Netflix, after meeting yesterday with South Korean president Yoon Suk Yeol, announced that it plans to spend $2.5 billion on “the creation and production of Korean films, series, and unscripted programs over the next four-year period” – which is just a fancy word for saying Netflix will be making a lot of Kdramas.
This is more than double the amount Netflix invested in Kdramas from 2016 – and this comes as no surprise, given the massive success of The Glory , Physical 100 and Squid Games. Ted Sarandos, co-CEO of Netflix, said that the company has “great confidence” that the Korean creative industries will continue to create great stories. He also noted that Korean entertainment is “now at heart of global cultural zeitgeist.”
This is strange for me as a Korean American of second generation. Cool! It’s also a little weird.
K-dramas were a part of my childhood that I shared with my parents. We watched them on the “Korean channel” on our old CRT. I can’t remember the majority of the shows, but there was a show with a gold-clad bald old king wearing a stylish eye patch and dressed in gold. I also remember that kids bullied me at school because my mom had packed gimbap in my lunchbox. These same kids teased me about listening to Kpop artists such as Baby VOX and HOT. Sarandos is referring to a recent cultural shift. It’s the one where BTS, Blackpink and Korean skincare are popular and Parasite win an Oscar. It’s the one that gave us terms like , koreaboo and more?
Wish I could have shown this to myself when I was younger. The culture that I liked secretly, and the one I pushed into the darkest corners in my brain, when I was with my American American Friends, would one day become the global cultural zeitgeist. There’s also a part of myself that is irrationally annoyed and frustrated at how easy everything has become. I feel alone despite the fact that more non-Asian people have contacted me to tell me about their K-drama obsession than ever before.
I remember renting bootleg DVDs in the basement of a Flushing, New York mall from a dodgy grandfather. While visiting my family during summer vacations, I would watch episodes of a particular drama. After returning home, I would have to search the internet to find episodes that were cut up into a million pieces in potato-quality resolution to see what had happened. When I bought DVDs in the summer, only to discover that they would not play on my American DVD player, this was my first lesson about region-locked content. There are so many K dramas on Netflix that I have no idea where to begin. They’re subtitled decently in English, so that anyone can watch them even if they miss the finer nuances . (See the gganbu Translation Debacle SquidGame.
There are so many Kdramas on Netflix that I’m not sure where to begin.
Netflix has become the arbiter for how Americans view K-dramas. Yes, Squid Gamewas so popular that it got a 2nd season . It’s amazing that Netflix was able to get The Extraordinary Attorney Woo in such a short time. I used to have to wait months before I could get a stream of an entire series. When my friends and family told me that Goblin, one of the best K-dramas ever, starring Squid Game actor Gong Yoo was available on Netflix, I couldn’t find it. The same thing happened when Bad prosecutor , starring Do Kyung Soo, was released this fall.
It’s not a bad thing. This is why I subscribe to Rakuten Viki. It does, however, eat away at something Sarandos stated in his statement. It is amazing that the popularity of Korean shows has resulted in a greater interest in Korea. This is thanks to the compelling stories created by Korean creators.
They will ask friends what Bong Joon Ho films they should watch following Parasite, and the only one that they watch consistently is Okja as it’s on Netflix. I could recommend Memories of Murder to my friends, but they’d just nod. Netflix does not have the film. I love Lee Byung Hun from Squid Game in Joint Security Area, which also stars Song Kang Ho of Parasite and is directed by Oldboy director Park Chan-wook. But it’s unavailable on Netflix. I want to watch The Annoying Brothers. It’s on Netflix, but not Rakuten Viki, nor is it available in other countries. It’s available on Netflix in other countries, but not here, and it isn’t on Rakuten Viki.
Netflix is not to blame. The DVD-era practice of region locking is a bad holdover. Plus, it’s not my fault that friends don’t want to spend the time and money on foreign entertainment. There’s a lot of content available. Netflix has an impressive collection of Korean movies and TV shows. It’s going to only get better with this $2.5 billion investment. It’s not only Netflix. As a result of the platform’s success, Hulu and Disney have also added K-dramas to their streaming platforms.
This is good news in general. Sometimes progress can be bittersweet. Even though I’m happy that K-drama has its moment in America I can’t but think about how difficult it can be to maintain the culture you inherited from your parents. Then and now.