What makes Korean drama so unique

KBS WORLD

history

2015-10-13

In April 2003, the Japanese broadcaster NHK began broadcasting the Korean television drama "Winter Sonata" via satellite. The poignant love story got Japanese audiences moving and started a phenomenon now known as "Hallyu". The love story about Joon-sang and Yoo-jin begins at a high school in Chuncheon. They lose sight of each other after Joon-sang's car accident, but after ten years they run into each other again. Unfortunately, Joon-sang has lost his memory and no longer knows what happened before the accident, but Yoo-jin's unbroken love brings his memory back and the two fall in love again. The fairytale love story in front of a breathtaking snow landscape became the most popular television drama in Japan and sparked a passion for Korean series all over Asia. Not only Japanese viewers loved the drama.

Since the restoration of Korean-Chinese relations in 1992, Korea's pop culture has also entered the Chinese market. The 1993 television show "Jealousy" was the first Korean television drama in China, followed in 1997 by "What Is Love" on CCTV. During this time, the five-member Korean boy band HOT drove young Chinese people crazy and conquered the Chinese music scene. Thousands of Chinese teenagers flocked to the only HOT concert in Beijing in 2000 and made a lasting impression as they sang along with HOT songs in Korean. The Chinese media coined a new term for the sensational Korean dramas and pop songs: "Hallyu", the Korean wave. Pop culture columnist Kim Heon-sik explains it to us in more detail.

The term "Hallyu" was used extensively in the late 1990s. It was first used by the Chinese people's newspaper Renmin Ribao in an article describing how the Chinese love elements of Korean culture. The occasion was the HOT concert in Beijing, and since then "Hallyu" has become a collective term for all of Korean pop culture. In the 21st century, TV dramas like "Winter Sonata" and "Dae Jang Geum" reignited the Hallyu phenomenon.

When the term "Hallyu" first began to circulate, Koreans thought it was more of a fad that would go away in a year or two. However, as television dramas and K-pop music became more and more popular with overseas audiences, interest in Korean culture apparently grew by leaps and bounds. Here a news broadcast from 2001 reports on the Hallyu craze in China.

The enthusiasm for Korean pop culture spread beyond China, first to Taiwan and Hong Kong, and then to Southeast Asia, and from Korean pop culture to other Korean products and traditional cultures, such as kimchi and gochujang. A KBS correspondent in Bangkok reported on November 29, 2002 that Vietnamese youths were crazy about Korean celebrities and were stocking up on their music en masse. He also said Korean-made rice cookers had the largest share of the market in Indonesia, and Korean TVs in Southeast Asia would soon overtake Sony devices.

The drama "Winter Sonata" first aired in January 2002 in Korea. After being broadcast in Korea, the series was first exported to Taiwan and on to Hong Kong, Singapore and Japan in April, creating a demand for Korean TV shows across Asia. In Japan, the enthusiastic reactions to the series, which from April 2003 onwards did not air until 11 p.m. on Saturday evenings, were particularly noticeable. It had television ratings averaging around 14 percent. That was more than three times the ratings of other foreign television programs in the same period. The quota for the last episode of "Winter Sonata" even reached more than 20 percent in the entire island state. The passion for "Winter Sonata" drew large numbers of foreign tourists, mostly from Japan and Southeast Asia, to the drama locations such as Chuncheon City, Nami Island and Yongpyeong Ski Resort.

Japanese tourist 1: This place appears at the beginning of "Winter Sonata". I was very impressed.

Japanese tourist 2: I'm overwhelmed. I could cry at any moment. I feel like I'm about to run into Bae Yong-Joon or Yoo-jin.

Taiwanese tourist: I am overjoyed to see the Yongpyeong ski area, where Choi Ji-woo and Bae Yong-Joon filmed the show.

Singapore tourist: I came to Korea after watching Winter Sonata. I came to this ski resort because of the drama.


The next Hallyu hit after "Winter Sonata" was "Dae Jang Geum", an inspiring story about a cook at the royal court of the Joseon Dynasty who later rose to be a doctor. Up to three billion people have seen “Dae Jang Geum” in 89 countries around the world. It was particularly successful in Hungary and Iran, where the quotas reached 40 and 90 percent respectively. Unlike other television series that had enthusiastic viewers only in Asia, "Dae Jang Geum" was also seen in the Middle East, in African countries such as Zimbabwe and Tanzania, in Central and South America and in Europe and made the great culinary and cultural there Tradition of Korea known. Here's pop culture columnist Kim Heon-sik again.

