Compared to previous years, the trend of Korean dramas in 2022 has many changes, in which, the popularity of the cast is no longer a decisive factor.
The Korean small screen in the first months of 2022 marked the landing of many hit TV works. In it, viewers find it paradoxical that many dramas that are highly expected with the participation of famous actors recorded miserable results. Meanwhile, dramas with the participation of a brand new, unappreciated cast constantly became the talk of the town.
Netflix Original Series: The Successful Battlefield of the Korean Drama Race in 2022
Back in 2016, after the fever of Train To Busan, the zombie topic has always had a certain place in the hearts of the audience when it comes to K-Dramas. Zombie-themed works have never lost their heat, so it’s understandable that All Of Us Are Dead, which has just debuted on Netflix, topped Netflix’s chart for such a long time.
At first, All Of Us Are Dead was said to be a commercial drama that was unable to compare with previous works in the zombie universe. However, the audience soon realized that the content of All Of Us Are Dead was extremely fresh and kept up to date.
Explaining this, director Lee Jae Kyoo once shared in an interview that All Of Us Are Dead was inspired by the Covid-19 pandemic itself. Specifically, the Covid-19 variant is increasing in number and danger, just like the number of zombies in All Of Us Are Dead. The ingenuity in integrating topicality into a fictional zombie drama is what makes All Of Us Are Dead so attractive to viewers.
The topicality K-Drama in 2022 is also clearly shown through the blockbuster that usurped All Of Us Are Dead – Juvenile Justice. Since its broadcast, the series has risen to the #7 place in the global Netflix top TV shows chart.
Besides the familiar crime-solving motif in legal dramas, Juvenile Justice attracts attention when exploiting real-life stories. They are the story of the serial murder that happened in Gyeonggi during the period 1986-1991, or the pedophile case that shook the world in 2008 that was included in the movie Hope,… All were included in Juvenile Justice with new exploits.
The acting of Juvenile Justice’s cast is the factor that gives viewers goosebumps the most. From veteran actress Kim Hye Soo to young actors playing juvenile murderers, their acting is all so real that many times it makes the audience scared.
In addition to sticking to the topicality, Juvenile Justice also conquers the audience when exploiting notable topics and smoldering problems in society.
Dramas that did not receive much expectation but suddenly became “hits” on the Korean small screen
Besides zombies, the topic of adultery or love triangle has always been popular with the public. From the beginning of 2022 until now, only Show Window: The Queen’s House by Song Yoon Ah and Jeon So Min has fully exploited the above topic and achieved unexpected success. Show Window: The Queen’s House was aired by a small television station. Despite not being widely promoted, the drama became a phenomenon when it recorded quickly raised ratings. It even set a new record for Channel A with a rating of 8,366%.
In addition to drama with complicated content, viewers also need to find dramas that can comfort them and the early projects of 2022 have done that task well. Typically, with the hit “Our Beloved Summer“, the audience has the opportunity to immerse themselves in the sweet and cute love story from student to adulthood of the couple Kim Da Mi and Choi Woo Sik.
Right after that, viewers reminisced about their beautiful youth and involuntarily smiled while watching Kim Tae Ri and Nam Joo Hyuk in a summer cocktail – Twenty Five Twenty One. This is a drama with a not-so-famous cast, and quite good ratings, but has created a global frenzy when it has always been in the Top 10 Netflix since it was released.
Referring to the hottest Korean dramas in early 2022, it is impossible not to mention “Business Proposal”. This is the film that ranks number one in Netflix’s Top 10 non-English-language shows worldwide.
Despite exploiting familiar content, thanks to the cleverness in building scripts and the super chemistry of the cast, “Business Proposal” is truly one of the most successful TV series in early 2022. Thanks to the drama’s success, Ahn Hyo Seop and Kim Se Jeong became globally popular.
Dramas include A-list stars but flop
In early 2022, a series of A-list stars returned to the small screen. However, the works “Ghost Doctor” (Bi Rain – Kim Bum), “Thirty Nine” (Son Ye Jin), and “Forecasting Love and Weather” (Park Min Young) were not as successful as expected.
“Ghost Doctor” of Bi Rain and Kim Bum is about one of Korean television’s most popular topics. Its performance is not bad, as it had an average nationwide rating of 7.953 percent for the latest episode shown on tvN. However, the audience will be disappointed because the drama’s achievements do not match Bi Rain and Kim Bum’s reputation.
