Caution: Minor spoilers for Startup, Hospital Playlist, Run on, Dr. Romantic 2, Law School, Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok Joo.
Outside of the fans, Kdramas are known to be these sweeping romances that transcend any outside force, whether that’s schoolyard bullies or evil emperors, societal prejudices or countries at war, even time and death.
But on the flip side of the coin, we have Kdramas showcasing the quiet romances. The ones that don’t make us scream our hearts out rooting for the leads but ones that make us celebrate the joy in little things—in steaming cups of coffee, in the light breeze of the rain, in smiles, hugs, and sharing food.
“Ours began in a most unexciting way, as friends. Now, our love may be quiet and boring, but it is sure. With the right amount of respect and trust, and even an allowance for mistakes.”
My fellow Filipino drama lovers will recognize this quote from the famous rom-com gem Starting Over Again. I wanted to start with this quote because it perfectly encapsulates what these couples have that others don’t: trust. These couples are not a story of will-they-won’t-they ala Friends’ Ross & Rachel. These individuals don’t save each other. Instead, they believe in each other’s strengths and give each other space to grow as their own independent people. And as their love blossoms in the quietest of ways, you realize that by the end of their story, you’ve got a garden full of flowers instead of a raging forest fire of passion.
As the male lead from A Piece of Your Mind once said:
Now, I would argue that Startup tried to do this (yes, I’m still bitter about it, okay. Perhaps one day I’ll write an article on why Injae deserved better) with Seo Dalmi saying: “I just like you. I don’t need a reason to like you. Because it’s you.” along with the many references to Dosan’s hand. But this is where the drama failed: Everything Nam Dosan did was grand, over the top, knight-in-shining-armor-esque.
Exhibit 1: Dosan smashing the glass nameplate of the boss (Injae’s stepdad), which does nothing for their project, in my opinion. But more importantly, it takes away agency for Dalmi to react and defend herself.
Exhibit 2: Saving Dalmi from the ransom attack, which, in turn, totally sacrifices Dalmi’s growth as a character in favor of him just saving the day. Again, the female lead became a damsel in need of saving.
Perhaps that’s also the reason why so many can’t help but root for Han Jipyeong, the second lead, who did everything behind the scenes.
Han Ji Pyeong mixing a bowl of noodles for Seo Dalmi
To me, Startup didn’t show the quiet love that I quite love. Instead, these are the couples who do:
Hospital Playlist 1 & 2
Chae Song Hwa and Lee Ik Jun eating breakfast.
“Having a meal like this. Eating with you and drinking together. That’s a treat I give myself.”
Now, I have to admit, I didn’t actually ship these two in season 1. GAAASP, blasphemy, I know. But that was because I liked the friendship of the group as it was. But now, with season 2 on the roll, I think I’m beginning to see the light. It doesn’t help that when I think of a quiet romance, I think of this: Ikjun and Songhwa eating breakfast and sharing jokes and worries. There’s nothing grand about that, but there is that trust and devotion that no matter what happens, they’ve got each other’s backs. Love is staying even when the other person is singing loudly out of tune in a public place, folks!
A Piece of Your Mind
Han Seo Woo and Moon Ha Won helping each other grieve.
The show is the definition of ~COMFORT~. Just look at their hugs. Plus, there’s nothing more lowkey than Seowoo bringing a pan to Hawon’s empty apartment and him cooking dinner as a treat after her getting promoted. It’s such a simple scene, but yet it’s highly touching. And that’s just the start of a long list of small but profound actions of love these two do for each other. This show is not about love that’s worth dying for, but it’s about building a love that’s worth living for.
A Piece of Your Mind showcases the joys of having someone to wait for you at home at the end of a long day for every single day, come spring or winter.
Oh Mi Joo and Gi Seong Yeom sharing each other’s interests.
“I want you to love yourself a little more. That’s how we can keep a long and healthy relationship.”
In a sea of dramas trying to sell the extremely exhausted “spunky girl meets rich, intelligent, handsome, and solemn guy slash opposites attract” trope, there’s only a handful that goes much deeper than that. Run On is a breath of fresh air. Although it follows that same trope, the drama gives its own unique spin to it.
This might be one of the few dramas to accurately depict how we come to love someone. It goes beyond attraction. We see the leads share worlds—their likes and dislikes, thoughts, worldviews, and past traumas.
