More Than K-pop: Korean TV Shows Gaining Popularity in the United States

This combination of images released by Netflix shows, from left to right, Hyun Bin, Seo Ji-hye, Son Ye-jin, Kim Jung-hyun and Oh Man-seok in scenes from the South Korean drama series “Crash Landing on You “. (Netflix via AP)

Photo: Associated press

Most evenings around 10 p.m. when her family goes to bed, Carol Holaday logs into her computer. She doesn’t fall into rabbit holes on the internet for random information or comb through social media at her San Diego home. Holoday volunteers to translate the subtitles of Korean TV shows — often referred to as K-dramas — on the Rakuten Viki streaming platform.

“It’s my secret pleasure,” said Holaday, who helped caption 200 tracks for Rakuten Viki, commonly known as Viki.

Viki offers both original and licensed content from Japan, Korea, China, and Taiwan and subscribers around the world. Its largest audience is from the United States, of which 75 percent are non-Asian.

The Translator Program recruits volunteers, from newbies to contributors designated as Gold Status based on the quality and quantity of their contributions.

Holaday, who does not speak Korean, is a subtitle editor. She watches portions of the video that have already been translated into English and checks grammar, word placement and spelling. Besides translators and editors, there are also “segmenters” which separate the parts of the video to be captioned, so that one person does not translate an entire episode.

Another proud and qualified contributor is retired lawyer Connie Meredith. She even enrolled at the University of Hawaii to study Korean in order to become a better translator.

“The grammatical structure is so different from English that it’s really, really difficult,” said Meredith, who has worked on over 500 titles for Viki. She said translating a 10-minute segment can take about two hours.

“Sites like Viki use fan translations which is great, but it can be done quickly because people can’t wait to see the dramas. So it’s probably not as fancy as you might get elsewhere, ”said Joan MacDonald, a Forbes contributor who covers Korean media.

Viki translations are not limited to English. “A drama can translate into 20 different languages ​​in 24 hours,” Yasuda said.

Awareness of K-dramas outside of Korea appears to be growing, MacDonald said. “The number of people who have contacted me in the last year and a half to say, ‘Oh, I just found out about K-Dramas, what do you recommend? ” It is important.

Other streaming sites are also adding more Korean content to their offerings.

Apple TV + has two Korean-language projects in the works: one based on the animated series “Dr. Brain”, and an adaptation of the novel “Pachinko” by Min Jin Lee on four generations of a Korean immigrant family. This series will be available in Korean, Japanese and English.

This year, Netflix is ​​investing nearly $ 500 million to produce Korean content and has partnered with major studios including Studio Dragon and JTBC.

Some of Netflix’s popular series in 2020 included “Start-Up,” “It’s okay to disagree,” and “What’s wrong with Secretary Kim? “

Another that caused a stir is “Crash Landing on You” with actors Hyun bin and Son Ye-jin. The Romance About One North Korean and One South Korean aired on the pay channel tvN in South Korea and also on Netflix. Fans found their chemistry so believable that many believed there had to be a real relationship offscreen. Representatives of the actors confirmed that they were dating on New Years Day.

Streaming services have made television more globalized where it’s easy to watch a show from another country, but MacDonald believes one of the reasons K-dramas are so popular is that they mix genres the way they do. K-pop.

“It’s kind of a global thing like pop isn’t really a sound. A lot of things fit into it. You’ll have something like a romantic horror comedy that starts out as a gangster story, but it’s really a dark comedy that keeps changing genres throughout. ”

MacDonald says K-pop fans are also drawn to K-dramas because “a lot of K-pop stars are in dramas and a lot of actors who are in dramas sometimes have singing careers.”

Sara Wagner from South Lyon, Michigan grew up surrounded by Korean culture because her best friend over 40 is Korean.

“I hung out with them a lot and ate Korean food. … With the Internet, it has become much more accessible to watch dramas.

Wagner also believes that “Parasite” winning the Best Picture award at the 2020 Oscars has increased interest in Korean cinema. “People ask, ‘What else would you recommend’ and I say, ‘Hang out for Busan’. “

She even keeps an Excel spreadsheet outlining the storylines, themes, featured dishes, weather, and endings of the shows she watches K-drama, so she can recommend them to others.

A note from Wagner for “What’s wrong with Secretary Kim?” Says, “There’s a kiss in episode 12 that’s going to knock you down.”




  • Alicia Rancilio Associate Press

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