Korean drama (Hangul: 한국드라마), k-drama or KD's for short, refers to televised dramas, in a miniseries or more often telenovela 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.
- 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 Other related issues
- 9 See also
- 10 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. The Fugitive: Plan B in 2010, for example, was extended from 16 to 20 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. 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 Full House 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, with most programming in Japanese but 30% in Korean; the Korean programs included radio dramas also starting in 1927, chiefly adaptations of Korean and translated Western theatrical works, and with close ties to live theatre. In 1933, a separate Korean-language station went on air; by this time a "Radio Drama Hour" at 7 p.m. was well established. The first original radio drama, The Elder Coachman (Hangul: 노차부) by Kim Hee-Chang, aired in 1934, and in 1936 the first serial aired. The Korean-language station was shut down in 1942, and all Korean-language programming ended in 1944. However, Korean broadcasting resumed promptly after the Japanese surrender.
After the Korean War, radio dramas such as Cheongsilhongsil (1954) reflected the country's mood, and radio remained the dominant entertainment medium despite the beginning of TV broadcasting in South Korea 12 May 1956. The Gate to Heaven (Hangul: 천국의 문), a fifteen-minute drama, aired that August. TV dramas continued to air thereafter in the 1950s, primarily as adaptations of stage plays or novels, and not as serials.
The Supreme Council for National Reconstruction considered a TV network a worthwhile propaganda arm, and on 31 December 1961 KBS TV went on the air; on 26 January 1962, I Want to Become a Man (Hangul: 나도 인간이 되련다) aired as the first single-episode drama in a series called Friday Night Stage (Hangul: 금요극장). South Korea's first serial TV drama, a children's show, Young's Diary (Hangul: 영이의 일기), began airing 4 February 1962; the first adult serial, The Back Alleys of Seoul (Hangul: 서울의 뒷골목), began 3 June 1962. First sageuk 10,000 Ri of Territory (Hangul: 국토만리), sixteen episodes, followed in 1964, as did the first "anti-communism" dramas, single-episode stories in the series Real Stories (Hangul: 실화극장). Private network TBC aired drama The First Snow (Hangul: 첫눈) and the first episode of serial drama The Falling Snow (Hangul: 눈이 나리는데) on its first day of TV broadcasting, 7 December 1964; unlike KBS until years later, TBC used videotape, although it didn't get a recorder with editing capability until July 1965 at the earliest. MBC began broadcasting TV 8 August 1969, and the next day aired Lovers of the Sun (Hangul: 태양의연인들), on the 10th began daily drama Dear Reed (Hangul: 사랑하는 갈대) and on the 12th weekly Strange Child (Hangul: 이상한아이). The networks came to focus 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.
Popular dramas of the 1970s may have included Lady (Hangul: 아씨, TBC, 1970-1971) and Journey (Hangul: 여로, KBS, 1972), which one writer speculates might have gotten "close to 75%" ratings, had ratings existed in South Korea then; another writer says the latter "swept the nation"; and a third mentions "two dramas in the early 1970's" as prompting a "Golden Age". However, 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.
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 Love and Ambition (Hangul: 사랑과 야망, MBC, 1987) could also have reached "close to 75%" ratings; another 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.
Private network SBS went on air 9 December 1991, 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. SBS aired single-episode drama Dream of the Whale (Hangul: 고래의 꿈) on its first day, and began serial Door to Solitude (Hangul: 고독의 문) the next. 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 Mary Stayed Out All Night (Hangul 매리는 외박중, KBS2, 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.
Although the highest South Korean ratings for dramas of the 1990s and early 2000s have not been matched since, as recently as 2010 the final episode of King of Baking, Kim Takgu (Hangul: 제빵왕 김탁구, KBS2) was watched by about 50% of viewers, as measured by both ratings agencies.
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 Eyes of Dawn (Hangul: 여명의 눈동자, 1991-1992) to Turkey's TRT ("the first Korean television drama to be exported to a European country") and What Is Love (Hangul: 사랑이 뭐길래, 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 much 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 Winter Sonata (Hangul: 겨울연가, 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 Dae Jang Geum (Hangul: 대장금, 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 Kolkata and 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. Also as a part of cultural exchange Indian Public Broadcaster i.e. DDNational telecasted Emperor of the Sea and Jewel in the palace.
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 the only Korean drama series Sandglass in 1996 on a weekly basis (mostly on a Sunday or selected weekdays). 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. Joey Abacan, GMA Network vice president for Program Management, 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,".
Top 10 Top Korean Dramas (By Average): 1. Full House (GMA, 2005) 42.3% 2. Stairway to Heaven (GMA, 2005) 36.1% 3. Jewel in the Palace (GMA, 2006) 35.4% 4. My Name is Kim Sam Soon (GMA, 2006) 34.9% 5. Lovers in Paris (ABS-CBN, 2004) 34.4% 6. Only You (ABS-CBN, 2006) 33.6% 7. Autumn in my Heart (GMA, 2003) 33.4% 8. Winter Sonata (GMA, 2003) 33.0% 9. Jumong (GMA, 2006) 32.7% 10. Love Story in Harvard (GMA, 2008) 32.4% 
Knowing more about Korean dramas in the Philippines, see Korean drama of the Philippines.
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.
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.
Since then, many emerging sites, as well as k-drama blogs, sites, "free" video replays, among others are being popular for most k-fans today. Some "free" video replays, containing about free Korean drama replay videos, episodes, and many others are became trending for most k-fans want to watch replay videos about Korean dramas for free, especially for some k-fans in other countries want it to watch these replay videos also.
- List of South Korean television series
- List of South Korean broadcasting networks
- SBS[disambiguation needed]
- Korean wave
- 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. See 1998 p. 358 or 1999 p. 52.
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- With S2, chapter 3, p. 43, and 1962 Yearbook, p. .
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- Written In The Heavens Subbing Squad (With S2). 2011. The Rise and Fall of the K-Drama Empire, chapter 4, "The Art of War". , retrieved 10 December 2013. See p. 65. No more chapters seem to have appeared.
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- Chosun Ilbo for 9 August 1969, p. 4. Translation courtesy of Ms. Hyokyoung Yi of the University of Washington's East Asia Library.
- An MBC page. Confirmed in Chosun Ilbo for 14 August 1969, p. 8. Translation from Google Translate probably isn't reliable, and probably isn't normal English title for this show, if there is one.
- Chosun Ilbo for 12 August 1969, p. 8, and for 19 August 1969, p. 8. Translation from Google Translate may not be reliable, and may not be normal English title for this show, if there is one.
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- blue. 2010. "Top 50 highest-rated TV dramas of all time". Blog post retrieved 28 September 2013.
- See the anonymous caption to the photo above Do's 2012 Korea Times article; 여로 can be transliterated as "Yeoroh".
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- 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.
- The Korea Times for 8 December 1991, p. 10.
- The Korea Times for 10 December 1991, p. 10.
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- Citation needed! Lost an account of cable's founding that referred to each station having to pick a genre, one of which was dramas.
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- 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.
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- 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 10 August 2013 from . See pp. 12-13.
- 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 29 October 2013. As a workaround, the Internet Archive has a YA Entertainment catalogue page from 2009 showing that they released Hotelier 30 December 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 87, on DVD in the US; 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.
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- "Akita sees huge increase in Korean tourists". Japan Probe. 16 January 2010. Retrieved 23 April 2010.
- [dead link]
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- 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.