Man Tears (Elements of K-Drama Style Series)

Somewhere in the second act of Queen of Reversals—the third K-drama I ever watched—I saw the most amazing, unbelievable thing. The second lead cries while sleeping. As he rests in the passenger seat of his car, with the heroine at the wheel, he appears to be sound asleep. But then, one lone tear slowly trickles across his resting face.

I had seen a few man tears in my first couple K-dramas, but now I felt like I was in the presence of true greatness. Who writes a scene like that? How do you make that scene?

More importantly, perhaps, what kind of entertainment industry keeps searching out more challenging and novel ways for men to cry?

One of the biggest things distinguishing Korean from Anglo-American drama is the man tears. Whatever show you’re watching, whether it’s action, comedy or romance, you’re almost guaranteed the hero will cry before the end. Maybe he’ll get a little choked up and wipe his cheek quickly. Or maybe artfully illuminated tears will roll down the hero’s cheek for several minutes. Sometimes he teeters on the edge of tears without ever allowing a single tear to fall.

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But if you’re coming from contemporary Anglo-Saxon culture, the manly weeping might make you wonder, “What’s with all the crying?”

I love K-drama man tears. Even if they’re sometimes unconvincing, they point to the fact that Asian television isn’t trying to imitate American TV. Asian television is its own thing—and one of the key ingredients of K-drama style is that heroes cry.

K-dramas themselves acknowledge that “man tears” have become a cliche. In fact, the phrase “man tears” was first stuck in my head by Choi Si-Won’s character in King of Dramas. When he wants to prove he’s a good actor, he begs the writer to give him a crying scene.

“Man tears—how refreshing!” he says. It’s a joke, because men crying in K-dramas is hardly new. Yet the joke points to the fact that actors and audiences see crying as a crucial acting skill. (The writer in King of Dramas has to tell the lead he isn’t good enough to pull it off.)

Back in 2008, Last Scandal joked about this too, showing the hero—a well-known K-drama actor—practicing his crying with a stopwatch in hand. He’s such a pro, he can cry on cue in a mere seven seconds.

kill me heal me episode 9 hwang jung eum tear med opt

During Hollywood’s studio Golden Age, stars who needed tears in a hurry sometimes irritated their eyes on purpose to create fake tears—“glycerin tears.” But since the arrival of method acting, real tears are increasingly the mark of a true actor.

Is crying on cue important for the simple reason that there’s so much suffering in K-dramas? Certainly these shows put their characters into sad and desperate situations. The heroes can be excused for misting up from time to time. And if the heroes cry a lot, so do the heroines. Roughly the same amount of screen time goes to male and female crying.

But that doesn’t explain why man tears are such an important part of these narratives—or why they are typically absent from Anglo-American television.

Europeans and Americans didn’t always take such a dim view of crying. According to a historian I heard at the Library of Congress recently, eighteenth-century European men considered crying virtuous—a sign of emotional authenticity. (Supposedly so did Medieval European heroes and Japanese samurai.)

The male heroes in eighteenth-century novels often cried. Tears demonstrated morality. Meanwhile, in the real world outside of novels, even highly moral eighteenth-century men found it hard to live up to these expectations. They sometimes expressed envy for women because they could cry more easily.

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You’re unlikely to hear that kind of remark today, even from male American politicians, who increasingly turn on the waterworks strategically during press conferences. In America, at least, commentators are quick to criticize a female politician if she mists up a little in public, even if men can get away with it.

I suspect the teary heroes of K-dramas, like those of eighteenth-century European novels, tell us as much about cultural values as about what men are really doing. Cultural attitudes about crying vary a lot, but across cultures men generally don’t cry as readily as women. (Even transgender men find they start crying less when they start taking testosterone. A friend of mine described this as “somehow the emotions are the same, but they seem muted.”)

So, like many things on television, K-drama tears aren’t necessarily there to show us how the world really is. Instead, like the tears in old Romantic novels, they tell us something more: that the hero is virtuous, that he’s sincere.

