CJ ENM’s Diane Min and Studio Dragon’s Tony Kim discuss the booming scripted-format business in Korea.
As the scripted programming industry continues to thrive, Korea has firmly planted itself in the spotlight as a market that can deliver dramatic stories ripe for adaptation. Indeed, the country has seen its stories traveling to TV screens around the world, and CJ ENM has been enjoying the uptick in scripted-format sales. “The scripted industry is having its golden era around the world, and Korea has been at the forefront of it,” says Diane Min, the head of format sales at CJ ENM. “Audiences around the world are now accustomed to the Korean way of character-driven storytelling that triggers emotional engagement, and the scripted industry is seeing that there is potential in Korean IP that could travel in their respective regions.”
In particular from the company’s catalog, Misaeng, Memory and Signal have been adapted in Japan and had a strong showing locally. Tears of Heaven saw a Turkish adaptation with Cennet and was “one of the most successful Korean dramas to have been remade in Turkey,” according to Min. “And Turkey has remade more than 20 Korean drama titles within 10 years.”
She says the main reason for the success of Korean scripts is their uniqueness. “Korea has a highly saturated market for TV dramas, so more and more stories that have never been introduced to the public are able to be aired on TV. As a result, scripts are getting more intricate and sophisticated, which has an appeal to foreign markets.”
CJ ENM believes that the drama Live can work well as a format. The series focuses on the everyday lives of the members of a small but busy police unit in the bustling city of Seoul, where they may not be saving the world, but they are helping citizens with common problems. Min says the format “has strong potential because the stories within it are all powerful and touching, and—more importantly—related to our current society.”
Lawless Lawyer, which follows an attorney who was once a gangster, is another scripted show that the company sees potential in for adaptations. The format is in discussion for options in a few different territories. “The charm of this format is that it’s a feel-good series that has a strong lead character and format elements that are easily adaptable in every culture in different ways,” says Tony Kim, producer at Studio Dragon.
With the success of the Tears of Heaven remake Cennet in Turkey, CJ ENM is keen to explore more opportunities in that country. “We have similar cultural sentiments regarding family and love, making it easy for our stories to be translated for the Turkish culture and language,” says Min. “Most recently, our scripted formats have received lots of attention in the U.S., and we are seeing this being trickled down to Latin America.
“Within Asia, we are anticipating good results in Thailand,” Min continues. “It is one of the countries with good production quality and once a program has been made there, it tends to travel well to other countries.” A local version of CJ ENM’s Oh My Ghost is being made for Thailand’s True4U.
In 2016, the company set up Studio Dragon, focused on delivering top-tier drama content, and its output is traveling as well. Studio Dragon’s series are largely creator-driven, “which makes them more diverse and unique than others,” says Kim. “There is something for everyone in our diverse library of IP.”
The drama production unit has been delivering “blockbuster-type content” in South Korea and across Asia, says Kim. And its stories are poised to travel even further as scripted formats stay in vogue.