The K-Drama Addiction In The Philippines Shows No Signs Of Stopping—Have You Caught The Fever Yet?
A new Koreanovela, I am Not a Robot, has just aired on ABS-CBN and another one, W, will air soon. Prior to these, there were other K-Dramas like Guardian: The Lonely and Great God (Goblin), Legend of the Blue Sea, Love in the Moonlight, Weightlifting Fairy, Hwarang, The King Is In Love, and Black that Filipinos tuned in to on the Kapamilya network. But what is this whole Koreanovela craze and phenomenon really about? Why are Filipinos showing no signs of wanting to recover from this K-Drama fever?
“OMG! Guys! Ji Chang-wook has enlisted to the military!!!” The announcement breaks the after-lunch silence in the office full of people who are glued to their computer screens and are tapping away on their keyboards. The news elicits a collective sigh and “oh no!” reaction. The colleagues of the girl, who couldn’t help but express her utter disappointment, pause for a moment to talk about what had just happened.
This news means they won’t be seeing the actor in a series for quite some time since the mandatory military service is two years. This clique in a nook then goes on talking about how much they love Ji Chang-wook and even details the scenes they particularly like in his shows. At this point, even the other people in the office, who are only casual fans, overhear the news and start feeling affected by it. They seem ready to join the conversation any chance they get.
This headline may have happened months ago and this may just be one of the many Korean celebrity-related news items that pique the interest of Filipinos on a daily basis (have you heard Park Shin-hye & Choi Tae-joon and Bae Suzy & Lee Dong-wook are dating?), but the scenario above basically shows just how much of a Koreanovela/K-Drama or K-Pop fanatic Filipinos have become.
All it took was one name to spark a conversation that could go on for hours. We bet, in an alternate universe where daily deadlines or quotas don’t exist, they would probably step out of the office and congregate in a coffee shop or someone’s home to binge-watch (or re-watch!) episodes of their favorite K-Drama, like The K2, especially the one that showed the hot Ji Chang-wook in a controversial shower fight scene. Well, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration—or for some, maybe not. (Oh, how much do they—or we—envy those who work in the ABS-CBN department assigned to acquire Koreanovela franchises?! How nice would it be to watch Koreanovelas for work and get paid for doing so, right?! #DreamJob)
Clearly, these people are on the same page. They are on the same wavelength. They are connected. Their common interest binds them. They speak the same language; you can almost hear them saying “oppa” (which actually means “older brother” but is typically used by girls in a flirtatious way as a term of endearment for guys) in their best charming, cutesy voices; joking around calling each other “ajumma” (which means “married woman” or a “middle-aged woman”); or motivating one another saying "aja!" or "fighting!" enthusiastically.
In some instances, there are also acquaintances who get closer as they share the passion for Koreanovelas, recommending to one another what they should watch next and who the stars they should watch for are.
Truth be told, it’s like a cult. For the uninitiated, it may sound weird, even more so upon hearing those hard-to-pronounce, alien-sounding names. But there’s no denying this cult has grown exponentially over the years since Filipinos became fans of the 2001 hit drama series Meteor Garden (which, by the way, is not Korean but Taiwanese, but would have a Korean adaptation called Boys Over Flowers eight years later) and Lovers in Paris (2004), among other classic and must-watch Koreanovelas.
And quite noticeably, members of this “cult” try to spread the happiness, positive vibes, and utter kilig these shows bring by convincing others to join the club and “converting” them into K-Drama fanatics.
IMHO, as a die-hard K-Drama fan myself, it’s not hard to get addicted to Koreanovelas. Why, they’re almost always done so beautifully! The Koreans have mastered the right pacing and treatment to avoid boring the viewers, and they know the right formula and all the addicting elements to ensure the viewers would absolutely hate the idea of not knowing right away what that cliffhanger is leading to.
Many Filipinos can relate to that delightful feeling one gets when you’re looking forward to coming home at the end of a busy work day, raring to continue your Koreanovela marathon. Well, for some who can’t wait, the marathon resumes the moment they hop on their ride home, notwithstanding the headache that comes with watching on a handheld device aboard a moving vehicle.
Some, like that ate selling coffee in the office canteen, spends her downtime glued to the small screen of her mobile phone, watching K-Dramas like Jealousy Incarnate. What's more, how many Filipinos are guilty of saying "just one episode then I'll go to sleep," only to find themselves staying up until the wee hours marathoning? A lot, for sure!
Even celebrities like Anne Curtis, Janice de Belen, and Karylle are self-confessed fans of Koreanovelas. In fact, Goblin’s popularity in the Philippines has a lot to do with how much of a fangirl Anne was over the show and its lead star Gong Yoo (also of the Coffee Prince and Train to Busan fame). How many K-Drama fans felt envious of Jinkee Pacquiao, who was reported to have had the opportunity to have a dinner with Ji Chang-wook, the lead actor in K-Dramas Empress Ki, Healer, The K2, and Suspicious Partner (Love in Trouble)? Again, a lot, for sure.
Congratulations my oppa #GongYoo for winning Best Drama Actor for Goblin at the #BaeksangArtsAwards2017 ?? Well deserved! You are a brilliant actor and I admire you and your work very much! You have gained a loyal fan in me ahjussi! . . A big congratulations to whole crew, staff, director, cast #Goblin (specially Wookie and Kim Go-Eun) and most importantly the writer, Kim Eun-sook ?? What an introduction to the Kdrama world. Such a beautiful, beautiful story. Life changing for me. Seriously. I'm hooked. Goblin is for me, unforgettable. Well, obviously. I'm still not over it... ?? -#JiANNEtak . . . . P.S - thank you to the talented person that made this fan art ?? Found it over on twitter. #GoblinsBride #KdramaAddict #HayaanNyoNaAko
This love for Koreanovelas, which cuts across different age groups and markets, has become extremely apparent, so much so that it’s not surprising to note how each Filipino probably knows at least one person who is a K-Drama addict.
What was once a niche market is now a mainstream phenomenon. The widespread popularity of Koreanovelas may be partly credited to the availability of Internet connection. People now have access to websites that provide information on K-Dramas and Korean celebrities as well as streaming media platforms that allow them to watch anytime, anywhere.
Those who have travelled to South Korea may have had a hangover on all things Korean and, as a result, find themselves wanting to relive their Korean adventure through K-Dramas. Or, it could be the other way around—K-Drama fanatics go the extra mile to relive the kilig they’ve felt from watching particular scenes, and want to see the exact locations where those scenes were shot; there is obvious demand for this, that’s why K-Drama tours exist. And this is somehow reflective of the K-Drama addiction in the Philippines.
New Koreanovelas keep cropping up, and Filipinos are left to pull off some “Keeping Up With the K-Dramas” act. The end to this craze is nowhere in sight. And if you haven’t tried watching one yet, you are missing out! Try, and you'll immediately see what I'm talking about. Now, the question is, “What K-Drama should you watch first?”