It absolutely was around three years ago that we was exposed to the very idea of region-free DVD playback, a nearly necessary condition for readers of DVD Beaver. For that reason, an entire arena of Asian film that had been heretofore unknown to me or out from my reach exposed. I needed already absorbed decades of Kurosawa and, recently, a smattering of classic Hong Kong gangster and fantasy films by means of our local Hong Kong Film Festival. Of Korean films, I knew nothing. But within the next couple of months, with my new and surprisingly cheap multi-region DVD player, I used to be 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 the heels. This became a completely new field of cutting edge cinema in my opinion.
A couple of months into this adventure, a buddy lent me a copy from the first disc of the Korean television series, 韓劇dvd專賣店. He claimed how the drama had just finished a six month’s run as the most famous Korean television series ever, and that the newest English subtitles by YA-Entertainment were quite readable. “Maybe you’ll enjoy it, perhaps not.” He knew my tastes pretty well by then, but the thought of a television series, let alone one manufactured for Korean mainstream TV, was hardly something that lit the obligatory fire under me. After two episodes, I used to be hooked.
I understood my fascination with Korean cinema, but television! This is unknown. How could this be, I puzzled? I wasn’t everything hooked on American TV. West Wing, Sopranos, Buffy – sure. Maybe I had pan-tastes, having said that i still considered myself as discriminating. So, that which was the attraction – one could even say, compulsion that persists to this day? During the last several 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 is over 80 hour long episodes! What is my problem!
Though there are obvious similarities to Western primetime dramas, cable and even daytime soaps, Korean primetime television dramas – which they commonly call “miniseries” as the West already experienced a handy, or even altogether accurate term – are a unique art. They are structured like our miniseries in they may have a pre-ordained beginning, middle and end. While for a longer time than our miniseries – even episodes certainly are a whole hour long, not counting commercials, which are usually front loaded before the episode begins – they do not continue on for five, six or seven seasons, like Alias or Star Trek: Voyager, or for generations, just like the Events of Our Way Of Life. The nearest thing we must Korean dramas is perhaps any given season of The Wire. Primetime television in Korea is really outright dramas and news. So Korea’s three very competitive networks (MBC, KBS and SBS) have gotten very good at it throughout the years, especially since the early 1990s once the government eased its censorship about content, which actually got their creative juices going.
Korean dramas were jump-started in 1991 with the hugely successful Eyes of Dawn, set between the Japanese invasion of WWII along with the Korean War of your early 1950s. In 1995 the highly acclaimed series, The Sandglass, managed to get clear to an audience away from the country that Korea was certainly onto something. The Sandglass deftly and intelligently melded the field of organized crime as well as the ever-present love story against the backdrop of the was then recent Korean political history, especially the events of 1980 referred to as Gwang-ju Democratization Movement along with the government’s crushing military response (think: Tienamin Square.) Nevertheless it wasn’t until 2002, with Yoon Suk-Ho’s Winter Sonata, that everything we now call the “Korean Wave” really took off. Winter Sonata in a short time swept over Asia like atsunami, soon landing in Hawaii and so 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 their own company in San Bruno, California: YA-Entertainment (never to be wrongly identified as YesAsia) to distribute the most effective Korean dramas with proper English subtitles in The United States. To the end, YAE (as Tom wants to call his company) secured the necessary licenses to complete simply that with each of the major Korean networks. I spent a couple of hours with Tom a couple weeks ago referring to our mutual interest. Larsen had first gone to Korea for two years like a volunteer, then came returning to the States to finish college where he naturally, but gradually, worked his way into a Korean Language degree at Brigham Young. He came upon his desire for Korean dramas accidentally when one his professors used a then current weekly series to aid his students study Korean. An unexpected complication was he and his schoolmates became totally hooked on the drama itself. Larsen has since made several trips to Korea for extended stays. I’ll get back to how YAE works shortly, however I wish to try at least to resolve the question: Why Korean Dramas?
Area of the answer, I feel, is in the unique strengths of these shows: Purity, Sincerity, Passion. Perhaps the hallmark of Korean dramas (and, at some level, in numerous of the feature films) is actually a relative purity of character. Each character’s psychology and motivation is obvious, clean, archetypical. This is simply not to mention they are not complex. Rather a character is just not made complicated arbitrarily. Psychological comprehension of the character, as expressed by his or her behavior, is – I judge – often more correctly manifest than we have seen on American television series: Character complexity is a lot more convincing if the core self is not interested in fulfilling the requirements this or that producer, sponsor or target age range or subculture.
Korea is a damaged and split country, as are many more whose borders are drawn by powers other than themselves, invaded and colonized several times within the centuries. Koreans are, therefore, acutely understanding of questions of divided loyalties. Korean dramas often explore the conflict involving the modern as well as the traditional – even just in the historical series. Conflicts of obligations are often the prime motivation while focusing for your dramatic narrative, often expressed in generational terms within the family. There may be something very reassuring about these dramas. . . not in the 1950s happy ending sense, for indeed, there are actually few happy endings in Korean dramas. When compared with American tv shows: Korean TV dramas have simpler, yet compelling story lines, and natural, sympathetic acting of characters we are able to believe in.
Possibly the most arresting feature from the acting is definitely the passion that is certainly brought to performance. There’s the best value of heartfelt angst which, viewed out of context, can strike the unsuspecting Westerner as somewhat laughable. However in context, such expressions of emotion are powerful and interesting, strikinmg on the heart from the conflict. Korean actors and audiences, old or young, unlike our very own, are immersed inside their country’s political context along with their history. The emotional connection actors make to the characters they portray has a level of truth that is projected instantly, with no conventional distance we seem to require inside the west.
