Ever think about how amazing it is that people have the convenience of watching shows at any time through various devices? Or how awesome it is that we can watch shows from different countries with subtitles that appeal to our language? It’s also shifted the way that creators in television come up with new content. Having access to shows from other cultures gives writers, producers, and directors from other countries the inspiration to remake a show that could translate the story in a new light.
Thanks to streaming services like Netflix, Viki, and OnDemandKorea, the availability of watching K-dramas and Korean variety programs has allowed television shows to become a big part of the Hallyu Wave. There are a handful of top American shows that have been remade in Korea, and a handful of shows that have been or are in the process of being remade in America from Korea.
One of the more recent shows from West to East was 2019’s Designated Survivor: 60 Days (60일, 지정생존자) on Netflix and tvN, starring actor Ji Jin-hee. It was remade from the ABC political drama-thriller, Designated Survivor, starring Kiefer Sutherland. The series lasted for three seasons in America while the Korean remake was one season with sixteen episodes. Both the original and remake are highly successful and can be watched on Netflix.
For a Korean show being remade in America, there’s the 2013 KBS show Good Doctor, starring Joo Won, being reimagined in America as The Good Doctor in 2017 through ABC, starring Freddie Highmore. Korean-American actor Daniel Dae Kim serves as executive producer of the series, playing a key role in bringing the show to the States. While Good Doctor was only one season with twenty episodes, The Good Doctor is well into this third season as of February 2020! In discussing his experience as a British actor trying to act on an American show, Highmore also explains how a director has their own challenges of how one needs to think and work differently on one show from another.
The U.S. pilot of The Good Doctor was very similar to the structure of the Korean original; however, the similarities begin to dwindle from there. American television typically has multiple seasons while K-dramas may last only one. The Good Doctor had to adjust the storylines and pacing with the hopes that it would make it past its first season. Korean and American shows may have different intentions for how and why the show is made, but having the the same root storyline for the main character is the most important part.
Another challenge of remaking a show can be whether or not the premise will attract and appeal to an audience of a different country or culture. This can be said for the K-drama Strong Woman Do Bong Soon, and the failing of its intended U.S. counterpart, Strong Woman., which the CW was looking into developing in 2018.
There were mixed feelings on social media from those who’d watched the original version. Humor, storylines, acting styles, and more may not translate the same way. Whether or not the viewers were from the U.S., the mixed feelings stemmed from how the American audience may view the storyline, characters, and structure of the show on top of it not being near the original concept. However, in 2019, the script was not picked up to pilot.
There’s power and meaning behind Director Bong Joon-ho’s words at the Golden Globes: “Once you overcome the 1-inch-tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films. Just being nominated along with fellow amazing international filmmakers was a huge honor. I think we use only one language: the cinema. Thank you.”
While Director Bong was talking about film, this can also be translated into TV. If we’re willing to watch original shows or their remakes from other countries, we’ll be introduced to so much creativity, storytelling, and perspectives of a story on a cultural level, giving the sense of how a single story can reach so many people.
Shows in America or Korea being remade in each other’s countries demonstrates how cultures can come together over a character and their story. While there are challenges, the fact that writers, producers, and directors are inspired by a show from someplace else is in itself a big achievement! The way the story is told can vary, but people all over the world are watching shows from many countries, showing how art transcends geographical differences. Bringing people together through the art of film and television is extraordinary.
Cover Image: Suits (U.S. & Korea)
Written by Jenna Tokioka