heirs,” “Flower Boy Ramyun Shop” and “Secret Garden.”
3. The Mean Girl Plot
“Mean Girls” may have been an American film that developed a cult-like following with fans, but the real mean girls seem to live on every corner in the land of K-dramas. The gorgeous girls are usually well-dressed, well-educated, and rich as Croesus, but much like our beloved second lead heroes, these girls never get the guy. Instead, they usually lose out to the poor girl as referenced in the plot above. Actress Wang Ji Hye has played the thwarted mean girl many times, but her character took it to new, villainous heights when she was an accomplice to (attempted) murder in “Birth of a Beauty.”
2. The “I Hate You, I Love You” Plot
If there is one thing K-dramas like more than fateful childhood romances and second lead syndrome, it’s the “I hate you, I love you” plot. Seen in numerous dramas already on this list, the series always starts off with a good old fashioned case of “I wouldn’t marry you if you were the last person on earth!” In which case, we always know that the leads will, in fact, end up dating or married. Despite knowing the outcome however, we still enjoy watching the story unfold episode after episode. This common plot can be seen in “Divorce Lawyer in Love” and (a personal favorite) “Falling for Innocence.”
1. The Last Minute Amnesia Plot
Perhaps the most over-the-top series in all K-drama land, “Boys Over Flowers” uses almost every plot on this list and more! With 25 episodes, the program truly had it all: the evil mom, the poor girl, the rich guy, the second lead, the mean girls, the hate turned to love, and the list goes on. After overcoming numerous hardships such as kidnappings, near-death experiences, extreme bullying, and broken hearts, this drama pulled out a last minute plot device that we would see repeated in many K-dramas to come. What extreme (and extremely over-dramatic) story did the writers use as a final twist to the series? Say it with me.
Although the list of overused and overly dramatic K-drama plots could truly be endless, these are a few of our favorites that we love to hate. Did you enjoy this list? Did we leave any obvious ones off the list? Which one of these is your favorite (or least favorite) K-drama plot? Let us know in the comment section below!
lee1086 is a Soompi writer who lives for music, playing the piano and Eunsihae. Apart from her overboard love of Super Junior, she is also a fan of 3rd Wave Music, BIGBANG, EXO, SHINEE, BTS, and more. When she is not watching the latest K-Drama or obsessing over the perfection of Lee Donghae, she is busy at church or hanging out with her family and friends.