Korean Cuc (Hangul: 한국드라마), k-drama for short, refers to televised dramas, in a miniseries format, produced in South Korea. Many of these dramas have become popular throughout Asia, with growing interest in other parts of the world. K-dramas have contributed to the general phenomenon of the Korean wave, known as Hallyu (Hangul: 한류), and also "DramaFever" in some countries. King of Baking, Kim Takgu received over 50% of ratings, while Moon Embracing the Sun received over 40%.
- 1 Format
- 2 Categories of prime-time drama
- 3 History
- 4 International reception
- 5 Notable dramas
- 6 Notable actors
- 7 References in other media
- 8 See also
- 9 References
Flagship Korean dramas typically run from 16 to 20 episodes. Occasionally, historical epics stretch for 50 to 100 episodes, in a single season. Sometimes, if a show is popular, networks extend them. Goong in 2006, for example, was extended from 20 to 24 episodes. Since each episode usually runs for about 60 minutes, one of the shorter 16-episode K-dramas might consume about 960 minutes of air-time. In comparison, BBC's 1995 Pride and Prejudice takes 330 minutes. The American mini-series Lonesome Dove takes 384 minutes and Noble House takes 376 minutes.
The broadcast time for flagship dramas is 22:00 to 23:00, with episodes on two consecutive nights: Mondays and Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, and weekends. Different dramas appear on each of the nationwide networks, Seoul Broadcasting System (SBS), Korean Broadcasting System (KBS), Munhwa Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) and on the cable channels, Joongang Tongyang Broadcasting Company (jTBC), Channel A, tvN, and Orion Cinema Network (OCN).
The 19:00 to 20:00 evening time slot is usually for daily dramas that run from Monday through Friday, and weekends. Dramas in these slots are in the telenovella format, rarely running over 200 episodes. Unlike the American soap operas, these daily dramas are not also scheduled during the day-time. Instead, the day-time schedule often includes reruns of the flagship dramas. The night-time dailies can achieve very high ratings. For example, the evening series Temptation of a Wife peaked at 40.6%, according to TNS Korea.
Korean dramas have also spread overseas with several on demand streaming services which legally license Korean dramas. For example, the company DramaFever, which was founded in 2009 during the Hallyu Wave, reports a catalog of over 13,000 episodes.
Categories of prime-time drama
Flagship dramas fall into 2 main categories. The first category includes stories set in modern South Korea. Popular examples are Winter Sonata and Boys Over Flowers. Milieus range from restaurants (Pasta), to a mayor's office (City Hall), to the Blue House (City Hunter). Plots range from serious, 49 Days, to comical, Couple Fantasy. Most emphasize family, as in Stars Falling From the Sky. Many, if not most, follow the efforts of a young woman trying to climb out of a hole, In Soon Is Pretty being a clear example. The hole sometimes is the result of her own machinations, as in Coffee Prince. Shorter K-dramas like those mentioned in this paragraph tend to be single-threaded, with a conventional design, not unlike a novel: set-up, suspenseful body, climax and denouement. Because of their length, many Korean dramas do not start in medias res. Indeed, in many, the set-up (Act I) occurs when the hero and heroine are children. Missing You exemplifies this.
The other main category of prime-time drama includes dramatizations of Korean history, such as Queen Seondeok. These Costume dramas, also known as Sageuk (Korean: 사극), typically involve very complex story lines with elaborate costumes, sets, and special effects. Martial arts, sword fighting, and horsemanship are frequently a big component, as well.
There are a growing number of dramas somewhere in between the modern and historical. These tend to be single-threaded like the first category but have many of the trappings of the second. Some, like Sungkyunkwan Scandal or The Moon Embracing the Sun, have a firm historical setting but have little to do with historical events or persons. Arang and the Magistrate, while set in the past, is completely imaginary and based on folklore. A few recent dramas, like Rooftop Prince, exploit both past and present by injecting time travel into the storyline. Queen In-hyun's Man goes full circle. The hero, from the Joseon era, goes to a library in modern day Seoul to consult a history book so that he can solve a problem in his own era.
