You’re NOT an avid Korean drama fan if you don’t know these facts

One seemingly obvious way of classifying yourself as an avid (=hard-core?) Korean drama fan is by the number (the more, the better) of such shows you finished watching in the past. Another is by no. of shows or episodes you get to watch on a regular basis. But for me, being a fan is more than about watching tons of dramas regularly. You should be able to know the following facts before you can call yourself a dedicated member of the club.

1. OCN is the home of thrillers

The latest proof? 8 (or 72.7%) of the 11 dramas that the cable network broadcast last year are thrillers. In 2017, the figure is slightly higher, standing at 75%.

In 2018, OCN made up 38% (highest among all TV networks) of all prime time Korean dramas that belong to the sci-fi, mystery, action, and thriller (SMAT) cluster.

Interesting, right? But before you boast about knowing those facts, you must be prepared to answer this question: What the hell is OCN?

Because I know a lot of people who watch Korean dramas but have no idea about the existence, let alone the names, of the TV channels on which they aired.

OCN is one of the three major cable TV networks in Korea that broadcast Korean dramas. In 2018, 55.4% of all the prime time K-dramas were aired on cable TV, with 16.2% of the total coming from OCN.

The said network is primarily a movie channel, but it’s now famous for dramas called OCN thrillers. Its highest-rated series include Voice 2, Tunnel, The Player, Voice, and Life On Mars. The poster above is a promo for the psychological thriller Save Me.

The top 6 major broadcasters of Korean dramas and their most popular shows in recent years are the following:

  1. KBS2 (terrestrial) – Descendants of the Sun
  2. MBC (terrestrial) – Moon Embracing The Sun
  3. SBS (terrestrial) – My Love From The Star (are dramas whose titles end with sun/stars destined to be popular?)
  4. JTBC (cable) – Sky Castle
  5. OCN (cable) – Voice 2
  6. tvN (cable) – Goblin

2. The live-shoot system is the norm

Haechi Poster featuring Go Ara

The live-shoot system in Korean drama production involves shooting and editing an episode the same week it is supposed to air. For many series, only the first few episodes are filmed before the premiere and the shooting continues as the drama is being aired. This culture is notorious for its hectic schedules, harsh conditions, and last-minute script changes. It’s a decades-old standard that is very hard to change.

The poster above featuring Go Ara is for the ongoing drama Haechi. Another disadvantage of the live-shoot system is the inevitable cancellation of the drama’s broadcast when there is not enough footage to comprise one episode, or when an actor has to leave the set temporarily due to an injury. The latter is the case for Go Ara, who was not seen in Haechi for six episodes when she needed to rest because of an ankle injury. That’s a lot of screen time without the actress.

Despite those concerns, however, this model of filming boasts a certain upside—the script can change in response to viewers’ feedback (to make sure that viewers don’t drop the show because of the disappointing story developments).

Meanwhile, a pre-produced show—one with its filming fully completed even before the premiere—is atypical. Some of the recent pre-produced Korean dramas are Descendants of the Sun (the most successful), Uncontrollably Fond, Entourage (the biggest flop, ratings-wise), Hwarang: The Poet Warrior Youth, Saimdang Light’s Diary, and Are You Human Too?.

3. Korean dramas are broadcast twice a week

Beautiful World Poster 1

The main schedules are Mondays & Tuesdays, Wednesdays & Thursdays, Fridays & Saturdays, and Saturdays & Sundays. Below are the TV networks and their ongoing dramas airing on such schedules (as of April 17, 2019), as well as the time of broadcast. Take note that this list is not exhaustive (daily and weekend family dramas, don’t hate me).

Mon-Tue

  • KBS2 (22:00 Korean Standard Time)- My Fellow Citizens
  • MBC (22:00 KST) – Special Labor Inspector
  • SBS (22:00 KST) – Haechi
  • JTBC (21:30 KST) – Welcome To Waikiki 2
  • tvN (21:30 KST) – He Is Psychometric

Wed-Thu

  • KBS2 (22:00 KST) – Doctor Prisoner
  • MBC (22:00 KST) – The Banker
  • SBS (22:00 KST) – Big Issue
  • OCN (23:00 KST) – Possessed
  • tvN (21:30 KST) – Her Private Life

Fri-Sat

  • JTBC (23:00 KST) – Beautiful World (poster shown above)

Sat-Sun

  • OCN (22:20 KST) – Kill It
  • tvN (21:00 KST) – Confession

Every broadcast night, each terrestrial drama has two 28 to 35 minutes long-episodes that air consecutively with a short ad in between them. This is a relatively new format that was first implemented in 2017. Previously, the dramas air for one hour straight. As for cable dramas, they also air for 60 to 70 minutes with some ads. tvN, however, is known for allocating up to 90 minutes of running time per night to its dramas.

