Expert Explains Why Korean Dramas Are So Addictive

Korean dramas have become even more popular these days as more audiences outside Asia are caught in the now-global Korean wave.

DramaFever, a favorite website among K-Drama fans, streams a reported average of 800 million minutes of content per month. Data analytics company comScore reported that in November 2016 alone, the site welcomed 2.4 million unique visitors.

According to DramaFever, while its user base is made up mostly of women of color, a huge chunk of them are white females. About 43% of their female audiences were white, 27% Latino, 24% Asian and 17% black. They are equally hot on video streaming sites like Hulu and Netflix.

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“Korean dramas take the cake,” DramaFever director of video operations Jacqueline Sia told NBC News. “Asian dramas are really what people are looking for right now.”

Many international K-drama fans are so addicted that they typically can’t wait until the next episode is subtitled and uploaded.

Good thing most streaming sites understand such hunger that they often release them now in as little as 24 hours after original broadcast.

But really, why are they so popular?

Fans may give out some quick, easy responses: the good-looking cast, the fashion, the soundtrack, etc.

For Northwestern University Asian-American Studies professor Ji-Yeon Yuh, K-dramas’ global appeal is due to numerous factors.

In an interview with NBC News, Yuh explained that “structural factors that facilitate global consumption”, mainly the internet, have given Korean dramas a way to reach a global audience.

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It’s also worth noting that the plots, characters, and settings used in K-dramas feel new and different to Western audiences.

“That is, Korean drama and pop music, but drama especially, offer a version of a society that holds onto traditions and traditional values while moving forward as an economically advanced and developed society,” she added.

Candace Bacon of ReelRundown, broke down her thoughts in bullet points on K-Drama’s popularity.

  • Eye candy! – The stars of dramas are very attractive. There is a reason there are lots of “broody shower scenes” and “princess for a day makeovers” to be found in Korean shows.
  • Cultural appeal – It’s educational (really!). Watching foreign dramas lets you absorb information about a different culture without the hassle of dreary studying. You learn about different societal norms by watching the day to day life of the characters. Watch even one Korean drama and you will understand that shoes are taken off at the door without anyone needing to tell you.
  • Squeaky clean – The majority of K-Dramas are G-rated and very clean compared to American movies and television. Foul language is rare, violence is minimal, and love scenes rarely progress past kissing. In fact, even seeing a French kiss in a Korean drama is newsworthy. Some types of scenes make more impact to viewers when the show isn’t flooded with them.
  • Precious moments – There are oodles of meme-worthy moments in K-dramas. Some are funny, some are cute, the best are both. And the gags will feel new to people who haven’t seen much Asian television.
  • Vocabulary Stretch – By the time you become a K-drama veteran, all of the drama marathons you finished will have toned your lingual dexterity. You will know several key Korean words and phrases. You will be able to say “sorry” and “thanks” with ease and most importantly, you will be able to confess your love to your dearest Oppa. And you will also know what Oppa means.
  • Fresh factor – Many people from the Western world watch Korean dramas just because they are different from the programming they are used to. It’s not the same old stale, predictable plots that have been recycled for seasons. The plots, types of characters, and even the settings in K-dramas feel new and different and, therefore, more exciting.
  • Cool clothes – The fashion in dramas has definite trend appeal. Many outfits are straight from the runway. The accessories are just as amazing as the clothes. Drama stars dress the way most of us would in our daydreams.
  • Mouthwatering food – It’s hard to watch a drama and not get cravings for ramen. Nearly every episode features delicious-looking dishes like rolled up eggs, hearty soups, and grilled steak. And your hand dexterity will improve with dramas because you are sure to have simultaneous chopstick cravings as well.
  • Rocking music – K-Pop is even more popular than Korean dramas right now. It’s not hard to understand it’s popularity either. It has catchy beats and fun lyrics. There is also a hefty sprinkling of English words in K-Pop. And the good news is that dramas showcase plenty of K-Pop music and K-Pop stars are drama regulars.
  • Smorgasbord of choices – There is a drama to suit every taste. Light romantic comedies are a popular fare. There are also meatier melodramas for people who want to cry a lot. Genre can even be seasoned to taste with historical, fantasy, science fiction, action, romance, and many other drama ingredients.
  • Accessibility – Video streaming sites have made foreign television and film more readily available than in the past. People watch K-dramas more now than in the past in part because they actually can now.
  • The format – A typical Korean drama is 16-20 episodes and then it is done. The length is perfect to tell a whole, connected story that has a strong buildup and conclusion. The season is longer than a movie, so viewers because more emotionally invested. And it has a definitive end so the plot doesn’t become about filling time to last for multiple seasons.
  • Addictive properties – Korean dramas successfully create emotional connections with viewers. Characters are developed and brought through trials and tribulations in such a way that the audience relates to the characters and feels the same emotions. The cliff hanger endings of nearly every episode leave viewers squirming till the next episode can resolve the conflict. The tension is built up so expertly that it is more emotionally resonant when the main couple finally hold hands halfway through the series than when a full-blown bedroom scene happens in an American series.

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Now here’s the kicker: Korean dramas have become so popular that they are now getting American adaptations. Just this week, hit K-series “The Good Doctor” just received a pilot order from ABC.

Will it be as good?  Your guess is as good as ours.

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