Following the “Squid Game” syndrome, K-contents have become more and more popular internationally.
The craze for K-content, which attracted worldwide attention last year with the sensation “Squid Game”, has intensified this year. South Korea ranked second after the US in Top 100 on Netflix, the world’s largest online video platform (OTT).
In particular, K-contents prove to be loved not only for genres such as zombies, horror, and crime but also for various materials and stories, from human dramas to historical dramas and entertainment shows. It’s a change that took place about two years after director Bong Joon Ho received the Golden Globe’s Foreign Language Film Award for the 2020 film “Parasite” and left an impressive remark, “If you overcome the barrier of 1-inch subtitles, you can enjoy much more movies.”
According to the “Top TV Shows” chart of FlixPatrol announced on December 15th, 16 Korean dramas were listed among the Top 100 most popular Netflix series this year. Korea has the second largest number of shows in the ranking, second only to the US, with 48 titles. It is the highest ranking among non-English speaking content. In the same chart last year, the number of Korean dramas was only 10, including “Squid Game” (1st place) and “Vincenzo” (15th place).
Following the US and Korea, nine works each from Britain and Colombia, seven from Spain, three from Mexico, two from Germany, and one each from the United Arab Emirates, Italy, Japan, Canada, Turkey, and Poland were placed in the Top 100 this year.
The global universalization of K-content is also evident in subscriber behavior. According to Netflix’s own statistics, it was confirmed that more than 60% of the 223 million subscribers worldwide (as of the third quarter of 2022) watched K-content. This means that 3 out of 5 Netflix subscribers watched Korean content regardless of nationality. In particular, the proportion of subscribers who watched K-content reached 80% in Southeast Asia, including Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Singapore, where the Hallyu wave is strong.
Among Korean dramas, the highest-ranked work this year is the zombie drama “All of Us Are Dead” (8th place) and the legal drama “Extraordinary Attorney Woo” (10th place). In particular, the cumulative number of hours watched in the first 4 weeks of “All of Us Are Dead” exceeded 560 million, ranking 4th among Netflix’s non-English-speaking series of all time.
“Extraordinary Attorney Woo” made it into the global top 10 list of non-English TV shows for 20 weeks. This is the same record as “Squid Game”, which is considered the biggest hit on Netflix. Subtitles and dubbing that take into account each country’s culture and sentiment also played a big role in why “Extraordinary Attorney Woo” gained worldwide popularity without provocative material.
In addition, “Business Proposal” (14th), “Alchemy of Souls” (28th), “Young Lady and Gentleman” (30th), “Twenty Five Twenty One” (43rd), and “Little Women” (48th) were chosen popular works. Though they were pushed out of the Top 100, K-dramas “Thirty Nine” (103rd), “Juvenile Justice” (106th), “My Liberation Notes” (110th), and “The Sound of Magic” (122nd) also got high scores. As of December, FlixPatrol has released a ranking of 122 TV shows worldwide that have scored more than 3,000 points, of which 21 (17%) are Korean works.
This score means that Korea’s content planning ability has qualified for the global scale after the success of “Squid Game”, and it is analyzed that such a trend will continue in 2023. Regarding this, Noh Ga Young, an expert in the content media industry, commented, “Through ‘Parasite’ and ‘Squid Games’, the global audience has lowered their resistance towards Asian dramas and movies.” They also added, “Korean contents did a great job through Netflix, which is a pioneer in the OTT market”.
Now, people are paying keen interest in whether Korean-style entertainment beyond K-dramas will be consumed by the global market. In 2022, the Netflix original dating show “Single’s Inferno” (119th) was the only Korean program to enter the chart. The show, wherein women and men are trapped on a remote island with the purpose of looking for a date, draws attention for its bold exposure and honest expression.
It is normally hard for non-drama and movie content to breach overseas markets due to heavily-coded cultural nuances, yet “Single’s Inferno” achieved universally great results. However, there has been no Korean entertainment that managed to follow in its footsteps since then.
Noh Ga Young also expressed their opinion on this matter, saying, “Recently, K-entertainment is attracting attention from the global OTT industry because of its popularity and its low production cost. However, universal planning skills that can transcend countries and languages are needed to produce successful work.”
A Netflix official said, “As OTT platforms provide consumers with an environment where they can choose the content they want, the diversification of materials and viewing countries is an inevitable result.” He also predicted that instead of a single box office formula, there will be further attempts in all genres and formats.