Is America ready for Korean dramas?

September 25, 2014
A poster of “Man from the Stars”

A poster of “Man from the Stars”

By Tae Hong

K-dramas are well on their way to taking a hold of the world’s largest television market — America.

Upcoming remakes of hit Korean dramas like “Good Doctor,” “Nine,” “Answer Me 1994″ and  ”Man From Another Star” for American audiences reflect that trend.

“Nine,” originally aired by tvN last year, was picked up by Fake Empire Entertainment for an American remake and is currently in the process of being written for a pilot.

Each year, 300 to 500 television shows are planned in the U.S. market, 5 percent of which actually get aired, tvN told Yonhap Monday.

“American dramas usually import television drama formats from England, but after the success of ‘Homeland,’ which was a remake of an Israeli drama, they’re looking to other countries,” said CJ E&M, operator of tvN. “Lately, Korean dramas are attracting a lot of popularity in Asian countries, and as the status of Asians rises in the U.S., the popularity of the format of Korean dramas has risen.”

CJ E&M said it receives inquiries from U.S. producers about its dramas every month, compared to about once or twice each year just two years ago.

Similarly, “Good Doctor,” which aired on KBS last year, was picked up for a CBS remake last month.

“It doesn’t end after a contract is signed. It’s important that the series actually gets aired,” said Yoo Geon-sik, a business manager at KBS. “It won’t be easy to get ‘Good Doctor’ successfully on the air, but once it does, the demand for the format of Hallyu dramas will burst like a treasure chest.”

"Answer Me 1994" poster. (CJ E&M)

“Answer Me 1994″ poster. (CJ E&M)

Korean drama producers know what success in the American market would mean for the Hallyu Wave, which is on its way to ubiquity as more and more people discover and consume K-pop and K-dramas.

In May, the Korea Creative Content Agency held “K-Drama in L.A.,” a gathering of media industry representatives looking to buy and sell K-drama content.

“If China is a market with infinite potential, then America is the largest market that Hallyu needs to infiltrate,” said Lee Do-hyung, a KOCCA representative. “If Korean dramas can infiltrate the American market, they can naturally infiltrate other emerging markets as well. We’ll need to work hard to bring Korean dramas to the U.S.”

Online, one needs to look no further than television streaming services like DramaFever, which makes 70 percent of its profit through Korean dramas despite its offering of series from countries like China and Spain.


“Nine,” originally aired by tvN last year, was picked up by Fake Empire Entertainment for an American remake.

According to DramaFever Co-founder Suk Park, 80 percent of its 18 million subscribers are non-Asian — 40 percent white, 26 percent Hispanic and only 15 percent Asian.

Park said the site made $1 million in six months by making “The Heirs” available for streaming.

“The main users of our site are women aged 18 to 34,” Park said. “They like romantic comedies and melodramas in Hallyu dramas, a genre you don’t find often in American dramas.”

Romantic comedies are the bread and butter of Korean dramas, especially compared to less popular action- and thriller-genre series, which American TV excels in, he said.

“I actually feel that Korea sees lower potential for growth in Hallyu dramas than it should,” Park said. “There are many pirating sites that offer Hallyu dramas. When I see American viewers loving Korean romantic comedies, I feel like it’s not far until Hallyu dramas take over the world market.”



  1. Pingback: Are you ready? – Hallyu Wave in the U.S. | ASC Journal

  2. Pingback: About 18 million Americans enjoy K-dramas: Korea Creative Co

  3. cartoons online

    March 18, 2015 at 8:28 PM

    K-drama is always best

  4. Pingback: Second ‘K-Drama in LA’ event draws Hollywood’s attention – The Korea Times

  5. oudom

    January 5, 2016 at 8:32 PM

    Hi, I wonder how many Korean dramas are made per year? or what are the average numbers of korean drama being made each year?

  6. John Gilbert

    March 27, 2016 at 1:09 AM

    American companies picking up a Korean Drama…to remake – crash and burn. I believe there is more to Korean Dramas popularity than American writers, executives, directors will get. It is in ways ambiguous and others right in ardent fans faces, but they may not realize it.
    It’s a whole new world. Whether it is a historical or contemporary setting, it is Asian and more importantly Korean. The decorum, rules of etiquette, and subtle charms will be utterly ‘LOST IN TRANSLATION’.
    Let’s say best case scenario, a Korean Drama was localized, say ‘Secret Garden, and kept intact as close a translation as possible both script and settings, all that was done was replace actors/actresses from Korean one’s to American one’s. It would have a chance to succeed because the story is so charming. However, will the American version keep the arm grabs, the bowing and other ‘things’ KDrama fans don’t always realize they love. Lost would be ‘Aish, ‘Ahjussi, ‘nunni’, ‘oppa’. Then the obvious, the ‘other worldly’ world of completely Asian world from their ‘look’ to their architecture, to their writing.
    I love their sense of propriety. Not hopping in bed on the first date, heck even sleeping in the same place as the other sex is aviided usually at all costs. If one was brought over and ‘redone’ and it was popular, would they be disciplined enough to stick with their well worn tropes. I doubt that VERY much. It’s a phenomenon that looks enticing to American Television Execs to exploit and Korean television to spread its influence and enter another market to make money, but like we would mess up their dramas coming here, I hope they NEVER try to AMERICANIZE!

  7. Marie

    June 15, 2016 at 9:22 PM

    I know this thread is old but let me just say this I am a white american, and I have to say while their Dramas are great I really dont understand why we cant take their ideas why americans may not be korean, we could still use the same stories, and when I say that I mean place your beautiful women and men in acting schools the right ones though and we could have our own indipendent dramas away from Hollywood.Who needs that anyway? Nobody cares about Hollywood I watch a lot of Historical, romance fantasy dramas anyway Like (Sound of the desert, and Prince of lan ling wang) Now thats impressive.But there are thousands of fantasy stories like I’m talking about sitting on our shelves right here in the U.S. that could follow the same guidlines that k or Historical dramas do. But no one is doing anything about it,we could have all that stuff here in english but we would have to start our own independant films or work with already independant film makers so on and so forth. For instance period dramas are borring and they are mostly found in Britann while. K-dramas are imaginative and have flow , color and imagination anything good we had was stopped back in the 90s that was the end of american telivision. heck we could even bring k drama directors here that are willing to direct our stories into dramas, and make them wonderful. But someone has to start it…

  8. Star

    November 27, 2016 at 9:34 AM

    So then how do we get their attention so that they will do something about it a petition maybe?

  9. Star

    November 27, 2016 at 9:37 AM

    I belive it can be done but someone would have to look into it maybe a petition or something like that get a hold of a producer or someone who will listen but we would need a petetion to grab someones attention so, will theres a will theres a way.

  10. drama

    May 11, 2017 at 12:25 PM

    Boys over Flowers (Korean Drama – 2008) – HanCinema