“Sincerity” is the central currency in K-dramas, comparable to “coolness” in American shows. Like coolness, sincerity is a big concept and hard to define. But just as American characters ideally project a “cool” self-confidence, the most memorable Korean characters possess a passionate earnestness that is “sincere.”

secret love affair episode 15 yoo ah in

The world “sincere” is rarely used in America except to sign business letters. But “sincere” and “sincerity” are common words in K-dramas. Characters discuss sincerity directly, as in this revealing dialogue in Secret Love Affair: the young hero (who is like the human incarnation of sincerity) tells the heroine he’s sincere. She asks him what the hell his sincerity is worth.

“Everything!” he replies, “Because I love you.”

His sincerity is worth everything, because he’s in love. The logic is fuzzy, but the sentiment is pure Drama Land.

American entertainment used to produce sincere heroes—like Jimmy Stewart’s characters in the Frank Capra films It’s a Wonderful Life and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. But roughly half the films produced in America in the thirties, forties and fifties were Westerns, with heroes who tended to be stoic types—the essence of cool. Early television was mostly Westerns as well.

The smartest Westerns offer good commentary on gender roles and the variety of ways to be masculine (check out Jimmy Stewart in Anthony Mann’s movies, for instance). But Westerns and the detective shows that took their place are always about men with guns. The climactic moments are shoot outs, where sincerity isn’t as important as a fast draw. And though we don’t make Westerns any more, American television still emphasizes action.

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But K-dramas revolve around emotional confrontations instead. Tears, rather than bullets, signal This is an Important Scene.

The scene when the hero tells the heroine about his dark past.

When the hero meets his birth mother for the first time (while she is, of course, in the hospital with cancer).

When the hero admits for the first time that he misses the heroine.

When the hero tells the heroine he doesn’t trust her any more (alternately, the scene when the hero tells the heroine he trusts her absolutely and he’s willing to go to prison for her).

Not to mention the scene when the hero realizes he’s going to be separated from the heroine by pursuing assassins, the heroine’s mistaken belief that he killed her brother, or—worst of all—time travel.

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The key to understanding these scenes is that the hero doesn’t cry because of a mere hangnail or a bad day at work. K-drama heroines may sometimes weep because they lose their jobs or the rent gets raised, but the heroes rarely cry for such quotidian reasons. Rather, they cry at moments of maximum emotional truth.

For best effect, the hero is alone in these scenes, or alone except for the heroine. Like the K-drama kiss, man tears are something that’s usually intimate and private—now produced for viewer consumption.

Tears don’t preclude K-drama heroes from being cool. (Nor does being cool stop American TV heroes from being sincere. Fox Mulder, I still miss you.) But K-dramas make a clear distinction between public and private behavior. The heroes act cool and tough in public, and save the aegyo and emotional stuff for private.

In fact, even when they don’t have multiple personalities, K-drama characters often have more than one face they show to others. American culture values a kind of “what you see is what you get” consistency, which is why sometimes you have to look to our superhero stories for a discussion of identity. Clark Kent and Superman, Bruce Wayne and Batman—these are our most iconic stories of conflicting public and private identities.

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But the world of Asian drama is populated with people who don’t need a superhero alter-ego to feel conflicted. Is Jang Jae-Yeol in It’s Okay, That’s Love a cool DJ and writer, or a guy with a seriously dysfunctional family and a psychiatric illness? Is Oh Hye-Won in Secret Love Affair the slick woman of business she plays in the office, or the impetuous musician she becomes when she’s with her young boyfriend? The idea that people don’t show their true selves in public is a recurring theme throughout K-dramas.

Sincerity is thus something elusive. We can hide our sincerity from others for so long we forget how to be sincere. We can lose our sincerity as we grow old and make compromises with the world. K-drama sincerity isn’t just a state of being truthful. It’s also a kind of optimism, a lack of cynicism that allows us to be generous to others.

In K-dramas, sincerity is associated with youth. Young K-drama characters don’t want to become burnt-out, cynical adults. No wonder generational conflict is as big a theme as romance, whether it’s conflict between young and old prosecutors (Choi Jin-Hyuk and Choi Min-Soo’s characters in Pride and Prejudice), between lovers (the sincere young man and cynical older woman in Secret Love Affair), or between parents and children (every chaebol drama ever).

