How effective will China’s ban on K-dramas be?

chinese ban on korean dramas kdrama

Early in July 2016, South Korea and the US agreed to deploy the US Army’s Terminal High Altitude Area Defense System (THAAD) to the Korean Peninsula as North Korea continues to test launch intermediate-range ballistic missiles. South Korea says it wants the system for protection against North Korean missiles, but China feels the system will be used to spy on strategic Chinese locations. To retaliate for South Korea’s defensive move, China has banned Korean entertainers from appearing in China and banned K-dramas altogether. Enforcing that ban and asking Chinese viewers to stop watching K-dramas may be a bit more complicated than that for a variety of reasons.

It’s hard to know how the Chinese people feel about this ban. China’s state news agency Xinhua said there’s support for the ban because the Chinese love their country more than they love K-drama, but Chinese viewers might find it hard to break up with this highly addictive form of entertainment. In some ways, the choice forced on viewers can be compared to that much loved K-drama trope: the love triangle. On one hand, there’s a government saying love of country comes first. On the other, there’s hyper-addictive entertainment with attractive stars that has won Chinese hearts. Who wins? China’s government may want to take note. In k-dramas the female lead usually chooses the more attractive and charismatic alternative.

The popularity of South Korean entertainment media in China has never pleased the Chinese government. Every new K-drama success prompted a warning from the government. When the recent drama Descendents of the Sun hit over 400 million views, the government issued a warning saying that “watching Korean dramas could be dangerous, and even lead to legal troubles.” While that particular statement did not explain what those “legal troubles” were, dramas reportedly caused a pregnant Chinese woman to almost miscarry after bingeing on the fried chicken consumed in the drama “My Love From The Star” and another young woman to develop glaucoma after binge-watching a drama.

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The government has long decried the values K-dramas depict; values that are more in line with capitalist countries, such as the U.S., and cautioned citizens against their not-so-subtle influence. Following the recent political defense move by South Korea, the Chinese government decided to ban appearances by Korean drama and K-pop celebrities.

For starters, Chinese viewers have become used to Korean content. By 2006, Korean dramas already accounted for more of the programming on Chinese television than any other foreign programming and the demand continued to grow. This, in part, is why China’s political advisory body, the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Congress (CPPCC), held a meeting in 2014 to discuss the dangerous appeal. The focus? Why could the Chinese government not make comparable television dramas that appeal around the globe when China had long considered itself the standard bearer for Asian culture.

While the Chinese government and industry pondered the question a lot of money left China earmarked for Korean entertainment companies and the makers of the products promoted in them. As successive dramas aired, the price for episodes went up, funneling even more Chinese money to Korea. The YSL lipstick shade worn by Jun Ji Hyun, star of the 2014 drama You Who Came From The Stars, sold out almost immediately. Chinese imports of South Korean beauty products doubled in 2015. Moreover, increasing numbers of Chinese tourists traveled to Korea to visit drama sites, including “You Who Came From The Stars,” often outnumbering Korean tourists at the same sites.

Doing business in China was profitable for the Korean entertainment community, which increasingly catered to fandoms there. The variety show Running Man made more money from the sale of copyright for the Chinese version than it did domestically. The casting of stars in K-drama or variety shows was influenced by their popularity in China. For example, Park Hae Jin was a smart casting choice in Cheese in the Trap not only because he was right for the part, but also due to his huge following in China.

During the last decade more Hallyu actors appeared in Chinese dramas and Chinese actors became more common in Korean dramas. Dramas such as Descendants of the Sun, starring Song Hye Kyo and Song Joong Ki, and Saimdang: The Herstory, starring Lee Young Ae and Song Seung Heon, were filmed completely in advance, partly to make it easier for Chinese censors to screen out sensitive material that might offend Chinese audiences. Censorship is a must when dramas air in China. For example, Doctor Stranger had the North Korean segments removed before it could be shown in China, as the government supports the North Korean regime.

The Chinese government also wanted some of the K-drama revenue to stay in China, insisting that Chinese companies had to invest in or co-produce any dramas that could be shown there. As a result, Seoul and Beijing signed a Free Trade Agreement in June 2015, and Chinese investment in the entertainment industry surged to $86 million in 2016. That’s a considerable amount of Chinese money entangled in the future of K-dramas, especially considering that future may be uncertain.

After the Chinese government threatened to ban Korea’s pop stars and actors, China’s Morning Post newspaper quoted industry experts saying that they were told to postpone any plans for new programs that involve South Korean stars or copyright for South Korean shows. Additionally, appearances by Korean stars were immediately canceled, the first being events for Uncontrollably Fond stars Kim Woo Bin and Suzy Bae and Park Bo Gum of Reply 1988. Song Joong Ki, the star of Descendents of the Sun, has seen his ads removed from China’s smartphones. The smartphone company Vivo cited “unavoidable circumstances.”

