Changed Storytelling Is Helping Korean Content Stay in Touch With Audiences

Korean film and TV story-telling has expanded and adapted under the influence of both COVID and streaming video. As a result, screenwriting today may be more in touch with audience needs, media executives in Busan heard.

A panel discussion on Saturday, organized by the Busan Story Market, a new wing of the Asian Contents & Film Market (ACFM) sought to define Korean story telling and analyze why it is currently so successful.

One explanation offered by Hwang Hyejung, chief content officer at Korean streamer TVing, was that writers have broadened their outlook to include more current and realistic topics. Romantic comedies and melodramas are no longer the defining genres.

“Korean content has its foundations in family values and Confucianism. That compares with Hollywood’s super fantasy stories,” said Hwang. “These days, Korean realism is well-received among the MZ generation [people born between 1981 and 2005], due to COVID and the crises we’re experiencing.”

Seokyung Chung, writer of recent TV series “Little Women” and Park Chan Wook’s latest film “Decision To Leave,” said that she had deliberately changed her writing style from a top-down perspective to one that is more attentive to her audiences.  

“[When it comes to the creative process], there’s a lot of capturing, discussion and analyzing. Being sensitive to the audience and always being ready to update is important,” said Chung. “People want to feel closer and to discuss issues in our society together. So, I now consider the audience as [my] best friends, sharing secrets with them. That’s how I think the audience relates.”

The pandemic accelerated the growth of OTT platforms in Korea and in doing so put new emphasis on viewing convenience, such as binge-watching, and on social media feedback.

“People are waiting to see other people’s reactions before watching content. We can get this [feedback] almost immediately with social media meaning that initial reactions can determine the success or failure of a series,” said Hwang.

If that means a higher level of risk, platforms and broadcaster have attempted defray that by putting greater emphasis on franchises and shows with multiple seasons. are now adopted to extend the lifespan of K-stories. 

The twin effects of COVID and more streaming has increased demand for new Korean shows to be produced. According to Hwang, Korean streamer Tving has reported a 300% growth in subscribers since it began creating originals in 2020. 

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