Apples and Oranges: A Comparison of Asian Dramas

As I enjoy watching Asian dramas far more than our homegrown shows (sad, but true), I’ve decided to describe and compare the dramas released by Korea, Japan and Taiwan, in general.  Please not these are merely my opinions and observations, and are in no way intended to be derogatory in any way. Feel to contribute, if you think I’ve missed anything 🙂


Japanese dramas appear to have the most varied stories and themes. The fact that several dramas have been based on popular manga may be a contributing factor to the relative diversity. On the other hand, Korean dramas appear to have the most repetetive story lines as well plot devices. Considering that these same Korean dramas are still wildly in demand, the producers and writers are still sticking to a winning formula.

Production Values

Korean dramas appear to have the best production values, followed by the Japanese then the Taiwanese, in terms of cinematography, sound, settings and props.

Physical Appearance of Actors and Actresses

In Korean dramas, they almost always have perfect faces, flawless skin, hair and teeth. Taiwanese actors, in general, are less perfect as a whole, while the Japanese appear the most natural, crooked teeth and all. As to physique, nearly all females are slender, with the exception of a few toned bodies (eg. Ha Ji Won). For male idols, majority of the Taiwanese actors appear to have the more buff bodies, followed by their Korean counterparts,and finally the skinny, almost androgynous Japanese males.

Command of the English language

As quite a lot of dramas feature rich characters who, at any given time, appear to have gone or even studied in the US, its not rare for the characters to speak some English. In general, Taiwanese actors appear to be the most fluent in the English language while the Korean and Japanese actors appear to have similar degrees of fluency.

Intimate Scenes

The Taiwanese dramas appear to be the most liberal when it comes to liplocks and embraces, which for me is a definite plus factor, since it contributes to believability in romantic relationships. Who else is tired of  prolonged one-sided embraces and chaste pecks? A distant second are the Korean dramas, which lately seem to have loosened up a bit, followed closely by the Japanese dramas.

Wacky moments

As a lot of their dramas are based on manga, first place goes to the Japanese dramas with their charming cartoonish antics, followed by the Taiwanese then Korean dramas.

In closing, I’d like to list themes and quirks I commonly associate with each drama :

Japanese Dramas

– the protagonist goes out on a mini quest or tackles situations wherein a particular lesson is learned

Korean dramas

– poor girl falls in love with absurdly rich guy

– must have at least one soju drinking session whenever possible

– must have at least one karaoke scene

– must feature a visit to the sauna or bath house

– there must be a secret agreement or contract

– someone has leukemia

Taiwanese dramas

– poor girl becomes heiress unexpectedly

– poor girl falls in love with an even richer boy

– someone has a terminal illness



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