So what does that mean for Korean-Chinese productions? According to the American entertainment publication Variety, Chinese-Korean co-productions and talent are to be restricted, but shows already being filmed and aired may be exempt. However, there are Korean stars appearing in Chinese productions. Ji Chang Wook and Yoo In Na are currently working in China. Actor Ji Chang Wook stars in the Chinese drama Whirlwind Girl 2. Rumors spread that it was taken off the air but on August 2, his agency Glorious Entertainment denied those rumors saying that the program still airs. Yoo In Na is currently filming a Chinese period fantasy drama titled Love Weaves Through A Millennium 2, a remake of her K-drama Queen In-Hyun’s Man. Production did stop briefly after the announcement, but Yoo In Na’s agency, YG Entertainment, cautioned jumping to a conclusion. There has been no announcement that the show will be cancelled.

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As for films, The Korea Times reported that Lee Min Ho’s film The Bounty Hunter grossed $29 million since its Chinese release in July. Will Korean films face the same restrictions and will Chinese audiences be ready to skip the next drama of the megastar so many fans love? That remains to be seen.

One thing is sure, however. The ban will hurt the bottom line at Korea’s entertainment agencies. China is the biggest foreign buyer of Korean cultural content. No sooner was the ban announced than stock in Korean entertainment companies dropped, although since then some companies have recovered slightly.

South Korea is not likely to withdraw from THAAD, so China may find it difficult to rescind its ban. The government has drawn a line in the sand and it may be a line that some Chinese viewers are tempted to cross; a ban on the Hallyu could backfire by making K-dramas seem even more appealing. Will more Chinese drama lovers travel to Korea more often to see their favorite stars or possibly find new viewing sources to satisfy their drama fever? After all, K-dramas are a hard habit to break.

What’s your take on the Chinese ban? Share your thoughts in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.

Let’s Discuss: Park Yoochun & The Changing Perception Of Leading Men in K-Dramas

Despite his princely image on screen, it now seems that actor and JYJ member Park Yoochun may have a darker side. Park’s reputation as an actor has been permanently damaged by the recent accusations of four women who said that he sexually assaulted them. All four women work in adult entertainment bars and claim he forced them to have sex, shocking fans of K-dramas from around the world. Whether or not the charges are proven to be true, the suggestion of violence and the recurring visits to adult entertainment bars has damaged Park’s image so much that he will likely never land a K-drama role again.

Park’s scandal may do more than damage his own career. The latest in a series of scandals involving popular K-drama actors, the assault case may also dishearten K-drama lovers, who watch dramas at least partly out of the romantic notion of the idealized male lead. The idealized male lead is a big part of the charm of K-dramas, but it’s harder to succumb to that charm knowing that in real life some K-drama actors don’t treat women the way they should.

The Ideal Man

In’s “Drama World,” Justin Chon describes all K-drama male leads as “confident, handsome, slightly arrogant but always with the leading lady’s best interests at heart.”

A hyper-idealized version of a man, that a woman must win over, K-drama male leads are multi-talented, smart, and ultimately protective of the women they love. Even if they are initially mean to their leading ladies, as So Ji Sub comically was in “The Master’s Sun,” or as Ji Sung cruelly was in “Secrets,” ultimately K-drama male leads will sacrifice everything for the woman they love; they would die to protect her.

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It’s easy to fall in hypothetical love with such idealized men, especially when the actors who play them don’t seem to have a personal life to contradict their perfection. That lack of a personal life makes it easier for viewers to imagine the actor in fact is the living embodiment of the fictional character he’s portrayed. Korean entertainment agencies take great pains to control the private lives of their entertainers and prevent negative publicity from tarnishing an actor’s image for this very reason.

But even the most vigilant agencies may find it impossible to monitor all of an actor’s less responsible behavior. Three recent scandals have shown that K-drama actors are not only human, but have a darker side than their “sweet ideal boyfriend” persona would suggest.

First it was Park Shi Hoo, star of “Neighborhood Hero.” In 2013, a woman accused him of sexual assault but he claimed their sex was consensual. Although the charges were eventually withdrawn, he could not work for years. This was a case of he said-she said with no definitive proof offered by either side, but the mere accusation of assault temporarily derailed his acting career. His character in his drama comeback role — after three years absence — was much more jaded than his pre-scandal role. He won’t likely be offered naive chaebol roles again like the one he played in “Cheongdamdong Alice”, since drama viewers can no longer relate Park to that sort of figure.

Next there was actor and SS501 member Kim Hyun Joong’s drawn-out and messy scandal. As an actor Kim Hyun Joong epitomized the “ideal boyfriend.” But his own romantic relationship resulted in his ex-girlfriend filing multiple charges of physical assault against him and then some time later announcing that she was carrying his child. Although Kim previously made an effort to move away from the “ideal boyfriend” persona and toward an edgier rougher image, fans were so disappointed in the scandal that his career has been derailed. No one can prove exactly what happened to cause what his agency claimed was accidental bruising, but the pregnancy and past relationship were very real and DNA tests proved that the baby is Kim’s. The fight over the pregnancy proved the couple’s relationship was at best tumultuous and that Kim was definitely not the ideal violin-playing boyfriend that he acted in ‘Boys Over Flowers.”

