Here’s Why Jealousy, Bullying, And Revenge Are Central K-Drama Themes, According To An AAPI Mental Health Expert

It’s much deeper than just being entertaining.

Have you ever noticed reoccurring themes throughout K-Dramas?

While K-Dramas tend to be diverse in genres as there’s romance, healing, thriller, comedy, etc., some plots throughout the storylines overlap. Consistently, there are themes of jealousy, bullying, and/or revenge.

“Who Are You: School 2015”

Netflix‘s latest K-Drama, My Name, begins with its main character, played by Han So Hee, being bullied. The rest of the show focuses on her goal of getting revenge for her father, that was murdered.

“My Name” poster.

Likewise, JTBC‘s drama Itaewon Class also contains similar themes. Its inciting incident, in fact, comes from the male lead (Park Seo Joon) standing up for another student being bullied.

“Itaewon Class” poster.

While tvN‘s True Beauty is much more lighthearted in comparison to these dramas, the protagonist Jugyeong, portrayed by Moon Ga Young, transforms herself with the help of makeup after being bullied for years due to her appearance.

“True Beauty” poster.

These themes are all, unfortunately, very relatable. Still, they can take a toll on one’s mental health. For example, many suffer from trauma as a result of being bullied. So, aside from the K-Drama writers themselves, who better to ask than a mental health expert?

Jeanie Y. Chang is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and the Founder of Your Change Provider, PLLC, and a Certified Mental Health Integrative Medicine Provider (CMHIMP), a Certified Clinical Trauma Professional (CCTP) with experience in grief and trauma, and a National Mental Health Speaker. She is an expert in mental health for AAPI (Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders).

Jeanie Y. Chang | Your Change Provider

She’s also online content creator Noona’s Noonchi, also known as your “Noonchi Noona,” basically meaning “older sister’s sharp eye.” She dives deep into K-Dramas with the perspective of a mental health expert.

An important aspect of Jeanie’s self-care is watching Korean dramas.  They hold special meaning and have been a pivotal part of her identity journey over the last 25 years. She found herself correlating mental health with what she saw in K-Dramas in her clinical work, even recommending clients to watch them to help understand cultural influences, intergenerational stressors, family and interpersonal relationships.

— Noona’s Noonchi website

As a mental health expert and advocate, she has been outspoken against cancel culture, especially in the context of recent events, such as the scandal involving actor Kim Seon Ho.

Recently, she touched on the reoccurring themes of K-Dramas. And, as both a mental health expert and avid K-Drama watcher, she could reveal her personal but educated opinion on the subject.

Why is bullying, jealousy, and revenge … such a popular theme in K-Dramas?

— Jeanie Y. Chang

The reason why these three themes are consistently used in K-Drama storylines, she believes, is because of the history of the country. While many associate Korea today with the high-tech capital of Seoul among innovations, its history is filled with oppression.

I believe it reflects some of Korea’s history. If you learn world history and understanding of Korea being a very small country in Asia and the history of sadness and oppression its had… We all learn that in history.

— Jeanie Y. Chang

The writers of K-Dramas, of course, are inspired by real life. While most dramas are fictional, their inspiration has to come from somewhere, and for many, it is from personal experiences. Not only that, but the creators of these shows want us to be able to connect personally with the characters too, so naturally, they include themes and stories that the average person can relate to.

These writers are reflecting that. The stories you see in K-Dramas are so powerful. It’s all about the experiences of real life.

— Jeanie Y. Chang

Most of all, of course, themes of bullying, revenge, and jealousy all make for juicy and entertaining content.

It makes for a good K-Drama. Right? Don’t you want to watch interesting and entertaining shows?

— Jeanie Y. Chang

Watch Noona’s Noonchi full video below:


let’s face it…it’s a love/hate relationship with all the drama in K-dramas 😅😂 #kdramafans #koreandramatiktok #aapi #kdramanews #mentalhealthtiktok

♬ ONLY – LeeHi

Source: @noonasnoonchi and Your Change Provider