One reviewer characterizes Korean dramas as having excellent production quality, well-drawn but stereotypical characters, and intelligent scriptwriting. Currently, many, if not most, of the screenwriters are women, notable among them, the Hong sisters, Hong Mi Ran and Hong Jung Eun. In The King of Dramas, a k-drama about making k-dramas, the heroine is a screenwriter.
Radio broadcasting in Korea began in 1927 under Japanese rule; broadcasting in Korean under Japanese control continued until 1944, and from 1933 to 1942 there was a separate Korean-language station. Radio dramas also started in 1927, with adaptations of Korean and translated Western theatrical works, and with close ties to live theatre; a "Radio Drama Hour" at 7 p.m. already existed by 1933. The first original radio drama, 노차부 ("The Elder Coachman") by Kim Hee-Chang, aired in 1934,, and in 1936 the first serial aired. After the Korean War, radio dramas such as Cheongsilhongsil (1954) reflected the country's mood, and radio remained more popular than TV until about 1970.
The Supreme Council for National Reconstruction considered a TV network a worthwhile propaganda arm, and on December 31, 1961 started KBS, which aired dramas from its beginning. Private network TBC began broadcasting drama 첫눈 ("The First Snow") on its first day of TV broadcasting, December 7, 1964. MBC began broadcasting TV in August, 1969, and also aired TV dramas. These were mostly shot live, for lack of production facilities; the networks focused on dramas airing every weekday for many weeks, with romance plots but also depicting the tribulations of women much like the viewers they hoped for; they also aired weekly melodramas.
By the 1970s the networks could afford videotape, freeing dramas from having to air live. Popular dramas of the 1970s may have included 아씨 ("Assi", TBC, 1971) and 여로 ("Journey", MBC, 1972), which one writer speculates might have gotten "close to 75%" ratings, had ratings existed in South Korea then, or Yeoroh (KBS, 1972), which another writer says "swept the nation". However, videotape also made prior restraint censorship possible. In 1972 the government warned against political dissidence in dramas, and in 1973 it banned immoral, sensual, vulgar, violent, or politically disruptive contents. So drama makers concentrated on historicals (in which war scenes were allowed) and melodramas; the government also required networks to air "anti-communism" dramas.
Colour TV began in 1980. Also that year the new quasi-military Fifth Republic of South Korea expropriated TBC, turning it into KBS2, and 70% of MBC, giving that to KBS. However, as political liberalisation began in the late 1980s, changes also began in the TV landscape. One writer cited above speculates that 사랑과 야망 ("Love and Ambition", MBC, 1987) could also have reached "close to 75%" ratings; the other explicitly claims that it got a 78% rating, although TV ratings didn't begin in South Korea until 1992. In 1988 the government reassigned KBS's 70% of MBC to the (government-run) Foundation of Broadcast Culture.
In 1991, the private network SBS began, strictly speaking as a Seoul-only station, but it soon established partnerships with new regional stations in other parts of South Korea, so it effectively became a network in the 1990s. In 1995 cable began, including some stations dedicated to dramas, some of which have since given some dramas their first airings. In 1992, TV ratings came to South Korea, offered by Media Service Korea, since absorbed by AGB Nielsen Media Research. Several writers attribute broadcasters' increasing focus on dramas to the ratings race that followed the increase in the number of channels. Possibly related to this, flagship dramas of typical present lengths started to become dominant. In this context came the very beginnings of the "Korean wave" in TV, discussed below under "Exports".
