In China, Korean TV drama “My Love from the Star” seems to have stirred up a syndrome that stands strong even amid a series of national tragedies ― a terrorist attack that left 33 people dead and a flight gone missing with another 152 of its nationals aboard.
Kim Soo-hyun, the male lead in the drama, has become the heartthrob of Chinese girls. In the series, he played Do Min-jun, an alien in the form of a perfect male specimen who falls in love with an arrogant A-list actress played by Jun Ji-hyun.
The demigod’s appearance on a Chinese TV program last weekend evoked an explosive response, with illegal tickets sold for up to 30,000 yuan ($4,900), Chinese media reported. It is said Kim took home a whopping 3 million yuan for that appearance.
Kim Soo-hyun (left) and Jun Ji-hyun are protagonists of the recently-ended TV drama “My Love from the Star.” (Yonhap News)
Any Korean products featured on the drama became mega-sellers. After Jun mentioned fried chicken and beer, a combination called “chi-maek” in Korean that many people here love to have on Fridays and during casual evening gatherings, Korean chicken joints in China saw local customers line up for as long as two hours to order.
Korean instant noodle maker Nongshim said sales in January and February ― while the drama aired ― rose to a record in its more than 15-year history of business in the country. This, too, is attributed to a scene in the drama where the couple enjoyed a bowl of noodles on a trip.
Meshing comedy, suspense, sci-fi and romance, “My Love” aired on SBS TV, one of Korea’s three major TV networks, from Dec. 18, 2013, to Feb. 28, 2014. It was the most-watched program of its time slot, with a rating of 28.1 percent. In China, its episodes saw more than a combined 2.5 billion views online.
Though not as popular as “My Love,” some other Korean programs scored big among Chinese viewers in recent months. They include TV drama “The Heirs” and reality show “Where Are We Going, Dad?” The latter was a format sale to China, in which Chinese producers recreated their own show based on the Korean format.
“The sale of Korean TV dramas to China has been sluggish for the past few years, compared to its peak years, but there seems to be a new opportunity opening up now which is the format business,” said Yoon Jae-shik, a hallyu researcher at the state-run Korea Creative Content Agency.
Be it in the form of an end-product sale or just a format sale, many officials in Korea hope that the series of Korean programs’ successes leads to a resurgence of the Korean Wave, or hallyu, which swept the country in the early 2000s. Hallyu started with a string of successful soap operas, which were followed by movies and pop music.
To find ways to create a second hallyu, government officials, culture professionals and academics have been holding forums, policy meetings and other events in past years. Such efforts have doubled under President Park Geun-hye’s drive to nurture creative industries to jump-start economic growth.
The success of “My Love” and others may be a sign that their efforts are working. Or it might be just a coincidence. What looks clear is that Korea needs a second or third “My Love” to carry the momentum into the second Korean Wave.
By Lee Sun-young (firstname.lastname@example.org