If Koreanovelas can, why can't our teleseryes?

Dot Ramos Balasbas-Gancayco - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - A few years ago, after joining a Mexican cruise with my family and learning that a sleepy Mexican town (Puerto Vallarta) became an instant blazing tourism destination when a Hollywood movie starring Richard Burton, then married to Elizabeth Taylor, was shot there, I wrote an article strongly urging our government to look into how we could attract foreign filmmakers to shoot their movies in the Philippines. In South Korea, the Korean Tourism Organization (KTO) offers fantastic special deals for filmmakers who want to shoot in Korea, especially showcasing tourist attractions. For this reason, South Korea has become a favorite for international filmmakers like Vishesh Films of India (this country has the largest film industry in the world in terms of number of films produced and released each year) and consequently saw the upsurge of visitors to Korea.

But in addition to foreign movies filmed there, the meteoric rise in the number of international tourists in Korea has also been strongly attributed to Korean telenovelas. In an international convention of lawyers I attended late last year in this Asian nation, I was astonished to learn that Korean telenovelas are a hit not only among us Filipinos but people of all races. (I had always thought that it was the strong presence of Koreans in the Philippines that brought about this extraordinary phenomenon among Filipino viewers; how wrong I was!)

A Japanese delegate shared that wives of top government officials spend most of their vacations in South Korea because they are so enamoured of the tourist spots featured in Korean dramas. This same delegate expounded that even ordinary housewives would bring their teenage children (as young as 16!) to South Korea for plastic surgery as birthday gifts, inspired by the beauty of Korean actors (male and female!) who reportedly have been surgically enhanced. My Malaysian friend Sarah Huang says she and her mother never miss any show of their favorite Korean drama series. I heard the same from our Taiwanese, Chinese, Indonesian, African, Sri Lankan and even Russian friends!

Here in the Philippines, I was astounded to find so many of my friends — fellow lawyers, doctors, politicians and businessmen, who have been ardent followers of Koreanovelas. These people, who definitely can afford to travel for leisure, now have Korea as one of their preferred destinations. My daughter and her nerdy friends at Philippine Science High School, my co-employees in congress, my relatives, and so many others within my zone of comfort and trust — are all equally dependable resource persons on these drama series. They all plan to visit Korea someday.

I conducted my own research and tried to find out why Korean telenovelas have become so popular worldwide (so much so that viewers dream of going to Korea) that they even overtake, in terms of ratings, the local drama series. And here is what I have gathered:

1. Korean telenovelas, most of the time, focus on good values. The all-time favorite Jewel in the Palace was adopted by the Yau Ma Tei Catholic School in Hong Kong as a medium for imparting values of hard work, determination and patience to the schoolchildren. Here, the heroine is a maid who rises up to become the only female doctor in the Emperor’s Court.

2. Korean telenovelas show the country’s culture, traditions and very interesting history such as in Princess Hours.  The grandest palace in Seoul, the Gyeongbokgung Palace (said to be the “Versailles of Asia”) is also famous as a film location not only for movies but also for period television shows as my husband and I were informed during our short visit.

3. Korean telenovelas are lovely to watch because they are usually shot in breathtaking scenic spots promoting the beauty and magnificence of Korea — our travel brochure just needed to mention that the Jeju Folk Village Museum in the honeymoon destination Jeju Island was a location for the drama series Dae Jang Geum for it to be immediately signed up in full by swooning delegates’ spouses.

4. Korean telenovelas have interesting plots and are fast-paced and well-scripted.

5. Korean telenovelas dwell on positive universal themes of endless love, quiet sacrifice, love at first sight and romance with a touch of comedy like in Sungkyuwan Scandal.  These make the viewer feel good and light. Contrast this with the sickening kidnappings, murders, evil schemes and other vengeful acts in some of our current Filipino teleserye.  6. And most importantly, for the young viewers, the actors are all very good-looking.

Koreanovelas would not be as successful as they are were it not for the support of the Korean Tourism Organization and the South Korean government. It is clear that there is here a very aggressive marketing scheme so that we find in almost any country in the world Korean telenovelas being dubbed in the vernacular of the country where it is shown. There is unmistakably, a partnership between their Tourism Offices and teleserye producers so that tourist attractions are almost always highlighted.

With the current crises in troubled international tourist spots, travelers will be looking for other places in the world to visit. This is the right time then to show to the international community that we have the most awesome scenic spots like Boracay, Mindoro, Cebu, Bohol, Ilocos, Baguio, and even in so many of our undiscovered and rustic provinces like the Kalinga-Apayao; the most talented and most beautiful actors and the most brilliant people in the television industry. With the full support from our government, tourism organizations, and the millions of Filipinos working abroad who can be our ambassadors of goodwill, Philippine telenovelas (and movies, for that matter!) can definitely compete with those of our close Asian neighbors.












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