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KOCCA: Korea Creative Content Agency - TV Shows

Programming Profile

New wave of K-content reaches the global market


Do Hyoung Lee, general director of broadcasting at Korean cultural agency Kocca, explains the ongoing demand for South Korean content while introducing 18 new shows to the international buying community.


South Korean drama has been a global phenomenon for many years now, with wave after wave of hit shows spreading out from Asia and reaching the US and Europe in recent years.


But things have certainly moved on from the good old days of Winter Sonata, the KBS hit that put Korean drama on the global map almost 20 years ago. Things have changed even from the more recent crossover hits like The Good Doctor, another KBS show from 2013 that was successfully adapted for ABC in the US in 2017 and travelled the globe.


Since then, the streaming boom – both within South Korea and internationally – has changed the landscape for Korean drama in a number of ways. Over to Do Hyoung Lee, general director of broadcasting at South Korean cultural agency Kocca, to explain how.


“The popularity of Korean drama has continued globally this year, just as it did in 2020,” he says. “As competition has been getting more fierce among domestic and foreign online streaming services, such as Netflix, Disney+, Wavve and TVing, demand for Korean drama has increased and there has been more investment in production. This trend has stimulated the diversity of Korean drama.”


Casting a Spell To You
Casting a Spell To You

South Korea certainly still produces romantic sagas and romcoms, like the ones the Korean Wave was initially defined by. However, it now also produces a much more varied slate of drama, including edgier crime series, sci-fi, horror, comedy and other genres.


And by tapping into online audiences, the format of new Korean drama has changed as well, Lee continues. “Demand for series having episodes of between 10 and 30 minutes – called shortform or midform – has increased.”


Examples include streamer Kakao TV’s No Thank You and Lovestruck in the City in 2020 and Mad for Each Other, How to Be Thirty and Start Up the Engine in 2021. “Each episode recorded more than three million views – a very good audience response,” says Lee.


Green Life
Green Life

Furthermore, series with fewer episodes are adding to this diversity, making the format of the series, in terms of length and number of episodes, more appropriate to the story the creator wants to tell.


“Short drama, which had once faded into history, has recently come back in a number of ways,” Lee explains. “Last year, tvN’s shortform anthology Drama Stage was grabbing audience attention. Its various genres, ranging from thriller to black comedy to romance, were attractive enough to catch the eyes of viewers. New writers, in particular, have added freshness to it.”


Other examples of this new approach to storytelling include Penthouse on SBS, Hospital Playlist of tvN, Love (ft. Marriage & Divorce) on TV Chosun and MBC shows Got a Goal and Check Out the Event. “By producing dramas in the formats appropriate to their subject matter and concepts, such as season and short drama, the needs of viewers are met,” says the Kocca director.


Beyond Evil
Beyond Evil

Another factor driving the Korean drama boom is the popularity of webtoons as a source of IP for live-action series. “Webtoons and web novels have become the essence of the content industry. This year has been dominated by dramas based on webtoons, such as Love Alarm 2 [Netflix}, Navillera [tvN] and Taxi Driver [SBS]. Almost 20 webtoon-based originals are being produced this year. It is much easier to make shows from webtoons as they can serve as the storyboard and producers can better predict whether the show will be a hit based on how well the webtoon performed.”


With all this in mind, Lee points to 13 new dramas that Kocca is showcasing this week via C21’s Digital Screenings. They include two series from Yoon & Company: Casting A Spell To You, a romantic comedy based on the web novel Love Affair With My Enemy, and King of Hiphop, about the rise of a new rap star.


From Korea Telecom-owned prodco KT Alpha comes a trio of new titles. These include dramas Green Life, about a girl who draws a webtoon about the plants in her life, and Twenty Hacker, which follows the rivalry between two hacker groups. The third show, Revenge Note 2, is a teen comedy-drama about a girl with a mysterious app that allows her to take revenge on people.


A Man in a Veil
A Man in a Veil

KBS Media has two new dramas on offer: ‘love triangle’ series To All The Guys Who Loved Me and A Man in a Veil, about a man who turns a tragedy into a miracle. Both are also being sold as scripted formats.