This drama is also considered a media flop as the drama and its cast are not mentioned much on forums and social networking platforms. “Ghost Doctor”’s inability to attract a worldwide audience as it is not available on Netflix.
Soon after, Son Ye Jin’s comeback after “Crash Landing on You” with JTBC’s “Thirty Nine” marked a setback in her career despite the drama’s highest rating reaching 8.5%. Initially, its performance was considered quite promising as it regularly reached No. 1 on Netflix in Asian countries, sometimes even surpassing “Business Proposal”.
However, the public was tired of many repetitive details and the sorrowful atmosphere from episode 2, therefore the rating dropped after it reached 5.7% in episode 7.
The same thing happens with Park Min Young’s “Forecasting Love and Weather”. Initially, the drama received a lot of attention. However, the drama gradually lost its appeal and was eventually unable to compete with the rival “Twenty Five, Twenty One”, which was shown in the same time slot.
However, many viewers commented that Park Min Young’s acting ability was better than the time of “What’s wrong with Secretary Kim?” and “Her Private Life”.
Snowdrop: Malicious media play before it even gets to air
Late 2021 marked the acting debut of BLACKPINK’s Jisoo, who starred as the female lead of “Snowdrop”, alongside leading actor Jung Hae In. This is probably the most regrettable case where the series was heavily criticized before it even aired. Things got so bad at the time that the broadcasting station JTBC even threatened to sue those who spread malicious rumors about their K-drama.
While embroiled in controversies, “Snowdrop” is still Disney+’s choice of weapon to breach the Korean market. It was later revealed that the series brought Disney’s streaming platform a huge amount of profits, and even drove up stock prices of JTBC’s subsidiaries. Fans of the series believe that “Snowdrop” could have been a huge success had it not been for the malicious media play.
Regarding the series’ acting element, Jisoo’s portrayal was highly praised. Meanwhile, Jung Hae In managed to deliver a complete transformation from his previous projects like “Something In The Rain” and “D.P”. The series even got new sites regarding Jisoo as a prospective top actress in the future.
Explaining the failure of high-anticipated K-dramas
There are many reasons for star-studded series flopping, and the most important one lies in the screenwriting. If episode 1 of “Thirty Nine” enthralled viewers with its hilarious moments and smart story-telling, then the rest of the series did a 180 and became a tragedy.
According to many viewers, they ended up dropping the series, not necessarily because they hated it, but rather due to them getting too heartbroken. On top of that, the series was accused of romanticizing extramarital relationships, which led to heavy criticism. Although the issue was resolved near the finale, by then it was too late for “Thirty Nine” to get back on track.
Other possible reasons are that the series aired too late and that its plot was too tough to digest. For example, “Thirty Nine” was suitable for middle-aged and working viewers, and so was off-putting to the younger audience. Meanwhile, “Forecasting: Love and Weather” has a lot of terminologies related to weather forecasting, and can bore impatient fans. “Ghost Doctor”, while adopting the familiar theme of medical, was simply not enough to compare to previous similar series like “Hospital Playlist”, “Dr. Romantic”, or “Doctors”.
Fans also listed the lack of promotions as a possible explanation, especially for JTBC series. According to them, the producers need to get leading actors on TV shows, game shows, or open minigames to attract attention. However, broadcasting stations rarely do anything more than post teasers and some still posters.
For “Snowdrop”, its commercial failure may also be a result of being a Disney+ content. This streaming platform is relatively new to K-drama viewers and hasn’t been available to all Asian countries. Therefore, fans of the series couldn’t watch it on official sites, leading to a lack of views and discussions.
For “Thirty Nine”, it was up against “Forecasting: Love and Weather” – a strong rating competitor. In addition, the series was also delayed for political content, leading to viewers losing their interest.
Overall, to revive the hype and retain viewers, broadcasting stations need to focus on making a well-rounded plot, and not letting the second half plummet. In addition, they need to strike a balance between humor and reality, as well as delivering clearer messages to audiences. Promotional activities also need to be improved.
Finally, the cast themselves also have to bring forth their best portrayals and constantly renew their images. There’s also the delicate art of picking the suitable script to unlock their true potential and show off their strongest sides.