Exclusive: Noona's Noonchi Founder Jeanie Chang Talks K-Dramas From A Mental Health Perspective

There’s nothing like cozying up with your favorite K-Drama at the end of a long hard week to lift the spirits. And with so many finding comfort in K-dramas these days, Korean-American therapist Jeanie Chang takes the opportunity to explore mental health topics in a relatable manner through the lens of K-dramas, promoting wellbeing through her passion. Jeanie Chang is the founder and CEO of Noona’s Noonchi®, LLC, a global wellness company that provides mental health education and resources and is also a global tour operator, offering K-Culture tours including K-drama and K-pop sites, cultural hands-on activities, and wellness experiences.

After sharing her insights with people all around the world over the past few years, Jeanie Chang has now packaged these thoughts into the book “How K-Dramas Can Transform Your Life: Powerful Lessons on Belongingness, Healing, and Mental Health,” which is set to be released on May 7. Ahead of her book launch, Jeanie Chang took time to talk to Soompi about Noona’s Noonchi and her book, K-dramas, and her future goals.

The origin of Noona’s Noonchi

Jeanie Chang explained that Noona’s Noonchi came about at the height of the pandemic in late 2020 when there was also the anti-Asian hate movement. “I was working with many college students and young professionals online at the time, leading support group sessions, and I brought K-Dramas into our sessions to cheer them up and find a different, more fun way to talk about mental health, which has historically been quite stigmatized in Asian culture.” Being encouraged by students to share her content more widely, she established Noona’s Noonchi, which provides mental health education and is also a global tour operator.

Jeanie Chang’s book on K-dramas and mental health

Jeanie Chang’s book “How K-Dramas Can Transform Your Life: Powerful Lessons on Belongingness, Healing, and Mental Health” is set to appeal to K-drama and K-culture fans, of course, but Chang explained her wish to also reach a wider audience. “My hope is also to intrigue those who may have not watched any K-dramas or just watched ‘Squid Game’ to read my book because they’re interested in how K-dramas benefit mental health. In that sense, my book is for anyone and everyone who wants to transform their life for the better and for the sake of their mental health.” She added, “I hope my book piques the interest of those who are fascinated by the global impact of pop culture in general.”

What differentiates K-dramas

Jeanie Chang presented seven aspects that differentiate K-dramas from other dramas:

  • “K-dramas are of the highest production quality, and it shows.”
  • “K-drama writing is second to none. It focuses on the character development and growth of the characters which makes them very relatable and draws us into their story. It’s why we get so emotionally invested in K-dramas.”
  • “K-dramas, because they’re often written by women, show the story from the female perspective. This is a shift from the historical male gaze, which makes them refreshing and globally appealing because the vast majority of K-drama viewers are women.”
  • “K-drama themes focus on the heart of Korean culture which is founded on jeong (Korean affinity, connection, kinship) and outlined in the relationships within K-dramas that people find endearing.”
  • “K-dramas are aspirational and inspirational, emphasizing the messages of resilience and hope.”
  • “K-drama storytelling has a formula which, in all honesty, is predictable, but we actually like the tropes (whether we know it or not) because things that are predictable are a good coping mechanism for stress and trauma.”
  • “K-dramas promote belongingness. Because of their global appeal, K-dramas are building cross-racial and cross-cultural bridges around the world, and it makes the world a cozier place addressing the social isolation epidemic.”

K-dramas that positively impact mental health

When asked about K-dramas that had a positive impact on her personal mental health, Jeanie Chang shared many titles including “If You Wish Upon Me,” “Twinkling Watermelon,” “Seo Yeong, My Daughter,” “Reply 1988,” and “My Mister,” revealing that “My Mister” even inspired the title of her book. The drama that started this entire journey for her, however, was the 1992 show “Jealousy” starring Choi Soo Jong and Choi Jin Sil. “It changed my life because I discovered that my Korean culture, heritage, and background were precious and hence, found the confidence in my self-identity and grew to love who I am. Here I am decades later speaking on the intersectionality of mental health and identity using K-dramas in my work, analyzing them from a mental health perspective.”

K-drama recommendations from Jeanie Chang

Soompi asked K-drama expert Jeanie Chang to reveal her recommendations for people in various situations, for which she shared the following responses:

Jeanie Chang’s future goals

To conclude, Jeanie Chang commented on her future goal to continue expanding her Noona’s Noonchi company in Korea, especially helping shape the mental health infrastructure in the country. She elaborated, “I hope to do this by continuing to build on my K-drama wellness tours around South Korea, transforming the tourism industry, as well as making my mark in Korean society as an expert clinical speaker, executive coach, and author in advancing mental health resources to improve the mental health of Koreans of all generations.”

Find out more about Jeanie Chang’s upcoming book here!

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