[Journalism Internship] Hallyu spreads across the globe with Netflix
Singles’ Inferno’ is a hit, but not without some controversy
Erica Kellner, a Romanian student at the University of Westminster, London, is interested in Korean culture and language and enjoys watching Korean shows on Netflix.
“I genuinely find the language and just cultural differences very interesting. Which just kind of helps you develop some sense of knowledge the more you look into it. [...] I have watched many Korean dramas for their strong plots. [...] They also have had a very good choice of shots and visuals in these productions that made me genuinely want to watch more,” said Kellner.
Launched on Dec. 18, 2021, “Single’s Inferno,” a Korean dating TV show, has been receiving high viewer ratings on Netflix, becoming the No. 1 most-watched TV show in eight different countries as of Jan. 9.
Being one of the first Korean reality entertainment programs to enter the Global top 10 on Netflix, “Single’s Inferno” has opened more doors for Korean entertainment TV shows to be introduced to the global audience on Netflix.
With videos about the show appearing in users’ “For You Page,” a page on TikTok that recommends its viewers with content that they would enjoy watching, and being recreated into memes and posted on various social media platforms by international fans, content is loved by many viewers.
Ines Souli, a 19-year-old student living in Munich, Germany, shared her reason for watching “Single’s Inferno.”
“I saw people talking about “Single’s Inferno” on my For You Page on TikTok. I got interested by the drama that was going on in the show” said Souli.
She also described her thoughts while watching the Korean reality dating show. “I’ve watched plenty of western dating shows, and it was definitely different from what I’ve seen on ‘Singles Inferno.’ It made me realize that Korean men tend to not be so touchy with women. They are more respectful towards them. [...] I also noticed that it’s not normal to get intimate right the second after meeting someone.”
Lee Dan-bee, a Korean-Chilean student at Virginia Tech, says that Korean-produced content is popular because of its “mellow vibe.”
Moreover, she said, “Korean dramas are very well executed, and the actors and actresses are typically attractive and draw in viewers.”
Roh Jeong-eui, the actress who recently won the Best New Actress Award for playing the role of NJ in the K-drama ”Our Beloved Summer” on Netflix, is one of the new rising stars that has been gaining popularity along with the increasing love of K-drama from the international audience.
According to FlixPatrol, a site that ranks streaming content on numerous streaming platforms including Netflix, “Our Beloved Summer,” which premiered on Netflix on Dec. 6, 2021, has been on the top 10 list of 20 different countries on Netflix for the past few weeks.
Even with her previous K-drama, “18 Again,” and the current K-drama “Our Beloved Summer” being recognized and watched by countries all over the world, the actress still stayed humble.
“Although I might be receiving more love from international fans than I think, it is hard for me to physically realize how much love I am receiving yet,” said Roh.
The actress left a message for all the international viewers. “Hello, this is Roh Jeong-eui. My name may still be unfamiliar to some people. However, I will work harder and show up more and often in great K- dramas. Please give ‘18 Again’ and ‘Our Beloved Summer’ on Netflix lots of love and attention! I hope to see you soon!”
Roh also specified her future goals.
“Nowadays is really when I am able to feel that the world is getting closer and becoming one through various media platforms [such as Netflix]. For the time being, I will participate in more K-dramas with improved acting skills and work harder and create a new and better culture. [...] A character with a lovely charm or a cool and charismatic role are some of the parts I would like to try. However, instead of being known as a specific character or role, I want to become an actress who is able to absorb various roles so that I can look like a new character every time.”
After the introduction of K-dramas to Netflix, the actress said she recognized some positive changes. “Thankfully, people have been recognizing me more than before. My social media followers have increased, and the fact that there are people who like me and encourage me are some of the positive changes.”
She also elaborated on her opinion regarding K-dramas being loved by not only Korean viewers but also the international audience. “The fact that Korean-produced content has good quality scripts, actors and actresses who put in the effort to make the contents stand out, and staff who have great teamwork are what I believe makes international viewers want to watch the Korean media. I think the truthfulness of people who contribute to creating a good K-drama is felt by people all over the world regardless of the borders.”
While Korean Netflix shows are receiving lots of love from viewers all around the world, they may also have negative influences due to exaggerated scenes in K-dramas that induce biased opinions on Koreans.
Derek Irby, a 22-year-old American mechanic currently living in Korea, said watching “Our Beloved Summer” actually made him question whether such shows were true to the actual experiences and ways of life in Korea. He said, “I don’t think it created a positive image of Korea because the characters [in ‘Our Beloved Summer’] seemed stuck up and selfish, which is the opposite of what I have personally experienced in my time in Korea.”
On the other hand, Korean fans are worried that Korean shows may lead international fans to fantasize about Koreans and Korean culture, which could potentially distort their perceptions of Korea.
“Some extreme cases would be where people would become obsessed with Korea and have a fantasized vision of the country and the people in their head. This would lead them to have a distorted view of Korea and, in extreme cases, fetishize Koreans,” said Heo Soo-kyung, a student at University of Michigan.
In Korean shows, some scenes have generated controversy in the international community, especially when regarding skin color.
After watching “Single’s Inferno,” Kellner realized that “there was quite the talk, however, at a point when one of the contestants kept mentioning the color of one of the girls’ skin and how he preferred a certain skin color, which was a bit of a red flag to international audiences.”
Souli also said, “I’ve noticed that some guys in that show find white skin ‘pure’ and ‘innocent.’ They prefer fair skin more, which shows colorism. I don’t support a mindset like that. It not only affects foreigners living there but also Koreans themselves.”
Despite the controversies, both Korean and international fans are excited about the future of Korean TV shows and dramas.
Derek Irby said, “Korean-produced content has me believe that it’s generally better quality and more entertaining than most American-produced content. I would watch more Korean media on Netflix if it was made more accessible in my country.”
Lee Dan-bee says, “With people becoming more open to the idea of watching shows that aren’t in their native language, people will be more willing to watch more shows in Korean.”
With captivating stories and attractive characters, language is not a barrier in TV shows anymore.
Heo Soo-kyung also mentions her eagerness for the next Korean hit show. “With Netflix allowing easier access to these shows for new viewers, Korean shows will definitely prosper.”
BY BY SOPHIE PARK, WHANG YOOJIN [email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org]