It was around three yrs ago that I was unveiled in the idea of region-free DVD playback, a nearly necessary condition for readers of DVD Beaver. Consequently, an entire world of Asian film which was heretofore unknown to me or away from my reach exposed. I needed already absorbed decades of Kurosawa and, recently, a smattering of classic Hong Kong gangster and fantasy films by way of our local Hong Kong Film Festival. Of Korean films, I knew nothing. But over the next few months, with my new and surprisingly cheap multi-region DVD player, I found myself immersed in beautiful DVD editions of Oldboy, Peppermint Candy, Memories of Murder, Sisily 2Km, Taegukgi, In the Mirror, Oasis and Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance – with lots more following close on their heels. This is a whole new realm of innovative cinema in my opinion.
A couple of months into this adventure, a pal lent me a copy of your first disc of your Korean television series, 韓劇dvd. He claimed how the drama had just finished a six month’s run as typically the most popular Korean television series ever, and therefore the latest English subtitles by YA-Entertainment were quite readable. “Maybe you’ll like it, maybe not.” He knew my tastes pretty well by then, but the concept of a tv series, not to mention one designed for Korean mainstream TV, was hardly something which lit the obligatory fire under me. After two episodes, I found myself hooked.
I understood my fascination with Korean cinema, but television! It was a mystery. How could this be, I puzzled? I wasn’t all that hooked on American TV. West Wing, Sopranos, Buffy – sure. Maybe I needed pan-tastes, nevertheless i still thought of myself as discriminating. So, what was the attraction – one could even say, compulsion that persists to this day? During the last couple of years I have got watched, faithfully, eight complete series, in historical and contemporary settings – each averaging 20 hours – and I’m halfway into Jumong, which can be over 80 hour long episodes! What is my problem!
Though there are actually obvious similarities to Western primetime dramas, cable and also daytime soaps, Korean primetime television dramas – which they commonly call “miniseries” as the West already experienced a handy, or else altogether accurate term – certainly are a unique art. They are structured like our miniseries in that they have a pre-ordained beginning, middle and end. While considerably longer than our miniseries – including the episodes really are a whole hour long, not counting commercials, that happen to be usually front loaded ahead of the episode begins – they generally do not continue on for five, six or seven seasons, like Alias or Star Trek: Voyager, or perhaps for generations, like The Times of Our Way Of Life. The closest thing we must Korean dramas is probably any season of The Wire. Primetime television in Korea is pretty much only dramas and news. So Korea’s three very competitive networks (MBC, KBS and SBS) have gotten very good at it over the years, especially because the early 1990s as soon as the government eased its censorship about content, which often got their creative juices going.
Korean dramas were jump-began in 1991 through the hugely successful Eyes of Dawn, set between your Japanese invasion of WWII and the Korean War of the early 1950s. In 1995 the highly acclaimed series, The Sandglass, managed to get clear for an audience outside the country that Korea was certainly onto something. The Sandglass deftly and intelligently melded the realm of organized crime and the ever-present love story versus the backdrop of what was then recent Korean political history, especially the events of 1980 called the Gwang-ju Democratization Movement along with the government’s crushing military response (think: Tienamin Square.) However it wasn’t until 2002, with Yoon Suk-Ho’s Winter Sonata, that whatever we now call the “Korean Wave” really took off. Winter Sonata rapidly swept over Asia like atsunami, soon landing in Hawaii and then the Mainland, where Korean dramas already possessed a modest, but loyal following.
Right about then, Tom Larsen, who had previously worked for YesAsia.com, started his own company in San Bruno, California: YA-Entertainment (to not be confused with YesAsia) to distribute the very best Korean dramas with proper English subtitles in America. For this end, YAE (as Tom wants to call his company) secured the desired licenses to complete exactly that with all the major Korean networks. I spent a few hours with Tom last week referring to our mutual interest. Larsen had first gone to Korea for 2 years as a volunteer, then came returning to the States in order to complete college where he naturally, but gradually, worked his way into a Korean Language degree at Brigham Young. He came upon his fascination with Korean dramas accidentally when one his professors used a then current weekly series to help you his students study Korean. An unexpected side-effect was which he along with his schoolmates became totally hooked on the drama itself. Larsen has since made several trips to Korea for longer stays. I’ll come back to how YAE works shortly, but first I wish to try at least to answer the question: Why Korean Dramas?
