Sunday, April 13, 2008

More Like a Niche

Koreanovelas’ Fever is sweeping the Philippines

In the last few years, Korean films, TV dramas and pop music have become immensely popular abroad, a phenomenon known as the Korean Wave. This is the second in a series of essays by a select group of foreign scholars and journalists looking at the spread of Korean pop culture in Southeast Asian countries and beyond. - Ed.

The names Johnny, Jenny and Andrew may not ring a bell for Koreans, but for Filipinos, they started the so-called Korean Wave in the Philippines. They were the "Filipinized" names of the main characters in the drama "Autumn Story," better known as "Endless Love 1" when it was shown in the Philippines. It was the first-ever Korean drama to air in the country.

In 2002, the Taiwanese drama "Meteor Garden" swept through the Philippines and the rest of Asia, paving the way for Chinese dramas to enter local markets. The drama was aired on the ABS-CBN network, one of the Philippines` largest broadcasting companies. More Taiwanese dramas soon followed, heralding the start of the "Chinovelas" (Chinese + novelas, a word derived from the Spanish "novela") fever. Facing the risk of saturating televiewers` interest, the network’s rival, GMA-7 looked elsewhere and took a chance on Korean dramas...


If the article was written three years ago I would have agreed but its not the case anymore. The article failed to note that the Korean "wave" is only limited to television shows. Philippine radio airwaves are dominated by local and American artists, occasionally some British acts and Japanese dance divas. Only one Korean pop act made it here -Mina and her song "Answer the Phone"- no one else. Only hardcore fans (and there are few) listen and sing to K-pop beats while the rest of the population prefer to listen and sing in a language they understand.

Even the assertion the "Koreanovelas eclipsed local shows" only happens if the K-series is shown on GMA -7. Winter Sonata was second to Starstruck (talent search) on AC Nielsen's December, 2003 ratings survey and so was Lovers in Paris (to Mulawin). Full House though did its job. In fact, the Korean show Legend starring Bae Yoon Joon is struggling to make it past the 20% mark while Lovers is out of the top ten primetime shows since it started a few weeks ago. The press should know balance is needed in reporting stuff like this. I've read many news items about the Korean "wave" and I used to swallow it hook, line and sinker but some news items became mere press releases and praise reporting that I became more cautious and skeptical.

Some Filipinos still have Korean "fever" of course and Korean series are definitely here to stay but they are more used to fill a certain niche market GMA-ABS series can't satisfy. The Koreans should be aware more Filipinos are getting bored with their predictable story lines and formulas and turning to doramas for fresh stories.

Legend ratings
April 7 19%
8 19.9%
9 18.1%
10 17.8%

AGB Nielsen Phils (

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