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What is Makjjang? And how is it a k-Drama genre?!

Okay, so yeah, talk about obscure! Why am I calling this a genre?! Well in Korea makjjang is just that… a type of television media that many watchers enjoy… quite a lot (otherwise they wouldn’t get made… South Korea is TOO small to produce a drama the majority isn’t interested in!) And now other nations can partake too…

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Strong Woman do bong soo gif - - Yahoo Image Search Results

Makjjang 막장 translated from Korean literally means ridiculousness… so ridiculous television… In English we call the same kind of shows melodramas. According to Oxford Dictionary:

mel·o·dra·ma noun. 1. a sensational dramatic piece with exaggerated characters and exciting events intended to appeal to the emotions.

Melodramas have a bad rap in America. They are accused of being campy, overly emotional and total soap operas!! I say that melodramas (and makjjang by extension) ARE all about emotions and dramatizing the story in a way to heighten those emotions beyond their normal bounds. That means exaggerated characters and exciting events!

In America the entertainment industry is so worried about what the director, producer and actors WANT TO SAY by making that particular movie or television show, they forget that the audience is who is important. With the k-drama makjjang genre it’s all about the audience and the stories THEY WANT to experience.

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Daydreaming Discussions: The 4 Epic Stages of Fangirling/Fanboying! || Extreme Flailing!! |

Makjjang is a melodrama on crack!!* When a reviewer mentions that a show is “makjjang” that means the drama, either, has an outrageous premise or there are plot points that are hard to believe in real life. Some of the extreme and absurd plot twists involve adultery, revenge, rape, birth secrets, fatal illnesses, and flirting with incest.**

*I have to interject that I’ve never been on crack but it’s how I imagine people on crack ‘think’ they are – crazy, hysterical and ridiculous but charming…

**Don’t discount these because these makjjang are some of the funnest dramas out there…..

The less successful makjjangs are total fluff, fun to watch but with eye rolling moments that become more and more endearing the longer you watch. An EXCELLENT makjjang though is engrossing and so overwhelmingly good that you want to binge and binge…and binge. Yeah, that good. Most of my favorite k-dramas have some element of the makjjang about them!

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Totally Lovely Fluff…

via makeagif

Revolutionary Love has an outrageous male lead who, despite being rather clueless, steps up when he meets a girl who steps out to change things (even though she has zero power)… and he soon realizes that means he’ll have to take on the responsibility since he’s the second heir to a global company and has the influence needed to make waves. Hyuk, HYUK!! He is so adorkable and Choi Si-won kills this role, you root for him and he doesn’t let you down…

Moonlight Drawn By Clouds gif - - Yahoo Image Search Results

Moonlight Drawn By Clouds is a historical that totally turns history on its head! It’s unrealistic and rather ridiculous but GAH so, so funny and touching and lovely… if you watch this your heart will melt and you will be forever converted to k-dramas! Ra-on somehow gets past all the processes and checks to become an eunuch in crown prince Lee Yeong’s service… and they fall in love! (No way, right?!) EEEEEEE, nevertheless so, so good…

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Outrageous Premises…

"Goblin" may have concluded its epic run, but it has neither left our memories nor our hearts. One of the biggest reasons this drama moves us is because of

Goblin: The Lonely and Great God is about a Goryeo general cursed to be immortal and watch his loved ones die… only when the goblin’s bride pulls the sword from his chest will he be allowed to move on to the afterlife… He (played by Gong Yoo) moves in with a grim reaper and they go from enemies to “lovers” too! Totally ridiculous, right?! And oh so yummy… Read my review if you need more convincing… The Strange and Beautiful Goblin!

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My Love From Another Star is an alien that landed on Earth in the year 1609… fast forward to the present with only 3 months left before his long-awaited departure back to space. Now he meets Song-yi who has someone out to kill her and he’s forced to intervene until they fall in love! (Of course!) Totally outrageous… but you will totally fall for this mega hit from South Korea… and it’s over the top situations!