"Dae Jang Geum" dealt with universal values. Rather than just showing some unique aspects of the Joseon era, the show themed hope, a concept that everyone around the world understands. The drama also let the subject of food, something everyone likes, play a crucial role in the heroine's success story. I think these were the factors that moved the global audience. More importantly, the show was so successful because it combined Asian settings and Western film and television technology, reflecting the ongoing process of globalization.

After “Dae Jang Geum”, other successful TV series such as “Stairway to Heaven”, “Full House”, “Princess Hours” and “Boys over Flowers” ​​were sold to China, Taiwan, Thailand, the Philippines and Singapore, and the wave of Korean ones Pop culture didn't die down. The Korean soap operas had a congenial partner in the growth and spread of Hallyu: K-pop music!

K-pop singer BoA ​​landed at number one on the Japanese Oricon music charts for the first time for a Korean pop star with her first album released in Japan called “Listen to My Heart”. Her dynamic dance and impressive singing talent caused a sensation in Japan, which encouraged her to enter the Chinese and Southeast Asian markets and become a star in all regions of Asia. In BoA's footsteps as a Hallyu pop star, TVXQ and Super Junior followed, who became unreached superstars in Thailand and other Asian countries. When these boy bands visited one of these countries, the airport was almost bursting at the seams with the huge onslaught of fans. The fans shouted their names by the thousands and sang their songs in front of a television station where a program with the stars was recorded. Other K-Pop groups such as SHINee, SES, Girl’s Generation and 2NE1 also garnered an incredibly large following in Japan, China and Southeast Asia.

Another Hallyu phenomenon is Rain, who debuted in 2002 and became a superstar in China and Southeast Asia. He starred in Hollywood blockbusters and was named one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World by Time Magazine. The popularity of K-pop continues. Thanks to YouTube, Facebook and other social networks, the wave also spilled over to Europe and South America. Pop culture columnist Kim Heon-sik explains it to us.

Thanks to the internet, K-pop has been able to take over the world. Korea has been an internet power since the mid-1990s. K-pop music videos circulated on European and Latin American networks and were gradually gaining popularity among the Internet savvy young generation. Through the Internet, K-Pop became the music for young people in Europe and South America.

Then in the summer of 2012 came the "Gangnam Style" from Psy. The cheesy, but persistently fun, music video from "Gangnam Style" had two billion views on YouTube and held second place on the US Billboard singles chart for seven weeks. Psy's "Gangnam Style" became a global megahit and K-Pop became its own brand. For example, many young people around the world are learning Korean in order to sing along to Korean pop songs. Pop culture expert Kim Heon-sik explains why K-pop is so popular.

Each country had different causes of K-pop popularity. Korean pop stars were something new in Japan, although the K-pop industry trains its stars to follow the locals. In China, the authorities banned shows or songs that were too unrealistic. But Korean dramas or boy bands were to a large extent fantasy, which charmed the downtrodden Chinese audience with it. The Chinese also enjoyed the precisely choreographed and rehearsed dance interludes of the pop groups. In America and Europe there were a number of festivals and events where a dance or song that could bring everyone together played a useful role, and the group dances of the K-pop groups went with that. I believe the Korean culture, especially its pop music, was a perfect fit and was able to generate such enthusiastic responses.

Hallyu started out with television drama and K-pop music and has now expanded beyond pop culture into all areas of culture such as fashion, recipes, and traditions. Professor Kim Chang-nam of the Journalism and Broadcasting Institute at Sungkonghoe University says that Hallyu has made a significant contribution to raising the reputation of Korea and promoting Korean culture.

In one way or another, Hallyu played a significant role in enhancing the prestige and cultural status of Korea, and its results are manifested in various ways. Korea's booming tourism and improved international status are likely due to Hallyu. For example, Korean TV dramas and K-pop became surprisingly popular in Eastern Europe and the Middle East, regions that did not have regular cultural exchanges with Korea, and Korean pop culture certainly helped to improve Korea's standing in those countries. In return, Korea has started to develop an interest in the regions and has seized the opportunity for a more active cultural exchange.

Korea's pop music and television series bridge the boundaries of nations, nationalities and religions and capture the hearts of millions of people around the world. It's been more than a decade since the waves of Korean pop culture began to sway, but Hallyu is not going to ebb anytime soon because Korean culture has so much more to offer people around the world.

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