Part of the answer, I do believe, is based on the unique strengths of such shows: Purity, Sincerity, Passion. Probably the hallmark of Korean dramas (and, at some level, in many of their feature films) can be a relative purity of character. Each character’s psychology and motivation is apparent, clean, archetypical. This may not be to say they are certainly not complex. Rather a character is not made complicated arbitrarily. Psychological advice about the type, as expressed by their behavior, is – I judge – often more correctly manifest compared to what we percieve on American television series: Character complexity is more convincing once the core self is not really worried about fulfilling the needs of this or that producer, sponsor or target age range or subculture.
Korea is really a damaged and split country, as are many others whose borders are drawn by powers aside from themselves, invaded and colonized multiple times on the centuries. Koreans are, therefore, acutely sensitive to questions of divided loyalties. Korean dramas often explore the conflict involving the modern along with the traditional – even just in the historical series. Conflicts of obligations are usually the prime motivation and focus for your dramatic narrative, often expressed in generational terms within the family. There exists something very reassuring about these dramas. . . not within the 1950s happy ending sense, for indeed, there are actually few happy endings in Korean dramas. Compared to American television shows: Korean TV dramas have simpler, yet compelling story lines, and natural, sympathetic acting of characters we could have confidence in.
Maybe the most arresting feature from the acting will be the passion which is delivered to performance. There’s the best value of heartfelt angst which, viewed out from context, can strike the unsuspecting Westerner as somewhat laughable. Nevertheless in context, such expressions of emotion are powerful and interesting, strikinmg to the heart of the conflict. Korean actors and audiences, young or old, unlike our very own, are immersed in their country’s political context along with their history. The emotional connection actors make for the characters they portray has a level of truth that may be projected instantly, minus the conventional distance we manage to require from the west.
Just like the 2017推薦韓劇 of the 1940s, the characters in the Korean drama have a directness regarding their greed, their desires, their weaknesses, along with their righteousness, and are fully devoted to the effects. It’s difficult to say in the event the writing in Korean dramas has anything much like the bite and grit of a 40s or 50s American film (given our dependence on a translation, however well-intended) – I rather doubt it. Instead, specifically in the historical series, the actors wear their emotional link with their character on their face as a sort of character mask. It’s among the conventions of Korean drama we can easily see clearly what another character cannot, though they can be “there” – type of just like a stage whisper.
We have always been a supporter from the less-is-more school of drama. Not really that I prefer a blank stage in modern street clothes, but that too much detail can change an otherwise involved participant right into a passive observer. Also, the more detail, the better chance i will occur by using an error which takes me out of the reality the art director has so carefully constructed (like the 1979 penny that Chris Reeves finds in their pocket in Somewhere soon enough.) Graphic presentations with sensational story lines possess a short-term objective: to maintain the viewer interested till the next commercial. There is absolutely no long term objective.
A major plus is the story lines of Korean dramas are, with not many exceptions, only if they must be, then the series comes to a conclusion. It can not persist with contrived excuses to re-invent its characters. Nor is the duration of a series dependant upon the “television season” since it is inside the United states K-dramas are not mini-series. Typically, these are between 17-24 hour-long episodes, though some have 50 plus episodes (e.g. Emperor in the Sea, Dae Jang Geum, and Jumong).
Korean actors are relatively unknown to American audiences. They can be disarming, engaging and, despite their youth or pop status in Korea (as is often the case), are typically more skilled than American actors of a similar age. For this is the rule in Korea, as opposed to the exception, that high profile actors do both television and film. Within these dramas, we Westerners have the main benefit of learning people different from ourselves, often remarkably attractive, that has an appeal within its own right.
