[Traveling the world with dramas] Travel outwards, looking in

Are You Human Too?

By @purebristles

I’m not Korean, nor am I living in Korea, so one of the best thing about being hooked on K-dramas being primarily set in Korea is that it makes all trips there feel like a visit to a big, country-sized movie set. A really, really big one, where everyone could be the lead actor or actress, and all the extras are always on set, working.

Every visit I make feels like a trip to Disney World for me: Every pojangmacha is where I could sit back-to-back with my best friend whom I’m in love with (like Hong Nan-hee and Byung Hyun-tae from Bottom of the 9th With 2 Outs), every bus ride could be one where I might be sitting beside my forever love (like Jung Jae-chan and Nam Hong-joo from While You Were Sleeping), and every trip I have to make out to Busan could be the train ride filled with zombies!

Train to Busan

So in one sense, the worlds I travel to with K-dramas are the fictional worlds I carry within me whenever I visit Korea. I walk the travellators in Incheon Airport with Seo Do-woo from On the Way to the Airport, take the subway into Seoul with Im Ba-reun from Miss Hammurabi, ride the minibus and wander the streets of Busan with Dong-man and Ae-ra from Fight My Way, and hang out in Jeju with Gun-woo and Jung-joo from Warm and Cozy.

Why is this significant? These K-dramas have given me strength and cheered me on in my life as their stories — these Asian stories — always whisper and salve life wounds. K-dramas show me, “Hey, you’re not a life failure if you’re still living in your parents’ place — look at how Jin-jin from 20th Century Boy and Girl wrangled it; it’s really normal and nothing to be ashamed about.” K-dramas tell me, “Yes, it’s really normal to consider family expectations when making big decisions, like Jang Hye-sung in I Hear Your Voice.”

K-dramas tell me the world is both bigger and smaller at the same time, and we should be kind to one another because we are all muddling through it together, like Lee Ji-an and Park Dong-hoon from My Ajusshi. And when I walk the streets of Korea, I am thankful for the voice the K-drama industry plays in bringing an Asian voice to the table. It may not be truly mine, but it is closer to home, and more importantly, closer to my heart, my issues, my life.

My Ajusshi

Beyond Korea, the worlds which have opened up thanks to K-dramas being set there have made my heart and travel bucket list full. As an avid traveler already who also travels Asia extensively for work (I count myself very blessed!), my heart is happy when I see places I know and love being visited.

I was so excited when I saw my favorite parts of Laos — the waterfalls — being visited by Na PD and the boys in Youth Over Flowers. I squealed over the cute quokka photos from the Winner boys when on the Australian leg of Na PD’s kidnap series, and was delighted to see the Kuala Lumpur skyline in On the Way to the Airport. Revisiting my very favorite parts of Paris with Yoon So-so and San Ma-roo in The Package made me determined to get the K-drama itinerary and visit Mont Saint-Michel.

The Package

It is then at this intersection of “knowing yet not knowing” that my bucket list gets slowly populated — whether I’ve been there or not, whether in Korea or not, seeing travel locations in K-dramas always makes me ask myself: Where else is there to go? What’s there to do, what’s there to eat, where’s more to hike, what’s the best photography spot to head to? Through the lens of breathlessly beautiful K-drama cinematography, let me leave you with my travel bucket list notes through the world:

Greece, you had me at the first strains of “You Are My Everything,” with those sweeping scenes of blue seas and the gorgeous shipwreck on Navagio Beach in Descended from the Sun. I may not have a Yoo Shi-jin, but I have Google maps and a selfie stick and I’m not afraid to use them.

Czech Republic, I will be looking forward to visiting old cottages with beautiful sunset vistas. Please, pretty please, tell me you’ll provide a handsome robot tour guide, like ShinBot from Are You Human Too?

Youth Over Flowers in Iceland

Iceland, I hate the cold, but if Kang Ha-neul and Jo Jung-seok braved it to visit when on Youth Over Flowers, I’ll put you on my list too. With car rental insurance!

Budapest and Hungary, you were never high on my list of places to visit, but if there’s a chance of a doomed romance with Man to Man’s Agent K, sign me up, brudder.

I’m sure I’ll be adding more. What about you? Are you Korean, Korean diaspora, non-Korean? Have any K-dramas made you want to travel to Korea specifically to see something? Or has seeing a short scene set in a foreign land made you set new exciting travel plans for yourself?

Man to Man


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