The story of Dae Jang Geum resonated in different cultures for a variety of reasons. In some countries, where female oppression and firmly entrenched gender roles are an inevitable part of the social fabric, many viewers empathised with the female protagonist's courage and strength. In others, traditional cultural iconography such as architecture, music, attire, food and medicine invoked an exotic feel.
|Above: scenes from the earliest episodes of Dae Jang Geum|
Not only did Dae Jang Geum immediately sweep Asian countries such as Japan, China, India, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Singapore and Brunei, but North America and Europe also took notice, along with countries such as Russia, Turkey, Israel, Saudi Arabia and Iran, where the Korean wave had previously remained under the pop culture radar.
Dae Jang Geum has been broadcast in more than 60 countries worldwide, accelerating the globalisation of Korean dramas far beyond Asia, to the Middle East and Africa.
K-Dramas Go Global
During the earlier period of the Korean drama boom that started some 10 years ago, the majority of the overseas viewers resorted to scouring their local DVD shops to see if they carried their favourite Korean dramas.
|K-drama: "All About Marriage"|
Korean dramas have tapped into the widespread use of video-streaming websites and social media, such as blogs, Facebook and Twitter, since the 2000s.
|K-drama: "Coffee Prince"|
In addition, due to the rapid development of online video services like YouTube, the consumption of traditional television is becoming a social experience that is immediately shared without the limitations of time, geography or language.
The Future for K-Dramas
Responding to the soaring demand for K-dramas, the Korean Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism is stepping up its efforts to improve the drama production environment.
The government plans to establish an "HD Drama Complex" at Daejon's Expo Park by 2016. The complex will house five drama studios for films, dramas and sitcoms, along with indoor court and jail sets, outdoor filming sites and an arts centre.
|K-drama: "Gu Family"|
Originally published in the May 2014 edition of KOREA magazine).