October 5, 2007

The Rise Of Period Dramas In Korea

While reading the latest news on Bae Yong Joon's epic period drama series Taewangsasingi or The Four Guardian Gods of the King (picture), I was struck by how good the TV ratings for period dramas in Korea were in general. Although these drama serials are not as well-known as comtemporary romantic drama serials such as Princess Hours or Coffee Prince in Asia, for the last couple of years, these ancient drama serials regularly trump the modern-day dramas in the ratings war in their home country.

For example, the highest rated drama serial in 2006 was the historical drama Jumong which achieved spectacular ratings of 51.9%* on its last episode when it was shown in South Korea in March this year. This is a phenominal result if you consider the fact that ratings for television drama serials in South Korea only average about 10 to 20%. In fact, any drama serial that achieves a rating of above 20% is considered a hit. Jumong's viewership rating is higher than all of the hit modern-day drama series in 2006 (the ratings of the much talked about and very popular romantic drama series Princess Hours peaked at only 28.3%**). And how can we forget 2003's mega-hit Daejanggeum (Jewel In The Palace), THE drama series that arguably popularised Korean cuisine across Asia and made its lead actress Lee Young-Ae an international star.

At the moment, this historical drama boom is showing no signs of waning at all, at least not in the near future. Currently, the two highest rated drama serials in Korea are, you guessed it, historical dramas - Dae Jo Yeong (大祚榮) and Yon-sama's Taewangsasingi (太王四神記), both shows achieved high ratings of about 30% in the last couple of weeks. These two drama serials are actually pretty similar, they are both about the life and times of powerful ancient kings in Korean history - Dae Jo Young (or King Go of Balhae) and King Gwanggaeto in Taewangsasingi. Other historical dramas that have garnered much interest recently include The King and I and Lee San, Wind of the Palace.
Check out this theme song video of Taewangsasingi on YouTube (me thinks Yonsama looks pretty handsome here hehheh) ;-)

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* Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jumong_(TV_series)
** Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Princess_Hours
Picture from http://www.24framespersecond.net/
Other references: http://ent.sina.com.cn/v/j/2007-10-02/23351736996.shtml;

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