The last K-celeb in this scandal trilogy is the JYJ singer and actor Park Yoochun. Four women stepped forward within the past few days in South Korea, asserting that they were assualted by the K-pop star. The first has since withdrawn her claim but the Seoul Metropolitan Police assigned a special task force to investigate the charges of all of the women to see whether they were merely false accusations aimed at getting monetary settlements from the star. Park’s agency, C-JeS, said that they would pursue legal retaliation for false charges, calling it malicious blackmail. Regardless, the damage was done and Park’s image has been irrevocably tarnished. (The scandal also imperils the popularity of “Lucid Dream,” the film he recently worked on before entering mandatory military service. )

C-JeS statement on Park Yoochun (Screenshot)

C-JeS statement on Park Yoochun (Screenshot)

Whether or not the alleged charges are proven to be true, the fact that Park may have repeatedly visited an illegal adult entertainment bar, of the kind known for providing various degrees of female companionship, does not fit favorably with his squeaky clean image or the characters he played in dramas such as “Rooftop Prince,” “Sungkyunkwan Scandal” or “Girl Who Sees Smells.” Nor does the idea that this supposedly serious but sweet actor had one night stands. Real men may have one-night stands but it’s rare for a male lead in a K-drama to engage in casual sex and if they do, it’s rarely seen on screen. But humans aren’t characters and no matter how diligently the agencies police actors’ personal lives, bad behavior can become public information.

K-drama viewers, who in the U.S. are predominantly female, probably won’t like a K-drama lead who treats women roughly or at best indifferently. The perfect although quirky and not easily winnable male lead is a K-drama fixture and it’s hard to imagine an actor with assault charges as the leading man in a romantic drama.

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For Park Yoochun’s sake, let’s hope the accusations of assault are not true. If they are, he will have to face the consequences and not-so-gracefully retire from show business (as he’s said he will do if any of the charages are proven true), which would be unfortunate for the other two members of JYJ. Even if those charges are dropped, Park’s reputation has taken a veritable hit and longtime fans, who stayed with Park and the other JYJ members even when they split from TVXQ in 2009, are already jumping ship.

For K-drama viewers, let’s hope these scandals don’t permanently tarnish the seductive fairy tale of the ideal K-drama lead but instead help us focus on the difference between stars and the roles they portray.

What do you think about K-drama actors who have been accused of physically or sexually assaulting women? What ruins the image of an actor? Share your thoughts in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.

Why ‘Signal’ Beat ‘Descendants of the Sun’ For Best Drama

Signal Versus Descendants of the Sun

Did you see the best drama of the year?

You might easily assume that the Baeksang Award for Best Drama of the year went to “Descendants of the Sun,” which was the most widely viewed drama. And “Descendants of the Sun” did win the Grand Prize at the June 3 awards ceremony. But the Grand Prize factors in a drama’s popularity, as well as the storyline, and performances. It was the time travel police-procedural drama “Signal” that won the Baeksang award for Best Drama overall.

“Signal” did well, ratings wise, for a cable drama (it aired on tvN), peaking at 13.54 percent of viewers for its final episode and averaging 9.19 percent throughout its run. However, it was not as popular as the primetime, broadcast drama “Descendants of the Sun.”

Yet, the series, which starred Kim Hye Soo, Lee Je Hoon, and Cho Jin Woong, managed to receive three Baeksang awards. Besides winning Best Drama, screenwriter Kim Eun Hee won the Best Screenplay award and star Kim Hye Soo won a Best Actress award for her portrayal of veteran detective Cha Soo Hyun. Kim edged out popular actress Song Hye Kyo, who played a conflicted doctor in “Descendants of the Sun.”

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In “Descendants of the Sun,” Song Hye Kyo and Song Joong Ki delivered some riveting romance set amid the conflicts of war. The actors provided plenty of chemistry despite the fact that the drama occasionally skimped on both character and plot development. On the other hand, character and plot development were “Signal’s” strong points.

“Signal” is the story of a police profiler in the present who hears mysterious walkie-talkie signals from a police officer in the past. The officers work together to change the past and thereby change the present.

“Signal” used the politics of the police department to tell a very moral story about the nature of responsibility. The moral of the story is that while it is not always easy to do the right thing, it’s essential. Every person must play his or her part to keep the universe functioning as smoothly as possible.

As police officers, the drama’s main characters were responsible for seeking and implementing justice. The characters played by Kim, Cho, and Lee were each scarred by multiple tragedies, which only heightened their dedication to the pursuit of justice. It made them even more sympathetic to the plight of victims as they too had been victimized.

Kim Hye Soo played a police chief who not only felt responsible for protecting the public, but also protected the memory of the only man she ever loved. For 15 years she searched for him. He was not only the man she loved: he was her hero. Her career as a police officer was a testament to his principles.

Lee Je Hoon played a criminal profiler whose childhood was twice scarred by horrible crimes. As a child, he felt guilty for not preventing a kidnapping but he also lost someone close because of injustice. He became a police officer to see justice done, although it took him a while to recognize the part he might play. When he gets messages from the past, he inherits a mission.

