Dear Wikiwand AI, let's keep it short by simply answering these key questions:
Can you list the top facts and stats about Korean drama?
Summarize this article for a 10 year old
Korean drama (Korean: 한국 드라마; RR: Han-guk deurama), also known as Koreanovela or K-drama, refers to Korean-language television shows made in South Korea. These shows began to be produced around the early 1960s, but were mostly consumed domestically until the rise of the Korean Wave in the 1990s. They have since achieved significant international popularity, with millions of viewers across the world.
Beginning around the 1970s, more and more households in South Korea owned televisions. Programs were often produced on low budgets and were mostly consumed domestically. The industry significantly developed in the 1980s, after the spread of color television. Beginning in the early 1990s, several Korean dramas began achieving significant international popularity, primarily in China and Japan. In addition, South Korean popular music ("K-pop") and films began seeing similar successes, which gave rise to rapid international adoption of South Korean media in a phenomenon commonly called the Korean Wave. In the following decades, viewership spread throughout the globe, especially in the regions of Southeast Asia, South Asia, Central Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and North Africa, and Eastern Europe. In 2008, the Korean drama Jumong achieved 85% viewership in Iran, and in 2012, over 90% of Iraqi Kurdistan watched the show Hur Jun. Rapid growth continued into the 2010s, with the rise in online streaming. Around this period, the video streaming company Netflix took interest in the phenomenon, and began releasing Korean dramas on its platform, as well as creating and funding ones. This culminated in the release of the 2021 Squid Game, which was watched by more than 142 million households in its first four weeks. In 2022, Netflix reported that six in ten of its 221 million subscribers had watched a Korean program in the last year, and in April 2023, it announced that it would invest US$2.5 billion in the industry.
The success of Korean dramas has had a significant economic impact on the country. In 2022, US$561.3 million of Korean television content was sold abroad, which was a 29.6% increase from the previous year. The industry also employs tens of thousands of people, although its strenuous working conditions have been criticized. Korean dramas have also been cited as a motivation for tourists to visit the country.
A single director usually leads Korean dramas, which are often written by a single screenwriter. This often leads to each drama having distinct directing and dialogue styles. This differs from American television series, which can rely on multiple directors and writers working together.
The 19:00 to 21:00 evening time slots have usually been reserved for daily dramas, which run every night from Monday through Friday. Dramas in these slots are in the telenovela format, rarely running over 150 episodes. Unlike American soap operas, these daily dramas are not broadcast during the daytime. Instead, the daytime schedule often includes reruns of the flagship dramas. The nighttime dailies can achieve very high ratings. During the late 2000s, for example, the weekend series First Wives' Club recorded 41.3%, according to TNS Korea, and the evening series Temptation of Wife peaked at 40.6%, according to TNS Korea.
Plots and storylines
K-dramas have a multitude of different genre such as action dramas, historical dramas, school dramas, medical dramas, legal dramas, or even horror comedies. While most dramas contain romantic elements and deep emotional themes, some may also contain a tragedy or slice of life theme. There are various styles and tones.
The main themes of Korean television dramas are friendship, family values, and love, blending traditional Confucian with Western materialism and individualism.
However, it is an emerging trend amongst Korean dramas to showcase ongoing societal issues of Korean society, such as stigma of mental illness, gender inequality, suicide, classism, bullying, spy cameras, corruption, homophobia, or racism.
The term sageuk refers to any Korean television or film drama that is either based on historical figures, incorporates historical events, or uses a historical backdrop. While sageuk directly translates to "historical drama", the term is typically reserved for dramas taking place throughout the course of Korean history.
Since the mid-2000s, some sageuk dramas have achieved major success outside of Korea, in places such as the Asia-Pacific, Central Asia, Greater Middle East, Central and Eastern Europe and Latin America. Sageuks including Dae Jang Geum (Jewel in the Palace), Yi San (Lee San, Wind of the palace) and Jumong enjoyed strong ratings in countries such as Vietnam, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Fiji and Iran. Jumong, which aired on IRIB (Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting) in 2008, had 85% viewership.