As elusive as sincerity is, tears do a great job convincing us sincerity is there. Tears are a K-drama writer’s shortcut to convey changes in a character. When Boys over Flower’s Gu Jun-Pyo breaks down in tears because he misses the heroine, he suddenly looks like less a jerk and more like a decent guy. He’s learning to be sincere, right?

boys over flowers episode 14 lee min ho man tears

Tears are like kisses, that other K-drama staple, in that even when they’re fake, they’re real. Unless they’re glycerin tears (that old Hollywood trick), an actor has to come up with those tears from somewhere.

It’s a paradox that K-dramas prize sincerity, while asking actors and actresses to fake the deepest emotions. This uncomfortable paradox could be one reason the Korean industry wants celebrities to have squeaky clean personal lives. Sincerity is one of the main commodities they’re selling, so it helps for stars to have a reputation for sincerity in real life.

Which brings me back to that scene in Queen of Reversals, where the second lead is played by the now-disgraced Park Shi-Hoo. I was impressed by the high-profile actor’s ability to cry in his sleep, but that made it all the more disturbing when I came across the news of his infamous date rape case. Though the actor escaped criminal charges, the details revealed him to be a cad, at best. But the K-drama commodification of sincerity relies on convincing us the stars are good people. If they aren’t good people, those fake tears and kisses are creepy and deceptive.

Man tears are not just an engaging narrative element, but a reason that K-drama fan culture is so intense. Though I never before took much interest in the lives of actors, when I watch K-dramas I find myself wondering whether I can trust these guys or not. How much of that sincerity is mass-produced product for the screen, and how much is real?

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Yet even as I ask myself that, I’m taken in by those tears. How can I resist the show Kill Me, Heal Me after learning that many of Ji Sung’s tears weren’t originally in the script? That show was strange and uneven in early episodes, but I was hooked in episode five—by one particular teardrop that Ji Sung added on his own.

Shin Seki is dragging the heroine around in cavalier fashion, but then grows melancholy. He leans towards her to kiss her. One perfect tear swells in the corner of his eye and rolls down his cheek. In real life, I’d be appalled and creeped out if a guy cried while kissing me. But in the poetic, Expressionist world of K-dramas, it’s a beautiful, complicated scene about mixed emotions and the pain of the past.

Kudos to the actors, directors and set crew who have the experience to pull off such scenes. That teardrop seduced me into staying on board for the full 20 episodes. It told me the hero would suffer, but that the show’s actors and creators cared about his suffering. It told me that here, at least, in this story, it was okay for people to have emotions, okay to be angry and upset at the world. In the kimchi Gothic world of Cha Do-Hyun and Shin Seki, it’s okay to care.

It’s even okay for men to care. ♥

[Illustration credits: 1) Kim Myung-Min permits himself one manly tear in King of Dramas, 2) Hwang Jung-Eum in Kill Me, Heal Me shows that heroines cry too, 3) Song Joong-Ki grows teary-eyed in this eloquent, prolonged shot in episode 1 of Nice Guy/Innocent Man, 4) Yoo Ah-In gives us a rare scene of a man getting choked up in front of another man, in Secret Love Affair, 5) Choi Jin-Hyuk suffers strong emotions in Pride and Prejudice, 6) costume drama man-tears from Gong Myung, bidding his love farewell in Hwajung, 7) Seo In-Gook demonstrates how to play an entire scene on the verge of breaking down, in I Remember You, 8) Lee Min-Ho uses tears to give his comic-book character some depth in Boys over Flowers, and 9) Ji Sung’s virtuosic teardrop kiss in Kill Me, Heal Me.]

What do man tears mean in your culture? What are your favorite and least favorite K-drama man tears? Any good crying scenes on Anglo-American television lately?

25 thoughts on “Man Tears (Elements of K-Drama Style Series)

  1. As an Amurican who loves stories about men with guns, coming into kdramas with all the man tears was quite a surprise. Yet after desensitization, I tend to watch the high octane emo scenes out the corner of my eye so they end up forgotten. I attribute it more to not being a big crier irl than my culture though. I have very little patience for it w/ my characters (I’m not so callous to real people, no worries).

    Most times I involuntarily chuckle at man tears despite believing a man should be allowed to cry. The only scene I can think of is from Full Sun. I distinctly remember noting Yoon Kye Sang was one of the few actors whose tears didn’t make me laugh.

