When it comes to K-dramas influence in Hallyu, also known as the Korean Wave, no other country seems to have been affected more than China. Though K-dramas have been aired in China for many years, K-dramas suddenly became major entertainment in the country after the airing of My Love From The Stars (also known as My Love From Another Star). Starring Kim Soo Hyun and Jun Ji Hyun, the 2013 K-drama about an alien who lived 400 years on Earth since the Joseon dynasty falling in love with a top actress in the modern era had such an impact, it manufactured styles and trends, boosted sales, and developed the most-admired Hallyu couple at the time.
For K-drama fans today, the aforementioned impact of My Love From The Stars on China must sound very familiar because Descendants of the Sun is doing what My Love From The Stars did three years earlier. Its impact is manufacturing styles and trends, boosted sales, and developed the most-admired Hallyu couple at the time with its stars, Song Joong Ki and Song Hye Kyo.
The question that needs to be asked is why K-dramas are having such an impact in China? Doesn’t the country have its own dramas? According to an article by the Washington Post back in 2014, China’s two highest government bodies met to discuss how My Love From The Stars has taken the country by storm, especially after reports of Chinese citizens skipping work to watch it, or even hurting themselves through binge marathons. Wang Qishan, the head of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, provided a statement that sums it all up.
“Korean drama is ahead of us. The core and soul of the Korean opera is a distillation of traditional Chinese culture. It just propagates traditional Chinese culture in the form of a TV drama.”
Despite Wang Qishan’s statement, many view the popularity of My Love From The Stars was also seen as “hurting China’s culture dignity,” a sentiment felt yet again with Descendants of the Sun. Maybe that is why the ban on Hallyu was recently announced and enforced, one that has already affected Song Joong Ki’s influence in China.
There is also the belief that the ban on Hallyu is China’s way of “punishing” South Korea for the installation of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), an anti-missile system to counter the increasing threat from North Korea’s missile program. However, is it possible that China now has the confidence to ban Hallyu, or at least K-dramas, because their C-dramas are starting to gain international attention?
To analyze this argument, it must be noted that three C-dramas this year received a lot of attention. We will start with God of War, Zhao Yun, a C-drama starring Lin Gengxin, Im Yoona, and Kim Jeong Hoon. To overly summarize the C-drama, it is a period war story about Zhao Zi Long during the Three Kingdoms Period. However, it aired the same time as Descendants of the Sun and was far more popular in China.
Right now, the C-drama that is receiving a lot of attention is Ice Fantasy. Starring Feng Shaofeng, Victoria Song, Ma Tianyu, and Zhang Meng, Ice Fantasy is a fantasy period drama pitting the Empire of Snow (Ice Tribe) against the Fire Tribe in which two brothers, the remaining pure-blood ice illusionists and royal heirs to the Ice Tribe, fight against each other on opposite sides. It is currently one of the most-viewed C-dramas internationally, receiving more attention than some currently-airing K-dramas at the moment. Ice Fantasy is more popular than Uncontrollably Fond, and KBS is trying its best to make it a worthy predecessor to the Descendants of the Sun time slot.
Ultimately, K-drama’s increase in popularity was also their clutch. Fans of K-dramas were so enamored by Korea’s dramas, many wondered if other Asian dramas were just as good. Ergo, dramas from Taiwan, Japan, and even the Philippines are getting a chance to shine. However, C-dramas often utilize K-pop stars who also act in their dramas. God of Warm, Zhao Yun had Yoona from Girls’ Generation in the main cast while Ice Fantasy has Victoria from f(x) in theirs. So in a way, China can also thank Hallyu for their C-dramas becoming really popular as of late. But now China probably thinks it is time to become a worldwide leader in entertainment dramas, even if they do cast Hallyu stars.
For those who are interested in the aforementioned C-dramas, God of War, Zhao Yun has concluded, but can be viewed in its entirety for free, with ads, on Viki pending region. As for Ice Fantasy, it is currently airing on Hunan TV. For those who do not have access to Chinese channels, it can be viewed for free, with ads, on both DramaFever and Viki also pending region.
[Image via Hunan TV]