After a gathering with South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol yesterday, Netflix introduced it’s planning to speculate $2.5 billion into “the creation of Korean collection, movies, and unscripted exhibits over the subsequent 4 years” — which is a flowery means of claiming Netflix is about to make a crapload of Ok-dramas.
The quantity is double what Netflix has invested in Ok-dramas since 2016 — and it’s no shock given the monumental success of Squid Sport in addition to The Glory and Bodily: 100. In a press release, Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos stated the corporate had “nice confidence that the Korean artistic trade will proceed to inform nice tales,” noting that Korean leisure was “now on the coronary heart of the worldwide cultural zeitgeist.”
As a second-generation Korean American, this feels bizarre. Cool! But additionally extraordinarily bizarre.
For many of my childhood, Ok-dramas had been one thing I watched with my mother and father on “the Korean channel” on our boxy CRT. I barely keep in mind half the exhibits — there was one with an outdated bald king who wearing gold and had a snazzy eye patch — however I do keep in mind how children at college bullied me over the gimbap my mother packed in my lunchbox. The identical children additionally teased me for listening to Ok-pop artists like HOT and Child VOX. So the latest shift within the cultural zeitgeist Sarandos refers to? The one the place BTS and Blackpink are well-liked, Korean skincare floods TikTok, and Parasite wins an Oscar? The one answerable for the emergence of phrases like koreaboo?
I want I may present this to my youthful self. How the tradition I preferred in secret, the one I shoved into the darkest corners of my mind when with my American American associates, would at some point be on the coronary heart of the worldwide cultural zeitgeist. On the identical time, there’s part of me that’s irrationally annoyed and aggravated at how simple it’s all change into — and the way alone I nonetheless really feel although extra non-Asian associates message me about their newest Ok-drama dependancy than at some other level in my life.
In ye olden days, I used to should go to a dingy mall basement in Flushing, New York, and lease bootleg DVDs from a dodgy grandpa. I’d watch episodes of a drama whereas visiting household on summer time holidays. After I got here again dwelling, I’d should scour the web for episodes minimize into 1,000,000 elements in potato-quality decision simply to search out out what occurred. My first lesson in region-locked content material was after I foolishly purchased DVDs over the summer time solely to search out they wouldn’t play in my American DVD participant. Now, I can simply open Netflix, and there are such a lot of Ok-dramas, I don’t know the place to start out. And so they’re even decently subtitled in English so anybody can watch, even when they lose a few of the finer nuances. (See: the gganbu translation debacle in Squid Sport.)
Now, I can simply open Netflix, and there are such a lot of Ok-dramas, I don’t know the place to start out
However the irritating a part of all that is how Netflix turns into, in a means, the arbiter of how the common American sees Ok-dramas. Sure, Squid Sport was so well-liked it received a second season. Sure, it’s shockingly spectacular that Netflix received Extraordinary Legal professional Woo so rapidly. (I used to attend months to get my arms on a dependable stream for a complete collection.) However when my household and associates advised me about Goblin (also referred to as Guardian: The Lonely and Nice God), considered one of essentially the most well-liked Ok-dramas of all time, starring Squid Sport’s Gong Yoo, it was nowhere to be discovered on Netflix. When Dangerous Prosecutor got here out this previous fall, starring my present idol crush Do Kyung-soo, it was likewise lacking in motion.
It’s not the worst factor. It’s why I’ve a Rakuten Viki subscription. Nevertheless it does type of eat into one thing Sarandos stated in his assertion. “It’s unimaginable that the love towards Korean exhibits has led to a wider curiosity in Korea, due to the Korean creators’ compelling tales.”
Associates will ask what Bong Joon-ho movies they need to watch after Parasite, and the one one they persistently watch is Okja as a result of that’s the one on Netflix. I can advocate Recollections of Homicide all I like, however I do know most of my associates will nod and by no means hassle as a result of Netflix doesn’t have it. I can say that I beloved Squid Sport’s Lee Byung-hun in Joint Safety Space — which additionally stars Music Kang-ho from Parasite and was directed by Oldboy’s Park Chan-wook — however it’s not on Netflix. I, personally, need to watch My Annoying Brother, and although it’s obtainable on Netflix in different international locations, it’s not right here, and it’s not on Rakuten Viki. I may pay $3.99 to lease it, however then once more, who would I have the ability to even speak to about it now that my mother and father are gone?
This isn’t actually Netflix’s fault. Area locking is only a crappy holdover from the DVD period. Plus, I don’t blame my associates for not eager to exit of their means for international leisure when there’s a lot content material normally. Netflix really has a reasonably spectacular collection of Korean movies and TV exhibits. With this $2.5 billion funding, I’m positive it’s solely going to get higher. And it’s not simply Netflix. The platform’s success on this enviornment has led to Hulu, Disney, and Apple together with Ok-dramas on their streaming platforms as effectively.
Total, it is a good factor. However generally progress is bittersweet, too. As comfortable as I’m that Ok-drama is having its second in America, I can’t assist however dwell on how onerous it may be to carry onto the tradition your immigrant mother and father gave you. Then and now.
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