Often centered on a love story, series set in contemporary times often focus on family ties and romantic relationships. Characters are mostly idealized with Korean male protagonists described as handsome, intelligent, rich, and in search of "one true love". This has also been a contributing factor to the popularity of Korean dramas among women.
Radio broadcasting, including the broadcasting of radio dramas in Korea, began in 1927 under Japanese rule, with most programming in Japanese and around 30% in Korean. After the Korean War, radio dramas such as Cheongsilhongsil (1954) reflected the country's mood.
Television broadcasting began in 1956 with the launch of an experimental station, HLKZ-TV, which was shut down a few years later due to a fire. The first national television channel was Korean Broadcasting System (KBS), which started up in 1961. The first Korean television film was a 15-minute piece titled The Gate of Heaven (천국의 문, Cheongugui mun), on HLKZ-TV.
The first television series was aired by KBS in 1962. Their commercial competitor, Tongyang Broadcasting (TBC), had a more aggressive program policy and aired controversial dramas as well. The first historical TV series aired was Gukto manri (국토만리), directed by Kim Jae-hyeong (김재형), depicting the Goryeo era. In the 1960s, television sets were of limited availability, thus dramas could not reach a larger audience.
In the 1970s, television sets started to spread among the general population, and dramas switched from portraying dramatic historical figures to introducing national heroes like Yi Sun-shin or Sejong the Great. Contemporary series dealt with personal sufferings, such as Kim Soo-hyun's influential Stepmother (새엄마, Saeeomma), aired by MBC in 1972 and 1973. As technology and funding was limited, Korean channels could not make series in resource-heavy genres like action and science fiction; American and other foreign series were imported instead.
The 1980s saw a change in Korean television, as color TV became available. Modern dramas tried to evoke nostalgia from urban dwellers by depicting rural life. Kim Soo-hyun's first real commercial success, Love and Ambition (사랑과 야망, Saranggwa yamang), aired on MBC in 1987 and is regarded as a milestone of Korean television, having recorded a 78% viewership. "Streets became quiet at around the airing time of the drama as 'practically everyone in the country' was at home in front of the TV", according to The Korea Times. The most outstanding classical historical series of the era is considered to be 500 Years of Joseon (조선왕조500년, Joseonwangjo 500 nyeon), a serial that ran for eight years, consisting of 11 separate series. The serial was produced by Lee Byung-hoon, who later directed one of the biggest international successes of Korean drama, Dae Jang Geum (2003–04), which was sold in 150 countries.
The 1990s brought another important milestone for Korean television. As technology developed, new opportunities arose, and the beginning of the decade marked the launch of a new commercial channel; Seoul Broadcasting System (SBS), which facilitated and re-initiated a race for catching viewers' attention. The first real commercial success among Korean television series was Eyes of Dawn (여명의 눈동자, Yeomyeongui nundongja), aired in 1991 by MBC, starring Chae Shi-ra and Choi Jae-sung. The series led the viewers through turbulent times from the Japanese rule to the Korean War. The 1992 MBC miniseries Jealousy starring Choi Jin-sil and Choi Soo-jong is considered the first "trendy drama", marking a breakthrough in filming techniques and the beginning of the romantic comedy genre in Korean dramas. The series depicted the lifestyles of young people of the era and is one of the first dramas to air in China, along with Eyes of Dawn. New channel SBS also produced successful series, one of them being Sandglass in 1995. Sandglass was another trendy drama, which the Korean Culture and Information Service considers an important milestone, having changed the way Korean dramas are made by introducing a new format. In this decade, the new miniseries format became widespread, with 12 to 24 episodes. The term Hallyu (Korean: 한류) which comes from Mandarin 韓流, (Pinyin: hán liú) was coined in the late 1990s after the success of Star in My Heart in China, and its popularity elevated the main cast to Hallyu stardom. This era marked the start of export for Korean dramas, setting off the Korean Wave.
