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Korean Dramas and American Soap Operas: What’s the Difference?

They both are about the lives of certain families and the dilemmas they face. They both have some predictable lines (“I love you!”, “Don’t you show your face around here ever again.”) and a very predictable ending. Yet, they are so different. This is my thought on how they are different and the overall superiority in Korean dramas.

The last comment may (and probably did) sound biased since I’m Korean. But then again, 99.9% of you won’t even know I’m Korean (should have used a colored photograph on the main page, dang it) so I guess that comment doesn’t sound biased. Anyhow, enough of my useless murmur that no one will read, let me explain why I think this way.

The reason Korean dramas and American Soap Operas are so different is that, to be blunt, Korean people don’t like the idea of love affairs and such. It’s basically a taboo subject as Korea is still a country that doesn’t easily accept new ideas. There was this one drama played around last year in which one of the couples in the drama was gay. I’m not saying that this is easy to accept in the States as well since there will always be some conservative people around this world. But the concept of “a gay couple appearing in a t.v show” was not taken well by many Koreans; especially for the elders. People around my age and in their 20’s were able to accept this idea as most people don’t mind this idea but some (I emphasize some, and by some I mean a very, very small percentage) Korean moms went overboard. They said,

If my son becomes gay and dies from AIDs after watching ‘Life Is Beautiful’, SBS must take responsibility!, a link to the comment above (note, SBS was the channel that was showing the drama with the gay couple.)

These are the few over-dramatic people but yes, Korea still has difficulties accepting gay rights and the idea of “gay.”

Wow, I went off topic. But the point is, Korean people don’t accept these ideas very much (divorces are still an “eyesore” to be blunt). The States seem a bit more lax in these parts.

Another difference is the quality. When I see American Soap Operas (I don’t mean shows such as Castle and NCIS but those soap operas on t.v in the morning), the quality is lacking. It’s very hard to describe what I mean and you probably won’t understand until you watch a Korean drama. In Korean dramas, you can tell that everyone put much effort in the show. It makes more sense if you type in Korean dramas into Youtube and select a video. Okay, maybe it won’t make sense but people who are Korean like me and saw a soap opera once will understand my thoughts.

The largest difference, by far, is the sheer amount of fame the stars from dramas gain in Korea. I’m not saying that stars

The influence of Korean dramas are so strong, the drama Secret Garden (poster on top) gained one of the highest top ratings ever in Korea

from soap operas are not famous but people who don’t watch them won’t know them. Of course, this is a pretty biased idea from me so if I have it wrong, I’m sorry *bows*. But in Korea, wow. Take this, Secret Garden, a Korean drama that aired from November of 2010 to January of 2011. Both the male and female lead were already quite famous in Korea but with the end of the drama, the male lead actor filmed so many commercials, it’s said he earned about 4 billion won. That’s 3.5 million USD from just 6 commercials and the renewing of earlier commercials. Once a drama hits well in Korea, it’s pretty much an easy road to fame. Psham!

That answers my first thought. Onto the second point. Why are Korean dramas so “superior?” First, mind that I’m using the term “superior” lightly. Well, the quality of the drama as said before is amazing. The story is not too bland but the dramas that become popular have a great story line with interesting twists. Most dramas are predictable but perhaps that’s better for Korean people, since new ideas often raise shock. Not to mention that the actors are quite good-looking, although this is just my basic idea in looks. These are just main points on my opinion. Don’t take it to heart, fellow soap opera lovers.

Overall, the idea that Korean Dramas are better than American soap operas is quite unfair. Of course I will choose over the soap opera since I enjoy Korean dramas much more. It’s all in taste, you see. This is just me, expressing my thoughts.

This entry was published on July 17, 2011 at 11:34 PM. It’s filed under Culture, Opinion and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

13 thoughts on “Korean Dramas and American Soap Operas: What’s the Difference?

  1. Im fun of watching korean series. I think they are more catchy compared to american ones plus the stories are quite simple and not boring, well I am not saying that the american series are boring huh.. Its just what I think!

  2. btw, just recently, i’m getting hook up by a Korean series titled 49 days.
    have you watched it already?

    • Ah, I’ve watched it also. It’s pretty sad 😦
      But I thought the overall story and character development was done well. It’s easy to sympathize the main character, especially since she has to search for the tear drops.

