Arranged marriages in K-dramas – what’s that about?

arranged marriages in Korea

We love K-dramas most of all for the drama, of course, but they also provide a fascinating into Korean culture. One surprising aspect that frequently makes an appearance is the concept of arranged marriages, which, despite what you might think, are still a “thing” in Korea. In this article, we’ll delve into the history of arranged marriages in Korea and explore how this age-old practice is portrayed in today’s popular K-dramas.

The history of arranged marriages in Korea

Traditionally, arranged marriages in Korea, also known as “seon,” were a means to unite families and ensure the continuation of social status and wealth. Parents would choose partners for their children based on factors like family background, social standing, and financial stability. However, as Korean society has modernized and become more influenced by Western culture, arranged marriages have declined, giving way to “love marriages,” where couples choose each other based on personal compatibility and affection.

Examples of “seon” in K-dramas

K-dramas have a unique way of incorporating arranged marriages into their storylines, often as a means to create dramatic tension or explore the complexities of Korean society. In these dramas, arranged marriages typically involve characters from upper-class or wealthy families, highlighting the importance of social standing and family expectations.

  1. “The Heirs” (2013): In this popular K-drama, we see the main character, Kim Tan, played by Lee Min-ho, as the heir to a wealthy conglomerate family. His parents arrange a marriage for him with Rachel Yoo, another wealthy heiress. The arranged marriage serves as a backdrop for the love triangle between Kim Tan, Rachel, and Cha Eun-sang, a girl from a lower-class background. The contrasting expectations and emotions between an arranged marriage and a love-based relationship create a thrilling dynamic throughout the series.
  2. “My ID is Gangnam Beauty” (2018): This drama centers around Kang Mi-rae, a young woman who undergoes plastic surgery to escape her past bullying experiences. She finds herself entangled in an arranged marriage proposal from a wealthy family friend, despite her growing feelings for her college classmate, Do Kyung-seok. This subplot provides an opportunity for the show to address societal pressures and traditional expectations in modern Korean culture.
  3. “The World of the Married” (2020): In this intense drama, the protagonist, Ji Sun-woo, played by Kim Hee-ae, is a successful doctor married to a seemingly perfect husband. However, as the story unfolds, we learn that their marriage was arranged, and Sun-woo’s husband is having an affair. The tension between the arranged marriage and the reality of their relationship adds another layer of complexity to the show’s intricate narrative.

Love vs. arranged marriages in K-dramas

In K-dramas, the conflict between arranged marriages and love marriages often serves as a driving force for the plot. Characters may find themselves torn between familial obligations and their own desires for love and happiness. This dynamic generates a compelling narrative that resonates with viewers, as they witness characters struggle with societal expectations while seeking true love.

K-dramas have captivated audiences around the world with their engaging stories and unique insights into Korean culture. By incorporating arranged marriages into their storylines, these dramas provide a fascinating look into the ongoing evolution of Korean society, as well as a captivating source of narrative tension. So, grab some popcorn and get ready to binge-watch these K-dramas that artfully weave in the age-old practice of arranged marriages!