The rise and rise of K-Drama

03 Mar 2024 12:30pm
Popular K-Drama "Crash Landing On You (CLOY) -  Photo: NETFLIX
Popular K-Drama "Crash Landing On You (CLOY) - Photo: NETFLIX

UTRECHT - Recently, while clamouring for sales counter attention at a bustling Dutch Indian supermarket (alongside other customers who were winding up their last minute festive shopping), I encountered a conversational experience which yet again underlined the rapidly spreading allure of the Korean Drama (known in the short form as K-Drama) worldwide.

The sales guy at the counter was skillfully exercising his self-grown store wisdom by engaging customers with an open cordial chatter while billing up their goodies. "Are these ramen noodles good?” he smilingly asked a lady buyer, trying to lift her exhausted spirits caused by all the physical suffering she endured in the long queue wait. The moment he asked her that question, the lady’s eyes lit up. With her fatigue suddenly settling in the back burner, she replied with a new found excitement in her voice "These are the best from South Korea. All K-Drama lovers in town simply lap these noodles up”.

Being a sucker for K-Dramas myself, the lady’s boastful reply, which was dripping with praise not just for the K-Dramas alone but indirectly towards all things South Korea-related, made me marvel at the impact of its television industry’s ever-growing and glowing global presence.

"Crash Landing On You”:

A few months ago, I was in for a similar K-Drama popularity surprise while touring Switzerland. En-route to the Swiss Alps on a coach, the guide made an announcement on the bus’ speaker that the next tourist destination is a picturesque village called ‘Iseltwald’ which suddenly sprung into prominence in recent years ever since a few memorable scenes for the now globally popular K-Drama "Crash Landing On You (CLOY)” were shot there. We further learnt that for many tourists thronging Switzerland, especially from Asia, the ‘CLOY’ shooting spot visit at ‘Iseltwald’ is as important as the visit to the celebrated Swiss Alps summit.

Incidentally, "Crash Landing On You” was the second K-Drama I watched (or rather, binged) after my better half and I got introduced to the ‘South Korean television series revolution’ by our daughter, who first got us to watch a 2017 K-Drama called "While You Were Sleeping”, bearing the same title as a popular Sandra Bullock Hollywood movie I saw back in 1995 when I was single. Lee Jong-suk and Bae Suzy, the lead pair of the K-Drama "While You Were Sleeping”, are hugely popular stars with millions of fans across the globe.

Binge Worthy:

Since then, I have watched 25+ K-Dramas to date, with the majority being 16 episodes lasting at least an hour each. The most amazing experience with all the K-Dramas I had watched so far is that each drama series equals or supersedes the brilliance of the last. It’s near impossible to choose - if anyone asks me - to name the top five from among the smorgasbord of all K-Dramas I have seen to date. Two years back, after having unknowingly been drawn into the K-Drama-binge mode, it led me to chalking up a personalised list of ‘all time popular K-Dramas’ that I have to watch. I can now, to my utmost satisfaction, say that the slate has been wiped clean.

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A Writing ‘First’:

The lasting impact of K-Dramas on my psyche led to an interesting ’first’ in my writing pursuits. After watching the unforgettable 2018 K-Drama series "My Mister” (which won the "Best Drama” award at the 55th prestigious ‘Baeksang Arts Awards’), the bond and purity of emotion associated with the drama’s characters struck such a chord that I instantly ended up writing my first ever Google review on an entertainment-based series.

That my review became hugely popular and stood as the No.1 "My Mister” review for a long time until some bug (as explained by Google) made the review disappear for a few months only to be restored back recently is an altogether different story.

"My Mister” brought huge critical acclaim to its lead stars, Lee Sun-kyun - an actor who had a starring role in the 2019 film "Parasite” which won multiple Oscars. Lee Sun-kyun passed away recently in tragic circumstances. The female protagonist of the series, singer-actress IU, is currently one of the greatest entertainment stars South Korea has ever produced.

I would also like to mention that the title for my 2022 article published by Bernama on Covid-19 "Is It Okay To Not be Okay - The Omicron Times Opinion Divide” was inspired by the K-Drama "It’s Okay To Not Be Okay”, starring three hugely popular stars Kim Soo-hyun, Seo Yea-ji and Oh Jung-se.

K-Drama’s Outstanding Popularity Stats in Malaysia:

As per a 2019 survey conducted by "Statista” (a German online platform which specialises in data gathering and visualisation) among 500 people in Malaysia in the age bracket of 15 and 59 years, those of whom who had experienced South Korean cultural content, 40 per cent of respondents considered K-Dramas to be ‘very popular’ in Malaysia and a further 45.8 per cent considered them to be ‘quite popular’.

South Korea’s Golden Footprints On The Global Entertainment Stage:

My earlier impressions of South Korean entertainment were formed with the emergence of the now globally celebrated boy band "BTS” (also known as ‘Bangtan Boys’) whose K-pop musical brilliance journeyed from the streets of Seoul to the White House in the States. Then the talismanic South Korean rapper Psy and his multiple-country music chart topper of 2012 "Gangnam Style” firmly put the country’s entertainment brilliance on the global map. The K-Drama revolution is a welcome extension to a phenomenon the world now refers to as the "Hallyu” or the "Korean Wave”.

Netflix and K-Dramas:

The introductory page to K-Dramas on Netflix reads as below:

"Laugh, cry, sigh, scream, shout or whatever you feel like with these funny, intense, romantic and suspenseful Korean Dramas”

A random sample size of ‘viewing preferences’ concerning friends and families in my own immediate social circles in the Netherlands made me discover that the COVID-19 quarantine years of 2020-21 saw a huge surge in the likeability factor towards K-Dramas. "Netflix”, the world’s most popular video streaming service, is one of the big players instrumental in extending K-Drama’s reach overseas.

I would like to share a fascinating anecdote about the ‘Netflix-Korean Drama’ connection. Once, while binge watching two K-Dramas back to back, I realised that the Hero in both the series’ is the same. A curious wiki search to know more about him revealed that his name is Song Kang, who is popularly known as "The Son of Netflix”, as most of his series were aired on the platform.

‘K-Dramas’ Are Here to Stay:

The greatest hallmark of most K-Dramas lie in their subtle superiority in conveying the finer most aspects of human dynamics while sticking to established tropes associated with masterful and crafty storytelling.

Given the way they are mounted on such a compelling scale to the world outside South Korea with content richness, soulful music tracks, high production values and impactful performances, there is hardly any doubt about K-Drama’s universal appeal and their potential omnipresence in the future segments of global entertainment.

At the cost of sounding clichéd, with regard to K-Dramas, I can’t resist adding the line ‘the more the merrier’. - BERNAMA