4. 16 to 20 episodes is the typical length

Six Flying Dragons Poster

With all the terrestrial prime time TV dramas now broadcasting 2 episodes per night (versus the 1 episode per night format that was in place until 2017), this topic might be a little bit confusing to some. The most common length of a Korean drama is 16 to 20 one hour-long episodes, or a total of 16 to 20 hours of content that are broadcast for 8 to 10 weeks (around 2 months).

When you do the math in terms of 30 minutes-long running time, you get 32 to 40 episodes. In any case, each drama has a running time of around 60 minutes (excluding ads) every broadcast night.

In sum, most Korean dramas have 16 to 20 one hour-long episodes (cable TV) or 32 to 40 half-hour-long episodes (terrestrial TV) that air for 8 to 10 weeks.

There are dramas with only 12 (Voice 2), 8 (Lingerie Girls’ Generation), and 4 (The Most Beautiful Goodbye In The World) hour-long episodes. On the other hand, there are those that are so long it took 6 months before they ended such as Six Flying Dragons (poster shown above) and Jumong with 50 and 81 hour-long episodes, respectively.

5. Dramabeans is the queen of recaps

There exist active online communities of Korean drama fans, especially the most popular hub for reading episode recaps and expressing your thoughts on a series—Dramabeans.

For news, one staple source is Soompi. And for a place where you can post and discuss anything Kdrama-related, the r/kdrama subreddit is a popular option.

Kdramapal, meanwhile, is a relatively new player in the industry. You’re definitely an avid Korean drama fan when you knew about us since 2017 because our content are all about Korean dramas, and you visiting us some time in past means that you are regularly looking for info about these series.

6. Baeksang Arts Awards is the most prestigious

Mother Poster 1

There are many annual award ceremonies that honor the best Korean dramas, but Baeksang Arts Awards stands out as the most prestigious and credible ceremony because it’s like the Oscars for Korean TV and Film. Its winners are considered the best as far as quality is concerned. For its 55th year, Sky Castle, Mr. Sunshine, My Ajusshi, Children of Nobody, and The Light In Your Eyes are vying for the Best Drama prize. See the full list of nominees.

These are the winners in the last 5 years:

Grand Prize

  • 2018 – Secret Forest (tvN)
  • 2017 – Screenwriter Kim Eun-sook (tvN’s Goblin)
  • 2016 – Descendants of the Sun (KBS2)
  • 2014 – Actress Jun Ji-hyun (SBS’s My Love From The Star)
  • 2012 – Tree With Deep Roots (SBS)

Best Drama

  • 2018 – Mother (tvN, poster shown above)
  • 2017 – Dear My Friends (tvN)
  • 2016 – Signal (tvN)
  • 2015 – Heard It Through The Grapevine (SBS)
  • 2014 – Good Doctor (KBS2)

Best Directing

  • 2018 – Woman of Dignity (JTBC)
  • 2017 – Romantic Doctor Teacher Kim (SBS)
  • 2016 – Reply 1988 (tvN)
  • 2015 – Misaeng (tvN)
  • 2014 – Secret Love Affair (JTBC)

Best Screenplay

  • 2018 – Secret Forest (tvN)
  • 2017 – Dear My Friends (tvN)
  • 2016 – Signal (tvN)
  • 2015 – Punch (SBS)
  • 2014 – Secret Love Affair (JTBC)

As you can see, most of the awards went to tvN dramas. Just saying.

7. The list of legal streaming options

I mean to say the most popular ones and with the biggest libraries (alphabetically arranged):

  • Kocowa (North and South America)
  • Netflix (Worldwide)
  • On Demand Korea (North and South America)
  • Viki (Mainly US + select countries)
  • Viu (Asia)

We have a feature with more details about the services above.

And of course, chances are you’re a huge fan if you have your own list of your favorite illegal streaming sites.

So, how many of the items above did you already know?

Samfann

Samfann is a writer and editor for Kdramapal. He works closely with other writers to produce and publish online content. At the age of 21, he founded a Korean entertainment blog that went on to become a major player in the industry. He spends most of his free time watching American and Korean TV series and doing volunteer work for an online initiative that provides underserved students with grants and scholarships. He's also passionate about unique and revolutionary ideas that make the world a better place.