Within 20 years, the South Korean Entertainment has successfully launched multiple series of TV shows that have been watched not just by South Koreans alone but by an international audience across continents, a milestone that no one would have guessed possible 30 years ago. And until now, new Korean TV dramas are produced and released every couple of months ensuring the flames of the Hallyu Fever keeps burning. And this is great for many fans including me.
In a span of 17 years, I have watched closed to 75 korean dramas. I know, that’s a big number but it’s spread throughout the years. (Ha! you can probably tell how old I am. But that’s another story.)
In this article, I have listed 6 reasons why I have watched Korean TV shows over and over again.
Reason 1: A Well-Planned Number of Episodes to Tell the Story
Korean TV dramas that become popular internationally usually have between 16-20 episodes, where 16 is the most common and in 2-3 months the show is already over.
When on air in South Korea, a korean drama will be aired two episodes a week and will usually be shown at night. Then, an episode lasts a little over an hour which is sufficient to make a story flow cohesively chapter by chapter. Then another hour will be aired the next day to continue the story. If it is all good that 2nd night, viewers have to wait for 5 days for the next episode to air which can be an overwhelming wait if the story turns out really good.
This type of scheduling may be normal for other foreign fans but this is refreshing for me as I grew up watching TV dramas that air 30 minutes a night including tv commercials and the series would last over 6 months to years until the story has losts its meaning at the end of the series.
In general, the korean drama production has done a good job planning ahead how many episodes they need to produce the story.
This makes creative sense and business sense.
For the writers, these allows to be cohesive in their storytelling.
For the people that finances the show, the episode limit allows them to plan a budget confidently.
For the actors, they could give their all to give soul to the characters they are playing as they don’t get burned out playing the characters knowing that in a few months shooting the scenes will be over.
For the audience, time is not wasted for following a story that has been cohesively written and produced. And it is easy to drop watching the show as well if after an hour the audience was unable to connect to the characters of the show or find the story interesting.
Reason 2: A TV Show Where the Creativity from All the Members of the Production Team is Apparent
When does a Korean TV show becomes successful in telling the story? When many elements of the show appear to have moved uniformly and makes the audience believe and feel the fiction world; magically at the same time.
Actors are the most visible performers of a successful production since they are the one in front of the camera. However, the writer’s imagination and the production crew are also vital for a good production. What’s the use of having great actors if the story itself and the storytelling is crappy?
The following are the essential elements of a great story and korean drama production crew know how to use them well:
- A great narrative which could move the viewers naturally, relatably. The writers, actors, and directors really had to work together to showcase what make the characters human and relatable. Below are some scenes.
- Characters thinking out loud while brushing teeth or getting ready for work
- Characters who are on their toilets while trying to figure out what to do with their life after all
- Characters who are crossing the streets watching the go or stop signal on a busy day or a hard day
- Characters who shop for groceries, who wait and miss the busses, who pay at convenience stores, who wear the wrong shoes, who shiver during job interviews, who prepare food for people they love and the list goes on…
- Cinematography, where different camera and lighting techniques are used to convey the mood and details of the story. You would wonder how many outtakes were done to actually have the 15 seconds scene in the series.
- There are different camera shots, and I’ve seen korean drama series utilizing many of them: aerial shots, close up shots, wide shots, point-of-view shots, medium shots, top shots, etc…
- Sounds where when without none could leave the story unappealing. Just imagine how the sound directors actually record the sound of the waves or the sound of a beautiful morning. And how the team can come up with a good selection of background music fitting for the narrative’s mood and tone.
- Detailed Editing where scenes are put together like pieces of the puzzle, when it is just right all along, where taking out a scene or putting another 30 seconds may not make sense anymore.
Reason 3: A Relatable Family-Oriented, Asian Culture
I am an asian. Thus, korean drama stories are appealing to me because of similarities of my culture and korean culture.
Close family relationships are important for many Koreans and extended families living together appear to be an acceptable lifestyle. Koreans bow towards their elders and use words that show politeness toward strangers or to people close to them. Just like how people live in many southeast asian countries.
Below is a list of similarities I found:
- Public elementary and high-school students wearing uniforms
- Koreans are learning English as their second language
- Shanty houses are common too
- Wet markets and store carts on the sidewalk
- Small houses where 5 people could live
I have lived in the United States and the culture in the US is really different from Asia, where the examples in the list above is not something you would see often.
Reason 4: A Romantic Story Without the Need of Obscene Scenes between Couples
It is just the right amount of butterflies in the stomach. A heartwarming feeling that makes you want more and more as you keep watching the characters interact.
The South Korean TV production crew has probably perfected this formula. And as you keep watching these series, many scenes may have become cliche. However, expect the Korean writers and producers to still create that romantic twist the audience will love. It’s not about how much skin the actors have to show, but it’s about how the audience will feel the couple’s growing pains and happiness.
Reason 5: A Good Mix of Talented and Good-looking Actors
Well, “talented and/or good-looking”, this should be pretty obvious if you have been hooked already.
Also, you may have noticed that it is rare for a lead korean actor to be paired again to the same lead korean actress in another series. There are no permanent team ups but actors and actresses are chosen based on chemistry and the characters of the story. This is hard on the viewers who would love seeing a “couple” again on another show, but as I see it, this is actually positive for the sake of art and creativity. Actors are remembered first by the characters they portray and not by who they worked with.
Reason 6: Collectible Song / TV Soundtracks
As I mentioned in Reason #2, stories without detailed sounds would be unappealing. So sounds are important. But add background music to the mix just made it more interesting to watch and feel the mood of the story.
One of the reasons I got hooked in watching Korean dramas / movies are the background music played for the scenes. Although I couldn’t understand the lyrics for most of them, music has no language barrier. Thus, this website was made by me because of that.