“It’s good not to be well” illustrates the evolution of Korean dramas
It is Agree to disagree is a popular 2020 South Korean drama starring Kim Soo-hyun, Seo Yea-ji, and Oh Jung-se. It’s also a good example of how Korean dramas continue to evolve. Streamed in Korea on tvN and internationally on Netflix
and nominated for a 2021 International Emmy for Best Television Mini-Series. Yet the drama may never have been produced a decade ago, let alone seen by international audiences.
The inventive story of a selfless guardian and anti-social author was created by Studio Dragon, the Korean drama production, marketing and distribution company established in 2016 as a spin-off of CJ ENM. Kim Young-kyu, CEO of Studio Dragon and It’s good not to be well executive producer So Jae-hyun attended the International Emmy Awards ceremony which honored their drama. Although the drama lost to the Norwegian / English historical miniseries Atlantic crossingKim is delighted that international audiences can see more Korean dramas.
“There are a lot of good dramas in Korea, but until recently there were less chances to see drama internationally,” Kim said. “Now there are different platforms like Netflix and it affects the ability of Korean dramas to go international. The Korean drama market is really small, so if it doesn’t go international like this now, it’s hard for a Korean production company to compete.
Kim sees competition as a good thing. “Due to the strong competition, they are under pressure to make better Korean dramas now. ”
The launch of Studio Dragon was a game-changer for the Korean drama industry. Before that, the terrestrial television stations – MBC, SBS and KBS – produced their own dramas, working within a tightly defined framework.
“Previously, only TV stations made their own productions and those were affected by ratings and censorship,” Kim said. “So they couldn’t have scenes of violence or sex. Now we can do more creative series.
Budgets were also often limited.
“Some of the creators’ ideas wouldn’t go into production,” said So, who also directed the dramas. Witches’ dinner and memoirist. “Now, because there is a bigger budget, some of the ideas of the creators can be taken to that next level. Due to budget issues in the past, there were a lot of designers with ideas that were left behind and now they can shine.
Squid game recently broke Netflix viewing records, bringing a larger audience to k-dramas, but when Squid game was written, even eight years ago, the drama had little chance of being produced.
“Back then, if different stories were put on the table, a lot would be eliminated because of censorship,” Kim said. “Squid game and My name would not have reached production.
It’s good not to be well could also have been dropped, as the story deals with mental health issues, a topic dramas avoided at the time. So I felt strongly that this was an important story to tell.
“I wanted to tell a story in which people with mental health issues are not seen as that different from others and I hope I got that message across,” So said. “It’s a very different production than the usual romantic drama. When there’s a love story in a typical Korean romantic drama, there’s a prince, it’s a Cinderella story, but I wanted to show a completely different kind of romantic drama and do not copy others.
As audiences for drama grow, it’s natural to wonder if producers will cater to the tastes of viewers around the world. Successful series such as Squid game, Hellbound and My name present more violence than what is typically found in Korean dramas. Does this mean that new Korean dramas will tend to be more violent? According to Kim, more violence isn’t necessarily a trend Korean producers will adopt just to appeal to an international audience.
“I don’t think the producers are going to make the dramas more violent just because the dramas worked well,” Kim said. “They are going to explore a larger subject.”
An essential part of the drama that will not change, he said, is the importance of the storyteller. A drama will continue to have only one screenwriter and that writer will be essential in directing the story.
“Storytelling is the most important part for me,” So said. “What the writer wants to tell in the story. The message that will affect people with a drama is the story. I want to tell a story in a different way, in a way that was never created before, everyone has a different approach and that’s the fun part of the Korean drama industry.
Korean dramas usually have 16 episodes and rarely have a second season, but as more dramas are aired on OTT platforms, international viewers, accustomed to multi-season shows, are asking for additional content. A second season has been released for Netflix dramas Love alarm and Hospital reading list. A second season is in the works for the 2016 time travel crime story Signal. According to Kim, whether or not a drama gets a second season will be up to the creator.
“Korean dramas are very much about the creators,” Kim said. “It is different from the American production in that there is only one screenwriter per production. The decision to make a second series is up to the creators. Unless there are production or funding issues, if the creators decide on a second season, they will. “
Since 2019, audiences for Korean dramas in the United States have grown by 200%, and the surge in interest can be attributed to several factors. Streaming platforms offer access to more international selections, making them easier to view. Bong Joon-ho’s movie Parasite won the Best Picture award at the 2020 Oscars, and k-pop group BTS topped the music charts in 2021, introducing many more people to Korean culture. During the pandemic, homebound viewers explored different entertainment options. As the international audience grows, so does international investment. Apple TV + and Disney + have recently developed original Korean content, as has Chinese streaming site iQiyi, offering even more drama viewing choices.
Since its launch, Studio Dragon has produced a long list of internationally acclaimed dramas, including Crash Landing On You, Kingdom, Sweet Home, The King: Eternal Monarch and Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha. The industry was already changing before the pandemic, Kim said, and it will continue to evolve.
“This has changed dramatically since 2019 and the changes will affect many different areas. The dramas that are going to come out from now on will certainly be different from the dramas of the past. I can’t wait to see the dramas that will come out.