SEOUL, South Korea – Pinoys are hooked to Korean dramas, or Kdramas, due to their charisma: complex, lovable, flawed characters with compelling personal stories, raw emotion-packed acting, and beautiful cinematography and directing.
Senator Jinggoy Estrada earned mixed reactions from netizens due to his comments that South Korean television shows in the Philippines should be banned because Filipino artists are losing their jobs.
“From what I have observed, we continue to show South Korean television series and that our fellow countrymen idolize Korean actors, while our artists are losing their jobs,” Estrada said during the Senate’s budget hearing for the Film Development Council of the Philippines. “So, sometimes I think of banning these foreign shows so that our own artists should be the ones we are showing instead.”
He later clarified that his comment stems from the frustration with the public’s “lack of support” for the local entertainment industry.
I was recently in South Korea for ten days when he made the comment as I attended the Asian Patent Attorneys Association (APAA) conference in Busan then proceeded to Seoul for leisure.
K-dramas have been popular in the Philippines since the 2000s. Huge demands from Filipino viewers have prompted Philippine television stations to import Kdramas.
I was not originally really an avid fan of Kdramas until the pandemic lockdown resulted in my “binge-watching” (i.e, watching multiple episodes of TV series in single or continuous sessions) on Netflix as a night habit.
COVID-19 lockdown substantially impacted our daily habits, well-being, and mental health forcing individuals to cope with uncertainty, fears, isolation, and feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression.
Digital technology provided a welcome source of alternative forms of connection and entertainment. People from anywhere in the world can easily access shows like K-dramas as a form of comfort that gave them hope during the COVID pandemic.
UP Diliman associate professor Erik Paolo Capistrano identified in an interview some of the factors that made K-dramas popular, particularly among Filipinos. He is also the principal investigator of UP’s Korea Research Center (KRC).
He noted that Korean entertainment companies have been effective in creating “new and disruptive” content, in giving “a refreshing take on common themes,” in being “forward-looking” and for being open to moving to different platforms and genres.
Regardless of the topic or the theme of the drama, they have a very robust system behind it that enables it to be executed in such a way that it can communicate to various audiences, he added.
They also have shorter programs as typical K-dramas span 16 to 24 episodes, as opposed to popular local shows that last for months, or even years.
K-dramas are always moving, sometimes in directions you never thought they would go. They are not as predictable as Pinoy telenovelas.
K-dramas have been constantly evolving and are made available to all through distribution in channels outside of the usual broadcast channels like Netflix.
There are also the aggressive promotions of K-dramas, similar to what is done with Korean music talents.
Korea is also home to Busan International Film Festival (BIFF) which is an annual event considered as one of the most significant film festivals in Asia.
The main focus of the BIFF is to introduce new films and first-time directors, especially those from Asian countries through its efforts to develop and promote young talents.
The festival contributed to making Busan a mecca for movie buffs and the hub of the visual culture industry.
It was recently held from October 5 to 14, 2022 along with the BTS Yet to Come concert last October 15 at the same time that I was attending the APAA conference.
We stayed at G Guesthouse in Itaewon, Seoul which is the same neighborhood where some scenes of “Itaewon Class” were shot.
It starred Park Seo-joon as a determined character who refuses to take the easy way out of any situation if it means compromising his core values and beliefs.
He became subject to many ill circumstances and unjust treatment, eventually becoming a target of a powerful family who runs the most successful pub franchise in the country.
I also had the chance to visit the shooting locations of other K-dramas like Extraordinary Attorney Woo, Kingdom, The King Eternal Monarch, Goblin, Coffee Prince, Train to Busan and Move to Heaven.
Director Joey Reyes said in an interview that the country should learn from the K-dramas and movies.
Reyes sees no problem in Filipino viewers getting hooked with K-dramas, stressing that part of the democracy in the Philippines is to allow the public to have alternative shows to watch.
As they say in Korean: “annyeonghaseyo”. Enjoy binge-watching.
(Peyups is the moniker of the University of the Philippines. Atty. Dennis R. Gorecho heads the seafarers’ division of the Sapalo Velez Bundang Bulilan law offices. For comments, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 0917-5025808 or 0908-8665786.)