On the drama slate from JTBC Studios is Beyond Evil, which tells the story of two men who are prepared to break all laws and principles to catch a notorious serial killer, and Undercover, an action-mystery-romance about a man who will do anything to protect his wife and children.


More fresh Korean drama comes with two titles from MBC: The Veil and On the Verge of Insanity. The first is a revenge drama about an agent lost in action who comes back to find his betrayer, while the second follows the “wild and turbulent” lives of the senior staff at a fictional Korean corporation.


On the Verge of Insanity
On the Verge of Insanity

Rounding out Kocca’s drama offering is Doom At Your Service, a fantasy romance series from CJ ENM about a man who has only 100 days left to live; and made-for-TV movie K-School, from Kang Contents, which follows millennials at fashion school and counts numerous real-life K-pop stars in the cast.


As any reader of C21 will know, the Korean content export boom is not just about drama – entertainment formats from South Korea have also been hot for some time, judging by demand for IP such as MBC’s The Masked Singer and CJ ENM’s I Can See Your Voice in recent years.


Explaining that growth in demand for K-formats, Lee says entertainment shows from South Korea successfully combine originality and universality, so they can find new stories and concepts while also gaining the empathy of people around the world.


Doom At Your Service
Doom At Your Service

“For example, those in the broadcasting industry in the Americas, those channels leading the global trends, are all watching programmes from all over the world, getting proposals and reviewing them, eager to find something new,” he says. “Among them are some K-formats because they try something new, not seen before in existing formats, and they are attractive enough to fascinate people around the world.”


It is worth noting that even though The Masked Singer went global a few years ago now, the K-format boom is continuing well into 2021. As evidence, Lee cites recent deals with LA-based Fox Alternative Entertainment for Seoul company FormatEast’s gameshow property Lotto Singer and Battle in the Box from Something Special.


New entertainment formats on Kocca’s playlist for C21’s Digital Screenings include Funstaurant, from KBS Media, in which celebs battle it out with their own recipes, which are then available to buy in shops the next day. Home Alone, meanwhile, is an MBC reality format that looks at the phenomenon of single-person households and peers into their trendy single lives.


Dish is Alive
Dish is Alive

And from SBS-backed FormatEast comes a pair of new formats: Dish is Alive is a cookery battle in which celebs must recreate dishes seen in famous animation and Who Are You is a musical competition in which celebs create ‘alternative characters’ which then compete.


Korean producers are now looking far beyond just drama and entertainment formats into other genres, as shown by Kocca’s inclusion of documentary titles in its playlist. Fisher Queen – Women vs Nature, for example, is a documentary from Min Productions about women challenging the stereotype that fishing is exclusively for men. The show centres on fly-fishing expert Jung Park, fierce spearfisher Hyeri Kang and free diver Ryujin Ko, each of whom fish in order to be at one with nature rather than exploit it.


The diversity of content on offer from South Korean suppliers is growing, as Kocca’s playlist and Lee’s comments illustrate, all of which is helping to boost content exports. “The total amount of exports in the content industry for the year 2020 was about US$10.83bn, an increase of 6.3% year-on-year,” says Lee. This total included not just TV content but also gaming, music and character design.


Fisher Queen - Women vs. Nature
Fisher Queen – Women vs. Nature

“Demand for K-content has continued but since Covid-19 it has been increasing. The continuous success of K-broadcasting content, combined with the global popularity of K-pop stars like BTS and Blackpink and the prize-winning movies such as Parasite and Minari have added more heat to this craze,” Lee says.


“Under lockdown, people stay at home and binge-watch shows on global OTT platforms, which allows them to discover K-content for the first time. Covid-19 has led to increasing demand for content and people spending more time consuming content, in particular via OTT platforms. This allows greater access to high-quality K-content, allowing it to fascinate more and more people around the world.”

More programming profiles

  • 07-10-2022

    Extraordinary Attorney Woo, the latest drama phenomenon from South Korea, has transformed the fortunes of a local TV channel and is set to wow audiences at Mipcom.


