Why Are K-Dramas So Popular?


As we welcomed 2020, the popularity of K-dramas has gone beyond a mere trend to firmly establishing its place in the entertainment world. Let’s delve into the reasons why Korean dramas are so captivating.

Why K-Dramas Are Popular

Firstly, it’s the richness in storytelling. While Japanese dramas also have a lot of splendid works, Korean dramas are characterized by their emotional depth and dramatic, often shocking plot twists. They also concentrate on universal themes such as love, family, and friendship, enabling viewers to resonate with their own life experiences and emotions.

Next, is the high-quality production. Korean drama production is meticulous, with noticeable attention to detail in filming, music, costumes, and set design. This gives the dramas a visual beauty that draws viewers into the world of the story.

Another appealing aspect is the impressive acting skills of Korean actors. They excel in expressing emotions, helping viewers to strongly empathize with the characters.

The reason why they are a hit globally is because K-dramas deal with universal themes from unique perspectives, which can resonate with viewers of various cultural backgrounds. The global popularity of Korean pop culture, including music and fashion, also contributes to the spread of Korean dramas.

The language barrier is reduced by subtitles and dubbing, and with the proliferation of streaming services (OTT *1), more people can easily enjoy Korean dramas.

(*1) About OTT
OTT stands for “Over-The-Top”, a service that provides content (movies, TV shows, music, etc.) directly to users via the internet, bypassing traditional cable or satellite broadcasters.

Examples of OTT platforms include Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, Disney+, etc. These services allow you to watch from anywhere, as long as you have an internet connection and a compatible device (smartphone, tablet, smart TV, etc.).

These services provide flexibility for users to watch their preferred content at their preferred time, changing the format of traditional TV broadcasting. They also promote cross-border consumption of entertainment as they provide easy access to content from around the world.

In other words, you can watch any program from anywhere in the world, from anywhere in the world, at any time.

Now, let’s delve deeper into why Korean dramas are interesting and the elements that contribute to their global success.

Storytelling (Script)

Korean dramas are known for their dramatic developments, featuring unexpected turns and shocking endings. This exciting storytelling captivates viewers and heightens anticipation for the next episode. Moreover, Korean dramas often touch on societal issues and contemporary themes, allowing viewers to empathize realistically between reality and the drama.

Quality of Production

Korean dramas excel in the quality of their production. They aim for film-level production quality, featuring excellent scripts, direction that brings out charm, beautiful cinematography, top-tier lighting techniques, detailed costume design, and emotional musical scores.

Acting Skills of Actors

Korean actors possess high acting skills and can evoke deep emotional engagement in viewers. The depth and realism of their emotional expression add further depth to the drama’s story, enabling viewers to feel a connection with the characters.

Universal Themes and Korean Perspectives

Korean dramas delve into universal themes such as love, family, friendship, and social justice. However, these are portrayed from a Korean perspective, allowing viewers to learn about a new culture while feeling a connection to their own lives.

Popularity of Korean Culture

Just as K-POP and Korean fashion are garnering attention worldwide, Korean dramas are also becoming popular as part of this. Korean dramas naturally incorporate these cultural elements, providing viewers with opportunities to experience Korean lifestyles and values.

Easy Access (Proliferation of OTT)

The spread of streaming services has allowed viewers around the world to easily access Korean dramas. Platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime offer multilingual subtitles and dubbing options, reducing language barriers.

Interaction with Social Media

Korean dramas encourage discussion and sharing on social media (SNS). Fans share their thoughts and develop theories on platforms like Twitter and Instagram. This transforms the drama from a mere viewing experience to an opportunity for community interaction and participation.

These elements combined make Korean dramas an attractive form of entertainment for many people, earning them popularity worldwide.

Japan and Korea: Differences in Actors and Production Costs

Next, let’s delve into the quality of actors and production costs in Japanese and Korean dramas.

Quality of Actors

Actors in Japan and Korea each have their unique acting styles and training methods. Japanese actors tend to prioritize naturalistic acting, often striving for a reality that is close to everyday life. On the other hand, Korean actors are known for their emotive performances and strong screen presence, possessing the power to deeply engage viewers. This difference is closely tied to the visual style of the dramas.

Difference in Production Costs

Generally, Korean dramas tend to have higher production costs than Japanese ones. This is because Korea strives for high-end production values, offering visual quality comparable to cinema. In contrast, Japanese dramas are often produced on relatively lower budgets, but there are still those that receive high acclaim for their storytelling and character design.

However, these are general trends, and not all Japanese or Korean dramas fit this pattern. Also, which is superior is largely subject to individual viewer preferences. Dramas in both countries attract viewers with their unique qualities and individualities.

Approach to Actors and Casting

When comparing the actors in Korean and Japanese dramas, several differences can be observed in their casting and acting styles.

Korea: Professionals

Firstly, Korean actors generally receive professional acting training to cope with long shooting hours and rigorous schedules. This is a characteristic of the Korean entertainment industry, where there’s a trend demanding professional acting skills. Korean dramas also emphasize visual elements, making the physical appearance and style of actors highly important.

Japan: Idols

On the other hand, Japanese dramas often feature idol actors. Talents from Johnny’s Agency, in particular, appear in many dramas, leveraging their popularity and influence. These idol actors often gain popularity through their activities in other entertainment areas like music and variety shows, which often translates into higher drama viewership.

However, this prevalence of idol actors is unique to Japanese dramas and not all productions follow this trend. Some productions and production companies do cast actors who have received professional acting training from theatre troupes or the film industry.

Different Targets

Furthermore, Japanese and Korean dramas target different audiences, which also impacts their casting decisions. Korean dramas, aiming at a global audience, tend to prioritize the international fame, skills, and appeal of their actors. In contrast, Japanese dramas primarily target domestic viewers, often placing more weight on local popularity and recognition.

These differences reflect the unique cultural backgrounds and industry structures of Korean and Japanese dramas.

Growth and Expectations

Finally, as an overall summary, how might Japanese and Korean dramas grow and develop in the future?

The growth trajectory of each will be influenced by many factors, but let’s discuss some potential trends and possibilities.

Future of Korean Dramas

Korean dramas, already widely recognized globally, are likely to continue growing in popularity. Contributing to this are the global attention drawn to Korean music, movies, fashion, and other facets of pop culture. Additionally, with the successful track record of Korean dramas, investments have increased, leading to higher production costs.

This might result in more globally-conscious storytelling, resonating with viewers from various countries and cultures.

Future of Japanese Dramas

Meanwhile, Japanese dramas also have the potential to forge their unique path. Much like Japanese animation and manga have found global success, Japanese dramas could captivate global audiences with their unique perspectives and storytelling.

Specifically, while addressing uniquely Japanese cultural and societal issues, they might portray these from a universal viewpoint, resonating with viewers from various cultures and countries.

Thus, Korean and Japanese dramas each have the potential for growth in different ways, leveraging their unique strengths. By respecting the uniqueness and diversity inherent in each industry and providing what their audiences desire, Korean dramas can their current success, while Japanese dramas have the potential to achieve new heights of recognition. Both can thrive by playing to their individual strengths while addressing the needs and tastes of their respective audiences.

Watch on Netflix!