India Loves K Dramas, Korea Loves 3 Idiots And RRR: Decoding The Hallyu Love Story

As K-pop and K-dramas ascend to prominence on the global entertainment stage, not only do they dominate viewing charts, but they also achieve historic victories.

India Loves K Dramas, Korea Loves 3 Idiots And RRR: Decoding The Hallyu Love Story Pic Courtesy: Twitter

New Delhi: From enchanting slow-burn romances to spine-chilling thrillers with numerous plot twists, from heartwarming slice-of-life narratives to uproarious comedies, historical epics, and apocalyptic tales, K-dramas are a treasure trove that keeps on giving. The irresistible allure of South Korean content has captured the hearts of audiences worldwide. Storylines and narratives are fervently discussed across social media platforms, and the burgeoning fan clubs of South Korean stars worldwide bear witness to the global appeal of this content. As K-pop and K-dramas ascend to prominence on the global entertainment stage, not only do they dominate viewing charts, but they also achieve historic victories.

According to actor Lim Se Mi (known for Duty After School and True Beauty), the uniqueness of Korean content stems from the country's socio-political history. "Korea is a divided country with a history of enduring pain, solidarity, survival, and endeavour. The passionate, fiery moments from trying to survive and protect what we have are melted into our works, making them special to the world."

Moving away from melodramatic and formulaic storytelling, K-dramas strike a balance between originality and comforting predictability. While exploring familiar themes like love, family, friendships, and societal struggles, these shows fearlessly delve into sensitive and crucial topics, resonating with a universal audience.

India-based author Kiran Manral, who started watching K-dramas during the 2020 lockdown, expresses her fascination with the nuanced storytelling and its reflection on societal issues. "My first K-drama was 'Something In The Rain'; it was such a fabulous drama. After that, I never stepped out of the K-drama rabbit hole. I love their storytelling, especially how the dramas are written from a female gaze—it's very gentle viewing."

For many viewers, especially women, the predominance of the female gaze in K-dramas strikes a chord. The female perspective takes centre stage, with well-developed and nuanced portrayals of female characters. Successful female screenwriters like the Hong Sisters, Kim Eun Sun, and Park Hye Run have carved a niche for themselves in the South Korean television industry.

In the United States, Alisa Rivera, a writer and communications consultant, started the Daebak! podcast with a group of K-drama enthusiasts, highlighting the global appeal of Korean storytelling. "Korean content was the perfect escape from the COVID lockdown reality. The storytelling was unabashedly emotional, and as a woman, it was incredibly gratifying to see gorgeous men as eye candy in a way that never happens in Western shows."

Korean Pop Culture writer Regina Kim says “K-dramas have traditionally been known to be pretty family-friendly compared to American TV shows, and because of their lack of sex or violence, K-dramas have become popular in many socially conservative regions of the world. However, we’ve been seeing more violent and racier K-dramas in recent years largely thanks to Netflix, which doesn’t face the same restrictions on content that Korean TV broadcasters face”.

K-dramas became catalysts for conversations, transcending geographical boundaries and language barriers, and fostering a strong network of enthusiasts. From online chats to WhatsApp groups, drama clubs, podcasts, and video content dedicated to Korean music, food, beauty, and fashion, the impact of K-dramas on global pop culture is evident.

Italian journalist and author Marianna Baroli attributes her initiation into the K-drama universe to "Boys Over Flowers." In Italy, the fandom for K-dramas exploded before the lockdown, offering a refreshing alternative to repetitive homegrown shows. Baroli appreciates the well-made productions, compelling storylines, and the romanticized portrayal of love and relationships.

From the award-winning "Squid Game" to shows focusing on mental health like "It's Okay To Be Not Okay" and societal issues like the hyper-competitive educational system in "Sky Castle," K-dramas tackle diverse themes. The variety, combined with engaging and dynamic storylines, character development, and family-friendly content, contributes to the widespread popularity of K-dramas globally.

In 2023, Netflix's announcement to invest $2.5 billion in South Korea underscores the platform's commitment to Korean content. Korean-made content maintains a stronghold on audiences across Asia, comprising 50% of subscription-on-demand viewership and 42% of freemium viewership.
India topped the list of being one of the biggest consumers and has witnessed nearly a 400 per cent rise in the consumption of K content. As per Facebook analytics, there are over 17 million consumers of Korean content in India. Streaming of K Pop, K Dramas, K beauty and K Food as well as studying Korean are high on the radar of Indians.  Korean has also been adopted as a second elective language in Indian schools.

Seung Jung, Kang says “As a Korean residing in India actively engaged in teaching the Korean language through I-Kets, I've observed a remarkable surge in interest and affection for various facets of Korean culture, including K-drama, K-pop, cuisine, and more. The burgeoning popularity of Korean content has sparked genuine curiosity among learners, leading to a heightened enthusiasm for mastering the Korean language. The cultural exchange facilitated through language education and interpersonal interactions has evolved into a meaningful bridge, fostering a profound appreciation for Korea's rich heritage and contemporary contributions within the Indian community.” 

When BTS member Jungkook's impromptu Natu  Natu “performance on his live show clocked in 16 million views in real-time. K-pop group Great Guys has put out segments dancing to Shahrukh Khan’s popular hits. Popular Korean stars such as Ji Chang Wook, Park Hyung Sik, Lee You Mi, and Shin Hye Sun have confessed to being fans of Rajkumar Hiran’s Three Idiots, which was an all-time hit in S Korea. Indian Curry which was mentioned in the show “Yumi’s Cells' ' reiterated the popularity of Indian food. Vincenzo actor Jeon Yeo Been says “I  like curry with various types of Indian bread. I enjoy drinking chai, too. I would love to visit India when given the chance”. Business Proposal actor Kim Sejeong says  “The uniqueness of Bollywood films has always interested me, so if the opportunity arises, I would love to be a part of Bollywood movies as well.”

K-pop singer Woojin recently performed in India, and Eric Nam is all set to perform next year in India along with K-Pop group “ The Rose”.  South Korea has become the epitome of soft power, with Korean stars and idols commanding attention beyond the country's borders. The Hallyu Wave continues to gain momentum, with South Korean entertainers serving as ambassadors for high-end brands, headlining prestigious events, and captivating global audiences through sold-out concerts and fan meets.