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Refitting Korean dramas for U.S. TV

For what may be a first in Korean drama history, viewers in America could soon be tuning into a remake of KBS’ detective-crime series, “Resurrection.”

“We’re looking for opportunities to take KBS content and find American broadcasters to create American versions,” Kapital Entertainment CEO Aaron Kaplan told The Korea Herald on Tuesday in Seoul.

The production company signed a deal with the Korean broadcasting network, optioning the rights to two KBS dramas, “Resurrection” (2005) and “Lucifer” (2007), for the purposes of transforming them into television shows that will cater to an American audience.

This is big news for Korean television dramas, because if Kapital succeeds in producing and selling these remakes to a U.S. network, “it will be a first,” said Sung Tae-ho, KBS Content Business Office senior manager.

Indeed, while a remake of KBS’ “Lucifer” aired on TBS in Japan, no such remake has aired via an American network. This also holds true for fellow broadcasting networks SBS and MBC.

Remakes of Korean films, however, are not new to the entertainment industry.

In 2008, Jun Ji-hyun’s hit flick “My Sassy Girl” (2001) got a Hollywood makeover, as did her earlier film, “Il Mare” (2000), in 2006.

The “Il Mare” remake, titled “The Lake House,” which starred Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves failed to draw stellar box office figures in the States. “My Sassy Girl” went straight to DVD in America.

Fortunately, with Kaplan at the helm, both “Resurrection” and “Lucifer” may have more success.

As former worldwide head of scripted television and packaging at the William Morris Agency (now known as William Morris Endeavor Entertainment), Kaplan is an industry veteran.

“In 14 months, (Kapital) has sold 30 shows,” said Kaplan

One of them is Steven Spielberg’s prehistoric time travel fantasy, “Terra Nova,” set to air on Fox next year.

With such an impressive project on his plate, why does Kaplan have his eyes set on Korea?

“I’ve been fascinated by the Korean market,” he said. “I think Korea is an epicenter for all that can work in Asia.”
KBS’ “Resurrection” is the first drama that Kapital Entertainment is working on remaking for American viewers. (KBS)
KBS’ “Resurrection” is the first drama that Kapital Entertainment is working on remaking for American viewers. (KBS)

After an initial pitch from Global Creative Content producer Won Lee, Kapital and the Korean network reached an agreement.

First up on the list is “Resurrection,” which, Kapital producer John Fitzpatrick said, “is the first title that really got our attention.”

“Resurrection,” which aired on KBS 2 TV in 2005, derives its impetus from the murder of the protagonist’s twin brother. The protagonist, a detective that was played by actor Uhm Tae-woong, assumes his twin brother’s identity in order to exact revenge.

“Lucifer,” yet another series featuring Uhm that aired on KBS 2 TV in 2007, runs along a similar vein.

Uhm plays a detective yet again, one who was involved in an accidental murder. He discovers that people are being killed in what appears to be an act of revenge in regards to that incident. Enlisting the help of a psychic (played by Shin Min-a), the detective tracks the murderer down.

Despite the fact that neither series garnered high viewer ratings here, Kaplan thinks that the genre is spot-on for the U.S. market.

“Crime dramas work very well in America,” he said.

Kaplan agrees that some tweaking is needed to make “Resurrection,” which he will be working on first, attractive to American audiences. He feels that the uptake is slow in the initial episodes of the original and plans to speed things up to lock in audiences right away.

Kaplan hopes to find the remake a network partner and go into production for its first season this time next year.

“We’re looking to sell immediately,” Kaplan said. “As we speak the content is out to various high level writers, directors and creators in America with the intention of developing it now.”

Global Creative Content producer Won Lee explained the process.

Basically, Kapital will reach out to “top-tier writers in Hollywood,” who will rewrite “Resurrection,” tailor it to American viewers, and pitch it back to Kapital. Kapital will pick one and shop it to broadcasting networks. If all works out, a network will buy a pilot or a set number of episodes.

What makes Kaplan and team think “Resurrection” and “Lucifer” have a fighting chance?

“We felt that these shows were unique,” Kaplan said.

By Jean Oh (oh_jean@heraldcorp.com)
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