Are Korean Dramas Becoming Too “American?



Korean dramas are HOT. During the pandemic Netflix reported an exponential increase in viewership of their K-dramas. K-dramas, like Korean content, are now mainstream. But with all this global popularity comes changes to the basic story structure that makes a Korean drama inherently a Korean drama.


Some of the most popular dramas are moving away from a single season of 12-16 episodes. Hits like “Kingdom”, “Penthouse”, “Sweet Home”, etc. are now producing multiple seasons. How will this fundamental change in storytelling affect Korean dramas? And perhaps most importantly, is this what fans want?


I recently taught a class at Konkuk University and had the opportunity to asked the students, all Gen Z/Korean content fans, what they thought of this new more Western structure. Their reaction?


*In my informal poll with these students, most preferred the traditional one season structure. Why? Students enjoyed knowing before watching a drama that the story would be resolved in a set amount of time. They wanted to know that a resolution to the story would be found in 14-16 episodes, before they dove in and invested time in the story and characters. They also appreciated the "authenticity" and "Koreanness' of the original single season structure? If they wanted a multiple season show they would simply watch an American TV series.


So that's what some Gen Z fans in Korea thought, but what do fans outside of Korea prefer? Judging by the success of the show mentioned above (and the success of the Kingdom special for instance) it seems that viewers simply enjoy more episodes and stories of characters they've come to love.


Time (and viewership) will tell if Korean dramas move to a multi season storytelling arc for good.


What do you think? Do you prefer the multi season Korean dramas?


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