by Sarah Chrzastowski Watching drama after drama, I couldn’t help but notice that characters always seem to end up hanging out on playgrounds. The playground is such a prevalent location in kdramas, I’ve come to believe that in Korea there’s a playground every 50 yards. It’s gotten to the point where I watch a drama and wonder, “Okay, when are they going to hang out on a playground? It’s gotta be coming up any episode.” So I started to wonder why characters would inevitably end up on a swing set in the middle of the night (It’s always at night. In the real world hanging out on an empty playground at 11pm is pretty creepy, but in dramas we can forgive a lot). Then it hit me: Playgrounds, while normally associated with lighthearted fun, are, in the world of kdramas, where things get serious.  Playgrounds seem innocuous enough, but you can be assured that if characters in a kdrama find themselves on a playground, something significant is going to happen.Based on my in depth, scientific analysis, there are two main themes when it comes to playground interactions: Confessions and romance. 

A confession could either mean a character revealing something secret about themself, or it could mean they’re confiding in another character, giving us insight to their motives and emotions. On Lie to Me, Ah Jung is with Sang Hee, on a playground across from her old house. She confides in him that she took the civil service test so that she could be close to Jae Bum, her first love. She admits that her life and her job are the way they are all because of her crush on Jae Bum. He’s still influencing her life now, since she got into her sticky, lie-filled situation with Ki Joon because she didn’t want to seem pathetic in front of Jae Bum and his new wife. 

On 49 Days, Ji Hyun (Or should I say Yi Kyung?) runs into the Scheduler on a swing set and announces that she finally found her seal and can hide it from Min Ho. Then things take a turn for the serious and she reveals that today was supposed to be her wedding day. Although Ji Hyun feels close to the Scheduler (how could she not, when he’s the only person she can talk to honestly?), it’s still hard for her to talk about her old life. Good thing she found a playground – the place where all confessions are easier to make. It must be pretty depressing for Ji Hyun to recognize that what was supposed to be a special day because Ji Hyun was marrying her love, Min Ho, is instead special because she found a way to keep Min Ho from screwing over her whole family. 

Facing the truth can be difficult. Thank goodness kdrama characters have playgrounds to make them let their guards down. Pil Joo finally faces the truth on Greatest Love, when he and Se Ri hang out on some swings and Pil Joo works out his feelings for Ae Jung. He feels comfortable enough with Seri to talk to her about his potentially hopeless feelings for Ae Jung, and relates his situation to a folk tale. Pil Joo and Se Ri aren’t exactly best buds, but the playground provides a safe environment where Pil Joo can talk to Se Ri like she’s his closest confidant. 

While personal confessions give us insight into a character, what we all really want to see is romance. When two platonic friends hit the playground, we will start to learn some secrets. But when two characters that share a spark of romance find themselves on a playground, that spark turns into a full-blown blaze. Padam Padam’s Kang Chil was always open about his feelings for Ji Na, but it’s not until the two are on a playground that he starts talking about how they’re dating, and how he wants to spend every day with her. Ji Na is not as affected by the playground’s aphrodisiac qualities, and it’s clear she’s not ready for such a serious relationship conversation. Kang Chil is understandably upset, and he gets the courage to admit that he’s angry Ji Na is basically the “guy” in the relationship, calling the shots and talking down to him. Could Kang Chil have made these personal declarations of love without the influence of the playground? I doubt it. 

On Coffee Prince, Eun Sae, like Ji Na, is apprehensive about being in a relationship and admitting that she has feeling for Min Yeo. Through the power of the playground Eun Sae finally admits her feelings for Min Yeo and acknowledges his feelings for her. The playground allowed Eun Sae to give up her cruel temptress ways and allow herself to love Min Yeo. After teasing him for so long, Eun Sae gives Min Yeo “permission” to date her, and he’s overjoyed. 

The ultimate playground moment, in my opinion, comes from Boys Over Flowers. Jun Pyo makes a grand romantic gesture by covering a playground in lights, trying to make it feel like the Champs Elysees. He then confesses to Jan Di that he loved spending time with her family, because it made him feel like he finally had a family. Jun Pyo lets down his bad boy exterior and tells Jan Di about his rotten childhood and Christmases spent with only his butler and team of GothLoli maids. Then he makes the move we waited nine episodes for and finally kisses Jan Di, capping off a heart-warming gesture with his most romantic move to date. 

Why do playgrounds lend themselves so well to these decidedly grown up actions? Perhaps the safe, happy feeling a playground provides the perfect environment for expressing love. A playground can remind a person of their youth, and they are then able to let their guard down and confess something they’ve been hiding. Maybe it’s as simple as the fact that many characters live with their extended family and just want to go somewhere private. In any case, know that when you see a playground in a drama, you can be sure something game-changing is about to happen.

Sarah Chrzastowski previously wrote here about Boys Over Flowers, City Hunter and how to win over a kdrama lady. She writes about the things she loves at Itswhatyouneed, and is @sarchrz on Twitter.