Seeing them both come out of their shells and lean on each other bit by bit was just a joyous journey I wish I could re-experience yet again. By the time this drama ends, both characters became better people by being together—with Mijoo taking care of her physical health by jogging every day and with Seongyeom watching movies (despite him finding them boring) and learning to love himself.
Bonus points! Because Mi Joo tried to cook Seong Yeom’s favorite dish even though she doesn’t like it at all. Now that’s what you call love!
Another round of bonus points!! For this couple because they made me want to start caring for myself, too, so that I now regularly jog every weekend after watching Run On.
Dr. Romantic 2
Cha Eun Jae and Seo Woo Jin helping each other study.
I was sold to this couple the very second Cha Eun Jae asked Seo Woo Jin, “Do you want to be allies?” I’ll keep repeating this throughout the article, but there’s just something beautiful about two people helping each other out. The scene when Seo Woo Jin was willing to be poked with a needle by a nervous Cha Eun Jae was especially heart-fluttering. *Chef’s kiss*
But interestingly, in the drama, it’s just their backstory. We get to see how this pair of med school nemeses become allies, become unrequited loves, become estranged individuals, become friends, become trusted confidantes, and then finally become lovers. Their best moments are when they just sit on a bench and cheer each other up when the other person is having a rough time.
You get to see their journey on how they go from this:
In my books, this couple was a cultural reset. (*wink* wink*)
Do You Like Brahms?
Chae Song Ah and Park Joon Young finding happiness in their own little bubble amidst the chaos of the outside world.
For this couple, the quiet love can literally be taken literally. These two are both shy, selfless introverts, and it was such a fascinating dynamic to watch. There’s no gripping push and pull that will keep viewers glued to the screen. Instead, we have an overload of cute awkwardness, respect, quiet teases, and surprising passion that can rival any screaming match between other dramas’ leads.
For introverts, being able to share one’s thoughts so freely and comfortably with another is a rare treat, a solace, an oasis in the middle of a harsh world. One can’t help but just wish the ultimate happiness that they both deserve.
Kang Sol A and Han Joon Hwi uplifting each other.
Besides the palpable chemistry between Ryu Hye Young and Kim Bum, there’s a reason why this couple transcended their genre. There’s a lot of teasing and a lot of banter going on between these two, but underneath all that is a strong layer of support and trust for each other. After all, a couple that studies together stays together!
Han Joon Hwi might have been a star pupil, but there was never a moment in the drama where he berates Sol A for her failing grades. But more importantly, he never pitied her. He always trusted Sol A’s intellect and intuition. In his (heart) eyes, they were equals from the very start.
Besides, have you seen their ~couple power walk~ (along with third-wheeling Yangcrates, hehe)?
Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok Joo
Kim Bok Joo and Jung Joon Hyung supporting each other every day.
Ah, the ultimate friends to lovers trope. Let me tell you that Joon Young was revolutionary when the show first aired, subverting well-known tropes like piggyback rides and protecting female leads from car splashes.
But besides their wacky friendship, they express love in the simplest way: by being there for each other at their lowest points. Joon Young was there helping Bok Joo out as she was going through her depressive burnout. She was there when Joon Young was struggling when his mom arrived. More than that, they were never afraid to call each other out. I will always be reminded of what Joonyoung said to Bok Joo:
“No one will love you if you don’t learn to love yourself.”
Also, P.S.: Get you a man who buys you all the food.
Into The Ring – Goo Se Ra and Seo Gong Myung
Goo Se Ra is the total opposite of quiet though. XD
Her Private Life – Sung Deok Mi and Ryan Gold
If your significant other doesn’t fangirl/fanboy over you, is it even called love?
Still 17 – Woo Seo Ri and Gong Woo Jin
The very definition of UwU. Both their 17 and 30-year-old selves are too pure for this world.
Age of Youth 1 & 2 – Song Ji Won and Im Sung Min
Not an official couple, but you can’t find a more hilarious pair than these two.
Going through all these quiet scenes makes me giddier than any other grand gestures by K-dramas. Something I’ve learned through them is that: life may be hard, but love can be easy. You don’t need a grand cruise ship to sail through life, all you need is a rowboat, steady and sure. Thanks for reading my very first article!
Who’s THE couple for you, and what’s your favorite ‘quiet but filled with love’ moment in a K-drama?
Edited by: devitto (1st editor), YW (2nd editor)