    Having spent the summer firmly planted in the global top 10 of Netflix’s most watched non-English-language originals, Extraordinary Attorney Woo has lived up to its name since launching on ENA in South Korea in June.


    The series has delivered the Skylife-owned satellite channel’s highest ever ratings, transforming its fortunes overnight since it debuted. Extraordinary Attorney Woo is also the seventh highest-rated drama in Korean cable television history and the sixth highest-rated TV drama by the number of viewers, with a final episode that pulled in almost 4.5 million viewers in August.


    Starring Park Eun-bin, the show follows a rookie female attorney with autism spectrum disorder who is hired by a major law firm in Seoul. Being different from her neurotypical peers, her manner of communication is seen by them as odd, awkward and blunt. However, with each legal case and through her intelligence and photographic memory, she becomes an increasingly competent attorney.

  • 31-08-2022

    Jessie K.M Jeong, vice president and chief operating officer at South Korean cultural export agency KOCCA, looks ahead to the upcoming BCWW event in Seoul and explores trends in the production and distribution of K-content.


    How will BCWW 2022 be different from previous editions of the event?
    BCWW 2022, unlike its previous edition which was conducted as an online market in 2019 due to the spread of Covid-19, will be organised in an offline format in conjunction with online markets. This year’s event will be attended by 168 local and international content companies as well as 609 buyers from 31 countries.


    On its 22nd anniversary, BCWW 2022 aims to provide sustainable and lucrative network and business opportunities for stakeholders involved in the broadcasting industry at both home and abroad under the theme ‘Play the New Content, Dive into the BCWW.’ The event will also feature conferences addressing current trends in the broadcasting industry, presentations on emerging content, IP pitching and various other programmes.


    BCWW 2022 will be a foundation for exploring newly emerging content and more effective content businesses that could complement the limits and challenges of online markets.


    After two years of Zoom meetings, how important will it be to have BCWW in the real world?
    Broadcasting content markets not only serve as commercial platforms for purchasing or selling content but also as social platforms for interactive engagements and networking.

  • 01-02-2021

    South Korean content has been selling around the world for a long while but last year saw a boost in demand, according to Kocca’s Do Hyoung Lee, who talks us through the content export agency’s 21-title playlist on C21’s Digital Screenings.


    It’s no secret that South Korean dramas and formats are hot property and have been for some time now. Scripted shows like The Good Doctor (from Korean public broadcaster KBS) and entertainment formats such as The Masked Singer (MBC) and I Can See Your Voice (CJ ENM) have travelled to all corners of the globe in recent years, either in their original form or as IP for local production.


    Do Hyoung Lee, general director at the broadcasting division of the South Korean government’s Korea Creative Content Agency (Kocca), says the origins of the K-format boom can be traced back to 11 years ago.


    “Korean formats started to get noticed in China in early 2010 and have since seen remarkable achievements in the global market,” he says. “Following the success of The Good Doctor and The Masked Singer, another K-entertainment show called I Can See Your Voice broadcast in the US on Fox and became the most watched programme among those on air in that time period.

  • 15-10-2020

    South Korean governmental agency Korea Creative Content Agency (KOCCA), which oversees and coordinates the promotion of the Korean content industry, is this week showcasing new content from the country via C21 Digital Screenings, while general director Dohyoung Lee gives his analysis of the international boom in K-content.


    Exports of South Korean television content have been on a steady upward curve ever since the early days of the Korean Wave almost 20 years ago, when dramas like KBS2’s 2002 hit Winter Sonata made such an impact on the global market.


    Fast forward to today and more of the world is watching even more K-content. Just look at some of the biggest US shows in recent years. ABC’s adaptation of another KBS2 series, The Good Doctor, was the only global hit coming out of the 2017/18 season in the US. And on the unscripted side, the global success of talent show The Masked Singer has been a phenomenon over the past two years, following its debut on Fox in the US in 2019.


    Dohyoung Lee, general director at the Broadcasting Division of KOCCA, is certain these two recent K-content hits have driven demand for more programming from South Korea.