By Seven Bueno

The “Korean Wave,” also known as hallyu, has been taking over mainstream media since the mid-1990s, after South Korea entered into diplomatic relations with China in 1992. Within a span of 28 years, South Korea was able to evolve an entertainment industry that has not only created a typical Friday-night pastime for their people, but has also left a big footprint in global pop culture. 

These days, Korean dramas or K-dramas dominate international media streaming sites like Netflix, which has resulted to the Korean culture in general being a hot topic for people across all ages. Slowly but surely, South Korea is becoming the home of the 21st century’s Hollywood. I’m pretty sure everyone else who hasn’t seen a K-drama is wondering why everyone loves them. 

Here are a few reasons why.

The variety of stories 
As a growing industry, there are hundreds and maybe even thousands of writers in South Korea competing against each other on who comes up with the next big hit, not only to be published as a webtoon or YouTube series but to be aired by either of their country’s leading broadcasting networks. All these writers and content creators, therefore, are driven to write the juiciest plot twists in almost any kind of situation without making potential investors cringe.


These stories range from a love that forms between a crown prince and a female pretending to be a eunuch in the middle of the Joseon Dynasty to even an action series revolving around a stunt man and a National Intelligence Service agent of Korea who happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. The dramas they have produced also become relatable because of how writers can come up with great stories that are set in the most random workplaces. What’s Wrong With Secretary Kim is an example of a drama that portrays a different take on a love between an overworked secretary and a CEO. In one way or another, because of how much variety of quality plots and twists in the series Korea produces, there’s literally “a drama for everyone.”

The quality of its production 
What I’ve noticed with K-dramas is that from wardrobe, makeup, set designs to the smallest detail of transitions between one scene to another, everything is well looked after by their production teams. In the Philippines, an episode of a series can take one to two days to film, depending on how far set locations are from each other. In contrast, an average K-drama episode takes at least a week to film, and another month or two to edit and review before being aired on the screens of our smartphones and television sets. These dramas are nowhere near mediocre, especially since they’re heavily invested in. Each episode of the action series Vagabond, for example, costs around 1.5 billion won (P61.4 million) to produce.


Locations where they film these productions are also well thought of. There are dramas that are filmed within the country’s capital, Seoul, and from time to time, one series or another will highlight a different tourist attraction in Korea. These dramas don’t only stay within the borders of South Korea, though. Recently, the cast of Crash Landing On You went as far as jumping the border to film North Korean scenes. No, they didn’t enter the realm of Kim Jung-Un, but the cast flew to Mongolia and Switzerland to film many parts of the 16-episode Netflix series about a South Korean lady’s accident that led her into the arms of a North Korean man.

The delivery of their message 
In every Korean series, what’s usually highlighted is the love and drama between its main characters. Deeply embedded into every story, however, is a message that writers and producers try to inject into the minds and hearts of the people in the subtlest of ways—and they’re really good at it. There are times while watching these shows I suddenly realize that I’m, in fact, watching an hour-long commercial about a cleaning appliance brand, and there are times I’m just awed by how a simple scene of office workers drinking coffee can become an aesthetically pleasing product endorsement for Nespresso.

There’s literally ‘a drama for everyone.’

They don’t only infuse their dramas with product placements of sponsors and partners, but also insert a lot of values and social issues into the stories. There are shows that portray the lives of the richest and most famous celebrities and idols of South Korea, and how incomplete they feel while they slowly become objectified by fans. There also are shows that give a glimpse of corruption and crimes that take place in the South Korea, which most of the world sees as a perfect and beautiful society. While watching the show Extracurricular, I was annoyed at the conflicts between characters, excited at all the action scenes, but in the end I realized it was a 10-hour campaign against sex-trafficking of children in society, showing what happens if kids don’t speak up when they need to the most.


I’ve watched K-dramas produced even as early as 2003, and there are probably a lot of other reasons these shows capture a global audience and can potentially can Hollywood in mainstream media. If you haven’t watched a single K-drama, you might want to try watching one. They can get quite addicting, but I’m sure that these shows would, at the very least, expose you to different culture, another lens through which to view life and examine the way we live. 

This isn’t about putting down local filmmakers, by the way. It just highlights what makes K-dramas work and how these shows have been able to capture the imagination and fascination of a wider audience. 

Who knows, maybe Filipinos can learn a thing or two from them and end up with even more world-renowned content someday soon. 

Source: Manila Bulletin (