Yet, serialized Korean TV dramas often centering on family and love stories have been the major driving force behind the Korean Wave. According to the Korean National Tourism Organization, Korean dramas comprised over 25% of all foreign dramas broadcast in China in 2003 and 2004, where they were first imported in the mid-1990s (Russell 2005c: 17). In Hong Kong, the final episode of Jewel in the Palace/Taejanggum, a Korean costume drama about an orphan girl who became a court cook and then a royal physician during Korea's Chosun Dynasty (1392-1910 C.E.), set a new record by notching 47% in the ratings in 2005 (W. Chung 2005: 82).
The reception analysis analyzes the experiences of the viewers of Korean dramas. It is assumed that in watching Korean dramas, audiences of different places gain new experiences but create meanings according to their local contexts. According to reception analysis, watching Korean dramas has become a source of pleasure for Asian audiences; the audience obtains a new image of Korea as a developed country, but reads texts through pre-established cultural repertories and sets of cultura meanings of their own (Chen, 2004; Chiang, 2004; Kim, 2005; Lin & Tong, 2008).
Some Asian studies scholars, including Chua Beng Huat, claim that the popularity of South Korean dramas in Asia is partly due to the similarity of these dramas with Japanese dramas. Chua suggests that because South Korean dramas resemble Japanese dramas and because Asian viewers are already used to watching Japanese dramas, these Asian viewers readily consume South Korean dramas (Chua 2004: 217).
The popularity of Korean TV dramas has spurred the confirmation of the power of Asian modernity, in terms of economic as well as cultural development, which might challenge the predominant hegemony of America and Europe (Leung, 2004). The Korean Wave phenomenon can be seen as a way to counter the threat and insensibility of the Western-dominated media market.
The Vietnamese are attracted to Korean dramas because the topics resemble those of their own daily life. Vietnamese old and middle-aged women, and single males in rural and urban areas, all say that "Korean dramas are interesting. The actors/actresses and backgrounds are all attractive." Young women, who are especially fond of the dramas, enjoy arguing about the triangular relationships and mean mothers-in-law that appear in them, and many are deeply moved by the depictions of pained love relationships doomed to failure.
Korea used to be a faceless country and just up 'till a few years ago, people would assume all Asians were Chinese or Japanese, Recently, with the increasing popularity of Korean dramas and K-pop stars people will ask, "Are you Chinese, Japanese or Korean?" In part, this has largely to do with YouTube and the Internet, developments in Korean entertainment, but most importantly celebrities working hard to maintain the respect of their fans.
In the case of most exported Korean dramas, the recurrent theme of romance allows viewers to give themselves up temporarily to enjoy the feelings of love without regard for consequences or practical concerns, deriving vicarious pleasures in their consumption of media. While the above theorizing about what happens when women consume Korean dramas seems persuasive and popular among both public and academic discourses, there has been little systematic research conducted on women's consumption of Korean dramas.
A growing number of young Korean women want jobs as policewomen, bodyguards and even soldiers.
For Korean women of today, their role models include people like South Korea's first female pilot, the country's first justice minister, as well as the current world female featherweight boxing champion, Lee In-Young, which may account for the growing popularity of the sport among Korean women.
But TV dramas also fuel this trend.
A hugely popular mini series tells the Cinderella story of a young Korean girl who endures pains and tribulations to become a boxing champion.
This burning love has been a major boon for the tourism industry this winter, a traditionally low tourist season.
"We have operation statistics and they show that the number of passengers flying on our flights between Korea and Japan have been grown in the range of 20 to 30 percent," says Nancy Park from Korean Air.
By some estimates, the frenzy around the TV drama and its star contributed one billion dollars to South Korea's economy last year.
The effect is not lost on government officials, given the rocky history between Japanese and Koreans.
According to Sung Tae-Ho, a senior manager in the Korean Broadcasting System's content business office, part of the reason why the country's culture industry is so successful abroad stems from the fact that the content is high quality and also cheap, at least compared to entertainment that could be bought from other, particularly Western, markets. The Korean Broadcasting System, or KBS, is one of the country's four major television networks.
Culture also plays a role. Korean content, especially dramas, is as, if not more, popular than Western series because, simply put, Asians relate to it more.