Remakes are nothing new in the world of television. But what might be considered newsworthy is the number of Korean TV series now prompting remakes in other countries.
Korean dramas have long been popular in Asia, particularly in the Philippines, Thailand and Japan. The past two decades have seen several remakes of popular k-dramas, such as You’re Beautiful, Princess Hours and My Love From The Star. However, k-media’s recent boost in global popularity also prompted an increase in the number of requests to remake popular dramas. At least a dozen k-drama remakes recently aired, are currently airing or are in various stages of production.
One example is the 2014 drama Bad Guys, starring Kim Sang-joon, Ma Dong-seok and Park Hae-jin. It’s the story of a detective who forms a team of “bad guys” to help him solve cases. When the CJ ENM-produced series aired on OCN it achieved respectable nationwide ratings of 3.083%. In 2022 that drama was remade in Thailand and the currently airing Thai version of Bad Guys reached No. 1 on the Netflix
Another example is Flower of Evil, the story of a female detective married to a possible serial killer, which stars Lee Jun-ki and Moon Chae-won. It aired on tvN in 2020 and in 2022 became India’s first k-drama remake as Duranga, currently airing on ZEE5. In a recent TV interview, Duranga actor Gulshan Devaiah described the remake as “localized.” The way the actors behave is different, he said, and the stars purposely did not see the original because they wanted to offer a fresh interpretation. Flower of Evil was also remade this year as an ABS/CBN Viu production in the Philippines.
K-dramas gained popularity in Japan with the 2003 release of Winter Sonata and still have a following. Although the drama, Crash Landing On You, first aired there two years ago, it still occasionally tops Japanese viewership charts. Another popular k-drama, Itaewon Class, generated a Japanese remake, Roppongi Class, which recently scored over 10% in ratings.
Thomas Kim is the producer of the hit k-rom-com Business Proposal and the time-travel-revenge drama Again My Life. His company, Kross Pictures, was involved in the Japanese remake of Itaewon Class and is now working on a number of remakes, mostly in India.
“I see a growing demand for remaking K-dramas in other countries,” said Kim. “In fact, my India team is now remaking several TV projects such as Business Proposal and Again My Life for the Indian audience.”
Another remake currently airing in the Philippines is a new iteration of Start Up, originally co-produced in 2020 by Studio Dragon and CJ ENM. While the Korean version starred Bae Suzy, Nam Joon-hyuk, Kang Ha-na and Kim Seon-ho, the remake features a Filipino cast that includes award-winning actress Bea Alonzo, multimedia star Alden Richards, Jeric Gonzales and Yasmien Kurdi. The pilot episode scored a Nielsen Philippines rating of 9.7% and won praise for its cinematography.
According to Kim, “stories that have high concepts/universal themes such as Business Proposal (i.e. getting on a blind date with a fake identity with the CEO of your company) and Again My Life (i.e. traveling 15 years to avenge the villain who killed you) have high probabilities of being remade in other countries.”
Remakes do provide an advantage for people who don’t like reading subtitles. They may also adapt storylines to local cultural norms and/or change the length and number of episodes, depending on audience preferences. A 2013 k-drama Good Doctor, starring Joo Won, was reborn as the US series Good Doctor, starring Freddy Highmore. The US version successfully completed five seasons in 2022, whereas the original stopped at one 16-episode season, which is common for k-dramas.
English language remakes are under consideration for dramas such as Squid Game, Crash Landing On You and Extraordinary Attorney Woo, which scored well on US Netflix charts in their original form. Squid Game, which earned critical acclaim, will not be remade as a fictional series, but will instead be reframed as a reality competition show. Crash Landing On You, the story of a South Korean heiress, who accidentally lands in North Korea, is due for a remake, although no one has yet explained which divided country the main characters will collide in. Other planned English language remakes include W: Two Worlds, Hotel Del Luna, Vincenzo and Hometown Cha-cha-cha.
At Korean entertainment giant CJ ENM, many of the remake requests are for romantic comedies and crime thrillers.
“Romantic comedies are always a popular genre that we receive a lot of calls for,” said Diane Min, head of format sales, CJ ENM. “The reason behind this is not only because of the great responses the original titles received, but also because the genre itself centers around the universal theme of love and comic elements that are more readily accepted by different cultures and are easier to adapt. Action, crime, thrillers are also a popular genre that we receive a lot of requests for, due to their solid narrative and outstanding directing.”
The 2021-2022 remakes of CJ ENM titles also include I Need of Romance 3, Bring It On Ghost, Remember You and Persevere Goo Hae-Ra, which were remade in Thailand; as well as a Japanese remake of Familiar Wife, and a remake of Encounter, adapted in the Philippines.
According to The Korea Times, in 2019 there were 89 million Hallyu fans in 113 countries—and that was before Squid Game reached the top of the Netflix charts. More remakes are more than likely.