• Korean drama pushed the Korean content exports to reach US$10 billion
  • Netflix is the most popular streaming service worldwide
  • Netflix engaged in a long-term partnership with Studio Dragon and Jcontentree
  • 35.8% of respondents claims K-drama is ‘Quite Popular’ in their country

Korean drama (K-drama) has been capturing more viewers than ever before, and streaming giant Netflix has been helping boost its popularity even more globally.  Due to Korean entertainment’s colossal appeal, Netflix has been offering investment, deals, and opportunities that Korean production studios cannot pass.

According to industry analyst Han Sang-woong of Eugene Investment and Trust: “Korean drama is expected to move beyond China in 2020 to enter the North American market—the world’s largest content market.”

Hallyu in the Chinese Market

K-drama has long been dependent on the Chinese market for its content export. ‘Hallyu,’ which means the Korean Wave or Fever, describes the sudden increase in popularity of South Korean culture in China. Noting the similarities in values and other East Asian cultural elements, K-dramas — along with K-pop and K-games — has been openly embraced by the Chinese until 2016.

When South Korea agreed to install a US Terminal High Altitude Area Defense anti-missile battery in 2016, China eventually avenged economically. There were stricter regulations imposed that limited Korean businesses altogether, including Korean retailers in China and travel tours to Korea.

Korean cultural exports are also adversely affected; no more K-pop concert events are being held, no more K-drama air being aired on national broadcasting channels, and no new Korean e-games locally being launched. China has closed its door in receiving Korean content.

Korean Drama on the Global Entertainment Spotlight

Now that the Chinese market has not been a promising market for Korean cultural exports as it used to be, Korean drama producers look elsewhere. While still portraying the Korean culture and sticking to its unique style, K-drama successfully gained viewers beyond the borders of the Asian continent.

With the goal to measure the popularity of Korean drama worldwide, Statista published a study conducted in several countries including China, Japan, Taiwan, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Indonesia, Australia, Vietnam, United States, Brazil, France, United Kingdom, Russia, Turkey, UAE, and South Africa.

When asked the question, “How popular do you think are Korean dramas in your country at the moment?” 27.2 percent said ‘Very Popular,’ while 35.8% — earning the majority of the answer — said ‘Quite Popular.’ And only 10% states ‘Not Really.’ The survey results strongly show an optimistic future for the Korean entertainment producers.


Netflix: Introducing K-Drama to the West

As per Netflix’s original Korean content Director Kim Min Young, “Netflix is trying to become a channel to introduce Korean content to people around the world.” This is good news for Korean drama production companies to have opportunities to broadcast on Netflix, currently the world’s most popular streaming service.

Based on Netflix’s own analytics published on Statista, the United States and Canada are the top countries using the service with 67 million subscribers. It is followed by the Middle East & Africa region, with about 47 million. Latin America records about 30 million, while Asia-Pacific is home to almost 15 million subscribers — the bottom market.


According to The Korea Economic Daily, the increasing demand for Korean served as a blanket of protection for cultural content exports when compared to industries that have been hard hit by the global pandemic. K-dramas also has driven the content exports to attain an all-time high record.

Based on the data of the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism, the total amount earned in Korean cultural content exports — including games, music, film, and drama — reached $10.4 billion, an 8.1% increase from 2018. It was the first time for such exports to exceed the ten-billion mark, doubling the volume from the $5.27 billion posted in 2014.


A Bright Future: East and West Collaborates

South Korean entertainment is anticipated to set a foothold in global markets as Netflix engaged in long-term agreements with Studio Dragon and Jcontentree, both Korean drama production companies.

Studio Dragon is South Korea’s biggest television production and distribution studio under Korea’s largest entertainment company, CJ ENM Group. In 2020 alone, Studio Dragon’s revenue recorded 539.1 billion won, which converts to $4.5 million in US dollars.


Also, Studio Dragon reveals its plan to set a base and expand its operations in the US. The company is said to be in discussion to do some remakes of its own hit K-drama with other US distribution firms. Korean drama is poised to a more global audience as Netflix, and this indicates an optimistic future ahead for Korean production companies.

Aside from Netflix, Korean entertainment can tap on new players in the market, such as Apple, Disney, and HBO, as they are also looking at the Asian entertainment market to broadcast original content.