Korean drama

Korean drama

Korean drama (Korean: 한국드라마) refers to televised dramas, in a miniseries format, produced in the Korean language. Many of these dramas have become popular throughout Asia and have contributed to the general phenomenon of the Korean wave, known as "Hallyu", and also "Drama Fever" in some countries[citation needed]. Most popular Korean dramas have also become popular in other parts of the world such as Latin America, the Middle East, and elsewhere.



There are two main genres of Korean dramas, generally speaking. The first genre is similar to soap operas but without the ongoing plot and frank sexual content seen in Western soaps. These dramas typically involve conflicts such as single and marital relationships, money bargaining, relationships between in-laws (usually between the mother-in-law and daughter-in-law), and often complicated love triangles while the female hero usually falls in love with the main character who may treat her badly since the beginning, instead of the one who always cares for her. These dramas last anywhere from 16 episodes to over 100 (most often not exceeding 200).[citation needed]

The other main genre is Korean historical dramas (also known as sa geuk), which are fictionalized dramatizations of Korean history. Korean historical dramas typically involve very complex story lines with elaborate costumes, sets and special effects.[1] Martial arts, sword fighting and horsemanship are frequently a big component of Korean historical dramas as well. Korean dramas, whether the historical dramas or modern dramas, typically are characterized by excellent production quality, characters with depth, intelligent scriptwriting but largely relies on the use of archetypal characters.[2]

Popularity in Japan

The first Korean drama to gain widespread popularity in Japan was Winter Sonata which was broadcast on the NHK satellite channel NHK BS2 in 2003. The program was aired twice in the same year due to high demand from viewers.[3] NHK even hosted a classical concert featuring Winter Sonata's melodic tunes performed by Korean musicians. Actor Bae Yong Joon who played the male lead in Winter Sonata is known as "Yonsama".[3]

Some have claimed that Korean drama has improved relations between the two countries as more Japanese people have become interested in Korean culture. Heightened appreciation of all things Korean, including Korean language, cuisine, and history has not only changed the perception among Japanese about Korea, but also relieved some of the antagonism many Koreans have felt towards Japan. The increased interest in Korean culture has promoted Japanese tourism to South Korea and many tours geared towards fans of Winter Sonata and other Korean drama programs have attracted thousands of visitors to the country. Conversely, the series Iris had several pivotal scenes shot in Akita, leading to a surge of Korean tourists going on tours in that part of Japan tailored to followers of the show.[4][5][6]

Former Japanese prime minister Junichiro Koizumi has been known to be a big fan of Choi Ji Woo, known as "Jiwoo-hime" or "Princess Ji-woo" in Japan. And the former Japanese first lady Miyuki Hatoyama, wife of former prime minister Yukio Hatoyama, has often proclaimed her love of Korean drama even claiming that it is the secret to her youthful appearance.[7]

Popularity in China

In 2006, South Korean programs on Chinese government TV networks accounted for more than all other foreign programs combined.[8]

Popularity in Hong Kong

The Endless Love set of four romantic series hit Hong Kong in the early 21st Century. In 2005, Dae Jang Geum was broadcast on Hong Kong's TVB Jade network in Cantonese, further continuing the Korean Wave in Hong Kong following the former part of the decade. Dae Jang Geum became the most highly-rated television series broadcast in Hong Kong of all time, until 2008 TVB drama Moonlight Resonance tied with it in terms of viewership ratings. Many other Korean dramas followed, and in 2008 TVB released its TVB J2 channel, which broadcast many more Korean series, intending for a younger audience. Its pay-tv service, TVB Payvision's drama channel also broadcast Korean dramas (as well as Japanese drama and Taiwanese dramas. The popularity of Korean dramas in Hong Kong also sparked an interest in K-pop and tourism to Korea.

Popularity in Thailand

When the popular drama of Dae Jang Geum was on the air in Thailand, Korean food started gaining wide popularity in Thailand[citation needed]. Due to lop-sided nature of entertainment exports favoring South Korea, the Thai government requested increased introduction of popular Thai films to South Korean media outlets. This led to the signing of an Agreement of Cultural Cooperation between the two countries in August 2004.[9]

Popularity in Vietnam

The Saigon Broadcasting Television Network airs many Vietnamese dubbed Korean dramas.

Popularity in the Philippines

After the success of Mexican telenovelas and the Taiwanese dramas, the next successful foreign dramas in the Philippines were Korean dramas. In the height of Taiwanese drama popularity due to the unexpected success of Meteor Garden that aired on ABS-CBN, GMA Network became the first Philippine TV network to release Korean dramas in the Philippines with Bright Girl starring Jang Na-ra (airdate: July 2003) and later, My Love Cindy (airdate: September 2003). It was a risk on the part of the network since the F4 boys were extremely popular and they were exclusively seen on rival TV network, ABS-CBN. But the gamble proved successful; the two Korean dramas sparked the curiosity of viewers, and increased viewership of the afternoon block of GMA Network. GMA Network also introduced the term, Koreanovela for TV dramas imported from Korea. GMA, Endless Love starring Song Hye Kyo, Song Seung Hun and Won Bin aired on the primetime block (airdate: September 2003).. The series was so successful that it beat rival ABS-CBN Philippine dramas aired on the same time slot. The success of Endless Love inspired GMA to secure more Korean dramas, such as Winter Sonata, also known as the second of the Endless Love series which aired in the primetime block after the first Endless Love; and Beautiful Days which aired in the afternoon block. Both dramas starred Hallyu Queen Choi Ji Woo. With the rising popularity of Choi Ji Woo, ABS-CBN introduced in January 12, 2004 the first Korean drama on their station, The Truth. This was followed by Lovers in Paris, Memories of Bali and Save the Last Dance for Me.