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Finally, Cho Jin Woong played a police officer from the past whose tireless pursuit of justice became tiresome and inconvenient for officers more interested in protecting the privileged and their own privilege.

Cho’s character did not make compromises and was not prepared to look the other way when he noticed a crime. His desire to see justice done was so strong that it magically transcended time, allowing him to communicate with Lee Je Hoon’s character in the present. The lives of these characters connect in the present and the past, allowing them to transcend not only time but their own brokenness.

Each of the drama’s actors did a good job of portraying the tenuous way the characters functioned in the world despite the traumatic incidents that shaped their past. Life could have beaten them down and made them more cynical but they continued to fight for what they believed in. In the end, their connection helped to heal some scars and renew hope for a happier ending.

Unlike “Descendants of the Sun,” “Signal” does not focus on a romance, although there are moments of intense sexual chemistry between Kim Hye Soo and Lee Je Hoon as well as a sweet romance between Kim Hye Soo and Cho Jin Woong. Instead, the drama focuses on the persistence with which the characters fight for the truth.

“Signal” offers an exciting ride all the way to the end with plenty of twists and turns to keep things interesting. The only way to know why it won Best Drama at the Baeksang Awards is to watch it.

Which drama did you think deserved to win? Share your thoughts and advice in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.

5 Mangas That Need To Be Made Into K-Dramas

Kare Kane, The Devil Does Exist, Skip Beat

“Boys Over Flowers,” “Goong,” “Bridal Mask,” “City Hunter,” and other popular K-dramas are varied in their plots but they all have one thing in common: They’re based on a genre of comics known collectively as manga (or manhwa in South Korea). While webtoons are the current trend forKorean dramas to take cues from (“Misaeng,” “Orange Caramel,” etc.) there are still many mangas that have fodder for K-dramas to turn into absolutely amazing series. For example the One Piece manga series is doing incredibly well and you can even get your hands on figurines from the series, such as the one and only nico robin hentai. So, without further a do, here are five mangas that need to be made in K-dramas asap.

1. “Kare Kano” by Masami Tsuda

“Kare Kano,” or “His and Her Circumstances,” starts off as in innocent enough high school drama, with two rivals falling for one another. But the series quickly darkens in a way that fits a growing trend in K-dramas along the lines of “Cheese In The Trap” and “It’s Okay, That’s Love,” tackling mental health, family difficulties, abuse, etc. There’s a musical element and numerous subplots that tie back to the heartbreaking relationship of the main characters as the struggle through high school and unsettled childhood trauma that threatens the current state of their relationship.

The only thing that “Kare Kano” is missing is a romantic triangle or square, as K-dramas tend to do; this is the story of the two leads and the people important to them in their lives, nothing more. The tender, occasionally shockingly sad, manga has never been made into a drama despite being completed in 2005 and the Korean television industry is at the perfect point to create a show that appropriately represents the light-hearted and complex storylines of “Kare Kano.” (Come on tVN, let’s make this after “Cheese In The Trap” finishes!)

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2. “Black Bird” by Kanoko Sakurakoji

This manga takes place in a fantasy world where demons are very real and the heroine lives next door to a tengu, or a type of avian supernatural creature. And did I mention she’s the current reincarnation of something known as the senka maiden? Which means that she’s haunted by demons around her who want to eat her flesh. Don’t worry, the handsome tengu next door is there to protect her, until they realize that their romantic relationship may lead to her untimely death. This sort of drama is perfect for people who love shows like “Arang and The Magistrate” or “You Who Came From The Stars” with its fantasy twist on daily life and love.

3. “The Devil Does Exist” by Mitsubi Takanashi

Wealthy male teasing the poor female lead? Yup. Meddling grandmothers? Check. Random events trying to ruin a happy ending? Oh, yes! The fact that “The Devil Does Exist” hasn’t been made into a drama yet is positively shocking, given the fact that it is chock-full of K-drama tropes that hit us at the heart time and time again. The Taiwanese drama “Devil Beside You” shot Rainie Yang and Mike He to fame because of their portrayal of the loyal main couple in this drama, and it’s time that this series makes it way to Korean audiences. There’s laughter and heartbreak in this series that is sure to please K-drama fans around the world.

4. “Yona of the Dawn” by Mizuho Kusanagi

A fantasy drama that could easily be transposed to an early era of Korean history, “Yona of the Dawn” is about an immature princess who witnesses her father’s murder and has to escape with her life. The character development is key to this story, but so is the love triangle and fantasy elements as the manga is interspersed with references to Asian traditional mythlore as the princess and her bodyguard try to save the kingdom. Fans of “Rooftop Prince” or “Queen Seondok” will surely like this sort of manga-to-drama treatment.

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5. “Skip Beat” by Yoshiki Nakamura

You may be ready to shake your head and shout “already done!” at me, because the entertainment industry-based manga was already made into a Taiwanese drama in 2011, featuring Super Junior members Siwon and Donghae alongside Ivy Chen. But that version focused only on the first few volumes of the ongoing series, ignoring the more than 30 volumes that came after (as of publishing this article, there are 37 volumes released). The story of “Skip Beat” matures along with the character development throughout those latter volumes, exploring the struggles of a young woman to get revenge on a childhood crush by rising in the entertainment industry.

