It absolutely was about three years ago i was exposed to the thought of region-free DVD playback, a nearly necessary condition for readers of DVD Beaver. Consequently, an entire field of Asian film which was heretofore unknown to me 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 by means of our local Hong Kong Film Festival. Of Korean films, I knew nothing. But over the next few months, with my new and surprisingly cheap multi-region DVD player, I had been immersed in beautiful DVD editions of Oldboy, Peppermint Candy, Memories of Murder, Sisily 2Km, Taegukgi, To the Mirror, Oasis and Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance – with lots more following close on their own heels. It was another world of leading edge cinema if you ask me.
A few months into this adventure, a friend lent me a copy in the first disc of your Korean television series, 韓劇dvd. He claimed that this drama had just finished a six month’s run as typically the most popular Korean television series ever, and this the new English subtitles by YA-Entertainment were quite readable. “Maybe you’ll enjoy it, maybe not.” He knew my tastes pretty well at that time, but the notion of a television series, much less one made for Korean mainstream TV, was hardly something that lit the obligatory fire under me. After two episodes, I found myself hooked.
I understood my fascination with Korean cinema, but television! This became a mystery. How could this be, I puzzled? I wasn’t all of that totally hooked on American TV. West Wing, Sopranos, Buffy – sure. Maybe I had pan-tastes, nevertheless i still looked at myself as discriminating. So, that which was the attraction – one might even say, compulsion that persists to this particular day? Throughout the last year or two We have watched, faithfully, eight complete series, in historical and contemporary settings – each averaging 20 hours – and I’m halfway into Jumong, which is over 80 hour long episodes! Precisely what is my problem!
Though you will find obvious similarities to Western primetime dramas, cable and in many cases daytime soaps, Korean primetime television dramas – which they commonly call “miniseries” because the West already enjoyed a handy, otherwise altogether accurate term – certainly are a unique art. They can be structured like our miniseries in they may have a pre-ordained beginning, middle and end. While for a longer time than our miniseries – the episodes can be a whole hour long, not counting commercials, which are usually front loaded just before the episode begins – they generally do not carry on for five, six or seven seasons, like Alias or Star Trek: Voyager, or for generations, much like the Events of Our Lives. The nearest thing we need to Korean dramas is perhaps virtually any season from the Wire. Primetime television in Korea is really only dramas and news. So Korea’s three very competitive networks (MBC, KBS and SBS) have gotten very good at it throughout the years, especially ever since the early 1990s if the government eased its censorship about content, which actually got their creative juices going.
Korean dramas were jump-started in 1991 with the hugely successful Eyes of Dawn, set involving the Japanese invasion of WWII as well as the Korean War in the early 1950s. In 1995 the highly acclaimed series, The Sandglass, caused it to be clear for an audience outside the country that Korea was certainly onto something. The Sandglass deftly and intelligently melded the realm of organized crime and the ever-present love story against the backdrop of the things was then recent Korean political history, particularly the events of 1980 known as the Gwang-ju Democratization Movement and the government’s crushing military response (think: Tienamin Square.) But it wasn’t until 2002, with Yoon Suk-Ho’s Winter Sonata, that everything we now call the “Korean Wave” really took off. Winter Sonata in a short time 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 not be mistaken for YesAsia) to distribute the most effective Korean dramas with proper English subtitles in The United States. For this end, YAE (as Tom enjoys to call his company) secured the required licenses to accomplish that with each one of the major Korean networks. I spent several hours with Tom the other day discussing our mutual interest. Larsen had first gone to Korea for two years as a volunteer, then came back to the States to complete college where he naturally, but gradually, worked his distance to a Korean Language degree at Brigham Young. He came upon his desire for Korean dramas accidentally when one his professors used a then current weekly series to assist his students study Korean. An unexpected complication was that he or she along with his schoolmates became totally hooked on the drama itself. Larsen has since made several trips to Korea for extended stays. I’ll get back to how YAE works shortly, however I want to try at least to answer the question: Why Korean Dramas?
Area of the answer, I believe, is based on the unique strengths of these shows: Purity, Sincerity, Passion. Maybe the hallmark of Korean dramas (and, to some extent, in many of their feature films) is really a relative purity of character. Each character’s psychology and motivation is apparent, clean, archetypical. This is simply not to say they are not complex. Rather a character is not made complicated arbitrarily. Psychological insight into the type, as expressed by his or her behavior, is – I judge – often more correctly manifest compared to what we see on American television series: Character complexity is a lot more convincing as soon as the core self is just not focused on fulfilling the requirements of this or that producer, sponsor or target age range or subculture.
Korea is actually a damaged and split country, much like many others whose borders are drawn by powers other than themselves, invaded and colonized many times over the centuries. Koreans are, therefore, acutely sensitive to questions of divided loyalties. Korean dramas often explore the conflict between the modern and also the traditional – even just in the historical series. Conflicts of obligations are frequently the prime motivation and concentrate for that 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. Compared to American television shows: Korean TV dramas have simpler, yet compelling story lines, and natural, sympathetic acting of characters we could believe in.
Perhaps the most arresting feature of the acting is definitely the passion that is certainly brought to performance. There’s a good deal of heartfelt angst which, viewed from context, can strike the unsuspecting Westerner as somewhat laughable. But in context, such expressions of emotion are powerful and interesting, strikinmg on the heart in the conflict. Korean actors and audiences, young or old, unlike our, are immersed with their country’s political context along with their history. The emotional connection actors make to the characters they portray has a level of truth that is certainly projected instantly, minus the conventional distance we manage to require from the west.
