I recently started watching a Korean drama called Crash landing on you. In this blog post, I will mostly talk about my thoughts about watching this romantic fantasy series, without giving away too much (so no spoilers). So far I have only seen the first six episodes. I will write a more complete review after I finish.
Here’s a trailer of the series:
I was hesitant at first. I thought that this show is just below me. I have always preferred watching sci-fi, action or social and political dramas. The only reason I got into watching it is because I have been quite fascinated with North Korea and the political situation between the two countries. Many months ago, I had started to binge watch traveling vlogs of tourists visiting Pyongyang (capital city of North Korea) during the historic meeting of Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un.
North Korea is a terrible country to be in. Citizens of that country are under extreme restrictions on personal freedoms and liberties. There are food and power shortages, no internet and a constant risk of being unjustly sent for forced labour. It is very difficult to imagine a scenario where someone would voluntarily give up a life in one of the modern liberal democracies to become North Korean. Much of the human rights violations in North Korea are perpetrated by a totalitarian regime led by “the Great Leader” Kim Jong-un.
It is almost impossible to romanticize the idea of being in the country, and even more the concept of someone from South Korea falling in love with a military officer shown in the film. And yet, this show manages to do that with careful evasion of politics and by focusing on the love-story part of the plot much more than the geopolitics around it.
The romantic male
Warning: This may look like I am enforcing gender stereotypes. Please make correct me if I am going too overboard with all this.
Ri Jeung-huk (played by Hyun Bin) is the male protagonist in the series. He is a border guard whose job involves guarding the demilitarized zone between the two Koreas. One day he finds Yoon Se-ri (played by Son Ye-jin), who runs a beauty products company, crashed on a tree while paragliding during a storm. And this is how their romance begins.
Ri is revealed to be a dedicated soldier who comes from an affluent family that is close to the establishment. It is very difficult to sympathise with this character, and from the beginning itself the show maintains a dangerous image of this character.
However his charm quickly gained my favour! At first, I thought it is the lipstick.
On closer inspection, I think I know what makes him so attractive on the screen. It is not so much about his tall figure, broad shoulders and nice clean-shaven cheeks. Throughout the series, he is very respectful and polite to Se-ri. He makes small little gestures, like making that elaborate coffee for her or finding scented candles for her. All these cute moments make you swoon at how nice the guy is. His manly charm comes from being caring and respectful. He’s not particularly funny, nor makes any interesting conversations. It’s just his mannerisms that makes us pine for him.
This is in contrast with the nature and personality of Se-ri herself. She is very playful, lives casually and overall very jolly. Coming from a luxurious life, she is quite a demanding presence for Ri to have in his house. This makes the on-screen chemistry of the two personalities very interesting. The show is full of these moments where I just giggle at their love story like I am fifteen again.
This show definitely changed my viewpoint over what a nice romantic partner should be. I think, in terms of personality, I am just far away from what Ri Jeung-huk is. But watching this show does inspire me to bring some changes to what I am. I have been told repeatedly to reorient my personality towards that direction, and I will perhaps write a blog post later about taking some new-year resolutions about all that.
Of course, none of this applies in a cis heterosexual settings. I am a hetero cis-male however, and I do not think there is anything wrong from learning something from a fictional hetero cis-male that is perceptively very attractive.
Being an Indian, it is very common to encounter extreme rhetoric about Pakistan. The geopolitical situation of India and Pakistan does resemble a bit like the one between the two Koreas. Especially, the threats of nuclear warfare. A stark difference though is that it seems the two Koreas have a better chance of unification than India-Pakistan. The south even has a Ministry of Unification, that is working towards making relations better. In fact, the show’s scriptwriter, was named “Person of the Year” by South Korea’s Unification Ministry.
No such analogous institution exists in India or Pakistan, but definitely a lot of institutional forces exist to make relations even worse. However, after the Kargil War, it did seem to the leaders that the political situation is essentially at a stalemate and a peace deal was almost reached in 2001. This was a period when the two countries got a bit closer.
Among all this, a film called Veer-Zaara was released, which is on almost exactly the same theme of love between two enemy countries. The film was quite successful in both India and Pakistan and is also known for sensitive portrayal of the tense relations. Here is the trailer.
One major difference however is that the political themes in Veer-Zaara are explored in a greater depth, as compared to Crash landing on you. The animosity of the two countries is very much a reason why the love of Veer and Zaara remains unrequited. Crash landing on you tries to avoid those harsh realities and gives the atmosphere an ambience of fantasy and romance. I don’t blame the series for it though, because honestly the human rights situation in Kim Jong-un’s evil regime is much worse than that of Pakistan. This series is a love story, it does not have to be like The Interview or something.
If anyone has seen Crash landing on you and would like to watch something similar, I would definitely recommend them to watch Veer-Zara sometime. I assure you, Bollywood films are just equally cheesy, if not more, when they deal with love stories.
Okay, I finished watching the series. After roughly fifty percent of the show, the tone completely “crashes” on itself. All the political matters are set aside and it becomes a boring run-of-the-mill romantic story. It took me a lot of patience to finish it.
I would say, do start watching the show, but stop somewhere half-way and watch Veer-Zaara instead.