Beef (tv series), Korean American Representation, and Korean Koreaness Part 3

I’ve seen something like Beef before. I’ve never seen anything like Beef before.

I got my hair cut and styled today at a Korean salon in Koreatown. My stylist and I talked about Beef. Specifically about Korean style beef, which always involves an injustice or perception of injustice and revenge. We agreed that Beef (tv series) shares many with elements of Korean Dramas and cinema.

Revenge is a common theme in Korea Dramas (“The Glory”) and cinema. Strangers from completely different backgrounds colliding and becoming deeply enmeshed in each other’s lives is another (“Parasite” or any number of K-Dramas or K-love stories). Greed is another common theme. In the Korean imagination, revenge destroys the avenger or those close to them. Greed is a destructive lust that only grows until it consumes and blinds.

Paul in his bathroom
Parasite characters in their sub-basement bathroom

Beef combines the two tropes. Danny and Amy have a greed for revenge. I’ve seen something like this before. I’ve never seen anything like this before. Beef is so much more.

Beef is also an American rage movie. The series is clicking with Americans of different ethnicities or races. Asian Americans really crave the glory of seeing angry Asian Americans represented on screen and differences between different Asian ethnicities. It’s my favorite Korean American immigrant story and Korean Drama. All of these viewer experiences are true at the same time.

My stylist and I often talk about Koreans and our cultural tendencies. We chatted about the Han and hwa-byung in Beef. The specificty of Korean style beef. There’s a Korean saying, “You want to die together?” or “We’re going to die together today” and variations thereof. The idea is that in the face of injustice, a Korean person will fight to the death. And yes, statements like “I’ll fight you to till I die!” are not uncommon. My stylist and I wondered why we Korean people are like this. Is it because we’re a tiny country surrounded by super powers? Our worst enemy is our own people? North and South Korea are still technically at war. A common Korean sentiment is that Koreans will unite quickly in the face of a common enemy. However, we in-fight brutaly in times of peace and prosperity.