TODAY -

The influence of Korean TV dramas

Oliver Intoate Hmar *



Of all the TV dramas produced by Korea film-makers every year, the top-ten rated shows constantly include seven or eight play sequences. In 2006 alone, over 100 play-series were produced representing one of the world most creative outputs of this kind. What must be the causes behind the immense popularity of TV dramas among Asian viewers?

Certainly, the remarkable exaltation of drama programs in Korea has helped to crypt Korean TV dramas to all-new heights, in terms of quality and variety, which have also captured the attention of fast-growing audiences around the globe. As such, the Korean TV dramas which have been a corner-stone of the Korean wave phenomenon, have swept across Asia, and also have come to exert far-reaching influences on North East India's cultural and entertainment scene.

My niece who studied at Nirmalabus School, while writing her exam paper was asked by her teacher "What TV programs do you guys watch these days mostly?" The answers from the entire students was none other than ARIRANG TV.

Nevertheless, people who didn't get the chance of watching Cable network mostly talked about Manipuri's film and its actors like Kamala, Devita, Maya, Sadananda, Kaiku, Dinesh and the like. What step should our film makers take in order to spread out dramas and films as it's greatly influencing the life of the society and the youth in particular?

Kamala, popular Female Lead Actress in the Festival of Manipuri Cinema


Of the Korean films, Kang Myoung Seok (Cultural critic) said: "Ever since Korea's first TV drama was aired in 1962, Koreans have displayed an unwavering love for all manner of drama programs. As for the factors behind this fanatic popularity of TV dramas among viewers in Korea, much can be explained by the socio-historical characteristics of Korean society".

While "Love and Ambition" (Saranggwa Yamang), a very well-liked drama series broadcast by MBC-TV. The use of water would decrease nationwide, and there was no traffic on the streets. Even phone call at this hour was out of question. There was a speculation that this was because curfew was imposed and everyone must be at home after dark.

However, the fact is that people could not stand to miss a single episode of these episodes "Love and Ambition" This was one example which a hit drama program could influence the life of people. Nowadays, with the technology advancements and a diversified media environment, people can watch TV dramas wherever and whenever they want.

Cable networks are accessible to all district towns in Manipur as well. Film makers are to be well aware of the fact that the type of dramas or films they made is going to influence the society. Here I must say as an oriental, our films should also focus on our culture and tradition.

In Korea, TV dramas have long been dominated by melodramas with family-centered story lines, while history-theme series have also begun to gain growing popularity recently. Programs related to science fiction, suspense and mystery thrillers have been rarely produced.

However, this doesn't mean that the dramas only provide a mirror image of the Korean life style. The producers of Korean dramas strive to offer encouragement to viewers, many of whom prefer to have a brief break from a demanding day's work.

Consequently, Korean dramas will often feature fanciful plots of a rather ordinary person who encounters a life-changing experience. In large part, the basic formula for successful TV dramas in Korea calls for lead character, a kind of regular person that Korean viewers can commiserate with, and actors who wind up having an out-of-the-ordinary romance or whimsical experience, and in the end, lives happily ever after. Though there are a number of tragic ending dramas such as "Stairs to Heaven, Autumn in my Heart etc".

Because viewers can strongly identify and sympathise with these ordinary characters, the Korean dramas seem to invariably end with the triumph of good over evil. Although these dramas might be criticised for their tendency to moralies and oversimplify, they have enjoyed wide appeal across all ages and classes in Korea, and more recently have captured the fancy of viewers all over Asia.

For viewers in Asia, who share Confucian principles and place a strong emphasis on family values and true love, they can readily embrace the common themes of Korean dramas, such as rewarding the virtuous and punishing the wrongdoers.

The Korean dramas have gained popularity among Asian viewers by weaving scenes about traditional Korean cuisine into its main good-versus-evil plot line, and without passing judgment on cultural differences. In this way, Korean TV dramas have enjoyed a unique and universal appeal, which heretofore was hardly imaginable.

Nevertheless, Korean dramas are now venturing into new territory, while moving away from real-life experiences of the ordinary world to fantasy adventures that unfold in mythical or supernatural realms. Korean dramas can broadly be categorised into melodrama and historical drama. Due to the mixed results of various suspense-thrillers, crime-story, and comedy programs, the dominance of the melodrama and historical drama nevertheless appear destined to continue for some time in Korea.

Korean TV dramas have rapidly gained noteworthy popularity among viewers in several countries around the world. Over the past few years, the Korean dramas have been at the forefront to the Korean Wave pop culture phenomenon, along with becoming one of the most far-reaching cultural influences of the Asian region.

Through the establishment of the close relations with the film, showbiz, tourism, and publishing industries, Korean dramas have in fact moved well beyond the realm of TV. How can you explain the ability of Korean TV dramas to appeal to viewers in countries with a historical background, political environment, and traditional values which are so different from that of Korea?

For this, it would be helpful to reflect upon the insights of local specialists from Chile, Japan, China, and Vietnam, who have been tracking viewer reactions to the broadcast of Korean drama series.

There are many dramas that realistically depict love and personal relationship, but not many that deal with romantic love, as in the Korean melodramas. The most distinctive of Korean dramas is their visually striking depiction of romantic love, while the fashion and accessory items featured on screen add to the aesthetic enjoyment.

One of the main reasons that the dramas have been received so passionately by viewers across the universe is that the dramas need not be preoccupied with worldly interests or real-life problems, and therefore viewers can easily become emotionally attached to fanciful experiences.

Family relations is another time-honored theme to which viewers of all age groups can relate. In fact, other countries also produce its own family-centered dramas, of which many are excellent but they do not hesitate to reveal negative aspects of the family and society.

In contrast, Korean dramas tend to project a society that is caring and benevolent. The Korean "Men of the Bath House" deals with the mundane life of ordinary people, while at the same time attaining a high level of artistic refinement.

This drama does not resort to indecency of exaggeration, nor does it indulge viewers with special effects or picturesque landscapes. It simply tells the story of an ordinary family that operates a public bathhouse. But this quaint charm is what makes the program so appealing to viewers, who invariably enjoy a sense of genuine warmth from the personal interactions.

"'Men of the bathhouse' also reveals the traditional customs of Korea through a family's life story. It is noteworthy that traditional culture can be so deeply ingrained in the daily life of ordinary people. In particular, this drama made me realise the extent to which traditional culture is steadily disappearing from Chinese daily life" said by Li Sheng Li. (The Korean TV Drama from a Chinese Perspective)

Many get to know about Korea and develop favorable impressions of Korea. This awareness encourages viewers to purchase Korean-made product, clothing and hair style. Korean TV dramas are generating not only economic benefits in Asia and North East India but are also promoting positive social and cultural values as well.

Our State, Manipur, known as a land of insurgents, but bountifully rich with beautiful cultural and social values should also attract the world through our documentary films and dramas




* Oliver Intoate Hmar wrote this article for The Sangai Express . This article was webcasted on June 02, 2008.

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