    For others, I also have vague recollections of Joo Sang Wook and Jo In Sung crying in my head. I can’t pinpoint a work but that must mean they cry beautifully. Oh! There’s a related scene from A Dirty Carnival that stuck w/ me. JIS wasn’t full on crying if I remember right, but trembled a bit and his eyes were red as he [spoiler]. But maybe he’s not the best example because then I remembered this

    P.S. Hey Miss Jones! Long time no comment. Hope ya been well!

    • Hi, sweetie! OMG, how much do I love that JIS/Adele mash-up. Thanks for posting! Jo In Sung seems to have the most divisive man-tears on the internet. I think what’s most impressive and/or shocking about his crying scenes is that he goes for broke and has a total break-down. For my part, I admire him for it. It’s disturbing–really disturbing–to see a man with that much swagger get THAT upset, which might account for some of his anti-fans. But I think JIS deserves to be in the man-tears hall of fame for that scene at the end of ep 15 of IOIL. (Though I know he was guilty of some overwrought stuff earlier in his career.)

      It’s interesting to me how cultures have very different attitudes about crying. Because I usually can’t cry even if I try to (at funerals, say), I watch the K-drama crying scenes with awe, the way other people might watch the X-games for gravity-defying stunts. I’m like, wow, how do they do that?!?

      I hope you’re well, Muse!

  2. Odessa….so glad you wrote on this subject! This is one element of KDrama that I love. I’ve been really impressed with the emotion that crying men can provoke. Did you see the scene where the two brothers in East of Eden sobbed in each others’ arms after coming together after a long time?….so moving. And the scene in Say You Love Me where Kim Rae Won sobs while being carried on his father’s back, being in such distress over the mess he’s made with this one mistake of being seduced by an older woman and losing his love. I find myself sobbing with them, really feeling their emotion.

    Could you maybe get even more into it and find out how they are taught to produce these tears so easily? I know that one time Ji Sung….such a favorite!….said that he thought of his Grandma whom he had just lost in order to come up with the tears for one of his scenes.

    Odessa…I love the way you think past the drama and explore the underlying elements of KDrama…not one of my gifts! Much of your writing has helped me to understand characters more and everything else about this form of media that can, at times, take you on such emotional roller coaster rides!

    • Hi Weesie! I researched acting methods a bit when I was writing this piece, and this piece from an acting website had great tips about how to cry on cue: I assume Korean actors use some of these same methods. I wish I knew more about individual actors tricks, though. I have to keep working on my Korean so I can read more of their interviews!

      You’ve mentioned one important thing that I left out: there’s a whole sub-genre of these scenes in which male family members cry together. I particularly like that amazing scene between the two brothers in ep 12 of “I Remember You” (Seo In-Gook breaks my heart here), and a fantastic father/son confrontation in Swallow the Sun. In the first scene of STS ep. 18, Ji Sung’s character is getting emotional as he ponders how he’s about to take revenge on his hated birth father (played by Jun Kwang-Ryul). But at that moment, Jun Kwang-Ryul comes into the room, and Ji Sung has to act cool and casual, so as not to raise JKR’s suspicions–even as a couple tears break loose and run down his cheek. I really love this scene, because it has both these fine actors, and because even though the hero is lying about his identity, the tears tell us he still has some pity for his father. The tears are understated but eloquent, and if you can handle pure melo, it’s one of Ji Sung’s great scenes. Without the convincing emotion he shows here, the tragic elements of the plot would be much less effective.

      Another thought about Ji Sung: I think one reason his performance in KMHM was so super-charged was because his wife was expecting a baby. Lots of normal guys get very emotional about having their first kid. JS is a good actor, but I think in spring 2015 he had extra super-powers because Lee Bo-Young was pregnant. Way to use those emotions, JS!

  3. Oh, I forgot to include one thing I was going to say….right now I’m watching Nice Guy (the Innocent Man) and realizing that his tears come as an expression of his character development….he’s allowing himself to feel love for the first time. This is one of the elements I love most in these dramas….watching the moral and ‘spiritual’ development of some of the characters…and the way their character can change after finally recognizing the power of good in their lives.