Meanwhile, in 1991, the government began requiring the networks to buy independent producers' TV shows, such as the K-drama within the drama 매리는 외박중 ("Mary Stayed Out All Night", KBS, 2010). (Independent productions first surpassed network in-house productions in 2002.) After the election of civilian president Kim Young-Sam in 1992, censorship became considerably less obtrusive, and "anti-communism" dramas disappeared from the KBS schedule. In 1994, South Korea, as a WTO member, became obligated to start opening up its TV market; in response, the government began investigating ways to support TV production (in the wake of similar support for film), not only to preserve domestic production for domestic audiences, but also partly for export as a means of building "soft power". These efforts didn't focus on dramas, which were considered inferior - low, commercial, and untraditional - but did result in some young people entering broadcasting who went on to work in dramas.
In 1998, new President Kim Dae-Jung ended prior restraint censorship altogether. In the early 2000s, dramas' export success in the "Korean wave" raised the pay some stars could command, with the result that drama episode production costs rose, but the amount available to spend on most aspects of the production decreased. However, in the wake of the wave, government for the first time began promotional efforts specifically for dramas, although their value is debated.
Exports and the "Korean wave"
The first attempts to export Korean TV owe to a mistake by the KCIA, which claimed that North Korea had an export booth at the Cannes MIPTV Media Market in 1976. South Korean broadcasters were ordered to attend the 1977 show, although only KBS was able to get an export booth, and have continued ever since.
A few dramas were exported through the MIPTV in the 1980s, but KBS preferred to focus on building an export business in animated TV shows instead. At this time, most of the East and Southeast Asian TV markets where Korean dramas would later find their greatest successes were more or less closed. To the extent that East Asian TV networks were importing dramas in the late 1980s, they were mainly American, Taiwanese, or especially the new Japanese "trendy" dramas.
MBC got its own export booth at MIPTV for the first time in 1992, and on the strength of South Korean episode ratings that remain the 9th and 2nd highest respectively for dramas to date, sold 여명의 눈동자 ("Eyes of Dawn", 1991-1992) to Turkey's TRT ("the first Korean television drama to be exported to a European country") and 사랑이 뭐길래 ("What Is Love", 1991-1992) to Hong Kong's ATV.
Two events of 1997 marked the beginning of the "Korean wave" in television. In 1997 the Chinese government network CCTV aired "What Is Love", which became a huge hit; and the Korean won was devalued in the Asian financial crisis. East Asian broadcasters, particularly in Chinese-speaking areas, started to decide that Korean dramas were not only more in tune with local values than Japan's "trendy" dramas, but also a whole lot cheaper. Graphs of income from program exports show an essentially exponential curve whose increase becomes noticeable, but not obviously large, around this time.
In 2003 겨울연가 ("Winter Sonata", KBS, 2002) aired in Japan. It didn't get huge ratings at first, but did get an extremely devoted fandom, resulting in further airings and eventually a smash success. Meanwhile 대장금 ("Dae Jang Geum", MBC, 2003-2004) found similar success in places like Hong Kong (where its final episode became the then highest-rated show in local history) and China, as well as many other countries. In this context, Hong Kong's YesAsia formed a US division, YA Entertainment, to market Korean dramas and films in North America, while the Korean government began providing dramas at low cost or free to the TV networks of many African and South American countries. Those graphs of program export income show steep increases, the exponential curve finally going up, in 2004 and 2005, but then hit a plateau partly thanks to price hikes, with Japan basically replacing China and Taiwan as the main market, until further increases in 2010 and 2011.
More recently, however, YA Entertainment issued its last K-drama in 2012.
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. 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 "Yon- sama".
Some have claimed that Korean drama has improved relations between the two countries as more Japanese people became interested in Korean culture. Greater exposure to all things Korean, including language, cuisine, and history not only positively influenced the perception of Koreans among Japanese people, but also relieved some of the antagonism many Koreans had 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, Japan, which led to an increase of Korean tourists in that part of Japan.
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. 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.
In 2006, South Korean programs on Chinese government TV networks accounted for more than all other foreign programs combined.
