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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Casper Libero chapter.

The worldwide spread of K-dramas has led many to wonder about the source of their popularity. The answer may lie within the rise of the Korean soft power and the current Korean Wave.

K-dramas have come to global attention by storm. Suddenly, everyone is talking about it, from your friends to your mom, but how did they become so popular? Contrary to what it looks like, this kind of TV show did not appear out of nowhere, they conquered their place through the years. 

How did they become known worldwide?

Korean shows have had some strong investments in their production, that’s because they´re one of the key drivers of what we call the Korean Wave, or Hallyu. This term was invented, at the end of the 90s, to describe an economic strategy based on the soft power precepts. Hallyu intends to promote Korea internationally, through its cultural assets, like television, cinema, and music. Since then, Korean entertainment has grown popular in countries like China, Japan, Thailand, Indonesia and others.

Why did these countries have such an appeal for this type of content? Among all the great productions, well-casted actors, and original scripts, American shows tend not to align with the values of those countries. In addition, China, the biggest importer of entertainment, wanted to avoid bringing Japanese productions to the nation. 

These circumstances create the perfect opportunity for these Korean productions to rise in Asia. In no time, thankfully for the well-planned distribution of deals and the internet, k-dramas found their way around the world, starting a competition with the hegemonic Western productions. 

The money involved in the productions 

In the beginning, Korea also sold some of their best productions for approximately 1 dollar per episode to popularize their productions. That made it much more affordable than their local telenovelas, whichever could cost up to a million per episode. This process aimed to attract audiences to this new kind of program. K-dramas like Stairway to Heaven, My Fair Lady, and All About Eve are examples of shows that had even higher view ratings than the local soap operas.

The streaming era has opened a lot of doors to this kind of show. It was in 2010, with Viki and DramaFever, when it became possible to watch online Korean content with English subtitles legally. These companies also got a partnership with Netflix and Hulu, which helped to expand the audience of this kind of production.

In 2018, Netflix started to invest deeply in original K-dramas production, which led to some strong content, like It’s Okay To Not Be Okay, The Squid Game, and Alice In Borderland (J-drama), which can be considered “blockbusters” of the online times.

But is it just good marketing that makes the K-drama triumph? How come people of all ages, daughters, mothers, even grandmothers, find a soft spot for this kind of show? It mostly has to do with the sweet narrative, a mixture of innocence and kindness, that involves all virtues, like honor, goodwill, and tenderness. 

In conclusion, k-dramas had a hard path, and a very detailed action journey, to become the success that they represent today. It was, probably, the opening to learn and adapt different cultural elements, and the warm-heartedness, that made possible its absorption through the world. Even with a different language, the production works engage a very well-known structure that we all have grown to love.


The article above was edited by Julia Tortoriello.

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Isabelle Olvera

Casper Libero '26

Audiovisual student at Cásper Líbero. Passionate about photograph, literature and design. Obsessed with ghost stories and sad music.