It was around three years back i was introduced to the thought of region-free DVD playback, an almost necessary condition for readers of DVD Beaver. As a result, a whole realm of Asian film that had been heretofore unknown in my opinion or out of my reach opened up. I needed already absorbed decades of Kurosawa and, more recently, a smattering of classic Hong Kong gangster and fantasy films through our local Hong Kong Film Festival. Of Korean films, I knew nothing. But within the next couple of months, with my new and surprisingly cheap multi-region DVD player, I was immersed in beautiful DVD editions of Oldboy, Peppermint Candy, Memories of Murder, Sisily 2Km, Taegukgi, In to the Mirror, Oasis and Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance – with lots more following close on the heels. This was a new field of cutting edge cinema in my opinion.
Several months into this adventure, a friend lent us a copy of the first disc from the Korean television series, 韓劇dvd. He claimed that the drama had just finished a six month’s run as the most common Korean television series ever, and that the brand new English subtitles by YA-Entertainment were quite readable. “Maybe you’ll enjoy it, maybe not.” He knew my tastes pretty well by then, but the thought of a television series, let alone one made for Korean mainstream TV, was hardly a thing that lit the obligatory fire under me. After two episodes, I was hooked.
I understood my fascination with Korean cinema, but television! This became unknown. How could this be, I puzzled? I wasn’t everything totally hooked on American TV. West Wing, Sopranos, Buffy – sure. Maybe I had pan-tastes, but I still thought of myself as discriminating. So, that which was the attraction – one might even say, compulsion that persists to this particular day? Throughout the last couple of years I have got watched, faithfully, eight complete series, in historical and contemporary settings – each averaging 20 hours – and I’m halfway into Jumong, that is over 80 hour long episodes! Precisely what is my problem!
Though there are obvious similarities to Western primetime dramas, cable and in many cases daytime soaps, Korean primetime television dramas – they will commonly call “miniseries” as the West already possessed a handy, if not altogether accurate term – are a unique art form. They may be structured like our miniseries in they have a pre-ordained beginning, middle and end. While a lot longer than our miniseries – including the episodes certainly are a whole hour long, not counting commercials, which are usually front loaded just before the episode begins – they actually do not go on for five, six or seven seasons, like Alias or Star Trek: Voyager, or perhaps for generations, like The Days of Our Way Of Life. The closest thing we have to Korean dramas could very well be any season of The Wire. Primetime television in Korea is really nothing but dramas and news. So Korea’s three very competitive networks (MBC, KBS and SBS) have gotten really good at it through the years, especially ever since the early 1990s as soon as the government eased its censorship about content, which in turn got their creative juices going.
Korean dramas were jump-began in 1991 through the hugely successful Eyes of Dawn, set between the Japanese invasion of WWII and also the Korean War in the early 1950s. In 1995 the highly acclaimed series, The Sandglass, made it clear to an audience outside the country that Korea was certainly onto something. The Sandglass deftly and intelligently melded the industry of organized crime along with the ever-present love story versus the backdrop of the was then recent Korean political history, especially the events of 1980 referred to as Gwang-ju Democratization Movement along with the government’s crushing military response (think: Tienamin Square.) However it wasn’t until 2002, with Yoon Suk-Ho’s Winter Sonata, that what we should now call the “Korean Wave” really took off. Winter Sonata very quickly swept over Asia like atsunami, soon landing in Hawaii and then the Mainland, where Korean dramas already experienced a modest, but loyal following.
Right about then, Tom Larsen, who had previously worked for YesAsia.com, started their own company in San Bruno, California: YA-Entertainment (to never be mistaken for YesAsia) to distribute the very best Korean dramas with proper English subtitles in America. To the end, YAE (as Tom loves to call his company) secured the necessary licenses to perform exactly that with each one of the major Korean networks. I spent a couple of hours with Tom last week referring to our mutual interest. Larsen had first gone to Korea for a couple of years like a volunteer, then came returning to the States to finish college where he naturally, but gradually, worked his way into a Korean Language degree at Brigham Young. He came upon his interest in Korean dramas accidentally when one his professors used a then current weekly series to help you his students study Korean. An unexpected unwanted effect was that he and his awesome schoolmates became hooked on the drama itself. Larsen has since made several trips to Korea for long stays. I’ll revisit how YAE works shortly, but first I want to try no less than to reply to the question: Why Korean Dramas?
