K-Dramas and K-Culture: A shared experience between Philippines and Korea during the pandemic

DIPLOMATIC POUCH - Han Dong-Man (The Philippine Star) - July 30, 2020 - 12:00am

When the Korean Wave or Hallyu started gaining ground in the mid-1990s, the primary elements that the Asian markets embraced were K-Drama and K-Pop. Slowly and naturally, its following expanded beyond Asia. As the internet and the social media platform emerged for this new generation, barriers, limitations, and borders were broken, and the Korean culture, composed of food, literature, language, and also webtoons, eventually reached the other countries.

As more people appreciated, the diverse and colorful Korean traditional culture, composed of food, literature, language, and also webtoons followed suit. Not too long, Korean culture also found its way to the West, where these days, K-Culture enthusiasts have been increasing in number.

Filipinos, for their part, have long ridden the Korean Wave, especially K-Pop and K-Drama. As fan meets, concerts, and other K-Culture related events and content consumption continued to be flooded with large audiences and reached all-time highs in the past years, and so was the production and influx of Korean content in all mediums.

Koreanovela, a word that has been coined through the combination of the words Korean and Telenovela or television dramas, have long had a special place in the hearts of many Filipinos. But, K-Dramas in the Philippines reached yet another milestone as the wildly popular hit drama “Crash Landing on You” and “Itaewon Class” came through the streaming application, Netflix.

As Filipinos stayed at home in the past months due to the pandemic, I have learned that K-Dramas garnered a “consistent amount of interest” among Netflix’s offering, with “Crash Landing on You” and “Itaewon Class” at the forefront, according to the data gathered by iPrice Group. Aside from that, many individuals who previously have little interest for K-Drama have become new fans of it because they have started appreciating how it is crafted.

In fact, whenever I meet government officials in the past, such as the Department of Tourism Secretary Berna Romulo-Puyat or those from the Department of Foreign Affairs, Hallyu, specifically K-Drama, has always been an exciting topic of conversation. Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano’s recent mention of Hallyu in reference to his proposal of the establishment of the Department of Arts and Culture in the Philippines is also something notable for us.

Despite the language barrier, I am grateful that K-Dramas’ popularity have only gotten stronger in time. K-Drama viewers definitely found an appeal and embraced the historical references and the mirroring of the current and significant Korean society issues, like the education system and the gap between the rich and the poor.

In addition, the K-Dramas have also been the most accessible and entertaining gateway into a different kind of story-telling, one that showcases and allows for the experience of an entire culture – food, fashion, sports and tourism included.

K-Dramas’ intense quality is nothing but a very good reflection of the amount of government support and professional expertise that was given to it during its conceptualization and production. I strongly believe that the Philippines, as one of the good friends of South Korea, is also capable of crafting such shows – those that don’t only catch attention, but also appeal to the emotions, adhere to the highest form of aesthetics, and bring out the best form of intellect.

The embassy is hoping to bring the same world-class quality of the K-Dramas into the Philippines together with the Korean Cultural Center in the Philippines as the viable bridge towards this production and content collaboration. These days, KCC has been organizing various online events, including a K-Drama OST singing contest that wouldn’t only cultivate the friendship between the Philippines and Korea, but would also further bolster the appreciation of each country’s cultures.

After all, we recognize that the cultural sector has been one of the most greatly affected by COVID-19’s onslaught given that cultural consumption is usually performed in physical proximity. These various new normal approaches may seem a little different, but with the assistance of those in the sector and the strengthening of the access to culture – similar to the path taken in Korea the challenges and the losses brought about by the pandemic can surely be mitigated and eventually, surmounted.

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(HAN Dong-man is Ambassador of the Republic of Korea to the Philippines.)

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