The beginning years of the 2000s gave birth to famous Korean dramas and also marked the period of overseas distribution. Some popular ones are Full House, Autumn in My Heart and Winter Sonata. It marks the birth of a new genre, called "fusion sageuk", essentially changing the ways to produce historical series, with successful pieces such as Hur Jun, Damo and Dae Jang Geum.
The late 2010s and 2020s saw newfound attention of K-dramas from international markets. Netflix had begun seeking productions from South Korea and other countries since around 2018 to expand offerings for their service with a growing international audience. These efforts came to fruition when Hwang Dong-hyuk's Squid Game drew in more than 111 million viewers within 17 days of its released in September 2021, becoming the service's most-watched program.
In the 2020s, several production companies began to produce dramas even before the first season was aired, keeping in mind the season system. The most representative series is The Penthouse: War in Life series, which gained sensational popularity as it aired over three seasons. The biggest reason why Korean dramas introduced the season system is interpreted as changes in the industry due to the 52-hour workweek, viewers' rejection of feature-length dramas, and excessive supply of dramas. At the same time, MBC and tvN's anomalous organization began to be criticized a lot. tvN extended one episode of the drama to 2 hours and 20 minutes. delaying it to the late night of another drama. In particular, the running time of the last episode of Hospital Playlist was close to three hours, but even though it was reduced after editing, it delayed the formation of the next The Road: The Tragedy of One to late night as it passed two hours. And MBC canceled telenovela The Second Husband and reran the thriller The Veil at that time.
Korean series were originally produced in-house by the television channels themselves, but have been outsourced to independent companies since the 2000s. In 2012, as much as 75% of all K-dramas were produced this way. Competition is fierce among these companies; out of 156 registered firms, only 34 of them produced dramas that were actually aired in 2012.
In the late 2010s, a typical Korean drama may cost as much as ₩700 million per episode. Historical dramas have a bigger budget; one episode of the historical romance The Red Sleeve cost as much as ₩950 million. Recently, factors such as improving the work environment, along with whether to sign contracts with domestic and foreign OTT companies such as Netflix have served as variables. For example, Kingdom had a budget of ₩2 billion per episode, while ₩3 billion were spent on each episode of Sweet Home.[unreliable source?]
Often, production companies overrun their budgets and cannot pay salaries. In 2012, actors held a demonstration in front of the headquarters of KBS, expressing their concerns. Actors are usually paid after the last episode is aired. In series made by smaller production companies, there have been cases where the companies went bankrupt and could not pay their actors and crew, while the channel denied all responsibility, claiming all liability was with the bankrupt production firm. Producer Kim Jong-hak spent ₩10 billion on Faith, which was considered a commercial failure, resulting in the inability of Kim to pay crew salaries and other overheads. Kim, who had produced iconic dramas such as Eyes of Dawn and Sandglass, committed suicide after he was accused of embezzlement.
The biggest stars may earn more than ₩200 million per episode, with Kim Soo-hyun, the lead of hit dramas Moon Embracing the Sun (2012), My Love from the Star (2013) and It's Okay to Not Be Okay (2020) reportedly receiving ₩500 million per episode for One Ordinary Day in 2021.
As producing a series involves high expenses, production companies seek to shoot the episodes in the shortest time possible. In contrast to practices elsewhere, the first four episodes of Korean series are usually shot in advance, but the rest are shot continuously as the series is being aired. Scripts are not finished in advance, and may change according to viewer feedback and viewership ratings, where popular characters receive increased screen time and plotlines are changed to match audience expectations. These changes may occur a few hours before daily shooting, and the crew might receive only a few ready pages. The production usually works with three camera crews, who work in a rotating manner to speed up filming. Because of unregulated script changes and tight shooting schedules, actors are almost continuously on standby, and have no time to leave the set or sleep properly. The Korean media have a separate word to describe irregular, short sleeps that actors resort to, in often uncomfortable positions, or within the set: jjok-jam (쪽잠), or "side-sleeping". Dramas usually air on two days every week, with following episodes having to be shot within the intervening five days. Some Korean actors have admitted to receiving IV therapy during filming, due to extreme schedules and exhaustion.[unreliable source?] Nonetheless, the live-shoot model remains widely used since the production team can react to real time audience feedback.
