The Bingo Spaces, Explained

Modern K-Drama Set

These sets represent a collection of tropes common to a particular genre of media.

(Dis)possession (2 pts)

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Ghosts, spirits inhabiting bodies, or body- or identity-swapping

The spirit possession in The Uncanny Counters, O My Ghost!, or the gender- and body- (and time-!) swapping of Mr. Queen.

Childhood friends forgotten (2 pts)

Korean Forgotten Childhood

Characters knew, or at least encountered, each other in childhood, but somehow forgot

This is, surprisingly, one of the slowest tropes to play out, often going unexplained until a dozen episodes into the series. A shining example is the joint childhood abduction in What's Wrong with Secretary Kim?, but often the relationship is incidental, like one character being the young child of the funeral director when another young character's parent died decades ago.

Vehicular tragedy (2 pts)

Korean Vehicular Death Crazy Love S01E06

Someone is/was hit by a car, truck, bus, or motorcycle

An unusually common plot point. Sometimes it's the start of the show, Ghost Doctor, and sometimes it's a past tragedy that still weighs on the present.

Bullying (1 pt)

Korean Bullying 1

Be Best, Korea

In Crazy Love,  Noh Go-Jin is bullied as a child because he ate onions all the time. All of Us Are Dead includes scenes of sexually predatory bullying.

Cartoony FX (1 pt)

Korean Animal Fx

Animal or cartoon visual and sound effects to reinforce behavior or mood

A cat meow to match a glaring scowl, a wimpering dog to accentuate with a cowering submissive, or the thunder of a storm of increasing disapproval. The most extreme version of this occurs in Yumi's Cells (유미의 세포들), when Woong literally turns into a bear.

Chicken & Beer (1 pt)

Korean Chicken And Beer My Roommate Is A Gumiho E08

치맥, anyone?

It's a Korean thing.

Cramped quarters (1 pt)

Korean Cramped Quarters Cinderella And The Four Knights

Sleeping in a repurposed closet, or on a balcony, or in insane tiny student housing

Son Na-Eun in Cinderella and the Four Knights sleeps out on the balcony.

Crushing Debt (1 pt)

Korean Crushing Debt 1

Characters are motivated by their debt (or a family member's), including the threat of foreclosure

School 2020 featured a character whose grandfather was losing his home. Let Me Be Your Knight depicts a woman who finds herself suddenly homeless after being scammed out of tens of thousands to buy her childhood home.

Finger hearts (1 pt)

Korean Finger Hearts

Any use of finger hearts by a character

Too many to count. This is an easy point, but also should be a staple of any good K-drama.

Korean Standoff (1 pt)

Korean Conversation Let Me Be Your Knight E11

Two principal characters have a serious, sometimes emotionally confrontational, conversation while standing at least 1m apart

Characters must remain rigidly vertical during the entire conversation, and points are only granted for emotionally charged conversations (resignations, break-ups,declarations of love). This is usually an easy point.

Memorial service (1 pt)

Korean Memorial Service School 2022 S01E08

Funerals and memorial services

Often a significant plot point, from the early tragic childhood memory of losing a parent, or a character who can no longer afford to pay for her mother's ashes to remain on display.

Middle-of-the-Road Soliliquy (1 pt)

Korean Soliloquy

Verbal musings on deep existential questions and/or tragicomic situations while in the middle of the street

Must be spoken out loud. Also works on dirt roads and village paths in Joseun period dramas!

Piggyback (1 pt)

Korean Piggyback My Roommate Is A Gumiho E01

Someone gives someone else a piggyback ride

Virtually always the result of over-drinking (and, I suppose, the hills of Seoul). I cannot even tell you the last time I saw a piggyback ride given on American television; this is classic Korean.

Pinky swear (1 pt)

Korean Pinky Swear

Two characters doing a pinky swear

Touching thumbs at the end is not a thing in America (based on my terrible polling), so that gets an easy bonus point for any wannabe K-drama.

What's Wrong With Secretary Kim? has a scene with the two cutest kids on the planet, doing a great pinky swear silhouetted by the sun.

Rumble tummy (1 pt)

Korean Rumble Tummy Crazy Love S01E07 1

Audible stomach rumbling to indicate hunger

Too many to count. The noisy gurgle of a stomach virtually always means that the character is hungry, but it almost always happens just after the character lies about not being hungry.

Shamans & Talismans (1 pt)

Korean Talisman All Of Us Are Dead

Yellow paper talismans, written in calligraphic red ink; visits to a shaman for fortune-telling or body transfers

Used in period pieces, fantasies, as well as modern-day rom-com K-dramas. Jirisan used them to ward off evil mountain spirits. Other shows have them tucked away in purses for protection, or sometimes they are simply the money-making con of a fake shaman selling solutions. Superstitious use of names written in red ink may also apply here by extension.

Son Hyeung Min (1 pt)

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Mentions of Son Hyeung Min, or staying up to watch Tottenham Hotspur play

School 2020 had a character obsessed with Son Hyeung Min. Because of the time difference, EPL matches often feature in late-night or "cannot sleep" scenes.

The Playground (1 pt)

Korean Playground Let Me Be Your Knight E01

Any scene taking place in a neighborhood playground

Perhaps it has to do with the design of neighborhoods in Seoul, but every good K-drama ends up with one or more scenes on a playground, usually a swingset or see-saw. At night, when there are no children around.

Thumbs up (1 pt)

Korean Thumbs Up

Two thumbs up for "Good job!"

Another easy point, except for period pieces. Happens occasionally in American sitcoms, but another staple of K-drama culture. Good luck!

Wrist grab (1 pt)

Korean Wrist Grab Whats Wrong With Secretary Kim S09

Dramatically grabbing someone by the wrist as they walk away

Another staple of the romantic drama. The halting acts of retention ("Don't go!") combines with the lascivious physical contact. The music swells, and your heart stops. Or your eyes roll.

강한나 (Kang Han-Na) (1 pt)

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The presence of Kang Han-Na makes everything at least 1 point better

Accidental Wife, My Roommate is a Gumiho, Bite Sisters, Bloody Heart

내 친구 ("My friend…") (1 pt)

Korean Friend My Roommate Is A Gumiho E05

A character tells a story about "My friend" that is actually about themselves

When asking for advice, a character invents an obviously fictional tale of a "friend" with a problem, ideally involving "a friend of a friend's friend" to amusingly verbose effect.

한국어학교 (Language lessons) (1 pt)

Korean Language School

Specifically linguistic wordplay, discussions about spelling, pronunciation, or Chinese root words

Mr. Queen had some great puns and word play, and countless K-dramas play on the confusion of characters with very similar sounding names.