What’s in a name? From what I gather, traditional Korean names are composed of family, generational, and individual syllables. Often with literal meanings (like intelligent, beauty ect) as opposed to more meaningless English names. Which is to say that when naming people in Korean dramas, writers can give plenty of information about the character just by the name he/she goes by. Here are some of my favorites:
5. John Mayer – King 2 Hearts (Slightly spoilerish)
Guys i’m sorry in advance to any fans of the “daughters” singer, but I can’t stand that douchenozzle. Not that it stopped me from seeing him live, (not my fault! It was a music festival and I was young and an idiot) and I may have 15ish of his ramblings set to sounds which he calls music (see again, idiot). Nevertheless, I began singing an ode to joy and laughter when I found out the name of the EEEEVVVIL Chebol/wannabe magician (played by Yoon-Je Moon (L)) conspiring against our North and South Korean heros. Now I could delve down into comparisons of the name twins, but that would just mean the other kind of name calling mixed with put downs, and seeing as the location I’m typing at says this is a bully-free zone, i’ll abstain from such. By discovering that this crazy villain has the same name as the guy who boards flights in bathrobes (which is basically a snuggie so no hatin’ here), it perfectly set the tone (or perhaps lack of one) for this wild and crazy fun drama.
That said, I was certainly taken aback when one of John Mayer’s minions (I call him overweight, balding, pasty, white guy), was name checked as Daniel Craig! Hot gristled actor/ 007 super-spy Daniel Craig. What gives writers?!?
Is this who you imagined when putting pen to page? Do you have something against a blonde Bond? Baldy Craig’s only good quality was his ingenious bribery methodology by using rare Beatles records.
As stupid as that plot point may have been, he sure knows the way into this music lover’s heart, though you’ll always be number 2 when it comes to things called Craig, Daniel Craig.
4. Park Ha – Rooftop Prince
One day I was daydreaming and realized I recall more female lead’s names than males. Puzzled, one episode of [insert K-drama here] where the female lead finds herself in mortal danger and I had my answer. There are other reasons of course, but originating from the generalization that the male character usually pursues the female, it all sorta makes sense. Park-ha is one such instance, but is not why I love this name. It’s because this name means Peppermint. Now normally this goes against everything I stand for, namely people being named after food(unless its some sort of weird stage/porn moniker I guess). With mints of the pepper variety i’m willing to make an exception… Some people need their alcohol, for others it’s chocolate or extreme sports, for me its that hybrid mint treat that not so coincidently happens to be the symbol of my favorite band. This is my long winded way of saying that my deep connection to peppermint makes this name special, so if your still reading this I applaud you for holding out, so here’s a fun factoid! When Mickey Yoo-chun’s character was shouting Park ha’s name it sounded like he happily found bark. Peppermint + Bark anyone?
3. Yoo Bang – History of a Salaryman
Let me quote the plot description of Salaryman – “Oh Yoo Bang may have an unfortunate name (“Yoo Bang” literally means “breasts” in Korean)… but the street-smart man proves that he’s nobody’s fool.” Yup everyone, this is the hero of the show, the guy who wants to conquer corporate corruption in true rags to riches fashion, and he’s named after boobies. Another case of name as table setting for what’s to come, its also kinda awesome sounding. Plus, has potential as the sequel song needed to revive Ricky Martin’s career (“You Bang, You Bang” Oh baby!)
2. Enrique Geum – Flower Boy Next Door
Channeling my inner Stephon a la SNL – “This name has everything!” multi-ethnic intrigue, backstory potential, and a name that Koreans pronounce differently and it sounds fantastic (if perhaps a little naughty 😉 ). It also perfectly suits this happy-go-lucky character, whose fiery, ADD personality fits with his Spanish first name. I never knew how much I needed this name to exist, but I feel everyone needs a little Enrique Geum at some point in their life.
1. Oska – Secret Garden
I feel bad for the Yoon Sang-Hyun (who plays Oska). His character in Secret Garden was a great part but like other single word names it looms too large. No matter what roles he takes, for the rest of YSH life, his fans, randos, and distant relatives will call him by that name. Now it doesn’t help when you play a larger than life K-pop star who has his own brand of socks, but without a doubt it also has to with that name. I feel many names get lost in translation, similarly how Koreans may not understand why naming someone “Francis” or “Brad” says something about that person. Oska transcends language barriers by seemingly explaining all you need to know, and that is some serious Oska power.
Yes this is all the same person: (Oska fierce (T), Rugged YSH in Gap Dong (R), and Dorky YSH in Hear Your Voice (B))
Honorable Mention: Arang (Arang and the Magistrate) Go Mi-Nam (You’re Beautiful) (Slightly spoilery)
This may not have to do with their names as much as how the male leads destroy me (in the best way possible) in how they say them. With Arang, Lee Jun-Ki initially only calls the Min-Ah character “Amnesia” or “Memory Loss” but as his feelings grow, the more frequently he uses her proper name (er, well at least since she became a ghost) and it get’s me every time. Similarly the Jang Keun-Suk character in Beautiful somehow manages this smooth yet staccato pronunciation of Park Shin-Hye’s Go Mi-Nam and makes me (and I suspect most of the audience fall in love with him instantaneously) This seductive pronunciation is especially helpful when the male lead is showing signs of dickishness or noble idiocy. As an added bonus, Go Mi-Nam means flower boy, which I only became aware of when watching Flower Boy Next Door’s characters have a meta conversation on the topic. This means it all comes back around, meta world peace can be had, in that we can all agree that Metta World Peace is one crazy ass thing to call yourself.