Area of the answer, I do believe, is based on the unique strengths of the shows: Purity, Sincerity, Passion. Probably the hallmark of Korean dramas (and, to some extent, in lots of with their feature films) can be a relative purity of character. Each character’s psychology and motivation is obvious, clean, archetypical. This may not be to say they are certainly not complex. Rather a character is not made complicated arbitrarily. Psychological comprehension of the type, as expressed by her or his behavior, is – I judge – often more correctly manifest than what we have seen on American television series: Character complexity is a lot more convincing as soon as the core self will not be interested in fulfilling the requirements of this or that producer, sponsor or target age range or subculture.
Korea is actually a damaged and split country, as well as many others whose borders are drawn by powers other than themselves, invaded and colonized several times across the centuries. Koreans are, therefore, acutely understanding of questions of divided loyalties. Korean dramas often explore the conflict involving the modern and also the traditional – even in the historical series. Conflicts of obligations are frequently the prime motivation and concentration for the dramatic narrative, often expressed in generational terms inside the family. There is certainly something very reassuring about these dramas. . . not in the 1950s happy ending sense, for indeed, there are few happy endings in Korean dramas. When compared with American television shows: Korean TV dramas have simpler, yet compelling story lines, and natural, sympathetic acting of characters we can easily have faith in.
Maybe the most arresting feature from the acting is the passion that is delivered to performance. There’s the best value of heartfelt angst which, viewed out from context, can strike the unsuspecting Westerner as somewhat laughable. However in context, such expressions of emotion are powerful and interesting, strikinmg towards the heart of your conflict. Korean actors and audiences, young or old, unlike our personal, are immersed with their country’s political context as well as their history. The emotional connection actors make for the characters they portray has a degree of truth that is certainly projected instantly, without the conventional distance we often require from the west.
Like the 2017推薦韓劇 of the 1940s, the characters in a Korean drama use a directness about their greed, their desires, their weaknesses, as well as their righteousness, and so are fully committed to the consequences. It’s tough to say if the writing in Korean dramas has anything just like the bite and grit of any 40s or 50s American film (given our dependence on a translation, however well-intended) – I rather doubt it. Instead, particularly in the historical series, the actors wear their emotional link to their character on their face as a kind of character mask. It’s one of the conventions of Korean drama we will see clearly what another character cannot, though these are “right there” – type of similar to a stage whisper.
I actually have always been a supporter from the less-is-more school of drama. Not really that I prefer a blank stage in modern street clothes, but that too much detail can make an otherwise involved participant right into a passive observer. Also, the greater detail, the greater chance which i will occur with an error which takes me out of the reality how the art director has so carefully constructed (such as the 1979 penny that Chris Reeves finds in the pocket in Somewhere soon enough.) Graphic presentations with sensational story lines possess a short-term objective: to keep the viewer interested until the next commercial. There is absolutely no long term objective.
A big plus is the story lines of Korean dramas are, with only a few exceptions, only if they should be, and after that the series involves a stop. It can do not persist with contrived excuses to re-invent its characters. Nor is the length of a series determined by the “television season” as it is within the Usa K-dramas usually are not mini-series. Typically, they can be between 17-24 / 7-long episodes, though some have 50 plus episodes (e.g. Emperor in the Sea, Dae Jang Geum, and Jumong).
Korean actors are relatively unknown to American audiences. These are disarming, engaging and, despite their youth or pop status in Korea (as is often the case), are in many instances more skilled than American actors of any similar age. For this is the rule in Korea, as opposed to the exception, that high profile actors do both television and film. In these dramas, we Westerners have the advantages of understanding people different from ourselves, often remarkably attractive, that has an appeal in the own right.
