Accents in K-Dramas: The Good and The Bad

There is no doubt that “hallyu” has been creating waves around the world. Therefore, it is no surprise that Korean dramas have been getting more international – i.e., incorporating more international connections, overseas settings, foreign companies, foreign people, and foreign languages. But, that last one might lead to some problems – namely with accents.

I mean, even Keanu Reeves struggles with foreign accents.

So how do our K-stars fare?

Some are great!

Some had to work hard for their great accents. 2PM‘s Jang Wooyoung got great reviews on his english lines in “Dream High.” The 2PM member has talked about how he went to fellow members Taecyeon and Nichkhun for help with his accent, making it fantastic for the actual recording. The famous “Is it my turn already?” set the stage for him to own every english line he had after that as well. You can see his rendition above. (Note: It might sound even better because CNBLUE‘s Jung Yong Hwa sets a nice contrast after him, giving it a little Busan twist.)

Others were gifted with growing up abroad and coming back to Korea with perfectly seasoned foreign language skills. f(x)‘s Krystal has displayed her great english skills on several occasions. Her short scene in “The Heirs” is one such example – and nicely executed. I mean, how much do we girls relate to that last line?

[tv]Throwback to some great english in Dream High on SoompiTV![/tv]

Some… need work.

They try really, really hard. And I’m sure I couldn’t pull off some of these accents (like French, for instance). But, the viewers are merciless and bad accents are simply bad accents.

In “Secret Garden,” Kim Sa Rang has some english lines that sound even worse because of Philip Lee‘s reply. Ouch. (To be honest, I’m not sure if this should fall under the next category…)

And then, there are moments in K-Dramas where foreign languages are purposefully butchered for comical purposes.

Exhibit A: In “High Kick: Counterattack of the Short Legs,” Lee Jong Suk confesses his love for a girl to a bunch of random foreigners in an English class. That’s already cute in itself, but it’s even cuter that he does it in purposefully broken and slow english. That’s dedication right there. 

Exhibit B: I have yet to watch “Flower Boy Next Door,” so I have no idea what’s going on in this scene. What I do know is that it is down right hilarious. Yoon Shi Yoon and Kim Ji Hoon absolutely own their fake Spanish-speaking roles with an extra flair. It almost makes you overlook the incomprehensible Spanish they’re speaking.

Some… are getting there!

Lee Min Ho shows off his english skills in “The Heirs.” It’s not bad by any means… but it’s lacking that natural flow. And it’s really obvious that he can’t be 100% of his acting self when he’s trying to do it in a language he doesn’t know. A little practice, though, and Lee Min Ho could probably have a whole scene in english with Krystal.

(Honestly, I’m still trying to figure out where Girls’ Generation‘s Yuri in the “Fashion King” goes because I don’t know French. But after feedback from friends who have learned French in school, I’m guessing it’s in this section!)

Regardless of the good and bad accents, we should be grateful K-dramas are trying to reach international audiences at all. I know that when English comes on, I immediately get excited and pay more attention. If it’s good, I admire. If it’s bad, I get a good laugh. I’m sure many relate.

These are by no means all of the foreign languages in K-dramas. Which scenes with accents are your favorites – for both best and worst? Share with us in the comments below!

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