Out of all the K-dramas that debuted in 2017, the one that dominated was Defendant. It had double-digit viewership for its debut, thus continuing the wave of success the Seoul Broadcasting System (SBS) experienced with Romantic Doctor, Teacher Kim, and The Legend of the Blue Sea. Viewership increased steadily during its run, resulting in the K-drama being extended by two episodes.
The 16th episode was just under 3 percent away from breaking the 30 percent threshold. By its finale, Defendant just barely broke 30 percent.
It should be noted that only the Seoul National Capital Area, under TNmS Media Korea, earned over 30 percent in viewership. According to the numbers, it earned 30.3 percent. Nationwide viewership under TNmS, as well as AGB Nielsen Korea, still recorded viewership under 30 percent. However, Defendant did far better than Romantic Doctor, Teacher Kim, and The Legend of the Blue Sea, two K-dramas that had a lot going for them, simply because the former was a medical K-drama, a genre SBS has perfected, and the latter was Lee Min Ho’s last K-drama before enlisting in the military.
Usually, only two genres of K-dramas earn such high numbers. The first is the light-hearted comedy; K-dramas that don’t take themselves too seriously, and are often backed by comedic situations that would never happen in real life. Moonlight Drawn by Clouds, Jealousy Incarnate, and Shopping King Louis are good examples. The second, and probably the most prominent, are romances. Almost every K-drama that earns high viewership numbers are romances. For example, the three most popular K-dramas of 2016, Descendants of the Sun, Reply 1988, and Goblin, were romances. And if a K-drama really wanted a high chance of success, it had to be a light-hearted romcom, blending a little of both genres.
Defendant not being a light-hearted comedy, romcom, or both, bucks tradition, as the story itself is about Park Jung Woo (Ji Sung), a top prosecutor who never loses a case, suddenly finding himself on death row for the crime of murdering his family, a crime he does not remember committing. He believes he is innocent, though everyone says he is guilty. The only person to believe in his innocence is Seo Eun Hye (Yuri), a defense lawyer who strives to be eloquent and rational, but loses in court every single time. Together Jung Woo and Eun Hye must find out the truth behind the crime.
And if Defendant earning over 30 percent in viewership is not enough proof that the preference of Korean viewership has changed, look at Voice by the Orion Cinema Network. Though it only earned around 5 percent in viewership, given the fact it airs on a cable network, many viewers tuned in to watch a K-drama that wasn’t either a light-hearted comedy or romcom, and was loaded with some of the most graphic scenes of violence and shock value. It is a testament to the changing preference to Korean viewership. To see if said preference will last, Defendant and Voice‘s precedeing K-dramas, Whisper and Tunnel, need to be successful too as their respective synopses of their plots point to a more serious direction that would neither fit a light-hearted comedy, romance, or romcom.
Defendant previously aired on Mondays and Tuesdays at 10 p.m. KST on SBS. For those who never got a chance to watch the popular K-drama, but are interested, it can be viewed on Viki and OnDemandKorea, depending on region availability.
[Featured Image by the Seoul Broadcasting System (SBS)]