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K-Dramas: The Sensitive Man

In the last few years, South Korean media industry has reached new levels of fame. With K-Pop sensations like BTS and Blackpink and South Korean films like Parasite making history, South Korea has allowed its media productions to gain global recognition. One other milestone achieved are Korean tv shows, commonly known as K-Dramas.


While K-dramas have had all sorts of storylines and character displays, among the most common are Rom-Coms. Such short 16-20 episode Rom-Coms have surprisingly normalized the idea of a sensitive male lead. With aggressive male leads juxtaposed with pretty heroines, K-dramas have brought with them a new dimension for the main characters.

Although ideas of beauty and perfection are still prevalent in these shows, men are shown to be sensitive and emotional, with scenes that allow them to express their sorrow, and shed a tear. With television so used to portraying the woman as the "emotionally weak" character, K-dramas are bringing with them this acceptance of a sensitive man. Dramas, like Coffee Prince, Secret Garden, Guardian: The Lonely and Great God and Encounter are among the few that have shown such important scenes with male leads


With such important portrayals of men, many fans have taken to their social media accounts to highlight their importance. From video edits to blog posts, many have chosen to appreciate the sensitive man portrayal.

What's more important is that in many ways these characters are not portrayed as "special," unique, or completely reduced to being a sensitive man. They are just regular on-screen characters that have been allowed the space to show emotion if need be. And with storylines that could very well do without such scenes, K-dramas incorporating such important ideas show that although they may have problems of their own, in many ways they are still trying to subvert certain stereotypes that exist within romantic shows.


Such portrayals become important when one analyzes the Asian portrayals of romance. Pakistan and India, specifically have had very few portrayals of this sensitive man. Even where the man is a sensitive one, he is completely reduced to such an identity and isn't "manly enough."

For example, Bhola in Ranjha Ranjha Kardi, played by Imran Ashraf, was a character that subverted quite a few norms of the male lead. However, Bhola's character was in many ways reduced to his sensitivity and him being mentally challenged becomes the only explanation as to why it is possible for him to display signs of emotion (more than the female lead in some ways). The normalization of showing sensitivity in male characters has been seen within popular K-Dramas, and local filmmakers should also try to portray and affirm such important ideas to a growing young audience.

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Aisha Aamir
Aisha Aamir
Jun 22, 2023

Loved the read! As an avid K-Drama enthusiast, I've seen the "sensitive man" in almost all the dramas I've consumed and the best part of it is that the sensitivity is never the main characteristic of the man. The male protagonist is always a well-rounded character with different dimensions. Also, in mostly all the k-dramas, the male protagonist is almost always battling with some trauma or harrowing history, so that is always a contributing factor. I also really loved how you juxtaposed the portrayal of the sensitive man in Pakistani dramas and South Korean dramas. I think the contrast is so interesting and stems from the global reach. K-dramas make an active effort to reinvent their characters because they know…

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Really liked the read! This reminded me of how people also started making fun of Korean actors and singers for wearing makeup and coming off as too "feminine." Masculinity is often associated with being macho, having anger issues etc which is also a lot of times romanticised in Korean dramas but I also like how at least they try to break away from the stereotypical notions of masculinity to show the raw person for who he is showing that men can have emotions and men can cry and feel and still be the hero in a show or the most loved lead of the show, so I like this attempt at subversion.

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Love how the K-dramas challenge stereotypes of the Western man, all macho and that, with tears and makeup and clothes. If anyone has seen Love, Kitty, the Korean male characters are so different from the Western male characters. Like Min Ho, who is entirely masculine and traditional in the sense that he sleeps with a lot of girls and is mean and uncaring to Kitty's issues, as typical men are. However, he is shown to care a lot about his skincare and his hair, as well as their traditional holidays and family, echoing ideas that are common and emphasized in Korea, despite him being male.

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Another stereotype that K-dramas challenge is of the Noona romances, which is when an older woman falls in love with a younger guy. Traditional gender roles in the patriarchal Western lens of romance tropes rarely allow for this as portray it as a show of fragile masculinity. So, I think this show of masculinity proves to be a fresh perspective on how we view gender roles through toxic masculinity.

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Great read! I love watching kdramas and when you mentioned the Guardian: the lonely and great god, I remembered how it was one of the first ones I ever watched. I think this element of sensitivity also makes the characters more authentic and adds more emotional depth to the storyline. For instance the goblin's emotional contemplation of life, death, and the weight of his past also adds a layer of introspection and sensitivity to his character.

But at the same time I think there are other stereotypical features of hyper masculinity that kdramas tend to romanticise like possessiveness, manipulation, and disrespect for boundaries. And some male characters do exhibit a severe lack of emotional expression initially until the female lead…

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