Lovers in Paris became the first primetime TV hit Korean drama on ABSCBN that captured the heart of many Filipinos nationwide. Kim Jung Eun was hailed as the Queen of Korean dramas on ABS-CBN Network. The said network also aired other popular Korean dramas such as My Girl, Oh Feel Young, Wonderful Life, Spring Waltz, A Love To Kill, Forbidden Love, Princess Lulu, Only You, Boys Over Flowers, Princess Hours, Lovers in Paris, He is Beautiful (You're Beautiful), Save the Last Dance for Me, Memories of Bali, Stained Glass, Spring Day, Something About 1% (1% of Anything), Wedding, Truth, Which Star Are You From, Marrying a Millionaire, Lovers, Three Dads With One Mom (One Mom and Three Dads), Perfect Match (Personal Preference), Green Rose, Cinderella's Sister,My Princess, My Girlfriend is a Gumiho , Marry Me Mary (Mary Stayed Out All Night), I Am Legend, 49 Days also known as Pure Love, Three Brothers, My Fair Lady, and Helena's Promise (Scent of a Woman). Other popular Korean hit dramas to be shown on the network are: City Hunter, Dream High, Sungkyunkwan Scandal, Dream, Heartstrings, Protect the Boss, Thousand Day Promise, Can't Lose and Beautiful You.

GMA Network aired other Korean dramas such as: Full House, Stairway To Heaven, Jewel in the Palace, Shining Inheritance, Jumong, Endless Love, Endless Love 2: Winter Sonata, Endless Love 3: Summer Scent, Love Story in Harvard, Queen Seon Deok, My Name is Kim Sam Soon, Coffee Prince, East of Eden, The Baker King, Temptation of a Wife, Playful Kiss and Secret Garden. Full House is the most popular Korean drama in the Philippines,being aired twice in the same year, airing again only a month after it ended. On the other hand, Autumn in My Heart, also known as Endless Love, is the most replayed Korean Drama in the Philippines having it replayed 6 times already.

Korean celebrities also became popular in the Philippines. Song Hye Gyo is considered as one of the most popular Korean actress in the Philippines for the first Korean drama hit in the Philippines, Autumn in My Heart and Full House. In the Philippines, she is known as the Queen of Korean dramas. Korean actresses Lee Young Ae, Choi Ji Woo and Kim Jung Eun are not too far behind because of the tremendous successes of Jewel in the Palace, Stairway To Heaven and Lovers in Paris (based on the Mega Manila TV Ratings, not nationwide ratings). Korean heartthrobs like Lee Min Ho, Kim Bum, Lee Dong-wook are just among others who gained a lot of fans in the country.

In many cases, Korean theme songs were also adapted and became chart toppers. "Di Ko Na Kaya," sung by Faith Cuneta, the Tagalog theme song of Endless Love 2: Winter Sonata, was adapted from the Korean theme song, "From Then Till Now," originally performed by Ryu. The song was a huge success—partly owing to the success of the TV series—propelling the career of the newbie singer. Faith Cuneta eventually became known as Queen of Koreanovela theme songs since many of her songs were used as theme songs in Korean dramas. "Perhaps Love", the theme song from Princess Hours was likewise translated and sang in Tagalog. It was entitled, "Pag-ibig Na Kaya?" and became a hit song on 2007.

The boom of Korean dramas continues today as major TV networks continue to invest a timeslot for the said series. For example, in 2009, ABS-CBN aired Boys Over Flowers, the Korean adaptation of the Taiwanese drama, Meteor Garden. The tagline, "THE FEVER IS BACK" was used widely in released teasers. GMA Network also recently secured toprating Korean shows, Temptation of a Wife, The Baker King and Secret Garden, Daemul which is also known as Big Thing. Among the secured korean drama line-up of GMA Network are Dong Yi, Cinderella Man, Smile Dong Hae, Lie To Me and IRIS.

Popularity and availability in the USA

Korean dramas became popular in the United States particularly in regions with populations of ethnic Koreans. The spread of the popularity of Korean dramas typically centered around these regions perhaps because Korean drama programming is publicly available in those broadcast areas. Now, due to information spread via the internet, cable TV, satellite TV, and DVD rental businesses, along with k-dramas' quality English subtitling and good production quality, Korean dramas have become even more popular across a diverse American audience – i.e., not limited to families of Korean descent. Many fans now include South Korea destinations among their tourist destinations, due to their enjoyment of the Korean TV dramas.

