Why are so many K-dramas getting localized in different countries? 

More and more K-drama scripts are getting remade by other countries’ producers because of their engaging storylines

Korean dramas are increasingly attracting a large audience thanks to their diverse content and rapid growth of online streaming services on a global scale.

As reported by Korea Times, the Korea Communications Commission has demonstrated using data that the OTT (Over The Top) market in 2020 has grown by 23% year-on-year.

According to a report by the Korea Information Society Development Institute, Korean drama export revenue reached $273.27 million in 2019, up 11% from $241.89 million in the previous year. The rise in global interest in Korean dramas is contributing to the development of the overseas film remake industry. 

K-dramas are getting remade in Hollywood and many other markets

The growth of OTT services has led to a speedy increase in the number of TV viewers. K-dramas such as “Crash Landing On You” (tvN), “Itaewon Class” (jTBC) or “Uncanny Counter” (OCN) all made it into the list of Top 10 most-watched Netflix shows in Asia, Europe, and North America.

Uncanny Counter
Uncanny Counter is in the top of the highest-viewed dramas on Netflix.

Many Korean dramas have been adapted into foreign versions. In March, the Philippines began broadcasting a remake of “Encounter” – a Korean romantic drama starring Song Hye Kyo and Park Bo Gum. A localized version of the horror-romance show “Let’s Fight, Ghost” came out in Thailand last year and recorded a high viewership.

In May, jTBC’s rom-com “Clean with Passion for Now”, about the funny love story between a germaphobe CEO and his messy female employee, got a Chinese version with a new title, “Use for My Talent”.

MBC’s hit drama “She Was Pretty” and OCN’s crime thriller “Voice 2” are getting their Japanese remakes, which will air in July.

Hollywood producers are also actively working on remakes of many Korean dramas. Horror series “Trap” (OCN) was remade in the US with the title “The Club”. The storyline revolves around the process of a veteran detective (Ma Dong Seok) whose job is to investigate a mysterious group of attackers of a famous editor’s family.

A Hollywood remake of MBC’s “W: Two Worlds”, about a surgeon’s journey in search of her missing father in the webtoon world, is also reportedly under production.

Song Hye Kyo and Park Bo Gum
Encounter starring Song Hye Kyo and Park Bo Gum was remade by Filipino producers

The cause of the “remake” craze

“Unlike Japanese dramas that are slow-paced and filled with mundane conversations, or Chinese dramas that have loose plots and a lack of continuity, Korean dramas boast dramatic twists and turns that take audiences on a roller coaster of emotions,” said Yun Suk-jin, a drama critic and professor of Korean Language and Literature at Chungnam National University said to The Korea Times.

Yoon said that Korean TV productions have made great strides in the last decade. “Overall, K-dramas have evolved a lot. In the past, TV productions have been largely viewed as artistically inferior to films. But now, they’re regarded as independent works of art that are as high-quality as a film. Today, we see more diverse stories and high-quality content, driving the market forward,” he said.

Kim Min Young, Netflix’s Vice President of Content in Korea, Southeast Asia, Australia and New Zealand, said the content of Korean films has received attention its strong attention to detail. 

“I think the biggest strength of Korean content is that they are very good at helping our audiences resonate and relate to the show by being able to describe emotions in a very detailed way,” she said during an online press event titled “See What’s Next Korea 2021” in February.

Although streaming platforms own the rights to many Korean dramas, directors still want to remake works with unique scripts. Not only has the language changed, but some details have also been modified due to cultural differences, explained Studio Dragon.

Hotel del Luna
Hotel del Luna will have an American version.

Each region will favor different genres of Korean dramas. “Asian audiences love romantic comedies or melodramas. Especially Asian audiences often look for dramas that evoke a lot of emotions. In contrast, Western audiences focus on the development and details of the film,” according to a report by the Korea Creative Content Agency.

The development of remake films led to cooperation between Korean film production companies and foreign units. In 2020, Studio Dragon announced the remake project of Hotel del Luna with the American company Skydance.

In addition, Studio Dragon has partnered with Skydance and Apple TV+ to produce an original series titled “The Big Door Prize”. This is the first time a Korean film company has produced an American drama aimed at the global audience.

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