Like the 韓劇dvd from the 1940s, the characters inside a Korean drama have got a directness regarding their greed, their desires, their weaknesses, along with their righteousness, and so are fully dedicated to the consequences. It’s challenging to say in case the writing in Korean dramas has anything such as the bite and grit of the 40s or 50s American film (given our reliance on a translation, however well-intended) – I rather doubt it. Instead, specifically in the historical series, the actors wear their emotional link to their character on the face as a kind of character mask. It’s one of several conventions of Korean drama we can easily see clearly what another character cannot, though they can be “there” – sort of just like a stage whisper.
We have long been a supporter of the less-is-more school of drama. Not that I enjoy a blank stage in modern street clothes, but this too much detail can change an otherwise involved participant into a passive observer. Also, the more detail, the more chance i can happen by using an error that takes me out of your reality how the art director has so carefully constructed (much like the 1979 penny that Chris Reeves finds within his pocket in Somewhere over time.) Graphic presentations with sensational story lines have a short-term objective: to hold the viewer interested till the next commercial. There is not any long term objective.
A large plus would be that the story lines of Korean dramas are, with very few exceptions, only as long as they should be, and after that the series goes to an end. It can not persist with contrived excuses to re-invent its characters. Nor is the size of a series dependant on the “television season” because it is from the Usa K-dramas are certainly not mini-series. Typically, they can be between 17-24 hour-long episodes, though some have over 50 episodes (e.g. Emperor in the Sea, Dae Jang Geum, and Jumong).
Korean actors are relatively unknown to American audiences. They are disarming, engaging and, despite their youth or pop status in Korea (as is usually the case), are typically more skilled than American actors of your similar age. For this is the rule in Korea, rather than exception, that high profile actors do both television and film. During these dramas, we Westerners have the main benefit of learning people not the same as ourselves, often remarkably attractive, which includes an appeal in their own right.
Korean dramas possess a resemblance to another dramatic form once familiar to us and currently in disrepute: the ” melodrama.” Wikipedia, describes “melodrama” as from the Greek word for song “melody”, put together with “drama”. Music is commonly used to increase the emotional response or suggest characters. There is a tidy structure or formula to melodrama: a villain poses a threat, the hero escapes the threat (or rescues the heroine) and you will find a happy ending. In melodrama there is certainly constructed a field of heightened emotion, stock characters and a hero who rights the disturbance towards the balance of great and evil in the universe having a clear moral division.
Apart from the “happy ending” part and an infinite supply of trials both for hero and heroine – usually, the second – this description isn’t to date away from the mark. But more importantly, the thought of the melodrama underscores another essential difference between Korean and Western drama, and that is certainly the role of music. Western television shows and, to a great extent, modern cinema makes use of music within a comparatively casual way. A United States TV series can have a signature theme that may or may not – not often – get worked in the score like a show goes along. A lot of the music will there be to aid the mood or provide additional energy on the action sequences. Less than with Korean dramas – where the music can be used more like musical theatre, even opera. Certain themes represent specific characters or relationships between them. The background music is deliberately and intensely passionate and can stand naturally. Virtually every series has a minimum 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 tunes for Winter Sonata, Seo Dong Yo, Palace and Jumong are excellent examples.
The setting for a typical Korean drama may be just about anyplace: home, office, or outdoors that have the advantage of familiar and fewer known locations. The producers of Dae Jang Geum launched a small working village and palace to the filming, which includes since become a popular tourist attraction. A series might be one or a mix of familiar genres: romances, comedies, political or crime thrillers or historical dramas. While the settings are often familiar, the traditions and, often, the costumes and make-up can be extremely distinct from Western shows. Some customs might be fascinating, while some exasperating, even just in contemporary settings – in terms of example, in the wintertime Sonata, exactly how the female lead character, Yujin, is ostracized by family and friends once she balks in her engagement, a predicament that Korean audiences really can correspond with.
Korean TV dramas, like every other art, get their share of conventions: chance meetings, instant flashback replays, highly fantasized love stories, chance meetings, character masks, chance meetings, which all can feel like unnecessary time-stoppers to Americans who are utilized to a quick pace. I recommend not suppressing the inevitable giggle from some faux-respect, but understand that these matters include the territory. My feeling: Whenever you can appreciate Mozart, you should certainly appreciate the pace and conventionality of Dae Jang Geum. More modern adult dramas like Alone in Love suggest 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 useful for the particular broadcast) where it is actually screened for possible imperfections (whereby, the network is inspired 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 done in stages: first a Korean-speaking individual that knows English, then this reverse. Our prime-resolution computer master is going to be tweaked for contrast and color. When the translation is finalized, it is put into the master, taking care to time the look of the subtitle with speech. Then this whole show is screened for further improvements in picture and translation. A 2017推薦日劇 is constructed which contains all the menu instructions and completed picture and subtitles. The DLT is then shipped to factories in Korea or Hong Kong to the creation of the discs.
If the picture is formatted in 4:3 or 16:9, in most cases, the photo quality is excellent, sometimes exceptional; along with the audio (music, dialogue and foley) is clear and dynamic, drawing the viewers to the time and place, the storyline along with the characters. For those of us who definitely have made the jump to light speed, we can be prepared to eventually new drama series in high-definition transfers in the not very distant future.