Contract Marriage/Fake Relationships Korean Dramas
September 22, 2018
My Top 7 List
Along with the regular genres, in the Asian drama world you will find other set of sub-genre that you might come to enjoy, such as: food related dramas, gender-benders, hate-to-love etc. One of the beloved sub-genres is fake relationship/contract marriage dramas.
Although the dramas from this genre are different, most of them have a few things in common. For example: at times, something good can come out of a negative situation; mere feelings are not enough to ensure a long-lasting relationship. The most important thing is the ability to trust one another against all evidence to the contrary and stay loyal even if it means facing the whole world. Here is a short list of the genre.
1. Mask (2015)
“Mask” is a great thriller drama that will satisfy your craving for suspense and mystery. The heroine of the story is threatened by a powerful man to take on the identity of the sole heiress of the one of biggest Korean corporation (who was killed), in order to secure a marriage of convenience with a wealthy businessman.
This is a drama that explores the issue of love and trust. Can a relationship that started as an alliance between two corporations and which is based on a switched identity, develop into a relationship based on trust and loyalty? She develops genuine feelings for the husband she is supposed to betray, while he is confused to discover that his new wife is kind and caring, which is far from what he knew about her prior to their marriage. He interprets all this as a cunning strategy to gain his trust and decides not to let his guard down. This drama is a great enemy-to-lover story and I wholeheartedly recommend it, especially to those who love a good psychological thriller.
2. King 2 Hearts (2012)
“King 2 Hearts” is a action-romance drama. The events take place in an alternative reality where South Korea is a constitutional monarchy. The young, yet brilliant, prince Lee Jae-Ha (descendant of Joseon Dynasty) takes the throne as a result of some tragic events involving the royal family. In order to protect his country and to strengthen its position on the international political stage, he agrees to marry the daughter of an important North-Korean military official, as a sign of truce and friendship between the two countries.
The two met before during a joint military training and developed a relationship based on distrust. They eventually become engaged and, despite their feelings towards each other, they have to find a way work together and avoid their two countries fall prey to their common enemy: an international arms dealer who would benefit greatly from a conflict between the two Korean countries, since this would inevitably get the US and Russia involved, making the conflict escalate into a third world conflict. Can the young king and his Special Forces North Korean wife avert global war and find love in the process?
3. Bride of the Century (2014)
This is a drama that, unlike other dramas in this list, didn’t make it into the top lists of its genre. However to me, “Bride of the Century” is one of those hidden gems with a great story. The Choi family, one of the wealthiest in the country, has a dark secret that only a few know about. The family has been for centuries afflicted with a curse: the first wife of the eldest son always dies.
Choi Kang-Joo (unaware of the curse) is ready to forge an alliance with another wealthy family by getting married with their daughter so that both families can benefit financially. The would-be bride finds out about the curse and disappears, but not before she brings in a look-alike to take her place. Kang-Joo and his new fiancé fall genuinely in love with each other; but she too finds out about the curse just before marriage.
Will she go through with the marriage or will she chose to abandon him? “Bride of the Century” might not be as intense and action-packed as the first two dramas, but I have a soft spot for it because it gives the viewer a sense of what true love can achieve and how far it can go. Is love a simple emotion that blinds people or is it something that runs much deeper than skin-deep?
4. Fated to Love You (2014)
“Fated to Love You” is an adaptation of a Taiwanese drama with the same name. Lee Gun is the owner of a product company. He decides to downside his company, but this attracts the hate of many of his employees. On one of his trips abroad (where Lee Gun hopes to propose to his longtime girlfriend) some of his former employees plot to take revenge on him by destroying his reputation.
They drug him and hire a prostitute to go to his hotel room and obtain compromising pictures. In the meantime, Kim Mi-Young is on a vacation at the same hotel. By mistake she drinks the drug the employees left behind. On her way to her room she enters Lee Gun’s room instead. The two spend the night together and Mi-Young remains pregnant. Abandoned by his girlfriend who chose her career over him and with a child on the way, Lee Gun decides to take responsibility of his new family and asks Mi-Young in marriage for the sake of their unborn child.
The story depicts the story of a couple who starts with marriage and tries to work their way backward by getting to know each other and form a bond between them before their baby is born. Will they succeed? Can they overcome their situation? And most importantly: can a one-night-stand become a bond of love and affection that can last a lifetime?
5. Coffee Prince (2007)
This is the drama that made Gong Yoo (from Goblin) famous. “Coffee Prince” is a gender-bender romantic drama. Go Eun-Chan is a tomboyish woman who is too busy making a living to care about her appearance. Those who meet her for the first time often mistake her for a boy. Tired of working part-time jobs, she decides to take advantage of her androgynous appearance and applies for a male-only bartender position at a Coffee Shop.
Choi Han-Kyul was entrusted the Prince Coffee Shop by his grandmother, who pressures him into getting married as soon as possible. But Han-Kyul is still trying to get over his feelings for a woman who treats him as a simple friend. After countless blind dates and arranged marriage meetings, in order to make his grandmother give up, he hires Eun-Chan to pretend to be his gay boyfriend, not knowing she is, in fact, a woman.
What started as a ruse soon becomes a heart-wreaking situation for Han-Kyul. He realizes he is developing feelings for Eun-Chan. He cannot come to terms with the fact that his feelings for Eun-Chan are those he would have towards a woman. On the other hand, Eun-Chan realizes fairly late the situation she put him through and agonizes over the fact that she missed the right moment to tell him the truth.
6. Full House (2004)
This is considered a classic and is the mother of the k-drama romantic comedy genre. Han Ji-Eun is a screen-writer who gets swindled by her two best friends. Taking advantage of a Power of Attorney, they sell her house to a famous actor, while she was abroad. When she returns she finds herself homeless. Unwilling to give up on her house that was built by her late father with his own hands, she accepts the terms of a contract the new owner of the house proposes.
In order to have her house back she has to pretend to get married to him and divorce after a year. He is caught in a scandal and is looking for a way to clear the misunderstanding by showing his fiancé and soon-to-be wife to the world. “Full House” is a very good drama that I enjoyed watching when I first approach the Asian drama world.
This drama is one of the most appreciated of the genre; but on my list it only occupies the seventh spot because I find it a bit too melodramatic. A poor and single woman works hard to raise her daughter after the death of her husband. Soon she discovers she has a brain tumor and does not have long to live. She decides to do anything to secure the future of her daughter. Thus, she agrees to sign a contract for a fake marriage with her employer in order to become an organ donor in exchange for money.
The mother of her employer needs urgently a liver transplant. He tries to bend the law and is willing to forge a marriage contract if that means saving the life of his mother. The newly wedded couple have to convince his family and the authorities that their relationship is genuine, while they try to get to know one another.
As I mentioned above, this is one of the most beloved dramas of this genre, so give it a try. You might love it, just as much as many other k-drama lovers do.
Note: To avoid organ trafficking, the law only allows relatives to donate their organs.
There are many more dramas like the ones above; but I only selected a few that I like most. I would recommend you watch them all, especially “King 2 Hearts”.
Honorable mentions: Delightful Girl Choon-Hyang, Goong,The Prime Minister and I, Lie to Me, Something about 1%, The K2.