By Yeo-Ri Kim, Research Intern, East-West Center in Washington. She is a Master’s candidate in Global Policy Studies at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, University of Texas.
Note: this article originally appeared in the East-West Center’s Asia Matters for America/America Matters for Asia initiative on August 10, 2017.
The first episode of ABC’s new drama “Somewhere Between,” based on the Korean drama “God’s gift,” aired on July 24, the first U.S. remake of a Korean drama. ABC further announced that an American version of “Good Doctor” — a Korean hit TV series — will be released this September.
With the growing popularity of Korean dramas, American and Korean media firms have invested in streaming Korean dramas and films to Americans. In July, major Korean broadcasters KBS, MBC, and SBS began to provide a new streaming service, Kocowa, in the United States. This April, the US-based streaming giant Netflix signed a deal with South Korean cable TV network JTBC to provide its famous dramas and variety shows to Netflix subscribers.
In terms of the media and entertainment (M&E) industry, South Korea has maintained a good trading relationship with the United States — the largest M&E market in the world. The US M&E export to South Korea increased from $393.11 million in 2014 to $465.67 million in 2016. Many Korean remakes of US TV series — such as the Saturday Night Live, Good Wife, and Criminal Minds — have drawn huge viewership.
Recently, U.S. media companies have turned their eyes to Korea — the world’s seventh largest content creator — by adopting Korean formats and collaborating with Korean artists. NBC’s TV series “Better Late Than Never,” which adopted a format from Korean hit variety show “Grandpas Over Flowers,” confirmed a renewal of its second season in September. Netflix has also collaborated with South Korean film director Bong Joon-ho in producing “Okja,” which was recently released on Netflix.
The huge Korean drama fandom is also correlated with larger demand for Korean cosmetic products and Korean pop music in the United States. In 2016, Korean exports of cosmetic products to the United States increased by 45.73%. K-pop group BTS was awarded Top Social Artist at the Billboard Music Award 2017 in May.