The place of books in K-dramas: Encounter and Romance is a Bonus Book

In the k-drama Encounter, the writer used poems, books and stories for many purposes:

  • Give more depth to the main characters
  • Use the main message from classical books like The Little Prince (“enjoy your life with simple things, take care of your inner child”) and Alice in Wonderland or poem (Rainer Maria Rilke f. ex.)
  • Discover the beautiful side of poetry, make a connection between poetry and daily life.
  • A demystification of fairy tales: a prince charming is just a façade
  • To promote new books, encourage people to read

Interesting is that now there is another k-drama called “Romance is a supplement” or “Romance is a Bonus Book”, whose story looks quite similar on the surface. Here we have again a noona romance, where the main character is a divorced woman Kang Dan Yi. She has a very special relationship with a younger man Cha Eun Ho.

Striking is that the story of this k-drama evolves around books as well, as CEH and KDY are both working at a publishing company. As you can see, books have a special place again. However, the use of books is a little different, since the company Gyeoroo Publishing is a fictional company. So the books they publish and are about to publish can’t be real. Besides, our protagonist Cha Eun Ho is himself a professor of literature at Hanguk University, writer and Chief Editor at this publishing company. His works are fictional as well. Then the other difference is that the writer has a different purpose, it shows how a book is born. A book is not just the result of the author, the publishing company had a lot of people working on it: the editing team, the marketing team, the designer etc. KDY even compared a book to the birth of a baby… It takes a long time before the book in his finale form is created. CEH hopes that even with “one book may change someone’s life” (episode 4). Another distinction is the way people treats books nowadays as if it was nothing special. The clients in the bookstores damage the book without even paying for it, a clear sign of disrespect. Then the viewers are confronted with different scenes where readers damage the books. This is one of the gestures:

episode 4: with her cellphone, she is damaging the book. Another gesture is: some coffee stain on the book pages.

Furthermore a lot of published books end up shredded for many reasons. The publishing company can’t donate these books, the best option is to destroy them as they can still get some money from the shredding. With these two examples, we have clearly a critic about consumer society. Moreover, it shows that many books are still published despite the area of Internet and blog.

Imagine the waste of paper and the amount of cut trees
All the pictures are from the episode 4, market economy and profit are now the rules for publishing companies in order to survive.

Yet the survival and the long existence of a book is determined by his success. The pressure is definitely bigger compared to the 20th and 19th century, since more and more books are published which was visible in the scene at the print shop. They have to compete with foreign books as well. Furthermore many books become outdated and useless…

In this scene, the character Yeong-Ah sees our heroine DY searching for books about marketing. The recommendation given by YA reveal the short life of certain books. It looks like it is very difficult to create a classical book, a timeless work.  

epsiode 1: Ji Seo Joon and Kang Dan Yi

Nonetheless, both k-dramas used the fairy tale Cinderella, however with a different approach. Our heroine in Romance is a Bonus Book is disillusioned. She doesn’t believe in fairy tales any longer due to her divorce and situation in the episode 1. She rejects the shoes an unknown young man Ji Seo Joon offers her. The writer used certain elements from Cinderella: unknown identity, loss of shoes, night, a beautiful gown (in the shop window).  The shoes belonged to her in the first place but due to an incident, she had lost one and decided to throw the other away which were picked up by JSJ, a book cover designer. DY tells him that she no longer believes in fairy tales and knight in shining armors as she is too old for that.

Finally, the scriptwriter of Romance is a Bonus Book reminds us that diaries are actually books, so many people are already writers. At the end of each episode, we see written thoughts from our main characters. These could be seen as selected notes from the diary CEH and KDY are writing. They both reveal a lot about their affection for each other. Moreover, this was implied when KDY rejected the shoes from JSJ. She said, she would rather write her own story.

As conclusion, although both k-dramas have a different approach to books, they have one common denominator: they are encouraging people to read. Both writers treasure books in the end. Romance is a Bonus Book reveals that it has become really difficult to turn a book into a classical book nowadays like f. ex. The Little Prince or Alice in Wonderland.     

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