The Hallyu Wave has reigned over global pop culture for more than a decade now and has given us countless iconic films, pop music, beauty products, and K-dramas. And with the amount of BL series South Korea has been releasing since 2020, it looks like BL is the next addition to the list of the country’s top cultural exports.
So in case you don’t know where to start, here’s a rundown of titles you may want to check out to get a taste of Korean BL.
Where Your Eyes Linger (2020)
It technically isn’t the first KBL, but this certainly is the one that solidified Korea’s arrival in the global BL scene. With its polished visuals and gorgeous leads, this story about two old friends who finally have to deal with their secret feelings once faced with changes is an effective gateway to KBL.
Light On Me (2021)
Of course, Korea has BL set in high school, too. What sets this cotton-candy-flavored romance apart, however, is its love triangle that has since inspired and continues to inspire countless debates online. Who deserves to be Tae-kyung’s endgame, Da-on or Shin-woo?
To My Star (2021-2022)
Where Your Eyes Linger’s writer and director second BL is a showcase of immediate growth and restraint that exudes wisdom. Armed with solid performances and amazing chemistry between the leads, To My Star is the only one KBL with a second season (so far) and is arguably KBL’s most grounded depiction of a gay relationship.
Where Your Eyes Linger was her grand entrance and To My Star established her as a major player, but Hwang Da-seul’s third BL, Blueming, solidified the writer-director’s early pillar status in the growing KBL industry. Gorgeously shot and well-performed, this little show about two film students from opposing backgrounds is a breathtaking wonder and I can’t wait for season two.
Semantic Error (2022)
It’s just wrong to rundown worthy KBL titles without this one. Based on a widely popular manhwa and boasting a pair comprised of DKZ’s Park Jae Chan and singer/rapper Park Seo Ham, this enemies-to-lovers campus romance is arguably the most successful KBL to date and birthed the first ever BL pair to ever win APAN Star Awards’ Best Couple, an honor received in 2016 by the legendary Song Hye Kyo and Song Joong Ki.
The Roommates of Poongduck 304 (2022)
After flexing their chemistry in Kissable Lips, a BL too short for the quality of its leads, Kim Ji Woong and Yoon Seo Bin delighted fans with this immediate follow-up project where an interesting, shifting power dynamic takes centerstage. What if your boss turns out to be your tenant? What if your landlord is your employee? This cohabitation/workroom romance mash-up can get a little too chatty but the chemistry of its leads will be worth the stay.
Choco Milk Shake (2022)
“Years after their death, a dog and a cat return to the land of the living as humans to reunite with their solitary owner, Jung Woo.” sounds more apt for the Cartoon Network than a BL, but it’s actually one of the best from 2022. It’s hilarious, it’s cute, and boy, do these boys serve visuals! Choco Milk Shake is unapologetic in its simplicity and the comedy of two pets trying to learn how to be human paired with the loneliness of Jung Woo’s solitary life makes this show definitely worth checking out.
The New Employee (2022)
Is it because the genre’s audience has grown or because older gay professionals have started watching BL too? Whatever the reason, office romance is the new trend in BL across Asia and Korea is no exception. This 7-episode charmer is about the romance between a new employee and his senior in the company. This quick-paced, charming little show’s biggest merit is in its presentation of real adults in an adult setting enjoying the same kilig the high school kids in most BL shows are experiencing.
KBL is still new, but with several new releases as early as the first quarter of this year making waves for their storytelling, it looks like it’s here to stay. True, it does not have the budget and scope of KDramas yet, and it may not have the length that allows Thai BL to dive deeper into their concepts, but it also means they’re extremely binge-able and easy to watch. Besides, considering how conservative South Korea still is, supporting a genre that lends visibility to queer love onscreen may help real queer people offscreen. So go ahead and start.
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