Unlike “Kare Kano,” there is a K-drama worthy romantic triangle going on throughout the series, as the heroine undergoes her transformation from country bumpkin to hardworking actress. There’s family members who stand in the way of happiness, rivalries, beautiful looking men, and overseas foreigners who speak the native language fluently for no apparent reason; “Skip Beat” was practically written to be made into a K-drama.

What do you think of these manga to drama ideas? Share your thoughts and suggestions in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter,Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.

Here’s Why The Wall Street Journal Is Wrong About K-Drama Fans

You Who Came From The Stars“A study by Seoul National University researchers in 2013 found that loyal fans of Korean soap operas tend to be less educated, and therefore more susceptible to the genre’s unrealistic plot twists, which include old standbys like the car accident-induced bout of amnesia or the twins who are separated at birth,” reads a recent Wall Street Journal (WSJ) article titled “Psy-chology 101: Academics Put Spotlight on Korean Pop Culture” by Jonathan Cheng. It was published on November 1 and covered the academic study of Korean pop culture including, but not limited to, the Hallyu (Korean Wave) phenomenon.

Having studied Hallyu in both American and Korean universities, I expected to not really come away with any particular feeling other than elation about the fact that my field of study was being highlighted in one of the most respected newspapers in the world. So imagine my surprise at being insulted as “less educated” because I am a “loyal fan” of Korean dramas, or what the WSJ calls, “soap operas.”

I’ve been watching them since I was in high school, throughout college and studying abroad, and now as a post-grad. But the Wall Street Journal quotes a study then lets it hang as fact without further discussing it at all throughout the rest of the article, insinuating that I’m uneducated because I’m currently binge watching “She Was Pretty,” a 16-episode show about a childhood friends who don’t recognize one another after they’ve been separated for nearly 20 years.

Siwon "She Was Pretty"

Credit: MBC, gif via irrational obsessions gottcha78 on Tumblr

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I spent a few minutes looking up this study, only to find a Wall Street Journal article from 2013 titled “South Korean Soap Operas: Just Lowbrow Fun?” that first introduced the survey to WSJ audiences. The survey they based their research on was conducted in China and had a small sample size, with only 400 Chinese candidates between the ages of 20-60 answering about their television watching preferences.

However, there are multiple issues with this survey and the Wall Street Journal’s recurring use of the results determined by Seoul National University staff in 2013 to insult K-drama fans. In fact, more than just a few people are upset by being fit into this neat, uneducated box; Chinese K-drama fans took offense with the survey, and protested the results in 2014.

The international use of a survey that utilizes such a limited sample size to represent the millions of Korean-drama fans around the world belittles the wide range of international popularity dramas have. Similarly, the point of the survey was unclear. Were the researchers trying to find out how popular Korean dramas were in China or were they trying to see international viewing trends among Chinese nationals? The difference may seem minimal, but the WSJ does not offer readers any further information about the intention of the survey or the type of questions posed to surveyees that may shape their responses.

Many Chinese students study abroad in the United States because English is important and studying abroad is perceived as something elite and a way up in the business world (Korea is similar). It seems far more likely that highly educated people in China would pick American, English-language television over Korean shows. Of course they would. Why would any educated person have incentive to pick Korean dramas, which are similar to Chinese dramas in all but production value and language, over the American, Hollywood productions? 

Most of China, actually. The Seoul National University’s results don’t seem accurate anymore, since Korean television shows are immensely popular in China today. In 2014, branches of the Chinese government met to question why Korean dramas are so popular following the wide spread success of the Korean drama “My Love From The Stars,” even as Chinese cultural products were lacking local and international appeal. In fact, members of the government considered K-dramas as such a threat to China’s cultural prowess that one called the Korean soap operas “the distillation of traditional Chinese culture.”

Regardless of perceived flaws in the survey itself, when it comes down to it it is highly problematic that the WSJ is continuously implying that Korean dramas are lowbrow based on a (limited) study that featured a handful of highly educated people dismissing Korean dramas in favor of “The Big Bang Theory,” a show about a sexy, uneducated woman who manages relationships with four highly intellectual, socially awkward nerds.

That’s how it works in California, right?

Putting the realm of reality on hold for a moment, “The Big Bang Theory” has just as many intellectual issues as Korean dramas, and maybe even more. Korean dramas are created in the imaginary Disney-esque world of Cinderellas, Prince Charmings, and Evil Stepmothers, where there are usually happy endings for all. In comparison, “The Big Bang Theory” is very much set in a stereotypical version of this world, where the blondes are dumb, the scientists have few social graces, the Jewish character (Wolowitz) is small and often thought of as “disgusting” by the other characters, and the Indian character fits into longstanding views of the effeminate Asian: Raj’s Indian background is not only used for jokes, but he fits into the stereotypical idea of the emasculated Asian male. Raj is always somewhere between straight, gay, and asexual depending on each episode, and never the most powerful person in the room but almost always the subordinate in every situation on “The Big Bang Theory.”

