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Why Audiences Can't Get Enough Of K-Drama Bad Boys

BY Adrienne Stanley | Jan 28, 2016 05:41 PM EST


"Cheese in the Trap" continues its momentum as one of the most-watched cable dramas of 2016.

While "Reply 1988" capitalized on the nostalgia of a bygone era and the mysterious revelation of which neighborhood boy would grow up to marry Duk Sun (Hyeri), "Cheese in the Trap" compels viewers with its romantic portrayal of Yoo Jung (Park Hae Jin) and Baek In Ho (Seo Kang Joon). 

Jung and In Ho each exhibit traits that attract and repel female characters within the series. They are unlikely protagonists who battle panty-stealing neighborhood guys, stalkers, and academic cheaters. 

The tvN drama is consistent with the bulk of prime time programs which highlight outliers that most filial daughters would avoid bringing home to meet their parents. 

A trending article published by the domestic outlet Han on January 28 examined the romantic appeal of bad boys, as portrayed in the webtoon-turned-collegiate series. 

In the piece titled "Who actually wants romance with a bad guy?" the writer explores the psychological undertones of "Cheese in the Trap," particularly focusing on the exploitative tactics of Jung. 

"Yoo Jung holds enough information to impact the weakness of people, as is his means of manipulating others through intimidation," said the Han writer.

Jung is a popular student, who is seemingly innocent as he manipulates various situations surrounding the object of his affection, Hong Seol (Kim Go Eun). He insinuates his way into her mundane life with a forcefulness that is so disturbing, she takes a break from school, in an attempt to avoid him.  

In Ho is less diabolical in his pursuit of Seol but he is also a dark knight whose charm lies within his attractiveness. 

Korean drama bad boys are usually attractive conglomerate heirs who are the unlikely saviors of "Candy." 

Han examined the parallels between "Cheese in the Trap" and Candy or the Cinderella-like story that pervades Korean romantic comedies.  

The tale of Candy is the focal point of the Hong Sisters' "Master's Sun," as Joo Joong Won (So Ji Sub), a wealthy conglomerate heir, provides Tae Gong Shil (Gong Hyo Jin) with a financial and physical safety net from her ghost-plagued life. 

Whereas Joong Won repeatedly reminds Gong Shil of her place within his social strata, Jung withholds facts about his financial background from Seol, while placing her deeper within his debt. The situation appears to be innocuous, but his stronghold over their burgeoning relationship will likely unravel, in future episodes. 

His actions parallel the dramatic moves of Gu Jun Pyo (Lee Min Ho), the leading man of the 2009 teen series, "Boys Over Flowers." 

Jun Pyo initially bullies Geum Jan Di (Gu Hye Sun) until he slowly begins to empathize with her situation as a poverty-stricken scholarship student. He quickly transitions from someone who orchestrated a physical attack that nearly results in sexual assault to her boyfriend. 

In "Cheese in the Trap," Jung also helps the previously independent Seol maintain her personal safety, as she is approached by a sexual predator and a former-student-turned-stalker. 

By contrast, In Ho serves as a confidant and friend to Seol, as well as a potential adversary, as someone who recognizes Jung as a master manipulator and confabulator or someone who twists the truth for their own benefit. 

In Ho evokes several traits of Choi Young Do (Kim Woo Bin) from the 2013 series, "The Heirs." He is aware that he is not the leading man in the love story of Seol, but that does not thwart his attempts to befriend her. 

Bad boys are also highlighted in dramas like 'Reply 1988,' 'Angry Mom' and 'Who Are You: School 2015.' 

Supporters of Jung Hwan (Ryu Jun Yeol) may argue against the theory that he could be considered the dark knight of "Reply 1988," as the boy who broke the heart of a teenaged Duk Sun by refusing to wear the shirt she gifted to him, before jokingly confessing to her, years later. 

While his actions were motivated by his attempts to protect his friend, Taek (Park Bo Gum), his sullen interactions with Duk Sun are on-par with characters like Choi Young Do.

Teen dramas also tend to elevate bad boys above their studious counterparts.

Ji Soo was the breakout star of the 2015 series, "Angry Mom," after receiving accolades for his portrayal of Go Bok Dong, a rough-around-the-edges bully. BtoB's Yook Sungjae catapulted to stardom as an acclaimed acting idol after transforming the role of Gong Tae Kwang, the problematic son of a principal in "Who Are You: School 2015," into an iconic character. 

What are your thoughts on K-Drama bad boys? Do you think Jung from "Cheese in the Trap" is an unlikely hero? Comment below. 

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