Like the 韓劇dvd in the 1940s, the characters in the Korean drama have a directness with regards to their greed, their desires, their weaknesses, along with their righteousness, and therefore are fully focused on the consequences. It’s tough to say if the writing in Korean dramas has anything just like the bite and grit of your 40s or 50s American film (given our reliance upon a translation, however well-intended) – I rather doubt it. Instead, specifically in the historical series, the actors wear their emotional link to their character on his or her face as a kind of character mask. It’s among the conventions of Korean drama that people can easily see clearly what another character cannot, though they can be “right there” – form of such as a stage whisper.
I have always been a supporter in the less-is-more school of drama. Not too I like a blank stage in modern street clothes, but that too much detail can make an otherwise involved participant right into a passive observer. Also, the more detail, the better chance that we will occur on an error which takes me out of your reality that this art director has so carefully constructed (just like the 1979 penny that Chris Reeves finds within his pocket in Somewhere over time.) Graphic presentations with sensational story lines possess a short-term objective: to hold the viewer interested until the next commercial. There is no long term objective.
A huge plus is the story lines of Korean dramas are, with not many exceptions, only as long as they should be, after which the series goes to an end. It can do not persist with contrived excuses to re-invent its characters. Nor is the size of a series dependant on the “television season” because it is from the U.S. K-dramas will not be mini-series. Typically, they are between 17-24 hour-long episodes, though some have 50 plus episodes (e.g. Emperor of your Sea, Dae Jang Geum, and Jumong).
Korean actors are relatively unknown to American audiences. They are disarming, engaging and, despite their youth or pop status in Korea (as is often the case), are typically more skilled than American actors of any similar age. For it will be the rule in Korea, rather than the exception, that high profile actors do both television and film. In these dramas, we Westerners have the advantages of learning people distinctive from ourselves, often remarkably attractive, which has an appeal within its own right.
Korean dramas use a resemblance to a different one dramatic form once familiar to us and currently in disrepute: the ” melodrama.” Wikipedia, describes “melodrama” as coming from the Greek word for song “melody”, combined with “drama”. Music is commonly used to improve the emotional response or to suggest characters. You will discover a tidy structure or formula to melodrama: a villain poses a threat, the hero escapes the threat (or rescues the heroine) and there is a happy ending. In melodrama there may be constructed a arena of heightened emotion, stock characters as well as a hero who rights the disturbance on the balance of proper and evil inside a universe by using a clear moral division.
Apart from the “happy ending” part and an infinite flow of trials for both hero and heroine – usually, the latter – this description isn’t up to now from the mark. But furthermore, the thought of the melodrama underscores another essential distinction between Korean and Western drama, and that is certainly the role of music. Western television shows and, to some great extent, modern cinema utilizes music in the comparatively casual way. A United States TV series may have a signature theme that may or may not – not often – get worked in the score as a show goes along. The majority of the music is there to assist the mood or provide additional energy for the action sequences. Less than with Korean dramas – the location where the music is commonly used similar to musical theatre, even opera. Certain themes represent specific characters or relationships between the two. The music is deliberately and intensely passionate and may stand naturally. Almost every series has a minimum of one song (not sung by way of a character) that appears during especially sensitive moments. The lyric is reflective and poetic. Many television soundtrack albums are hugely successful in Asia. The background music for Winter Sonata, Seo Dong Yo, Palace and Jumong are excellent examples.
The setting for any typical Korean drama may be just about anyplace: home, office, or outdoors who have the benefit of familiar and less known locations. The producers of Dae Jang Geum developed a small working village and palace to the filming, which includes since develop into a popular tourist attraction. A series might be one or a mixture of familiar genres: romances, comedies, political or crime thrillers or historical dramas. While the settings are usually familiar, the traditions and, often, the costumes to make-up can be very not the same as Western shows. Some customs can be fascinating, although some exasperating, in contemporary settings – as for example, during winter Sonata, just how the female lead character, Yujin, is ostracized by friends and family once she balks in her engagement, a predicament that Korean audiences can definitely relate with.
Korean TV dramas, as with any other art, have their own share of conventions: chance meetings, instant flashback replays, highly fantasized love stories, chance meetings, character masks, chance meetings, which all can appear like unnecessary time-stoppers to Americans who are widely used to a speedy pace. I recommend not suppressing the inevitable giggle from some faux-respect, but know that these matters come with the territory. My feeling: When you can appreciate Mozart, you must be able to appreciate the pace and conventionality of Dae Jang Geum. More modern adult dramas like Alone for each other advise that many of these conventions could have already started to play themselves out.
Episodes reach the YAE office in San Bruno on Digital Beta (a 1:1 copy through the master which had been employed for the exact broadcast) where it can be screened for possible imperfections (in which case, the network is inspired to send another.) The Beta is downloaded within a lossless format to the pc along with a low-resolution copy is 25dexjpky to the translator. Translation is performed in stages: first a Korean-speaking individual that knows English, then a reverse. Our prime-resolution computer master will be tweaked for contrast and color. If the translation is finalized, it can be entered the master, taking good care to time the look of the subtitle with speech. Then the whole show is screened for even more improvements in picture and translation. A 日劇dvd is constructed that has every one of the menu instructions and completed picture and subtitles. The DLT is going to be sent to factories in Korea or Hong Kong for that creation of the discs.
Regardless of if the picture is formatted in 4:3 or 16:9, in most cases, the image quality is superb, sometimes exceptional; and also the audio (music, dialogue and foley) is apparent and dynamic, drawing the viewers in the efforts and place, the storyline as well as the characters. For those of us who definitely have made the jump to light speed, we could plan to eventually new drama series in hd transfers within the not too distant future.