Production teams originally sent two tapes to the channels; a primary copy and a backup copy. However, due to the tight filming schedules, a 70-minute episode might arrive at the broadcasting station on seven separate tapes in ten-minute installments. It happened that while the episode is being broadcast, the crew would be still shooting the last minutes or cutting the rest of the episode. During the airing of the nineteenth episode of Man from the Equator, screens countrywide went black for 10 minutes. Actor Kwon Sang-woo was openly complaining that he was still shooting King of Ambition 30 minutes before the last episode began airing. In South Korea, some production teams still do planning and scheduling manually, instead of using dedicated software.
In 2016, dramas such as Descendants of the Sun, Uncontrollably Fond, Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo and Hwarang: The Poet Warrior Youth were all pre-produced before airing. Nonetheless, some pre-produced episodes are often re-edited or even reshot the day of airing, due to audience feedback.
The larger broadcasting companies have their own dedicated shooting locations for historical dramas, with extensive and elaborate sets. MBC's series are shot at the Yongin Daejanggeum Park in Gyeonggi Province, while KBS dramas utilize the Mungyeongsaejae Studio (문경새재 KBS촬영장) in North Gyeongsang Province and their studio in Suwon.
Actors and actresses
In the 2000s, it became customary to cast popular K-pop idols in dramas. Initially, this generated mixed reactions. Their appearance had provoked predominantly negative reactions outside their fandom because some idols' acting was not viewed as professional. Also, some idols were criticized for poor acting. Nowadays, this has become much more common feature in Korean dramas, as the public has been getting more used to the concept of "idol actors" and some idols have become known for their excellent acting skills. Their critical reception is still mixed, however, some of them, like Bae Suzy, IU, Yim Si-wan, Seo In-guk, Ok Taec-yeon, Park Jin-young, Doh Kyung-soo and Im Yoon-ah, became successful as actors and actresses.
There were also instances of children taking up careers as child actors or actresses, usually portraying either the younger versions of some characters or the children of the adult characters from dramas. Subsequently, there were some child actors and actresses who continue pursuing acting careers even after reaching adulthood, and with some achieving success even after adulthood. Notably, such people include actors like Yoon Chan-young, Park Solomon, Yoo Seung-ho and Yeo Jin-goo; and actresses like Kim So-hyun, Lee Se-young, Nam Ji-hyun, Kim Hyang-gi, Moon Geun-young, Park Shin-hye, Kim Sae-ron and Kim Yoo-jung.
Scriptwriters and directors
Scriptwriters and directors of Korean dramas are often as well known as actors are. An overwhelming majority of scriptwriters (90% according to the Beijing Metro Reader) are women, who not only write love stories but action series as well. Compared to Korean cinema, television is more appealing for scriptwriters as contract conditions are better, acknowledgment is greater, and the salary is higher.
Famous scriptwriters tend to have a say in their field. The most well-known scriptwriters include the Hong sisters, who wrote popular series such as My Girl, You're Beautiful and My Girlfriend Is a Gumiho; Kim Soon-ok, the screenwriter of The Penthouse: War in Life, The Last Empress, Band of Sisters, Jang Bo-ri is Here! and Temptation of Wife; Kim Eun-sook, the screenwriter of Lovers in Paris, Secret Garden, The Heirs, Descendants of the Sun, Guardian: The Lonely and Great God, and The Glory; Lee Kyung-hee, famous for I'm Sorry, I Love You and The Innocent Man; male writer Choi Wan-kyu of Midas and Triangle; Noh Hee-kyung, the author of That Winter, the Wind Blows; and It's Okay, That's Love; and Park Ji-eun, who wrote My Husband Got a Family, My Love from the Star, The Producers, Legend of the Blue Sea and Crash Landing on You. In particular, writer Kim Soon-ok is famous for captivating male viewers who did not watch dramas well. In 2021, an article called "Kim Soon-ok, Kim Eun-sook, and Kim Eun-hee" was also published, referring to star writers.
