Date of Completion


Degree Type

Honors Thesis


Asian and Pacific Studies (ASPA)

First Advisor

Yanjie Wang


Korean dramas are an important worldwide cultural phenomenon; however, there has been a lack of direct critical analysis on contemporary Korean dramas. Significantly, popular media is a potent tool to understand a country’s societal values. Given Korea’s intellectual contact with the West, it is possible to interpret K-dramas through the lens of self-realization. It’s Okay to Not be Okay teaches us that trauma must be faced to overcome it though the stories of Moon Gang-tae, Sang-tae, and Ko Moon-young. In Extracurricular, Jisoo and Gyuri represent how the current youth environment of South Korea stifles self-expression and self-realization. Itaewon Class, unlike many other K-dramas, shows how the multicultural environment of Itaewon aids in the development of marginalized people in South Korea. The three dramas are also concerned with themes of mental health, which is a largely stigmatized subject in South Korea. As Korean dramas grow in prominence, it is more important than ever to analyze them critically.