02-05-2008 16:00
Local Epic TV Dramas Going Global

Now the world-famous Korean drama ``Jewel in the Palace'' / Coutesy of MBC

By Kwon Mee-yoo
Staff Reporter

As more Korean soap operas are sold abroad, hallyu, or the Korean wave, is now spreading beyond Asia to European countries as well. In particular, Korean epic dramas are gaining popularity around the world.

MBC's ``Jewel in the Palace'' (Daejanggeum) started airing on TRT-TV, a government-run broadcasting station in Turkey, Jan 14.

As the first Korean drama to be aired in Turkey, ``Jewel'' will also be broadcast in Hungary in mid February. Other Eastern European countries, Serbia, Bosnia, Montenegro and Macedonia, have also signed contracts with MBC to screen ``Jewel'' later this year.

``Jewel'' is one of the most prominent dramas leading the hallyu wave. The drama stars Lee Young-ae as Jang-geum, a woman who became the first female royal doctor to King Jungjong during the Joseon Kingdom (1392-1910).

First aired in Korea in 2003, the drama was soon sold to Japan, China, Taiwan and Hong Kong in 2004. It recorded an audience rating of 19 percent on NHK, a major Japanese network station.

Last year, ``Jewel'' was aired in Nigeria, Zambia, Tanzania and Zimbabwe.

In Zimbabwe, 4.8 million viewers (out of total 13 million in the country) participated in a ``Jewel''-related quiz program and simple Korean words like ``eomeoni'' (mother) and ``janggeum'' became in vogue words, according to the Korean Embassy in Zimbabwe.

The drama has been exported to a total of 60 countries around the world now, a first for a Korean epic drama.

Meanwhile, Japan is still the major broadcaster of Korean soaps. ``Hwangjiny'' (2006), a hit epic drama from KBS, is likely to be the next hallyu drama in Japan. NHK BS2, the satellite broadcasting channel of NHK, will air the drama at 9:00 p.m. every Sunday.

The drama stars renowned actress Ha Ji-won in the leading role, Hwang Jin-y, a gisaeng, or female entertainer in the Joseon Kingdom who tempted many men with her gorgeous beauty and exceptional intellect.

Jang Geun-seok, who played Eun-ho, the first love of Hwang, starred in the films ``Happy Life'' and ``Crazy for Waiting'' last year. Jang is gaining fame in Japan and will have a fan meeting in Japan this month. ``Jang's rising popularity in Japan will help `Hwangjiny' succeed in Japan,'' Olive 9, the production company for ``Hwangjiny'' said.

The drama received rave reviews when it first aired in Korea, and won the KIPA (Korea Independent Productions Association) 2007 award.

In addition, ``Taewangsasingi'' (The Four Guardian Gods of the King), starring hallyu icon Bae Yong-jun, was screened in movie theaters in Japan last year. It was a new attempt, but certainly successful despite expensive tickets at the theater. The show has been airing on NHK BS since last Dec. 3 and will air on the main NHK network from April 5.

Dramas that are currently on air in Korea, such as ``Hong Gil-dong, the Hero'' and ``The Great King Sejong,'' both on KBS, are already receiving offers from various broadcasting companies in Japan, according to KBS. Olive 9, the producers of ``Hong Gil-dong'' said that about 40 reporters from Japan, China and Taiwan attended a press conference for the drama and a Japanese magazine gave it coverage, which shows the high possibility of a successful run in Japan.