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Perhaps the 400 Chinese nationals who were surveyed missed out on the nuances of American (stereotype promoting) humor, but if they pick racist comedy over unrealistic drama plots, I have to question their emotional intelligence and legitimacy as the yardstick for all fans of internationally popular television shows. (That does not mean that I think anyone who is a fan of “The Big Bang Theory” is racist. The show perpetuates stereotypes, and I am questioning the survey’s validity as an accurate reflection of K-drama viewers around the world).

Sure, Korean dramas are dramatic, silly, pretty ridiculous, and nowhere near the pinnacle of fine arts. But the audience is not innately any dumber than any other fandom. Saying that a person is “less educated” because of their preferred form of entertainment, their preferred form of escape from the banality of everyday life, is a bit absurd and honestly offensive.

Watching K-dramas requires putting your grasp of reality on hold. I don’t believe that the unrealistic situations can occur, but I still laugh, gasp, and cry in a way that I don’t when I watch many other television shows. Why should one preferred form of storytelling make the audience innately less educated than others? It doesn’t, and quoting one, small survey time and time again does not change the fact that K-dramas are watched by people from all walks of life.

Korean dramas are watched in South Korea as prime time television. Yes, they’re soap operas. No, not every person in South Korea is watching them, but they are immensely popular. South Korea has one of the most literate, educated populations in the world with more than 80 percent of adults going on to university, according to The Economist. But you say “loyal fans of Korean soap operas tend to be less educated”?

Outside of South Korea, maybe you can suggest that the audience is less educated, but that’s not remotely true. According to 2013 statistics from DramaFever, one of the most popular sites for international audiences to watch Korean dramas, 53 percent of their audience had college or grad school education in 2013. In 2015, DramaFever reaches around 20 million viewers. Viki, another site where many people watch Korean dramas, goes above just having educated viewers and actually has audience members build the subtitles, including translation and editing, for entirely free.

But, after all, these are the “less educated” fans of Korean dramas.

What do you think about the Wall Street Journal’s use of this survey? How do you feel about Korean dramas? Share your picks in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.

The Fans Behind The Viki Subtitles [Interview]

Pinocchio k drama korean viki eng sub english subtitles

If you’re a big fan of Korean dramas, you likely know about Viki, the user-based website where you can watch many of those K-dramas. But did you know that every show on Viki is subtitled by volunteers around the globe who work together to bring you the shows you love?

Earlier this month, Viki celebrated 1 billion words translated by fans with the hashtag #1BillionWords. To commemorate this occasion, we spoke to two of Viki’s top subtitlers. User Bjonhsonwon has worked on more than 99,000 subtitles and 200,000 segments on Viki since joining the community in 2009. Joysprite, on the other hand, is a relative newcomer who joined Viki in 2014, but she already has subtitled more than 72,000 lines in dramas.

1. Viki is a community-based video platform where you, the subtitlers, take on the role without any monetary incentive. How did you find your way into this world?

Bjohnsonwon: I have a strong love for Asian drama. While living in Hong Kong, I really enjoyed watching any Korean drama that was aired on local TV as well as the TVB dramas. Not being a native speaker of either Chinese or Korean, dramas were a great way to pick up some of the languages. I searched on the internet for different titles of Korean dramas I was interested in and came across Viki at the time. It was a great find. I spent my first couple of years on Viki as an observer thinking I didn’t have anything to offer as a contributor. Then I noticed segmenting. It seemed to be something I could see myself doing and enjoying so I randomly picked a CM [Channel Manager] and asked what to do to learn segmenting. Thankfully, the CM was very helpful and patient. He set me up on a fan channel to practice segmenting and subtitling where I could go at my own pace. I loved it right away and enjoyed the challenge.

Joysprite: I was looking for a new drama to watch, one that was light and fun, and I found “A Witch’s Romance” online. The only place to watch it was Viki. I enjoyed the show and was intrigued by the fact that all the subtitles were created by Viki volunteers. The subscription program was very reasonable, too. As I continued to watch dramas on Viki, I investigated editing, which is my forte, and I started my first volunteer editing on “Marriage, Not Dating.” Since that time, my edited drama list has grown really long.

2. What keeps you motivated to continue subbing show after show?

Bjohnsonwon: I never get tired of working on projects on Viki. There is a variety of shows now and quite a range of things contributors can do from subtitling, segmenting, managing, or even page design. Over the years of working with different people on Viki, I’ve got to know a lot of good friends. Being able to work with them and getting to know new friends is a great motivator — not to mention knowing that I can say I had a part in bringing the subtitles of some great shows to others who wouldn’t have the chance to see them in their own language. Additionally, using subtitles also allows people with hearing conditions to follow the program and understand what’s happening. Alongside the subtitles, there is now a range of specialized technology, such as these tv ears digital hearing aids that can be connected to the TV, making it easier for people with these isolating disabilities to feel included. A lot of hard of hearing people do enjoy to listen to the audio at the same time as reading the subtitles, so by using both of these techniques, more people are now able to watch and understand programs that they wouldn’t have previously been able to.

