With the explosion of “Squid Games”, many audiences are questioning why Chinese TV series with more investment and more actors cannot go global like Korean TV series? This piece will take you to see the gap between the Chinese series and the Korean series.

All the reviews in 2021 showed that the Korean drama Squid Game” was the most popular series in the year. As a consequence, Netflix established a Café Squid Game in Paris in October. The Café launched the Honeycomb Challenge” which is a challenge in the series, with pink uniformed workers from the side. 

A photo of the Squid Game” pop-up shop in Hong Kong has also gone viral. A female puppet with a height of ten floors stands on the street, and this puppet is the terrifying protagonist of One Two Three, Wooden Man” in the drama.

Netflix said that in 2021 “Squid Game” became the most watched series in its history. It was also the first Netflix original series to have over 100 million views. 

Screenshot of Squid Game

Screenshot of the Netflix Korean TV series–Squid Game

Netflix has invested heavily in Korean TV dramas in recent years, spending 770 billion Won in five years, generating 5.6 trillion won in economic benefits, giving 16,000 jobs for Korean employees, and boosting the industry’s rapid growth.

Korean dramas are far ahead of Chinese dramas in global promotion. At present, the influence of popular Chinese series are basically limited to its own market, which means it is difficult to achieve cultural output.

It’s worth mentioning that the global success of Squid Game” has prompted a spike of interest in Korean among European and American audiences.

China’s cultural output is primarily based on traditional cultural aspects such as opera and kung fu, as opposed to South Korea’s dominance in the sectors of film and television, music, and other popular culture. Learning Chinese as a hobby is challenging for a big number of European and American young people.

Zhang Yan, Professor of Art and Media, Beijing Normal University said: The creation and exploration of local genres of Korean film and television, overseas export and cultural expansion are all directions worthy of attention in the future.”

South Korea adopts an open management for the film and television industry, that is, the combination of government cultural department supervision and industry agency self-discipline.”

The government’s scientific and open management with the strong creativity and productivity have achieved today’s Korean film and television industry,” She said.

Furthermore, the genres of Korean series can be considered as exquisite and varied when compared to Chinese series. 

Hazel Chen, a student who watched a lot of Chinese and Korean series, said: Chinese are too restrictive in terms of TV drama types. For example, LGBTQ+, the dark side of religion and human nature are very sensitive in China. Production companies are reluctant to shoot.”

She said: On the other hand, Korean TV dramas are very open, such as “Juvenile Justice,” which is a series that tells the story of a judge, who is known for her dislike of juveniles, gets appointed as judge of a juvenile court. Series like this make people reflect on social phenomenons. ”

This has a lot to do with Korean screenwriters. Korea places a high value on media development, and most screenwriters have undergone rigorous professional training. As a result, Korea’s top institutions will have their own screenwriting programmes, and the school will invite well-known Korean PDs to teach there.

Korean screenwriters have the right to be responsible for the shooting of TV dramas involving scenes, actor selection, and some major issues. And directors and producers not only need to take the writer’s opinion into consideration, but also are not allowed to modify the script without the writer’s consent. 

However in China, the status of screenwriters in a crew is low, resulting in very few good scripts.

Moreover, most Chinese series are about costumes and fantasy. These are also the types that China is best at shooting. But audiences become bored watching just one type of series. Its like watching Downton Abbey, on loop, all of the time but worse. Way Worse.  

At present, many Chinese TV dramas that can be regarded as high-quality products are costume dramas. Such dramas are placed in the circle of Chinese culture, and Chinese audiences could understand them. However, because foreign audiences do not understand the culture, they do not share the understanding either. 

hot-trending Chinese Dramas

Most of the hot-trending Chinese Dramas in recent years were historical and mythological stories

Korean dramas, on the other hand, depict universal themes like personal relationships and social issues. They are closer to real life and therefore closer to the audience. 

Catherine Xia, another student who watched a lot of Chinese and Korean series, said: Although I am Chinese, some costume dramas are difficult for me to understand. Especially with conversations in literary Chinese, not to mention foreigners.”

In addition to this, the acting skills of young actors are the reason why many Chinese dramas are inferior to Korean dramas. Many Chinese stars with huge followings on social media do not bother to learn their acting skills. This is because they can get resources only by their good looks. However, the audiences may not get their feelings through watching the series. 

However, the competition among young Korean actors is fierce, and if they do not have good acting skills, they cannot appear in good series. Moreover, the stories and plots of Korean TV dramas provide opportunities for actors to perform and practise their acting skills.

So far, Korean TV dramas have had the strongest global influences in Asia. However, there are signs of a rise in Chinese TV dramas. In 2019, a Chinese series The Untamed” landed on Netflix, it exported to Japan, South Korea, Americas, Europe, and South Asian countries.

In 2022, the Chinese series A Lifelong Journey” was purchased by Disney shortly after its launch and will be broadcast overseas soon. The time loop suspense drama RESET” will be broadcast on two major video platforms in South Korea. In the future, overseas users can watch the series on Netflix.

In early 2020, four of the top ten Netflix TV series in Asia are from mainland China, with Go Ahead” ranking second. Now that China’s film and television industry continues to upgrade in terms of investment, talent, technology, and makes continuous breakthroughs in the artistic quality of series. With Netflix continuing to introduce Chinese series, we may see Chinese series taking a place on the international stage in the next few years.