Korean dramas have become popular in India, particularly in Manipur where Hindi films and TV serials were banned in 2000. As a result, local television stations began broadcasting subtitled Korean dramas instead. Many young people in Northeast India Mizoram Nagaland and Kolkata Tamilnadu copy the hairstyles and clothes of the Korean actors. Now-a-days they are popular in Tamil Nadu, Assam,Orissa, Mumbai, New Delhi,Bangalore,Andhra Pradesh and Kerala too.Korean Dramas are also popular among K-Pop & Anime fans.
When the popular drama of Dae Jang Geum was on the air in Thailand, Korean food started gaining wide popularity in Thailand. 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.
Popular Korean dramas have become a rising hit in Singapore in the recent years. Prime 12 (now known as Suria) originally aired some Korean dramas in 1996 on a weekly basis (mostly on a Sunday or selected weekdays) when they showed Sandglass. Since 2001, Korean dramas are now shown on Chinese language channel MediaCorp Channel U on a daily basis. Here are a detailed List of programmes broadcast by MediaCorp Channel U.
The top 30 popular Korean dramas in Singapore including "May Queen," "Rooftop Prince," "Faith," "The King 2hearts," "A Gentleman's Dignity," "My Girlfriend is a Gumiho." over the recent years.
Asian dramas, including Korean, have become hits in the 2000s. GMA Network has aired a score of dramas, including "Full House," "All About Eve," "My Name is Sam Soon," "Stairway to Heaven," "Jewel in the Palace," "Endless Love I: Autumn in My Heart", "Endless Love II: Winter Sonata," "Endless Love III: Summer Scent," "Jumong," "Moon Embracing the Sun," "Dong Yi," "Queen Seon Deok," "Temptation of Wife," "Angel's Temptation," "Big Thing," "Secret Garden," "Playful Kiss.," "Attic Cat," "Love Story in Harvard," "Baker King," "Bright Girl," "Lie To Me," "Coffee Prince," "Hwang Ji Ni," "Sassy Girl:Chun-Yang," "Shining Inheritance," "The Legend," "Witch Yoo-Hee", "IRIS", Queen In Hyun's Man (a.k.a. "Queen and I"), "My Daughter Seo-young", "Unexpected You" and "The Innocent Man" among others, according to Joey Abacan, GMA Network vice president for Program Management.
ABS-CBN has aired a number of Koreanovelas, including "Marrying a Millionaire," "101st Proposal," "Green Rose," "Memories of Bali," "A Love to kill," "Boys Over Flowers," "City Hunter," "Dream High," "Equator Man," "first love," "Forbidden Love," "Glory Jane" "Heartstrings." "Helena's Promise," "He's Beautiful," "I am Legend," "Lovers in Paris," "Lovers," "Marry me Mary," "My Girl," "My Fair Lady," "My Girlfriend is a Gumiho," "My Princess," "Oh Feel Young," "Only You," "Perfect Match,""Secret Love:Sungkyunkwan Scandal" "Princess Hour," "Pure Love," "Save the Last Dance for Me," "Something About 1%,"Spring Waltz," "Stained Glass," "Which Star are you from","A Gentleman's Dignity", "Rooftop Prince", "To The Beautiful You", "I Miss You"(a.k.a Missing You), "A Promise of a Thousand Days", "Love Rain", "Ohlala Couples", "That Winter,The Wind Blows" and "Gu Family Book (a.k.a The Love Story of Kang Chi)"
Abacan says Filipinos love Koreanovelas because they can relate to the stories: "Filipinos love drama and stories that we can relate to. Most of the time, the Korean dramas are quite escapist and moving. Aside from the touching plotlines, the production is really a visual experience of places that most of us are not accustomed to seeing,".
Since Korean drama programming is publicly available in areas with ethnic Koreans, k-dramas are obviously popular in the United States in those regions.
In November 2008, Netflix began offering several Korean dramas as part of its video selection. In August 2009, DramaFever began offering free subtitled video streaming service, with video advertisements, in the United States. As of May 2010[update], Korean dramas began airing on a DramaFever channel on Hulu.