Joysprite: The fact that there are always more new dramas waiting to be subbed, edited, and released keeps me moving forward. I watch as I edit, which is quite handy—two birds, one stone.

3. How does it work when you’re subbing videos? What are some challenges you face as individuals?

Bjohnsonwon: I mainly work on live dramas as a segmenter. We’re the first to get to work on the drama once it’s uploaded. We go through and decide where subtitle boxes should go and make sure they’re timed well and a good length so they can be read easily by the viewers once subtitled. As a segmenter, one of the biggest challenges is deciding where to make a cut when the speaker is talking rapidly and it’s hard to make out where there might be a break. Another difficult place is when there’s a lot of noise in the background or many people talking at once. These are challenging places to decide what would be important to translate and include so the viewer can know what’s going on. After the segmenting is complete, the episode is then opened up for the English subtitlers to work their magic. And I really do think it’s magic. To be able to translate and keep the meaning as close as possible to the original is a very special talent. We have some excellent volunteer translators that have my deep admiration.

Joysprite: When I go in to edit an episode of a drama or variety show, I start by checking to make sure everything is close to 100 percent complete, then I post in Team Discussion that I’m about to do an English edit and I post again when I’m done. The challenge I face as an editor is getting the word order sorted for English viewers without losing the charm of the language itself. One of the compliments I’ve heard about Viki regularly is that we tend to keep things like family titles like oppa (“older brother” for a woman) and ajussi, (“older man”) and many of the subtitlers and translation editors are good about adding editors notes that explain idioms and references to stories or events. It makes watching a Viki subbed and edited drama more culturally enriching. I love it.

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4. Each show on Viki has a sub team with a comical or pun-based title. How do these teams work? Who picks their name?

Bjohnsonwon: Choosing a name can be a fun part of starting up a new team. Every team tries to come up with something catchy or descriptive to call themselves. Often the CM will ask team members and even followers of the channel to give suggestions. These are compiled and then voted on to see what was the most popular choice. There has been some really creative names.

5. What are easiest/hardest types of shows to work with? Have there any been any near, or actual, disasters?

Bjohnsonwon:The easiest shows for me to work on are melodramas. They’re usually straight forward and spoken in modern language so [ they are] easy to follow. The hardest to work with is reality shows. These are really challenging. There’s so much going on at once with several people talking at once and words flashing on the screen, all needing to be subtitled. But there’s only room for so much at a time. It can be very challenging to decide what to include that will give the viewer the most information possible without being overwhelming.

Joysprite: Romantic comedies are the easiest. They seem to have simpler vocabulary that is of a lighter nature. Medical, legal, and scientific dramas are much harder because of the terminology. Historical dramas are also challenging because of archaic terminology and keeping track of dozens of historical characters.

7. How does it feel to know that you personally are helping fans from around the world view their favorite shows?

Bjohnsonwon: It’s a wonderful feeling to know that, as a team member, I’m having an active part in making a drama available to others all around the world. I’m still in awe when I think about how many languages a drama can get translated into and how many people will be able to now understand the dialogue. The first live drama I worked on, I kept looking at the number of followers growing everyday and seeing it grow by thousands. I took a lot of pride in knowing I had a small part in making that happen.

Joysprite: I feel very excited and happy that my efforts, along with those of the rest of the team, to produce a quality English project make it possible for translations to be made in many languages and allow people from all over the world to enjoy shows that they might never be able to enjoy otherwise. The world just keeps getting smaller and smaller, which I think brings us all closer together.

8. What are some of the difficulties when translating?

Joysprite: From an editor’s point of view, the biggest issue in translating is skill level with the original language and English. If you have excellent skill in hearing our own language, but your English isn’t good enough to fully express what you hear, it can limit your subbing a bit. On the other side, you can have excellent English, but if your skill in the original language isn’t high enough you can make mistakes that create confusion. This is why translation editors who are fully fluent in both languages are golden. Not all shows have a translation editor, but I guarantee they make big difference, especially in the harder dramas like medical, legal, and historical.

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9. Do you have any memorable moments from subbing?

Joysprite: Whenever I think of the most fun I had working on a drama I always think of “Pinocchio.” Sometimes a team comes together and just gels, and the “Pinocchio” team was like that. Everyone showed up to do their jobs, made sure they followed the rules outlined in Team Notes, and rocked the segmenting, subtitling, and editing. From upload to release was almost always under 24 hours, and often 16 hours or less. The viewers were a lucky bunch indeed, as they got near instant gratification every week.

10. As Viki moves to create its own content, what role will the community of subtitlers play?

Bjohnsonwon: I’m excited to see Viki growing with more and more content available. There’s so much out there now from so many more countries than just Korea. There’s even dramas and movies from South America and Europe, not just Asia. I’m really excited to see there are now licensed dramas from Hong Kong’s TVB. TVB dramas are very hard to find, but now available on Viki. I don’t know what the future holds for Viki and its many Qualified Contributors, but the one thing that makes me keep wanting to come back to Viki is I feel a part of a family here and that I have a place where I can make a difference and feel my contribution matters.

