Other Stories

Historical Dramas Captivate Korea Updated: 2012-02-08 00:00:00 KST

From a TV drama getting 40% ratings with its heartbreaking love story between a king and a shaman

to the movie of a master archer from the Joseon Dynasty that became the box office success of 2011

Korea, the world’s hub of hit TV dramas, is creating a new global boom with its historical dramas.

[Interview : Jo Yong-gil, Seoul resident] "You can feel the unique culture of Korea in historical dramas."

[Interview : Shin Ae-gyeong, Seoul resident] "The Korean spoken in historical dramas is different from modern Korean, so it's interesting to watch."

[Interview : ] "It is all thanks to your infinite grace."

[Interview : ] "Come here!"

[Interview : Jang Sae-mi, Seoul resident] "The traditional clothing that the actors wear in historical dramas make them fun to watch."

[Interview : Choi Hui-seung, Seoul resident] "Historical TV dramas are appealing because you can see the unique traditional culture of Korea."

The historical drama boom is especially apparent in TV dramas. There have been 8 historical TV dramas on air since 2011, and four of them were among the 10 dramas with the highest ratings of 2011. Of these, "The Sun and the Moon" is still on air and going strong, and may become one of the top two TV dramas in 2012.

It doesn't stop with TV. Songs from soundtracks to historical TV dramas are topping the music charts, and the original novels are selling out fast.

[Interview : Hong Ji-hye, Seoul resident] "These days I'm watching "The Sun and the Moon." I'm so curious about how it will end, so I came to buy the book."

[Interview : Kim Ji-hyeon, Seoul resident] "I think the TV drama "The Sun and the Moon" is better adapted for the modern audience than most historical dramas."

Fans of historical dramas are also creating their own spinoff content. Main characters on TV shows have social networking sites and star in Internet cartoons. Characters, lines, props, and posters are endlessly parodied online.

[Interview : Jeong Deok-hyeon, Popular culture critic] "The genre of "historical drama" clearly appeals to audiences. First, it has the advantage of being based on history, on facts and true stories. Adding the imagination makes history come alive. This is why historical dramas are enjoying a boom these days."

The historical drama genre has come to influence theater as well. Arirang Today visited one play that is now in its second run.

[Interview : Jo Hye-rim, Audience member] "I usually watch plays set in modern times. I‘m looking forward to seeing a historical play."

[Interview : Park Hyeon-mi, Audience member] "Historical dramas are such a hit these days. I wanted to see how they adapted that genre for the stage. It's interesting."

This is a historical dramawith a twist. A prince and princess from old Korean legend become smooth-talking clubgoers who show everyone the rules of the dating game. Traditional collides with modern to produce this fusion historical drama.

[Interview : ] "Excuse me, but can I get a drink[Interview : ] "A drink of what[Interview : ] "Of your love."

It's historywith a touch of shufflin' and rappin'.

[Interview : Seo Yun-mi, Director] "The stage is a place of fantasy, and a historical setting allows you to create a fairy-tale atmosphere. A historical drama can be made into a tragedy, or into a romantic comedy like "The Invention of Playing Hard to Get." The possibilities are endless. In my opinion, Korean historical dramas have the greatest potential for global competitiveness."

Fusion historical dramas that use the imagination to twist historic stories are a new hot trend.

[Interview : Na Sang-ho, Audience member] "It was unique to see a historical story told in modern terms. The actors are also amazing singers."

[Interview : Kang Ji-yeon, Audience member] "The play was written in a way that would appeal to today's younger generation. It was fun."

[Interview : Seong Du-seop, Actor] "We tried to think outside the box for this play. We believe that stories from history can be told again in a fun way through historical dramas. That's what makes historical drama such an appealing genre."

Unlike past historical dramas that were based on actual facts, today's historical dramas are largely fictional stories set in the past. The strategy of infusing famous historic stories with fictional romances and emotional conflict has proven immensely successful. These dramas are even drawing the attention of younger viewers, who had previously been an unreachable audience for historical dramas.

[Interview : Jeong Deok-hyeon, Popular culture critic] "Exporting historical dramas is exporting Korea's culture, and has a greater economic impact than, say, exporting cars. I predict that there will be more interest in historical dramas with time."

The historical drama boom is even reaching overseas. For instance, the TV drama "The Princess's Man" had an export contract even before it was produced, and was sold to 10 different Asian countries. The historical TV drama export boom is picking up again where the success of the 2003 series "Daejanggeum" left off.

[Interview : Yoon Jae-sik, Researcher
Korea Creative Contents Agency] "Korean historical dramas have the effect of promoting Korea's traditional culture, art, clothing, food, and even the character of Koreans themselves. This is why we will see an increase in the interest and export of historical dramas."

Korean historical dramas are promoting interest in Korean culture in general! Many foreigners are now seeking out cultural experiences here in Korea.

[Interview : ] "This hanbok is amazing!"

Michael is an English instructor living in Korea. He says that historical dramas are a good way for foreigners to meet and learn about Korean culture. At the moment, he is an avid fan of the historical TV drama "Immortal Admiral Yi Sun-sin."

[Interview : Michael Aronson, English instructor] "I like to watch them to learn more about Korean history, but I only know, more, the recent stuff. But now, by watching the dramas I can learn more about why these figures were so important, how people think they're relevant, and all the things that they did that they felt were worth knowing about."

[Interview : ] "Korea's historical dramas are so much fun. They're the best!"

[Interview : ] "Tune in!"

[Interview : ] "Hooray for Korean historical dramas!"

[Interview : ] "Korean historical dramas are the best!"

Hallyu stars like Lee Byung-heon and Ju Ji-hun have announced that they will be returning to the screen soon in new historical dramas. It looks like the historical drama boom is far from over, and we can't wait to see more great content in 2012.


Daejang-geum or the Jewel in the Palace I think really introduced this genre to the foreign audience.
Almost everyone I know who are k-pop fans have seen it.
And that series had a lot of episodes over 50 I believe.
There's something irresistable about the under dog in the royal palace who can cook up Korean dishes like no one else.
Well we have no shortage of these great programs and I'm sure our international viewers are jotting down these new tv titles. Well stay with us we'll be right back.
KOGL : Korea Open Government License
본 저작물 중 본문에 해당하는 뉴스 스크립트(텍스트)는 공공누리 제1유형-출처표시 조건에 따라 이용할 수 있습니다.