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Synonyms: kdrama, drama
See also: J-Drama, TWdrama, C-Drama
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K-drama (or kdrama) is a term for South Korean dramas, or scripted TV shows. Popular dramas include melodrama, romantic comedy, historical (known as sageuk, 사극 in Korean), family and horror. (Sitcoms, which also follow fictional narratives, are generally not included under the term K-drama because they are usually in part or wholly improvised.)

K-dramas have a pre-established number of episodes in which to tell their story, although a poorly performing drama may be cut short by an episode or two, and a popular one may have a few episodes added onto the series' run. They are either weekly dramas that air twice a week or daily dramas that air every weekday. Most weekly dramas are miniseries that generally run between 16-24 episodes, although some series—especially historical and family dramas—can have much longer runs.[1] Longer weekly dramas can range from 50 to over 100 episodes. Most daily dramas are also very long and run between 80-100 or more episodes. Shorter series tend to be produced on a live-shoot system, where the filming begins a month or two before the series starts being broadcast, which means that the K-drama is still being filmed and edited while the previous episodes are airing.[2]

In K-dramas with a significant romantic plot, fandom often experiences what's referred to as Second Lead Syndrome, or SLS, where fans wish the female lead chose the second male lead and not the male protagonist.

English-Language Fandom

Most of the K-dramas that are fansubbed and become the source of fannish interest in English-language fandom are weekly dramas. Thanks to Hallyu or the Korean Wave, many K-dramas are exported to other East and Southeast Asian countries and are available on DVD or VCD with subtitles in Chinese, Vietnamese, etc. Some popular series have also been licensed and officially released on DVD.

In the 2010s, many dramas were licensed for streaming with English subtitles on DramaFever, but after DramaFever shut down in 2018 it became more common to find dramas available to stream, subbed (and occasionally dubbed) in multiple languages, on Netflix. The Singaporean streaming service Viki is also a popular vehicle for streaming K-dramas (as well as J-dramas, C-dramas, and other East Asian TV shows and films). Some South Korean networks, like MVIBO, have also made their K-dramas available for streaming outside of South Korea for a subscription fee and a limited selection come with subtitles.

Fannish activity in the English-language fandom involves squee posts, meta, picspams, icons, gifsets, fanfic, and fanart. Fans of Korean dramas have a wide range of reasons for being drawn to the various series, as discussed at this post.

With the popularity of K-dramas exploding outside of South Korea, Netflix has been involved in a lot of collaborations, making international distribution deals with a lot of shows. Some fans have noticed resulting changes in release schedules and the way the narratives are wrapped up by the end of the show, expressing discontent on the subject:

Okay, I know that these Netflix collaborations mean that we’ll probably get more of this in the future, and I don’t mind multiple seasons if the shows are good. My issue is that they aren’t transparent about it, and they let people watch the whole show all the way to the final scene before realizing that oh, we aren’t going to get the end of the story like we’re used to with Korean dramas. For a lot of us, one of the reasons we love k-dramas is the closure — we get a complete story, it ends, and the actors move on to other projects. But Netflix getting involved seems to be leading to series that hint at a second season, but without lining up the actors, writers, crew, or even budget for it. So instead of delivering a full story like we expect, we’re left with no ending and no promise of one in the future. I’ve been a loyal Netflix customer since back when they only mailed out DVDs, so I say this with all the love in my heart, but maybe Netflix needs to leave Korean dramas alone?[3]

Korean-Language Fandom

As with K-pop idols, many Korean actors have devoted and active fanbases. Members of official fan clubs have been known to pay for gifts for the entire crew of the drama their favourite actor is working on. [4]

A promotional poster made by fans for the drama Marry Me, Mary

Korean fans also enjoy creating fanart of their favourite dramas, as demonstrated by the fan made posters for Mary Stayed Out All Night: "The production staff is particularly amazed at the posters’ marketability, including everything from staff credits, slogans, and premiere dates. Apparently I’m not the only one who mistook some of these for the real thing, as netizens were shocked to discover that they weren’t the official posters, and heaped praise on the dedicated fans." [5]

Much of the Korean-language online fandom activity for K-dramas occurs on fan "cafes" or forums often hosted on portal sites like Naver, Daum or Cyworld. A fan cafe typically hosts discussions and multimedia uploaded by fans, such as photos, soundtracks and video clips. They also host a variety of fanworks, including fanart, photomanips and fanfiction. (An example can be seen at ┏다모┓☆MBC특별기획드라마☆┗다모┛, a Daum cafe for the K-drama Damo.) For popular series, there are also cafes that are dedicated solely to fanfiction, e.g. SDQueen 선덕여왕팬픽 for the series Queen Seondeok and ★ KBS 성균관스캔들 팬픽 카폐 ★ for the series Sungkyunkwan Scandal.

Popular Dramas





  1. ^ Dangermousie's Drama Primer: Everything You Wanted To Know About Dramas But Were Afraid To Ask :)
  2. ^ The perils of the live-shoot drama system (Accessed May 23, 2011)
  3. ^ Vagabond: Episode 16 (Final) » Dramabeans Korean drama recaps, Archived version
  4. ^ See, for just one example, Yoon Kye-sang fans show support for Road No. 1: "Such displays of concerted fan support never cease to impress me: members of Yoon Kye-sang’s fan club have worked together and raised money to supply the production of his new drama, Road No. 1, with a meal feeding 120 crew and cast members, which included the drama’s other stars So Ji-sub, Kim Han-eul, and Choi Min-soo." (Accessed May 18, 2010)
  5. ^ Media attention for Mary Stayed Out All Night’s fan-made posters (Accessed Dec. 21, 2010)