  4. Oooooh! I love man tears! Of course, I know it is often over the top. But I’m sooo tired of the American model, full of himself and of testosterone that he seems not to have a heart anymore… In fact I just cannot stand American series and movies anymore because of this problem. I just roll my eyes seeing these “invulnerable” male characters…

    • Watching Korean stuff has made me think American actors are so boring! I have to keep reminding myself it’s not their fault that US scripts call for more ass-kicking than showing emotion.

  5. Your topic immediately made me think about one of my favorite Western shows: Supernatural. One of the things that show has always been able to pull off masterfully is a self-aware meta-commentary about both the narrative, the actors and the characters they play, and the show’s fanbase. In that vein, for its 200th episode (it’s been around that long … bless it), the show did something really clever—it produced an episode that was basically a love letter to its fans (SPOILER WARNING, but if you’re a SPN fan, you’ve probably already seen it): a Musical, and one where the fangirls got to play the main roles of the very macho Winchester brothers and their angelic sidekick. Us fangirls, our minds exploded as we were watching this … it was perfect, flaws and all. One of the funniest songs the fangirls sang was called “A Single Man Tear”— it’s played as a melancholy ballad, but it’s actually an affectionate poke at the habit one of the main leads in the show (Dean Winchester, a gorgeous specimen of humanity) seems to have of shedding just one single lonely tear and managing to tear our guts out anyway. Here’s a FMV I found on youtube of the song:

    I tend to have a mixed reaction about man tears in Kdrama though. Sometimes I feel like it’s overdone—the chest-beating and hair-pulling kind of caterwauling tend to leave me cold. Case in point, Green Rose; true the hero goes through all kinds of hell and if anyone deserves to cry, it’s most certainly him, but the constant barrage of suffering and tears went for overkill and desensitized me to his pain (and I normally love Go Soo), whereas a more subtle approach—a single man tear (*wink wink*)—could have been much more genuinely moving. I think there’s a very sensitive threshold for these things, and a magic alchemy of writing, directing, acting, music, and timing, needs to be wrought for man tears to really work. Case in point: the “man or alien” kiss scene in Coffee Prince—Gong Yoo’s tears turned an already beautiful moment into a masterpiece in my opinion. One actor who I feel nails it every single time, and makes me just want to reach into the screen and hug him, is Kim Soo Hyun (Dream High, You Who Came from the Stars) … the dude knows how to sob like nobody’s business. Here’s a scene in Dream High that really gutted me (big SPOILER here though):

    My friend recently attended a wedding in Sweden, her Swedish-Egyptian cousin was getting married to a Korean guy, and my friend was sharing all the details of this fascinating wedding that included something from all three cultural traditions (Swedish, Egyptian, and Korean). One thing that surprised her though was how much the Korean groom cried as he was reading his vows; she was completely mystified by this behavior. I, however, nodded my head sagely, and explained to her that Korean men were very romantic and sentimental, I based this of course on my extensive Kdrama-viewing experience. It could have been a complete anomaly (and probably was), but I love how this perfectly matched my mental image of Kdrama romantic hero behavior.

    • I love the story about the Swedish-Egyptian-Korean wedding. I bet the Swedes were confused. And thank you for sharing “A Single Man Tear”! The Supernatural FMV is a great insight into why the show is so successful. I can’t believe Supernatural has made it to episode 200 and I STILL haven’t seen it, because I know I would like it. Kind of embarrassing–that’s why I count on readers to clue me in to what I’m missing. I think American TV isn’t my destiny right now. Maybe I get too much America every time I go out my door. I need to watch people from a different continent, different language, different race, different political environment…

      I agree about the power of subtlety, and Gong Yoo. The man or alien kiss is a masterpiece, but I was even more bowled-over by a scene in the following episode of CP. When he tells Eun-Chan he needs someone who will trust him, he gets choked up in this way that kills me every time I watch it. He goes from being frustrated and angry to suddenly being on the verge of tears in a way that’s so surprising and feels so genuine–totally nailing non-cliche man tears.

      I never get frustrated with K-drama man tears–even the unsuccessful scenes–because I watch them like a connoisseur. I’m always thinking, how does this compare to other scenes, other actors? I’m fascinated with the fact that anyone can cry on cue. It doesn’t seem like it should be possible.

