|An image of "Doggaebi"- the Goblin|
|/Extracted from Google|
Korean dramas are now facing a new trend. “Goblin” and “The Legends of the Blue Sea” are dramas which have been popular not only in Korea but also overseas. Interestingly, these two dramas share two common points. They both have main characters originated from Korean traditional stories and show the previous lives and the current lives of the characters. Having more than one life is called “reincarnation,” which is a concept that appears mostly in Buddhism.
Looking back to the history of Korean drama, they have not actually portrayed characters from traditional stories of Korea with reincarnation. However, the recent dramas tend to use this familiar setting pretty often which helps the viewer to easily comprehend the story.
|An image of mermaid.|
|/Extracted from Google|
Similarities in “Goblin” and “The Legends of the Blue Sea”
“Goblin,” the title itself, represents the character of the Korean goblin known as “Doggaebi” from its traditional stories. Korean goblins have been passed down, keeping their traits of helping humans with their swords that they always carry with, if something goes wrong. The drama applied exactly the same character to its story. In the show, the main character, a goblin, is a guardian who saves people’s lives when they are in trouble. His sword acts as an important role as well, as it does in the old story.
In addition, since “Goblin” is all about living and death, a grim reaper, the messenger who takes a dead soul to the afterlife, appears as well as in the old Korean stories. Grim reapers are shown with the same features from the stories that Korean viewers have experienced listening to while they were growing, but in a modernistic way. Reinterpreting a traditional character from a modern viewpoint draws more viewers’ interest.
This is where reincarnation came from in the drama. The characters around the goblin and the grim reaper are reborn and live a new life thanks to their help. There is one line that is repeated over and over in the drama. “Human beings are given four lives. One, a life that scatters seeds. Second, a life that waters the seeds. Third, a life that harvests the seeds. Finally, a life that uses the seeds.” This is the point where viewers could think of reincarnation of Buddhism.
Similarly, “The Legends of the Blue Sea,” is also inspired by an old Korean story of mermaids. The tale is about captured mermaids who were released by one man, and the drama takes the same plot of it.
Moreover, the leading characters are given rebirth and their fates become entwined with their modern incarnations. This could be explained with the concept of “Karma” from the past life, which has a thread of connection with the reincarnation of Buddhism.
Korean indigenous aspects in K-dramas and their entertainment roles
People who watch Korean dramas are captivated by the characters and settings from old stories because the elements are felt to be familiar but new at the same time.
Reincarnation used to be an object of public curiosity, and the dramas utilized it well by visualizing the curiosity with developed techniques. Natasha Choi (20), a Korean viewer of “The Legends of the Blue Sea,” mentioned, “I personally believe in reincarnation and I am very glad that I could encounter it with Korean dramas, visually. The concept is well explained through the drama and I could really enjoy it.”
A Youtuber, “Margarita the K-drama reviewer,” also said, “In ‘Goblin,’ the moment when dead people are led to an afterlife by the grim reaper was the most emotional scene because I could think how life goes. Actually, I have never thought of reincarnation, but now I wonder how my past life had been like and how my afterlife will be like. The drama influences my own thought.”
Other than reincarnation, character settings originated from traditional stories enhance dramas’ competitiveness in the global market. Familiar characters, such as Korean goblin and mermaids, arouse viewer’s interest as the fictional characters are actualized into real people, in modern lives. Han Yeji (21), a Korean viewer of “Goblin” noted, “I have heard and been told so many goblin stories during my childhood. So, when I first heard that the drama “Goblin” was going to be shown on the television, I could not imagine how goblin would be visualized and described. This was basically the key element that made me watch the drama.”
Foreign viewers were also fascinated by the characters which are familiar with them. Barbora Kramensova (20) said, “I call myself as a huge fan of K-dramas and I have seen many of them. But I have not seen any of these like ‘The Legends of the Blue Sea.’ This drama is my favorite because I love watching mermaids in the show. It is very interesting that mermaids are no longer stuck in Disney’s animation.”
Cultural meaning of the trend
As traditional characters and reincarnation both appear often on the drama, this trend is expected to have cultural meaning in terms of reflecting the current social staus.
Jung Hwankguk, a professor of the Department of Korean Language and Literature, especially majoring in classical literature, commented, “In fact, traditional stories have been consumed from time to time in different ways as time went by. Using them for the drama is not something new that started very recently. Rebirth depending on what people have done in their previous lives, can be easily found in classical literature as well as various characters. Therefore, these stories are not just being conjugated for entertainment; they are reproduced repeatedly as they used to be. We keep using the old stories by now because we still desire and admire the properties of the past.”
Lee Min-jeong firstname.lastname@example.org
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