Many of the more recent k-dramas have been translated fully with high-quality English subtitling. However, some k-dramas DVD sets are not translated completely into English and are issued in sets with fewer DVD's than the Korean language versions, to the dismay of English-speaking consumers. These are typically done so that the story is coherent and satisfying, but viewers are always disappointed to know they are missing out on some portions of the story that were not subtitled into English (for example, with the story of "The Immortal Admiral Yi Sun Shin").

Korean drama fan clubs have appeared in Hawaii,[10] California[11] and the metropolitan areas of Chicago[12] and Philadelphia,[13] Pennsylvania. Cable channels in the U.S. (such as AZN, KBS World, and MBC America) have featured several Korean dramas during primetime, in addition to offering daytime and late-night Korean programming, usually subtitled.

In November 2008, Netflix began offering several Korean dramas as part of their video selection. In August 2009, DramaFever began offering free subtitled video streaming service, with video advertisements, in the United States.[14] As of May 2010 Korean dramas began airing on a DramaFever channel on Hulu. Additionally, Korean dramas are available at online DVD retailers. Some Korean dramas, however, are not available for Region 1 (North America) encoding and NTSC video format.

By late 2010 and early 2011, many popular Korean dramas began to air on Puerto Rican channels. This have impacted greatly on which is the Hallyu in the USA and Latin America. Such dramas as My Name is Kim Sam Soon, Princess Hours, The 1st Shop of Coffee Prince, Boys Over Flowers, All About Eve (TV series), Stairway to Heaven (TV series) and others have proven to be quite successful in Puertorrican households.

Popularity in Latin America

Recently some Korean dramas have gained modest popularity in Latin American countries such as Brazil, Mexico,[15] Peru and Chile.[16][17][18]

Popularity in Mongolia

Korean dramas are very popular in Mongolia. Every evening, there is at least 2–3 different Korean dramas dubbed into Mongolian on all the well known channels. This has affected the popularity of K-pop, korean cuisine, as well as Korean fashion in Mongolian Youth.

Notable Actors

References in other media

The format was parodied in MADtv with Bobby Lee and Korean American guest-stars Sung Kang and Cathy Shim. Korean drama clichés also appear in a comedic way, including the camera set-up style, constant replayed clips, melodramatic music, and the tragic love triangle. The MADtv parody also features exaggerated English "subtitles" which are relevant to the plot, but do not actually translate the Korean words spoken that are actually irrelevant to the plot, satirizing the incorrect and exaggerated subtitles found on some foreign-language films and TV shows.

See also


  1. ^ Eckersley, M (ed.) 2009, Drama from the rim: Asian Pacific drama book, 2nd ed., Drama Victoria, Melbourne. p56.
  2. ^ Eckersley, M (ed.) 2009, Drama from the rim: Asian Pacific drama book, 2nd ed., Drama Victoria, Melbourne. p57.
  3. ^ a b Winter Sonata Fever. Uniorb.com. Retrieved on 2011-08-15.
  4. ^ Inoue, Chihiro (2009-04-13). "Spy drama pulls S.Koreans to Akita". The Japan Times. http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn20100413f1.html. Retrieved 2010-04-26. 
  5. ^ (Korean) 이해리 (2009-02-04). "아리가또∼ 아이리스". Donga. http://news.donga.com/3//20100204/25945864/1. Retrieved 2010-04-21. 
  6. ^ "Akita sees huge increase in Korean tourists". Japan Probe. 2010-01-16. http://www.japanprobe.com/2010/01/16/akita-sees-huge-increase-in-korean-tourists/. Retrieved 2010-04-23. 
  7. ^ [1][dead link]
  8. ^ Faiola, Anthony (August 31, 2006). "Japanese Women Catch the 'Korean Wave'". The Washington Post. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/08/30/AR2006083002985_2.html. 
  9. ^ Royal Thai Embassy, Seoul || Home > Thailand – ROK Relations > Bilateral relations. Thaiembassy.or.kr. Retrieved on 2011-08-15.
  10. ^ Hawaii K-Drama Fans. 808dramafans.proboards21.com. Retrieved on 2011-08-15.
  11. ^ CJK Dramas. Runboard.com. Retrieved on 2011-08-15.
  12. ^ Chicago Korean Drama Fan Club
  13. ^ Korean Drama Group
  14. ^ Knock it off: Global treaty against media piracy won't work in Asia Jeff Yang, SFGate, November 11, 2009.
  15. ^ [2][dead link]
  16. ^ HelloHallyu: 2008/01. Hellohallyu.blogspot.com. Retrieved on 2011-08-15.
  17. ^ From the Archives – Korean pop Culture and hallyu. Seoulstyle.com. Retrieved on 2011-08-15.
  18. ^ Hawaii ‘hallyu’ My Name is Kim Sam Soon. Kimsamsoon.blogsome.com. Retrieved on 2011-08-15.

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