  6. Thanks, Odessa, for the ‘backstage’ link. Don’t you think that the music they play during a crying scene builds and adds to it? I’m not sure whether they allow the actors to use the music as a way to provoke their emotions, but it seems it would be a good way…if they could do it.
    I absolutely agree with you with that scene with Ji Sung in Swallow the Sun. That’s one I really need to go back and watch again. I think so often of that drama….Ji Sung was wonderful in that one. (guess you can tell, I’m a fan!) By the way, I haven’t seen that he’s acting in anything these days…..guess he’s just busy being a daddy! Thanks, everyone for sharing your links!

    • Interesting question about music. Music is usually added during the production process, in the editing room. So that means actors and actresses not only don’t have music, but they also don’t have any idea what music the audience will hear during the scene. So that’s another way those tears have to be real. Of course, if the audience cries along, that may be thanks to the emotional music!

      As a fellow Ji Sung fan, I’m with you! I’m glad he has some time off for his family, but I can’t wait to see him on-screen again.

  7. I also think that men crying is a key mark of Korean dramas. Another one is getting drunk. I haven’t watched an adult drama yet that featured no one getting drunk. There must be one out there somewhere–I haven’t found it yet.

    • I’ll have to write about the drinking sometime, too! I think we might have made it through “I Remember You” without drunkenness (though not without drinking–it’s Korea after all).

  8. I am so excited to have found your blog! Came upon it in very recent months. And I am most impressed by your serious and scholarly approach to the various elements that make the Korean TV drama so appealing, so unique, and so very distinct from Western TV dramas. I am meaning TV drama in the United States, where I live.
    I have been a fan of Korean dramas (and films) for more than 10 years. But never actually needed to sort out the features that make it so wonderfully enjoyable for me. Yeah! So I admit, I’m a little lazy. But now, I have YOU. Kidding! ( just a bit).
    In the Soompi forum I follow, “I Have A Lover”, men crying was discussed frequently. And your article was give as a reference. Now, a poster brought up SLAPS — and illustrated the difference and meanings conveyed via several slaps delivered by the Lead Actress (main character — Lawyer Do Hae Gang) whose broken marriage formed the focus for the themes of the drama.
    What a “light-bulb” idea in that post. And I imagined how an article by you would explore every nuance of “THE SLAP”, a device used often and with wonderfully great effect in Korean dramas.
    Maybe you have already thought of looking at how the slap is used, but I hope you will consider the idea. However, I can see how busy you are. Now we all want more of your ork. I am eager to read your next major “Element of Style”.
    Thank you. Good Work! You were so right — your blog fills a very empty spot — Giving a serious look at the Korean drama.

    • “I Have a Lover” has sounded interesting since the start. I wish I didn’t have such a fear of getting involved in 50-episode dramas! I admit I haven’t thought a lot about slaps, even though they are such a feature of K-dramas. And now you’ve got me wondering–what IS the deal with The Slap? I’m going to have to think about this one and start taking notes. I have my work cut out for me.

      Thanks for reading! I figure if American TV critics can take US television seriously these days, someone has to stand up for TV that has subtitles. Especially the addictive pleasures of K-dramas. 🙂

  9. Coming quite late for discussion….T.T
    0) What do man tears mean in your culture?
    Man rarely cry in general here, even in movies or drama, well I don;t think drama from my place has good quality so I don’t think they’ll have “a sincerity crying scene”,

    0) What are your favorite and least favorite K-drama man tears? I don’t really knew the least but my favorite are :
    — KIM NAM GIL as BIDAM in QUEEN SEON DEOK, he doesn’t cry at the beginning, carefree attitude and skilled in fighting, he even describe as questionable human being for lack of empathy but there’s a certain scene that just so personal, emotional for him, only him with certain situation that make him look vulnerable but so sincere in different way. It mixed as different emotion, even regret and hatred but when he cried we feel that he is sincerely care about that person, <——– I recommended this drama, but it's saeguk with 62 episode, but believe it's worth it
    —I like Ji sung and the cry scene in KMHM tug my heart to just start crying together
    —Go Ayano in Soratobu Kouhoushitsu (J-Drama), the things about his cry is it only happen on 1st episode, but it filled with regret, blaming himself, miserable but it felt like an outburst of emotion he hides for so long. It resonates with every bad thing that just happen to you suddenly , out of your control but mess you completely. It something that just look pitiful and maybe the last thing a man want to do in real life but he pulled it off, as miserable as it look, he make the scar real, sincere shout from his heart and it just need to be listened, he knew it's wrong, it's painful but just listen to my miserable cry and I applaud it for him.

