Beyond Romance: Encouraging Vegan Themes and Animal Protection in the Growing World of K-Dramas

Published 21 February 2024

The global popularity of K-dramas and growing interest in veganism present a unique opportunity to foster positive change

The Grand Queen Dowager Sunwon, played by Bae Jong-ok, samples the plant-based “Macdunaldu” burger in Korean series “Mr Queen.” credit: Netflix

In recent years, the global phenomenon of K-dramas has captured the hearts of audiences around the world. The immersive storytelling, diverse characters, and unique cultural elements have contributed to the widespread popularity of Korean dramas. However, as the K-drama industry continues to thrive, exploring avenues for growth and inclusivity is crucial, particularly in addressing themes that resonate with the evolving values of a global audience.

In tandem with the K-drama boom, there has been a growing interest in adopting vegan lifestyles and embracing compassion towards animals. Netflix’s documentary ‘Live to 100: Secrets of the Blue Zones’ shed light on individuals like Korean monk Jeong Kwan, who advocates for veganism as a path to a compassionate and mindful existence.

According to a recent article by Vegconomist, the plant-based market in Korea is experiencing exponential growth, driven by changing consumer preferences and increased awareness of environmental and health concerns. Initiatives such as vegan food tours organized by the Korea Tourism Organization highlight the rising demand for vegan options not only among locals but also among tourists visiting the country. This surge in interest in plant-based living reflects a broader global trend towards sustainable and compassionate lifestyles and is an opportunity to incorporate such themes into popular media.

The “Macdunaldu” vegan burger from “Mr Queen.” credit: Netflix

Just as K-dramas have the ability to influence fashion trends and societal norms, they can also play a pivotal role in shaping attitudes towards veganism and encouraging viewers to care more for animals.

Some newer K-dramas have elements of this. Netflix’s Mr Queen saw the protagonist, a modern-day male chef whose soul gets trapped in the body of a queen from the Joseon era, create a vegan burger in episode 12, the “Macdunaldu” – the highlight of the king’s banquet for all the nobles and high-ranking officials.

In episode 12 of Extraordinary Attorney Woo, also in episode 12 of Welcome to Samdal-ri, characters of both series are shown holding placards protesting to free dolphins in captivity.

“Extraordinary Attorney Woo” featured the main character Woo Young-woo (right), played by Park Eun-bin, and her love interest Lee Jun-ho (left), played by Kang Tae-oh, protesting against dolphins being held in captivity. credit: Netflix

The global fascination with K-dramas presents a unique opportunity to foster positive change and inclusivity. By embracing themes of animal rights and veganism, the industry can contribute to a more conscious and socially responsible entertainment landscape. As viewers become increasingly aware of their choices, K-dramas have the potential to not only entertain but also inspire positive transformations in the way we perceive and interact with the world around us.


Click to read 2 comments


  • Jenny McCracken
    21 February 2024

    It certainly is a great opportunity to explore in so many different ways. There are already so many Korean dishes that are completely, or almost vegan, and many others that are very easily ‘veganised’ while still retaining their traditional full flavours.

    • VeganEasy
      21 February 2024

      It’ll be great to see more vegan Korean dishes on these series!

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