Viki streams most of the popular dramas from the last few years, with subtitles in many languages. It also streams English-subtitled versions of the most popular current dramas within a few days of their broadcast in South Korea.
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. Amazon offers streaming of Winter Sonata for a fee.
Watching films or TV dramas from South Korea is a serious offence in North Korea. In 2013, around 80 people were publicly executed for watching smuggled TV shows from the capitalist South.
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.
- Chitransh, Anugya. "'Korean Wave' takes Indian kids in its sway". The Times of India. Retrieved 7 June 2012.
- (Korean)박세연 (13 February 2009). "'아내의 유혹' 40.6% 자체 최고 시청률 '기염'". Newsen. Retrieved 11 October 2012.
- Eckersley, M (ed.) 2009, Drama from the rim: Asian Pacific drama book, 2nd ed., Drama Victoria, Melbourne. p56.
- Eckersley, M (ed.) 2009, Drama from the rim: Asian Pacific drama book, 2nd ed., Drama Victoria, Melbourne. p57.
- Robinson, Michael. 1998. "Broadcasting in Korea, 1924-1937: Colonial Modernity and Cultural Hegemony". Chapter 16, pp. 358-378, of Sharon A. Minichiello, editor, Japan's Competing Modernities: Issues in Culture and Democracy 1900-1930. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press. ISBN 0-8248-1931-4 and ISBN 0-8248-2080-0. Expanded in 1999 as "Broadcasting, Cultural Hegemony, and Colonial Modernity in Korea, 1924-1945". Chapter Two, pp. 52-69 (with endnotes pp. 388-392), of Gi-Wook Shin and Robinson, editors, Colonial Modernity in Korea. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Asia Center. ISBN 0-674-14255-1. For 1927 see 1998 p. 358 or 1999 p. 52, for 1933 see 1998 p. 364 or 1999 p. 63, for 1942 see 1999 p. 62, and for 1944 see 1998 p. 359 or 1999 pp. 53 and 62. Alternatively: Written In The Heavens Subbing Squad (With S2). 2011. <The Rise and Fall of the K-Drama Empire>, chapter 1, "Radio Dayz". , retrieved 10th December, 2013. For 1927 see p. 4, and for 1933 see p. 7.
- With S2, chapter 1, p. 5.
- Robinson 1998 p. 371 or 1999 p. 66.
- With S2, chapter 1, p. 11.
- With S2, chapter 1, p. 8.
- Do Je-hae. 2012. "Book traces history of Korean TV dramas: Analysis on Koreans' fervor for soap operas". Korea Times, 3rd February, 2012. , retrieved 6th December, 2013.
- Kim, Ju Young. 2007. Rethinking Media Flow under Globalisation: Rising Korean Wave and Korean TV and Film Policy Since 1980s. Dissertation, Centre for Cultural Policy Studies, University of Warwick. , retrieved 5th December, 2013. P. 101.
- Jeon, Won Kyung. 2013. The 'Korean Wave' and Television Drama Exports, 1995-2005. Dissertation, School of Culture and Creative Arts, University of Glasgow. , retrieved 5th December, 2013. On pp. 57-58 she argues that 1961 is a better choice than 1956 for the real start of South Korean TV.
- Jeon pp. 69-70.
- Jeon, pp. 57-58
- Kim, p. 102, and Jeon, pp. 57-58.
- Jeon, p. 70.
- Jeon, p. 58.
- Jeon, pp. 70-71.
- blue. 2010. "Top 50 highest-rated TV dramas of all time". Blog post retrieved 28th September, 2013.
- See the anonymous caption to the photo above Do's 2012 Korea Times article.
- Jeon, p. 21.
- Jeon, p. 116
- Jeon, p. 20.
- Jeon, p. 184.
- Kim, p. 104, and Jeon, p. 59.
- Kim, p. 105, and Jeon, pp. 64-65.