    0) Any good crying scenes on Anglo-American television lately? Honestly Idk but the most memorable is LOKI scene in I think Thor 2, he is vulnerable and gorgeous. Tom Hiddleston pull it really good, but I don;t remember if he has tears, the scene is like almost falling tears and after tears face, well it executed beautifully painful.
    The other character I remember is Dean from Supernatural series, I think he cries several times, but not so sob, it kinda "I am sad and I am cry", " we're in deep unfortunate situation and I cry", but it still look good, it doesn't make Dean any less macho than he ever be, he still a strong man that has a gentle heart.

    I agree that tears (especially in Kdrama) means sincerity, man maybe cry less than woman but doesn't mean they can't cry when their heart broke apart,

  10. Spent a great hour reading your in-depth studies about Korean Drama. Kudos for the brilliant insight on a culture & a country I visited often in early years. Their emotions, the sincerity, their gruff-at-times but honest communication, the many sidewalk canvas ‘pubs’ where people regularky drink in groups to socialize, or often drink-drunk to process their pain, their love of singing, their honesty and upright values and best of all, their utter dedication to family (especially children, elders & even their ancestors). You can’t help but love the Korean Dramas that reflect such great people. I discovered a year ago and next month I’m cancelling Netflix. Like many others, I am disenchanted with American Television’s cynicism (Zombies, Jekyll & Hyde, NCIS spin-offs, The (Not So) Good Wife, Orange is The New Black, even Mad Men). My Mom always use to say to me : “You drive where you look.” So now I watch Korean Dramas, I prefer the emotional scenery in Korea right now……much less dystopian than the American videoscape.

  11. Loved your post and agree on the man-tears and character focus being a big part of what is so great about KDramas.

    Other daebak man-tear-scenes in kdrama:
    – Kim Soo Hyun. The End. This man is just the king of crying. The bar-scene from Dream High had me literally wailing for more than 20 mins afterwards… usually it’s hard to even make me shed a single tear over something like a movie. There’s also a scene in, I think, the last ep of My Love from Another Star where he’s tearing up + a meta-moment in that drama where the female lead comments on a fictional drama and how you can see whether or not an actor is crying for real or using fake tears!
    – Lee Jong Suk in Pinocchio. SPOILER: the scene where he finally tells his brother the truth. Very emotional scene and well acted by the brothers. If I remember correctly, he also had a tearful scene in School 2013 which was pretty good.
    – Hyun Bin in Secret Garden in (I think) the last episode. I didn’t much care for this drama, but that scene had me tearing up a bit, I must admit.
    – Please Come Back, Mister. I feel like Rain is about to cry at least once every ep lol, it may just be my imagination, but the guy tears up like there’s no tomorrow (pardon the pun)! He also actually cries in one of the early episodes, in a really funny, extremely exaggerated, drunken way, which was equally cringeworthy, embarassing and hilarious. I just love his acting in this drama, he portrays the character so well, that it doesn’t even matter that said character is pretty obnoxious!

  12. So glad I found this terrific blog. So many things I’ve had questions about being addressed in detail.

    ME TOO: “In real life, I’d be appalled and creeped out if a guy cried while kissing me” yet in kdrama it’s the greatest thing EVER!

    When I first discovered kdrama, I Googled “culturally is it more acceptable for Korean men to cry?” but found no answer. Since then, I’ve seen Korean males tell little kids “boys don’t cry” which makes me think that, in general, that’s the norm but male tears do create a heck of an impact in kdrama.

    I must admit though that one of my earliest kdrama shows was East of Eden and I’m pretty sure it ruined me so that I’m unaffected by tears now. Forty-something episodes of tears. I’m dried up forever.

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