Korean dramas have a resemblance to another dramatic form once familiar to us and currently in disrepute: the ” melodrama.” Wikipedia, describes “melodrama” as coming from the Greek word for song “melody”, put together with “drama”. Music can be used to increase the emotional response or to suggest characters. You will find a tidy structure or formula to melodrama: a villain poses a threat, the hero escapes the threat (or rescues the heroine) and you will find a happy ending. In melodrama there is certainly constructed a realm of heightened emotion, stock characters along with a hero who rights the disturbance to the balance of great and evil inside a universe by using a clear moral division.
With the exception of the “happy ending” part and an infinite availability of trials for hero and heroine – usually, the latter – this description isn’t thus far from the mark. But moreover, the concept of the melodrama underscores another essential difference between Korean and Western drama, and that is the role of music. Western television shows and, to your great extent, modern cinema utilizes music within a comparatively casual way. A United States TV series could have a signature theme that might or might not – usually not – get worked to the score as being a show goes along. Many of the music can there be to support the mood or provide additional energy on the action sequences. Not too with Korean dramas – the location where the music is used a lot more like musical theatre, even opera. Certain themes represent specific characters or relationships between the two. The songs is deliberately and intensely passionate and will stand on its own. Virtually every series has one or more song (not sung from a character) that appears during especially sensitive moments. The lyric is reflective and poetic. Many television soundtrack albums are hugely successful in Asia. The songs for Winter Sonata, Seo Dong Yo, Palace and Jumong are all excellent examples.
The setting for a typical Korean drama may be almost anyplace: home, office, or outdoors which may have the advantage of familiar and fewer known locations. The producers of Dae Jang Geum developed a small working village and palace to the filming, that has since become a popular tourist attraction. A series might be one or a combination of familiar genres: romances, comedies, political or crime thrillers or historical dramas. Whilst the settings tend to be familiar, the traditions and, often, the costumes making-up are often very distinct from Western shows. Some customs can be fascinating, while some exasperating, even just in contemporary settings – regarding example, in the wintertime Sonata, how the female lead character, Yujin, is ostracized by friends and relations once she balks on the engagement, a predicament that Korean audiences can definitely connect with.
Korean TV dramas, like any other art form, their very own share of conventions: chance meetings, instant flashback replays, highly fantasized love stories, chance meetings, character masks, chance meetings, all of which can appear like unnecessary time-stoppers to Americans who are utilized to a speedy pace. I recommend not suppressing the inevitable giggle away from some faux-respect, but recognize that these items include the territory. My feeling: Provided you can appreciate Mozart, you should certainly appreciate the pace and conventionality of Dae Jang Geum. More modern adult dramas like Alone for each other advise that a number of these conventions might have already begun to play themselves out.
Episodes reach the YAE office in San Bruno on Digital Beta (a 1:1 copy through the master that had been useful for the actual broadcast) where it really is screened for possible imperfections (in which case, the network is inspired to send another.) The Beta is downloaded in the lossless format to the computer as well as a low-resolution copy is 25dexjpky on the translator. Translation is carried out in stages: first a Korean-speaking individual who knows English, then the reverse. Our prime-resolution computer master will be tweaked for contrast and color. If the translation is finalized, it is entered into the master, taking care to time the look of the subtitle with speech. Then this whole show is screened for further improvements in picture and translation. A 日劇dvd is constructed which includes all of the menu instructions and completed picture and subtitles. The DLT is then sent to factories in Korea or Hong Kong for the output of the discs.
If the picture is formatted in 4:3 or 16:9, typically, the picture quality is superb, sometimes exceptional; and also the audio (music, dialogue and foley) is obvious and dynamic, drawing the target audience in the some time and place, the history and the characters. For folks who may have made the jump to light speed, we can easily expect to eventually new drama series in hi-def transfers inside the not very distant future.