What are the first K-dramas you think about? When I first got into K-dramas. I would mention the classics, ‘Guardian: The Lonely and Great God,’ ‘Descendants of the Sun,’ ‘Weightlifting fairy Kim Bok-joo’ and ‘Boys Over Flowers.’ Romance dramas from the mid-2010s are synonymous with K-drama fans, as their love stories stole our hearts, giving unreal expectations of love.

Comparing it today and with the global explosion of K-dramas expanding from small streaming sites ‘Rakuten Viki’ to streaming giant Netflix, whose catalog not only contains popular K-dramas from past years but in most recent years directing and uploading their own dramas. This model, replicated by fellow streaming giants Disney Plus and Apple TV over the past couple years, aired to newer audiences. The storylines of the 2020s K-dramas have evolved from the love storylines of old, with thrillers, suspense, and even crime dramas coming in and becoming some of the year’s most notable K-dramas.

Breaking into the mainstream world, many of these K-dramas have not only become popular in Korea. But draw millions of views from the International world. From the likes of Squid game, winning various awards at International award shows and being one of Netflix’s most viewed shows of all time accumulating over 111 million views in October 2021, according to CBN. And zombie drama ‘Kingdom’ successfully went to a second season as well as fellow zombie drama ‘All Of Us Are Dead’ making Netflix’s global Top 10. These K-dramas have also seen huge success outside of Netflix, such as the second season of Taxi driver being one of Viki’s most popular K-dramas of 2023, and Apple TV recreation Pachinko alongside Disney Plus created k-drama ‘Big Mouth.’ There has been a noticeable change in the investment and demand of K-dramas outside of romance by the streaming giants.

So why is this? And where has the inspiration for these dramas come from? K-dramas as we said earlier, have seen success based on love. The Korean film industry has always seen great success with movies from various genres. Joint Security Area, released in 2000, became the highest-grossing film in Korean history, ‘Train to Busan’ evolved into one of the world’s most successful zombie films. And recent years have seen the likes of ‘Parasite’ break into the world scene becoming arguably the world’s most successful film of 2019. Taking home multiple awards at the Oscars, and ‘Decision to Leave’ was one of the most successful films of last year. Korean films have also seen success being produced outside of Korea with the sequel of the 2016 film ‘Train To Busan,’ ‘Peninsula’ and Korean American Lee Isaac Chung-produced film ‘Minari.’ Korean films have started to venture outside of Korea into the mainstream world.

This success of Korean film has seen many directors become some of the world’s most well-known and successful directors, with the likes of Park Chan-wook and Bong Jong-ho winning various international awards at major and independent award ceremonies. The inspiration is there for young accomplished Korean Television directors with common themes replicated between both popular Korean movies and dramas.

But are romance dramas dying? And will the ride change with K-dramas becoming popular once again? Well, if Korean films are any representation, then we will have to wait and see as, at the moment, Korean films are a representation of the current landscape in Korea. But with romance K-dramas still being some of the year’s most popular dramas, and with the major success of Korean film still exploding with Korean directors only getting more popular. The future of Korean films and dramas only getting stronger, I am sure we will continue to see the growth of K-dramas both romance and other genres.


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Writer and former radio presenter, into Korean rock and indie bands and all things Korean entertainment.