Korean drama in Asia

So in this blog post I will particularly focus on Korean drama, which is not very familiar in Australia.

With people living outside Asia, Kpop is the thing that bring Korean Wave to them. What they know about Korean entertainment industry is mostly about Gangnam Style. But the truth is, television dramas is the thing that launched the explosion of Hallyu over Asia.

The very first thing that is essential to mention when talking about Korean dramas is Winter Sonata, one of the most typical series of South Korea (SK). This film was first broadcasted in 2002 and became a big hit at that time, not only inside SK but also in neighboring countries. It could be said that Winter Sonata is the tv series that not only marked the success of Hallyu but also is the milestone of diplomatic relation between South Korea and Japan. According to Ryoo (2009), the film “has done more politically for SK and Japan than the FIFA World Cup  they co-hosted in 2002”. Contemporary Prime Minister of Japan Koizumi(2004) had a joke that in Japan, Bae Yong Joon (main actor) was even more famous than him.


Some other phenomenal Korean dramas including Jewel in the Palace(2003), Boys over flower(2009) and recent The Heirs(2013). A similar point of most of all those films is a melodramatic love story between a poor and silly girl with a rich and gifted boy who have been through struggles to be together. But sometimes, one of them unfortunately got blood cancer so the other one lives the rest her/his life carrying the image of the lover beside. Though current Korean drama plot is so much more diverse but that one is still favorited.


All those dramas have tremendous influence in Asia. “They start watching Korean drama on television and then after that come the pop songs from the boy bands. All of it has influence in Thailand,” said professor Vorasuang Duangchinda. He also said “after that, they become fans of everything Korean — Korean food, Korean culture. Many of my students can even speak Korean because of [the entertainment].”

In Vietnam, it is not difficult to find youngsters who get dressed and make up like SK protagonists. The felt jackets of Kim Tan in The Heirs has become a fever in Vietnam for a long time. Not only in daily life but Korean pop culture is also absorbed and used in Vietnamese movies. An example of it is the movie “The Long Gone Boy” (2014). It is a sad story about a young, famous and handsome singer who has cancer and only has 5 more years to live. Almost everything about this movie, from plot to clothing style of characters are very Korean.

With the resound success of Hallyu, Korea has become the seventh largest film market in the world. The total amount of television program exports increased from $5.5 million (1995) to $150.9 million (2007). The majority of Korean cultural products were consumed in Asia, especially Japan (57.4%), Taiwan (18.4%), and China and Hong Kong (8.9%) which dramas accounted for the largest share (87.8%).

In my presentation, I listed some reasons for Hallyu success, including its target towards the masses, the involvement of Western elements, but the most important point is the similarities among cultures, I think. It is like in a class, local student with local student while international with international. Similarities brings people together. “Asian audiences find the melodramatic and family-oriented messages relevant to their lives”, Ryoo(2002).

Through more than a decade, Korean dramas has become more than a symbol of Korean cinema. Some are good, some are bad. But it somehow become an indispensable part of a majority of Asian daily life. It itself somewhat is a culture.

  • Farrar, L 2010, “Korean Wave’ of pop culture sweeps across Asia”, CNN, 31 Dec http://edition.cnn.com/2010/WORLD/asiapcf/12/31/korea.entertainment/
  • Ryoo, W 2009, “Globalisation, or the logic of cultural hybridization: the case of the Korean wave”, Asian Journal of Communication, vol. 19, no. 2, p.137-157
  • Jin, D 2012, “Hallyu 2.0: The Korean Wave in the Creative Industry”, International Institue Journal, vol.2, no.1.
  • 2013, K-drama: A new tv genre with global appeal, 18 Aug, p.17

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