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Realistic Makjjang…

Oh My Venus gif - - Yahoo Image Search Results

Oh My Venus is outrageous in the details… Joo-eun used to be pretty, REALLY pretty and envied for her face and figure. When she passes out on a flight back home from America John Kim is the only medical professional who can help. Their lives intertwine as he deals with family drama while helping her transform after her long time boyfriend dumps her… So Ji-Sub stars as John / Young-ho and GAH, that works, he really, really works!!

Descendants of the Sun gif - - Yahoo Image Search Results

Descendants of the Sun is romance on steroids! Si-jin and Mo-yeon meet amongst much misunderstanding but eventually start to date until their jobs get in the way… his as the captain of a South Korean Special Forces unit and her as a doctor. When they both get posted to Uruk things look up and their love is given a chance to grow until his job gets in the way again… These two are now married in RL… and YES the show was that good!

city hunter gif - - Yahoo Image Search Results

City Hunter is action incarnate but for totally ridiculous (but badass) reasons! Lee Min-ho plays Yoon-sung who is kidnapped as a child because he’s the surviving son of Moo-yul, Jin-pyo’s partner, who wants revenge for his friend! Killed by members of the government who turned their back on them after they suceed on a mission in North Korea, Yoon-sung returns as an adult to fulfill his adoptive father’s plan for revenge. (Pssst, proven to convert male viewers!!)

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South Koreans understand that to every person their own emotional and physical journey is compelling to them. By portraying a drama with emotion the audience is allowed to partake of the character’s journey as if it were their own! Makjjang allows characters we can relate to, to work through their problems and come out the other side with bravery, stamina and toughness. These characters are seen as friends of the viewers, people they’d really love to know in real life.

sky lanterns k drama gif - - Yahoo Image Search Results

Passion is woven throughout the entire k-drama world, knitting it together like a tapestry of emotions.

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Which of these Makjjang has the most appeal to YOU?

I LOVE characters that are realistic that experience some incredibly extreme circumstances and I LOVE extreme characters that are incredible in realistic circumstances that don’t have easy fixes! There is sooooo much to this genre, something for everyone, plus its super fun!

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Thanks for Reading XOXO

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7 thoughts on “What is Makjjang? And how is it a k-Drama genre?!”

  1. I think soap operas are SUPPOSED TO be soap operas xD that’s what they are! Why should they aim to not be exaggerated or overly emotional? That’s what they’re for xD

    I don’t watch a lot of shows in general, so I don’t watch Korean soaps, but you know, I used to watch them back when they weren’t a thing. Like, BEFORE proper internet. Yes, I’m that much of a hipster 😀 it’s actually why I later studied Korean. We had Arirang, a Korean channel (with English subs) on cabel TV as I was growing up, and it was like my favorite channel 😀 I especially loved watching the historical soaps though. Man those were AMAZING. The serious one (although incredibly dramatic as well :D) there’s also something really amazing about learning bits of a language from very, very far away nobody has heard where you live (and there’s no internet!) Ah, I loved that channel so much.

    If you’re spelling it as Makjjang though, the Korean should have a double ㅉ though 😉 or it’s spelled different in Roman letters then, maybe. One of those, don’t know which, I actually haven’t heard that word before 😀 but the Korean you used for it only has one j, technically.

    This is a really great list of dramas 🙂 wish I was 16 again, had the time and the channel xD (…and the hopes and dreams :DDD)

    1. Hhhhhaha yeah what’s wrong with melodrama?! I think a lot of YA literature is makjjang so what’s wrong with television of the same?! 😉 That is SOOOO COOL, hahaha, I would have loved to learn about kdramas that way… and I agree I love picking up bits of language… of course it was a lot more cool that you did so before internet! The sageuks are the best… and it’s not even my history! Though I love the fusions so, so much…

      As for the makjang and makjjang debate I agree that technically 막장 has one j… the thing is that romanization follows all sorts of wacky rules… like the ㅂ is romanized d but said t. So to err on the side of caution I actually LOOKED UP how to romanize 막장 and the site Koreans use says it’s makjjang. I was surprised too! But decided that romanized countries didn’t realize this was more proper… 😉 Learn something new every day, huh?!

      1. Which reminds me – look up “The Dragon Queen” on NetGalley – it should still be available for a few more days! It’s about a Korean queen, well, sort of – I thought you might enjoy it 🙂 I’m reading it right now.

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