Acknowledged TV directors include Lee Byung-hoon, who directed Hur Jun, Dae Jang Geum and Yi San; Kim Jong-hak, the director of Eyes of Dawn, Sandglass, The Legend and Faith;, Pyo Min-soo [ko], the director of Full House, Worlds Within and Iris II and Jang Tae-yoo who directed War of Money, Painter of the Wind, Deep Rooted Tree , My Love from the Star and Hyena. In recent years, director Jo Hyun-tak was also propelled to fame through his works Sky Castle, which became one of the highest rated dramas in Korean cable television history, and Snowdrop, which, despite its alleged historical distortions, was ranked first among the most-watched series on Disney+ in Asian countries like Singapore and South Korea.
While scriptwriters are mostly women, directors are usually men. Some female directors have risen to prominence, such as Lee Na-jeong (이나정), who directed The Innocent Man, and Lee Yun-jeong (이윤정), whose most famous works are Coffee Prince and Heart to Heart. The latter director is also the first female television producer employed by Munhwa Broadcasting Corporation (MBC).
Music plays an important role in Korean dramas. Original soundtracks, abbreviated OST's, are explicitly made for each series, and in contrast to American series, fans have a need to buy the soundtrack album of dramas. This trend started in the 1990s, when producers swapped purely instrumental soundtracks for songs performed by popular K-pop singers. Tom Larsen, director of YA Entertainment, a distributor of Korean TV series, thinks that Korean soundtracks are polished enough musically to be considered standalone hits.
During the 2000s, it became customary for lead actors to participate in original soundtracks, also partially due to the employment of K-pop stars as actors. Actor Lee Min-ho, and leader of boy band SS501, Kim Hyun-joong both recorded songs for Boys Over Flowers, while the actors of You're Beautiful formed a fictional band and held concerts, where they perform the soundtracks live.[unreliable source?]
OST songs of popular K-dramas can also become hits on regular music charts, with good sales of both physical and digital albums. The chart performance of the OST songs usually co-relate to the popularity of the drama. Songs from the OST of Secret Garden for example, had high digital sales and high rankings on music charts.[unreliable source?] My Destiny, performed by Lyn for My Love from the Star, led music charts in Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea, and other Asian countries. It also won the Best OST award at the 2014 Baeksang Arts Awards.[unreliable source?] The soundtrack album of You're Beautiful sold 57,000 physical copies. Performers of OST songs for action series Iris held two concerts in Japan in front of an audience of 60,000 people.
Although the songs in Korean dramas may be a few or repetitive, their choosing process is not considered easy since they are made to convey emotions or scenes. Rocoberry, who composed the soundtrack for Guardian: The Lonely and Great God, created 12 different compositions before I Will Go to You Like the First Snow was chosen, and rewrote it seven times before it got the approval of the production team.
OST composers usually look for singers who have previously had success in the genre. Songs are written to reflect the mood of the series and their structure. Sometimes performers give their own songs for a series. For example, Baek Ji-young thought her song That Man, originally written for her own album, would fit Secret Garden. There are popular OST singers who are often employed, like Baek Ji-young, Lyn, and Lee Seung-cheol.[unreliable source?] Sometimes, foreign singers are invited to perform songs for Korean OST. For instance, Swedish artist Lasse Lindh sang several songs for series like Angel Eyes, Soul Mate, I Need Romance, and Guardian: The Lonely and Great God.
The television rating system is regulated by the Korea Communications Commission, and was implemented in 2000. According to the system, programs, including Korean dramas, are rated according to the following principles (ratings irrelevant to dramas are omitted):
- : programs that may be inappropriate for children under 12, such as mild violence, suggestive themes or language.
- : programs that may be inappropriate for children under 15. Most dramas and talk shows are rated this way. These programs may include moderate or strong adult themes, language, sexual inference, and violence.
- : programs intended for adults only. These programs might include adult themes, sexual situations, frequent use of strong language and disturbing scenes of violence.