Watching K-Dramas Improved My Mental Health By Connecting Me to My Culture


For Jeanie Y. Chang, 48, a licensed marriage and household therapist (LMFT), all the things about being a first-generation Korean American made her really feel completely different from everybody else, particularly at school. In faculty, Chang grew to become hooked on a well-liked Korean drama, or Ok-drama, which helped her admire her tradition for the primary time. Afterward Chang needed to stability the calls for of motherhood, marriage, and ultimately graduate college, so she hardly ever watched TV. It wasn’t till 2015 that Chang absolutely embraced her Korean tradition—once more with the assistance of a Ok-drama. She discovered that watching Korean reveals was cathartic, validating, and simply made her really feel good. Impressed by how she felt, Chang started utilizing Ok-drama examples in her company consulting management workshops and periods with shoppers. After receiving constructive suggestions, Chang launched her YouTube channel and TikTok accounts, which debate Ok-dramas from a psychological well being perspective, in the course of the pandemic. Beneath, learn Chang’s story as informed to SELF’s affiliate well being director Melissa Matthews.

I used to be born in Seoul, South Korea, however moved to the U.S. as a child. My household lived in a small city outdoors of Philadelphia, and there wasn’t loads of range within the space again then. Rising up I actually didn’t like being Korean as a result of I felt like I didn’t belong. As a child I didn’t wish to stand out. However wanting completely different from my friends, talking a special language at dwelling, and bringing a special type of lunch to highschool made me stand out. Children had been consuming peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch however I introduced issues like fried rice to highschool, which felt very overseas to of us in my neighborhood. I simply felt very “othered.” I typically questioned the place I belonged.

I additionally felt like my dad and mom didn’t fairly perceive U.S. tradition. I keep in mind regularly considering, Howdy, this isn’t how People do it, and that made me reject my heritage much more. When my mother made Korean meals at dwelling, I keep in mind saying, “Why do we now have to eat this? Why can’t we simply have spaghetti?” I used to detest the odor of kimchi, a standard Korean facet dish that’s fairly well-liked these days. Again then folks weren’t as acquainted with it—and I felt mortified when my pals came to visit and requested why my home smelled. All of this made me really feel ashamed for therefore lengthy.

In 1992, I began gaining a brand new appreciation for my tradition as a freshman at NYU, the place I met different Koreans my age for the primary time. That 12 months, a Ok-drama referred to as Jealousy was an enormous hit. I wasn’t used to seeing loads of media illustration of Asians, not to mention Koreans, and the principle feminine character, Yoo Ha-Kyung, stood out to me. She was spunky, outgoing, and outspoken, which was important as a result of again then there was nonetheless a cultural narrative that Korean girls needed to be quiet and submissive. However that present made it look cool to be Korean.

Over time I continued to observe Ok-dramas on and off. Ultimately after getting married, having 4 youngsters, and going again to graduate college to review marriage and household remedy, I didn’t have time to observe TV. But in 2015, I obtained hooked on Ok-dramas once more after I watched My Love From the Star, a romantic comedy about an alien stranded on Earth. I had simply completed my grasp’s diploma and was beginning my profession as a licensed therapist. I wanted some escapism, so I turned again to Ok-dramas as a result of they make me really feel good—and so they make me admire being Asian. Seeing the proficient Korean girls in these reveals made me assume, Wow, Koreans could be lovely. That’s after I really began embracing my tradition.

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