Korean dramas possess a resemblance to a different dramatic form once familiar to us and currently in disrepute: the ” melodrama.” Wikipedia, describes “melodrama” as from the Greek word for song “melody”, combined with “drama”. Music is used to improve the emotional response or perhaps to suggest characters. You will discover a tidy structure or formula to melodrama: a villain poses a threat, the hero escapes the threat (or rescues the heroine) and there is a happy ending. In melodrama there may be constructed a world of heightened emotion, stock characters and a hero who rights the disturbance towards the balance of good and evil within a universe with a clear moral division.
Aside from the “happy ending” part and an infinite source of trials both for hero and heroine – usually, the latter – this description isn’t to date off of the mark. But moreover, the notion of the melodrama underscores another essential distinction between Korean and Western drama, and that is the role of music. Western television shows and, to your great extent, present-day cinema uses music in the comparatively casual way. An American TV series could have a signature theme that might or might not – usually not – get worked into the score as being a show goes along. Most of the music is there to aid the mood or provide additional energy towards the action sequences. Less than with Korean dramas – where the music is commonly used more like musical theatre, even opera. Certain themes represent specific characters or relationships between them. The music is deliberately and intensely passionate and might stand by itself. Nearly every series has a minumum of one song (not sung from a character) that appears during especially sensitive moments. The lyric is reflective and poetic. Many television soundtrack albums are hugely successful in Asia. The background music for Winter Sonata, Seo Dong Yo, Palace and Jumong are excellent examples.
The setting for any typical Korean drama might be just about anyplace: home, office, or outdoors that have the advantage of familiar and much less known locations. The producers of Dae Jang Geum launched a small working village and palace for the filming, which has since develop into a popular tourist attraction. A series might be one or a combination of familiar genres: romances, comedies, political or crime thrillers or historical dramas. Whilst the settings tend to be familiar, the traditions and, often, the costumes making-up can be quite distinct from Western shows. Some customs might be fascinating, while others exasperating, even just in contemporary settings – concerning example, in Winter Sonata, how the female lead character, Yujin, is ostracized by friends and relations once she balks on her engagement, a predicament that Korean audiences can actually relate to.
Korean TV dramas, as with any other art form, have their share of conventions: chance meetings, instant flashback replays, highly fantasized love stories, chance meetings, character masks, chance meetings, all of which can feel like unnecessary time-stoppers to Americans who are utilized to a rapid pace. I would suggest not suppressing the inevitable giggle away from some faux-respect, but realize that these matters have the territory. My feeling: Whenever you can appreciate Mozart, you should certainly appreciate the pace and conventionality of Dae Jang Geum. More recent adult dramas like Alone for each other advise that many of these conventions might have already started to play themselves out.
Episodes arrive at the YAE office in San Bruno on Digital Beta (a 1:1 copy from the master that was employed for the exact broadcast) where it really is screened for possible imperfections (whereby, the network is motivated to send another.) The Beta is downloaded inside a lossless format to the computer plus a low-resolution copy is 25dexjpky on the translator. Translation is completed in stages: first a Korean-speaking person who knows English, then a reverse. Our prime-resolution computer master will be tweaked for contrast and color. As soon as the translation is finalized, it is actually entered into the master, taking care to time the look of the subtitle with speech. Then a whole show is screened for even more improvements in picture and translation. A 日劇dvd is constructed which includes every one of the menu instructions and completed picture and subtitles. The DLT will be sent to factories in Korea or Hong Kong for your production of the discs.
Regardless of if the picture is formatted in 4:3 or 16:9, typically, the graphic quality is excellent, sometimes exceptional; and the audio (music, dialogue and foley) is apparent and dynamic, drawing the audience into the time as well as place, the history as well as the characters. For individuals that have made the jump to light speed, we can be prepared to eventually new drama series in high-definition transfers from the not too distant future.