Joysprite: Viki creating it’s own [drama] is a very exciting step forward. The best part is that, within the Viki community, there is a huge pool of knowledge and expertise with the potential to generate new and innovative ideas and assist with project development. And of course, I have no doubt that once the content is created the segmenters, subtitlers, and editors will come. It’s the Viki way.

What’s your favorite K-drama? Share your picks in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.

What K-Drama Cliche Is Your Life? [QUIZ]


You’ve seen the Korean dramas with memory loss, with somebody disappearing for months, with… Well, you know all of the tropes. You can probably list off the cliches without even thinking about it: Love triangles, evil mothers, rich guy-poor girl… The list goes on and on. You may even have your favorite, cliche-filled drama that you watch clips from just to make yourself laugh sometimes. You love K-drama cliches. We all do!

There has probably been a time in the life of every K-drama fan where we’ve wanted to live in a K-drama. A bit difficult to achieve, but we have the next best thing for you. This KultScene quiz will help you figure out which K-drama cliche your life is, so take a few minutes and then let us know your results in the comment section!

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Do you like this quiz? Make sure to tell us what other quizzes and content you’d like to see from KultScene in the future. Share your thoughts in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.

‘The Producers’: First Thoughts

korean drama the producers iu kim soo hyun
[Disclaimer: This article contains minor spoilers]

KBS’s The Producers premiered last week on the 15th of May to high ratings but mixed reviews. Netizens were mostly divided, some of them fully on the Producer bandwagon, while others rejected it as being too boring. As a drama being shot like a mockumentary, it is a rarity among other normal K-dramas, which may or may not turn people off.

There were a few aspects to this drama that are particularly enjoyable, despite the fact that only two episodes have aired so far. The first aspect would be the most special part of this show, the “mockumentary” format. This is shown by the constant interviews of the different characters that take place throughout the episodes. These interviews were the basis for some complaints made by netizens, as they deemed those scenes unnecessary and a waste of time. However, these interviews allowed viewers to understand the different characters in a deeper and more relatable level, and that this was a very unique way of presenting these characters. In a way, it is similar to the interviews featured in hit 2014 drama My Love from the Stars, which provided a lot of comedy and depth to the main characters. In the same way, these interviews do enhance and liven up the long Producer episodes, which go up to one hour and 20 minutes (normal K-dramas are around one hour per episode), in an effort to imitate a real Korean variety show.

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The use of real TV programs, names of producers, names of celebrities, and so on, really brings the level of realism in this drama to a new level. It also allows it to stay through to its mockumentary format and brings in a lot of comedy for viewers as well. For example, the constant mention of Na PD (Na Young Seok, producer of tvN variety shows like Grandpas over Flowers and Three Meals a Day) is hilarious, along with all the meta jokes being made throughout the show. Admittedly, it might be difficult to understand and enjoy these jokes if you are not well-informed about variety programmes in Korea, however, the show also has a lot of comedic moments apart from the meta jokes that all viewers can enjoy! A good example would be the car-scratching incident between our two main characters, Baek Seung Chan (Kim Soo Hyun) and Tak Ye Jin (Gong Hyo Jin), which took place in the first episode. The drama makes full use of the longer screening time and uses repetition to increase the effectiveness of its jokes, making for more enjoyable comedy.

kim soo hyun gif the producers

kim soo hyun gif the producers

kim soo hyun gif the producers

kim soo hyun gif the producers

via shura on Tumblr

Another part of the drama that’s greatly appealing is the four main characters, along with the amazing cast. Two characters in particular, Seung Chan and Ra Joon Mo (Cha Taehyun), really stuck out, mainly because they are the underdogs. In just two episodes, this pair faced several challenges and unfortunate situations, be it Seung Chan, the variety rookie who faces heartbreak and failures in his first two days at work, or Joon Mo, whose variety program is nearly cancelled and has to face scary old actresses. In the midst of these challenges however, both of them grew and developed in their own ways.

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In a short span of two episodes, this drama was able to showcase growth, no matter how minute in these characters, which was a definite winning point. It showed that the characterization for these characters were well thought out, and we can look forward to even more growth (hopefully) in the rest of the show. Ye Jin and Cindy (IU) haven’t really had the same character development yet, but their characters are, for the time being, imperfect and utterly relatable. Their conflicts and feelings come off realistic, which makes a bigger impression because they’re relatable and is something that is important for a drama to be successful. After all, if viewers were not invested in the lives of the characters, the drama would definitely be a flop.

iu gif the producers cindy

via Tumblr

The cast has, so far, managed to play these characters to a T, especially the more veteran actors Kim Soo Hyun, Cha Tae Hyun, and Gong Hyo Jin. They’re so natural in their roles that viewers are able to let go of their previous images. With IU, though, it’s evident that she’s trying very hard, but she definitely doesn’t seem as natural as the rest of her castmates. Her character, Cindy, hasn’t really had much time to shine so far, but she still has time to develop her character more. But overall, even though The Producers has just begun, it’s showing a lot of promise with its strong writing and cast that viewers will surely enjoy.

Are you watching this drama? How do you like it so far? Share your thoughts in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.

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