South Korean drama hits America


No the political kind, rather the literal drama, as in stories told by actors. South Korea's television soap operas are finding big audiences overseas, including here in the Bay Area, as well as other major American cities with large Asian populations. Japan was the first Asian country to embrace South Korean pop culture, but it has spread widely, including to America. The finale of one major SK show outdrew several network shows in the ratings, on San Francisco's Chinese language television station.

The San Francisco Chronicle outlines the rise of South Korean soap operas, and also briefly notes the rise of South Korean film, too. It is adequate coverage, as far as it goes, of a very interesting and increasing important facet of the globalization of popular culture. But there is an element downplayed, barely mentioned.

South Korea's entertainment industry languished for years, thanks to the "support" offered by the government, which includied banning Japanese television and movies, and levying a box office tax on foreign movies, to support SK films. As in France, the result of government funding was mediocrity and unpopularity. The Chron, of course, loves government funding of the arts.

When SK removed controls, (as the Chron briefly mentions but does not describe) the SK film and television industries responded to the need to match world—level competition by improving their products, and going for exports. South Korean studios invested heavily in state—of—the—art production facilities, embodying the latest digital technology. Today, many Japanese films are shot in Korea, to take advantage of lower costs and better facilities there. And studio tours for tourists have become a big business.

Economic freedom usually works best.

Thomas Lifson   8 28 05