In Korean dramas, there’s no doubt that a kissing scene is a defining moment. Dramas spend hours upon hours building up to that one crucial second with longing gazes across a room, fits of jealousy, and epic declarations of love when the two main characters finally realize after episodes of agony that they are truly fated to be together and can no longer deny their magical chemistry and attraction, or so we like to think. Directors use everything they can to convey the “sparks are flying” idea to the eager audience, whether it be through slow motion, twinkle lights, fireworks, close-up shots, coffee foam, candy, or even snowmen. And of course, we certainly cannot forget the sweet, slow background music during the scene that is supposed to maximize the effect of the kiss for us.

A good kissing scene no doubt makes the wait worthwhile. It is shot skillfully, avoids awkwardness, and is paired with romantic music. Sometimes it is full of angst, other times it’s cute and creative. But no matter how the director chooses to shoot the scene, what makes a good kissing scene good is the balance and chemistry between the actor and actress who shoot it. If there’s no chemistry, it clearly shows in the kiss and leaves viewers disappointed. In fact, I personally think that chemsitry is the most important factor when picking a drama to watch–no one wants to sit through twenty episodes of awkward encounters that are supposed to be romantic, but just don’t come off that way. It’s no surprise that the most memorable kiss scenes to most K-drama fans are the ones that sizzle with obvious amounts of romantic attraction.

In my book, there are four dramas that stand out with commendable kissing scenes. The first one is Goong, perhaps better known as Princess Hours. This drama is one I hold near and dear to my heart, just because it played a huge part in converting me to an avid K-drama fan. To be honest, around halfway through the drama, I realized that I was only watching for the adorable interactions between Crown Prince Lee Shin and his spunky Crown Princess Chae Kyung. Needless to say, their first real kissing scene was highly anticipated by fans of the drama (mostly because we had to wait twenty three episodes to get there), but unlike many other kissing scenes, this one did not disappoint at all!

If anyone says that Joo Ji-hoon cannot kiss, you might want to get your eyes checked. The chemistry between Ji-hoon and Yoon Eun-hye came across and made that kissing scene romantic and sweet at the same time. I remember smiling like an idiot at my TV screen when I first watched their kissing scene, which made the endless hours of watching Yul’s annoying mom scheme worthwhile. Unfortunately, MBC has taken on a very stiff approach with kissing scenes in most of their later dramas, much to my disappointment.

The 1st Shop of Coffee Prince is another drama that did not disappoint with its kissing scenes. I don’t know, maybe male actors just like kissing Yoon Eun-hye, but dang, she has shot some seriously steamy kissing scenes.

I couldn’t even pick a favorite scene, so I just included all of them! If you haven’t seen this drama, I highly recommend it because it is a nicely balanced one with equal parts romance and equal parts (maybe a little more) quirky humor. It’s lighthearted, fun, and easy on the eyes (Gong Yoo is an awesome actor… and can you say yum?).

Another memorable kissing scene for me is from Flower Boy Ramyun Shop. I realize that the drama itself isn’t as enjoyable as the previous two, which are classics in terms of K-dramas, but the kiss between Cha Chi-soo (Jung Il-woo) and Yang Eun-bi (Lee Chung-ah) in episode ten was filled with angst and… confusion, which surprisingly, made for a great scene.

The last near-perfect kissing scene I want to mention is one from my favorite sageuk, The Princess’ Man. Unlike the first three scenes, this one stands out not because of the kiss itself but more because of the electrifying emotional chemistry and tenderness Moon Chae-won and Park Shi-hoo managed to bring across to the audience. During the scene, Seung-yoo (Park Shi-hoo) tells Se-ryung (Moon Chae-won) that her love for him puts her life in great danger, and she bravely replies that she will follow him wherever he goes. Their convincing portrayal of Lee Se-ryung and Kim Seung-yoo‘s star-crossed romance was ultimately what made the drama such a successful one. Again, I would definitely recommend this drama, but if you decide to watch it, prepare yourself for lots of tears and angst.

But with the good, comes the bad. I’ve seen countless K-drama kissing scenes that fell flat, with an obvious lack of chemistry (and kissing skills). Most of them I wouldn’t even count as a real kiss–it was more like watching two people decide to place their lips against each other and freeze for a good thirty seconds with their eyes wide open. I don’t know why anyone would want to kiss with their eyes open–it just looks so terribly awkward and unromantic. Bad kissing scenes don’t necessarily bring down a drama completely, but they definitely frustrate viewers in many cases.

One of the kissing scenes that has perhaps received the most complaints is from one of the most popular dramas of all time: Boys Over Flowers. In the scene, Gu Jun-pyo (Lee Min-ho) finally gets down to kissing Geum Jan-di (Koo Hye-sun) while she is sitting on a swingset surrounded by tons of twinkle lights. Sounds like a cute setup, right?

Unfortunately, the cuteness potential of that scene was not fully used. Lee Min-ho moved his face at a speed of something like half a mile per hour and Koo Hye-sun had no expression whatsoever when he kissed her. The whole scene just felt extremely stilted–I wanted to yell at my screen while watching: “Girl, can’t you look a little happier kissing Lee Min-ho?! I’m sure it’s not that hard!” Kissing scenes that occurred later in the drama showed a bit of improvement, but the lack of chemistry between Lee Min-ho and Koo Hye-sun made for mediocre kissing scenes at best, much to many fans’ disappointment.

Another drama that enjoyed an immense amount of popularity, You’re Beautiful, suffered from awkward kissing scenes. Park Shin-hye, as much as I love her, always had this shocked expression on her face whenever Jang Geun-suk kissed her.

Did anyone else find the camera spinning in that scene annoying? And they just looked so stiff… I’m pretty sure I was cringing back in my seat when I saw that scene for the first time.

I swear, Park Shin-hye just gets stuck with all the bad kissing scenes. Poor girl. Check out this one from Heartstrings with Jung Yong-hwa from C.N. Blue.

No words can describe the awkwardness that took place during that scene. I almost cried with disappointment when I saw that Yong-hwa had been forced to participate in such an terrible scene (not really, but still).

And then there are the kissing scenes that had me scratching my head after I watched them in confusion and amusement. The first one that comes to mind is from My Princess, which was a cute, fluffy drama that starred Kim Tae-hee and Song Seung-hun. Take a look at their… memorable first kiss that took place in episode seven.

I don’t know if whoever was in charge of providing suitable music for the scenes decided to take a break during the editing of that scene or whatever, but having a silent kissing scene in a K-drama is not okay. With good reason too–the couple’s first kiss had me doubled over in laughter at the strangeness of that scene, and laughter is definitely not a desired reaction from viewers during a serious kiss like that. Everything about that kiss was just bizarre, but at least they both looked nice while acting it out.

The last kissing scene I want to mention that had me going WTF?! when I watched it is the wedding night scene from Playful Kiss. Baek Seung-jo (Kim Hyun-joong) and Oh Ha-ni (Jung So-min) had just gotten married and faced the tension before… well, y’know, their first night together as a married couple.

I don’t know about you guys, but sitting side-by-side on a couch in matching plaid pajamas having a conversation like that does not seem like an ideal situation to be in on your wedding night. All of Kim Hyun-joong’s lines were delivered without emotion and then he basically attacked her with his arm, told her she was only cute and pretty sometimes, and whisked her off to bed like the smooth womanizer he is (sarcasm implied).

My expression at the end of that scene?

What about you guys, Seoulbeaters? Which K-drama kisses made you melt and which ones made you cringe? And of course, I’d love to hear about the kisses that had you staring in bewilderment at your TV screen as well!

(Dramawiki, MBC, tvN, KBS2, SBS)