- Kim, p. 106, and Jeon, p. 60.
- Shim, Doobo. 2008. "The Growth of Korean Cultural Industries and the Korean Wave". Chapter 1 and pp. 15-31 of Chua Beng Huat and Koichi Iwabuchi, editors, East Asian Pop Culture: Analysing the Korean Wave. [Hong Kong]: Hong Kong University Press. ISBN 978-962-209-893-0. See p. 23.
- Shim, p. 23.
- Citation needed! Lost an account of cable's founding that referred to each station having to pick a genre, one of which was dramas.
- Jeon, pp. 140-149, and Shim, pp. 23-24.
- Jeon, p. 72.
- Jeon, pp. 167ff, and Shim, pp. 29-30.
- Jeon, p. 170.
- Jeon, pp. 75-82.
- Jeon, pp. 125-129
- Jeon, pp. 174-175.
- Jeon, p. 110.
- Jeon, p. 171.
- Jeon, pp. 129-135.
- Jeon, pp. 183-184.
- Jeon, pp. 185-189.
- Shim, pp. 25-26.
- Jeon, p. 11.
- Chua Beng Huat and Koichi Iwabuchi. 2008. "Introduction: East Asian TV Dramas: Identifications, Sentiments and Effects". Pp. 1-12 of Chua and Iwabuchi, editors, East Asian Pop Culture: Analysing the Korean Wave. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press. See p. 2.
- Shim, pp. 24-25.
- Kim, p. 12, and Shim, p. 25.
- Kim, pp. 220ff.
- Jeon, pp. 160-162, and Shim, p. 27.
- Kim, p. 22, and Jeon, p. 163.
- Lee, Jonghoon. 2010. 'Winter Sonata' Dreams: The Influence of the Korean Wave on Japanese Society. MA thesis, Department of Asian Studies, Florida State University. Retrieved 10th August, 2013 from . See pp. .
- Shim, p. 26.
- See the list of YA Entertainment's productions, with release dates, at the "Licensed KDramas" page belonging to D-Addicts and so blacklisted by Wikipedia, retrieved 29th October, 2013. As a workaround, the Internet Archive has a Entertainment catalogue page from 2009 showing that they released Hotelier December 30, 2003; this is the earliest release listed by D-Addicts. Still trying to figure out ownership and current status of Tai Seng Entertainment, which has released at least 14 dramas, vs. YA's circa 70, in Region 1 DVDs; the earliest Tai Seng release of a K-drama listed at Worldcat is a 2003 release of All In.
- Jeon, p. 131.
- Jeon, p. 209 (graph), p. 210 (price hikes), and 212 (Japan vs. China/Taiwan).
- November 2012 issue of the YAE Insider, available at .
- Winter Sonata Fever in Japan. Uniorb.com. Retrieved on 2011-08-15.
- Inoue, Chihiro (13 April 2009). "Spy drama pulls S.Koreans to Akita". The Japan Times. Retrieved 26 April 2010.
- (Korean) 이해리 (4 February 2009). "아리가또∼ 아이리스". Donga. Retrieved 21 April 2010.
- "Akita sees huge increase in Korean tourists". Japan Probe. 16 January 2010. Retrieved 23 April 2010.
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- "India's northeast mesmerized by South Korea". Agence France-Presse. 4 April 2012. Retrieved 4 April 2012.
- Royal Thai Embassy, Seoul || Home > Thailand – ROK Relations > Bilateral relations. Thaiembassy.or.kr. Retrieved on 2011-08-15.
- Korean Dramas Continue to Captivate the Philippines
- Knock it off: Global treaty against media piracy won't work in Asia Jeff Yang, SFGate, 11 November 2009.
- North Korea 'publicly executes 80 people' for watching South Korean films and distributing pornography
- North Korea 'Publicly Executed 80 People,' South Korean Paper Reports
- North Korea 'publicly executes 80 people'