  3. doveicecream on said:

    I watch both korean dramas and american soap operas and I gotta say I love them both! I started with american soap operas since I’ve been living in america almost my entire life. Korean dramas are addicting and they eventuaLly end whereas american dramas would continue for generations down. For example,General hospital (an american soap opera), was airing since the 60’s!!!! Ps; I’m neither korean or american. 🙂

  4. Honestly, you cannot compare American soap operas with Korean dramas … Asian dramas at all. Besides being about human slice of life … hmm ok there’s nothing the same about them. One thing, soaps go on forever and ever …….. ahh why are American people watching such boring shows and the scriptwriting. All soap operas are the same, someone cheats, lies, yada yada. And that just keeps repeating. I would think that Kdramas are more like CW type of shows (Buffy, Smallville, Dawson’s Creek, etc) Kdramas have a wider range of genres. So yah, it’s totally not the same as a soap opera.

    PS: BTW, this is coming from a non-Korean person who does not understand a word of Korean, but got addicted to the shows when I was introduced to it from a friend.

  5. Florianne on said:

    Totally agree with you^^! I love Korean dramas more than any american TV series and even more than anything else I’ve ever seen or read, even if you take any random K-drama, it turns out so much better than any american tv show ( not to mention soap operas), and that’s my opinion too ( even if I’m not Korean, only by soul, I just found the culture soooo close to my inner spirit and mindset, the european or anglo-saxon movies are just unseeming to me^^, also my opinion, but I can’t say I’m biased since I’m not from that country even if would have liked to be^^, anyway, they ARE better, the always incredible storyline, the actors that give to their characters an unique personnality and are sooooo outstandingly beautiful and charismatic!!!!!, the settings ( gorgeous in any possible way, it’s always like whaoh, amazing to get to live through all those places even if in fiction^^!!!! ) , the background music that just steals and carries your heart away by reaching the heartstrings while building the enchanting atmosphere between characters, letting their emotions lay bare!!!!! Just Magnificent with a big even a huge M, that’s what I feel and think while watching them, now I’m hooked on “Flames of Ambition”…..sooooo love it!!!!!

  6. FreeSpirit on said:

    I absolutely love Korean dramas. I was on Hulu a few years ago trying to find a decent movie to watch and I stumbled upon the Korean drama “Cinderella’s Sister”. I started watching it without even realizing it was Korean. Once I realized it was I was surprised but I continued to watch it out of mere curiosity. Today I am so addicted to them! I am not Korean, I am a 19 year old American girl! I have no Korean ties or anything like that, I just happened upon one! I rarely ever watch normal tv anymore. It’s not nearly as interesting as K-dramas. So I think it’s safe to say that Korean dramas are by far greater than any American soap opera, well in my opinion they are! 🙂 And I’m constantly (& secretly) looking for fellow K-drama lovers but it’s a very rare thing.

  7. allie on said:

    I consider american soap operas to be on during the day and not on prime time television in the evening. So does the dramas like secret garden are they broadcasted in the afternoon before supper or after? if they are in the evening then I wouldn’t consider the k-dramas to be soap operas and would compare them more to grey’s anatomy or the good wife. I think soap operas are very different from dramas because soap operas have this feel to them where they have certain camera shots with cheesy long gazes and a storyline that has gotten to ridiculous to even follow anymore.

  8. Stumble on said:

    I am not Korean but filipino mix living here in the US. I have to say I love korean Dramas. Feels funny to say that as I am man, but I am so addicted.

    I think for me a large part of what Goldliliy said is true.

    I don’t understand korean but, what i can see is good acting, and maybe that adds a tiny bit of interest to me as I can only read subtitles, I can imagine how i would perceave the weight of each of thier words as I read it vs how they actually say it. Almost like reading a book and seeing the movie later, The book is a little better as you make use of your own imagination.

    As to Korea being a more Conservative society, I think that adds to a lot to in regards to the storys theme. Sex, Drugs, Politics(or other social issues) , etc don’t seem to dilute the story to much and I like that, it is refreshing change from American Dramas.

  9. i do agree that korean dramas are more interesting then american dramas but here in the us everyone hates those dramas and its not very big here but i can say though that a lot of the korean dramas are kind of the same. the stories are usually different but the characters are the same. for example the guy usually is rich and chases the girl and she is totally clueless and then they throw in something to add to the drama that deals with thier family or something i wish they would just change it up a bit

  10. Magna Diaz on said:

    I am going to add the Spanish soaps into this mix and I must say Korean soaps are the best. I just love them. They are clean and romantic and just leave you wanting more.
    American and Spanish soap have too much sex ( I can use my imagination, thank You). I love a good story and although I need subtitles in English or in Spanish I will pick Korean soap every time. I just saw Arang and the magistrate and Faith: Wow. They were so good.

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