K-drama fan or not, who could forget 2016 – the year of Korean blockbuster series Descendants of the Sun?
I’ll be able to look back fondly and tell my grandchildren one day that I was right there in the midst of the real life drama that was unfolding across the world as people swooned, cried and engaged in passionate discourse over the story of Captain Yoo Shi Jin and Dr Kang Mo Yeon.
Set in a fictional war-torn country somewhere in the Mediterranean, the pair meet in Korea and become unlikely colleagues when they are sent overseas to do peacekeeping work.
There’s some bad guys, an earthquake, a deadly epidemic and a near fatal military mission – perfect for building the romantic tension between the two… and keeping us on the edge of our seats.
By the first few episodes of the show’s airing, international response had grown so strong that army fashion was globally back on-trend, coupled with those aviator shades – all heavily promoted on online megastores like Taobao and Qoo10.
Friends who had never watched a Korean drama in their lives were hooked. The guys fawned over the beautiful Song Hye Kyo, who plays Dr Kang, and the girls were enamoured by Song Joong Ki, the baby-faced but brave-hearted Captain Yoo.
Several chaste but very well choreographed kisses later, even the most cynical of viewers had to admit that the chemistry between the lead actors was undeniable and almost too real to simply be good acting.
On July 4, 2017, more than a year after he famously bent down to tie her shoelaces in the middle of a disaster zone, the celebrated Song-Song couple shocked the world once more with news of their real-life relationship and impending marriage on October 31.
Regardless of the details, it was the melodrama miracle fans could previously only wish for. Wishes, apparently, do come true.
I received the news from a friend soon after I’d woken up. “It’s going to be Descendants of the Songs!” she quipped, sending me a link for proof. “My goodness,” I replied. True enough, it was all over Facebook. Like. Like. Like.
But inside, I was struggling. Having been a K-drama enthusiast since Full House – the drama that sealed Song Hye Kyo’s Hallyu fame – I’ve gone from romantic idealist to matured realist over the course of 12 years. I know I can’t allow K-dramas to affect my expectations of guys and relationships. This is the real world. Love doesn’t play out like a K-drama in the real world, right?
Not unless you’re the Song-Song couple, that is.
And despite living 4,600km away from them, with no mutual friends or personal stake in their relationship whatsoever, I can’t help but feel a little sad.
When you’ve only ever watched relationships in your own life fall through time after time, even the ones you tried to be as mature and realistic about, it’s hard not to feel the sting of fairytales that do work out for the lucky ones. It’s just never you.
The upturn at Episode 15 never comes. The hero never returns. There is no heart-melting confession, only heart-breaking confusion. Sometimes I wonder if I’ve just been the supporting actress all along in someone else’s story. It won’t be the first time.
For me, the season finale is usually, always, literally The End.
And when Happily Ever After happens for the stars of even the most unrealistic K-drama plot – for real – I can’t help but think love really does come easy for everyone else. It’s the feeling of being left behind. Losing the lottery. Getting picked last for the team.
In the face of repeatedly crushed hope, how do I face God, who promises me great things and loves me dearly?
I’ll be honest. To contend with private heartache and disappointment within the faith and in the church has often tempted me to walk out the door for good. To be one of those still-single women in the congregation who leads younger married couples at 28 years old is a strain on the image I’d prefer to have.
You know the adulting drill: Stable career, ministry and relationship.
And in the face of repeatedly crushed hope, how do I face God, who promises me great things and loves me dearly? I trust Him, but here it’s a walk on the high ropes, blindfolded.
I have pleaded with Him like a child who wants her father to buy her a toy. You know I don’t ask for anything else, Daddy. And when The End creeps up like heartburn yet again, the despair makes it hard to say anything else when I come before Him. Nobody else seems to have it this hard, God. How could You do this to me?
How can I still believe that You are good?
But He is.
Why won’t He give me the good gift I want and put me out of my misery? Haven’t I waited long enough and served Him like a good daughter?
These questions plague my heart because I know deep inside, where the waves and wind can’t shake, that God is good.
A funny incident springs to mind. For Father’s Day this year, I bought my dad a french vanilla crepe cake, the same one I’d just got him for his 60th birthday last December. He’d been hinting really strongly weeks before that he’d liked it a lot and that “it would be nice to have that crepe cake again”.
Obviously, I went back to the shop to get the cake that weekend. He was elated.
The next day around lunch time, I received a rare text message from him thanking me once more. It is exactly what I wanted, he wrote.
I laughed it off, amused that he was that pleased although it’d just been a natural response to his request.
It was only hours later that the Holy Spirit stirred in me.
My daughter, God was saying. I know your heart. You always give me exactly what I want. You don’t think twice when your earthly father asks. You don’t think twice when it comes to Me either. I know.
Don’t you think I will do the same for you?
The tears flow even as I recall this.
We all have our Captain Yoo Shi Jins – our own ideas for the perfect leading man – but at the end of the day, he was just a figment of some screenwriter’s imagination.
He knows me even better than I know myself. While I give myself definitions for what I think I want, insisting that it has to look a certain way or be a certain person, He knows what I want, what I really, really want. And He will give it to me. Obviously. Just the way I did for my father.
It will be exactly what I want, even if I only know it when I receive it.
We all have our Captain Yoo Shi Jins – our own ideas for the perfect leading man – but at the end of the day, he was just a figment of some screenwriter’s imagination. Even Song Hye Kyo admitted she wouldn’t have dated Yoo Shi Jin if he’d existed in real life.
But of Song Joong Ki, she says: “Joong Ki showed me his self, trust and his manners for a long time. I thought to myself that it would be good to spend the future with him. That’s when I knew that he was the one.”
Love might be lost. Hearts may still break. But today I’m reminded that I wouldn’t trade my Song Joong Ki for the next man who ties my shoelaces in a disaster zone.