Throughout the latter half of 2016, the most successful K-dramas were romantic comedies. Either they were straight light-hearted romantic comedies like Moonlight Drawn by Clouds, Shopping King Louis, Reply 1988, Another Oh Hae Young, or Jealousy Incarnate, or if they implemented moments of romantic comedies such as the phenomenal K-dramas Descendants of the Sun and Goblin, they all managed to benefit from it.
If there was one particular genre that did not do so well last year, it would easily be melodramas. Not one single fully-pledged melodrama succeeded last year. True there were melodramas with elements of romantic comedy in them that found major success, like Marriage Contract and Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo, but if there was one that was straight melodramatic, like Master: God of Noodles, it did not stand a chance.
We can say things are different now. With the success of both Defendant and Voice, it is safe to say that K-drama fans are wanting their melodramas again. The former is dominating Korean public television, while the latter is currently dominating Korean cable television.
Defendant is a Seoul Broadcasting System (SBS) K-drama that airs on Mondays and Tuesdays at 10 p.m. KST, the day and time slot previously occupied by Romantic Doctor, Teacher Kim. It stars Ji Sung (Kill Me, Heal Me, Ddandara) and Yuri of Girls’ Generation (Neighborhood Hero, Gogh, The Starry Night). It is about a popular prosecutor of the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office, Park Jung Woo (Ji Sung). He is known for his intensity and aggressiveness in putting criminals away, and he never loses a case. He finds himself on death row, suffering from temporary amnesia. Now Jung Woo needs to find out what happened to land him in prison and why he is convicted of murdering his wife and daughter. The only person who is willing to help him is a defense lawyer, Seo Eun Hye. She is eloquent and rational, but loses every single time in court.
Voice is an Orion Cinema Network (OCN) K-drama that airs on the weekend at 8 p.m. KST, the day and time slot previously occupied by 38 Task Force. It stars Jang Hyuk (The Merchant: Gaekju 2015, Beautiful Mind) and Lee Ha Na (High School King of Savvy, Unkind Ladies). It is about two police personnel who work together on the “Golden Time” Team, a team who solves emergency cases within the first 30 minutes of a call, the short, yet critical chance of recovery when forensics is highest. “Mad Dog” Moo Jin Hyuk (Jang Hyuk) was a former detective-turned-guilt-ridden demoted officer after his wife was murdered three years ago. Kang Kwon Joo (Ha Na) is a tough emergency call center officer who is gifted with perfect psycho-acoustic skills. Her father was murdered three years ago as well. Together, the two work to solve cases quickly while trying to find the serial killer who took their loved ones away from them.
The synopsis of both K-dramas sounds melodramatic, but what makes them pure melodramas is the direction and production. Defendant and Voice are purely melodramatic with no romance or comedy whatsoever (well at this point). Both have kept many K-drama fans on the edge of their seat as they wonder what happens next. This is especially true since every episode seems to end on a cliffhanger for the next.
To enforce that melodramas are popular again, all one has to do is look at the Korean viewership ratings overall. According to both TNmS Media Korea and AGB Nielsen Korea, Defendant maxed out at 15.3 percent for the nation and 18.5 percent for the Seoul National Capital Area for the former, and 18.7 percent for the nation and 20.8 percent for the Seoul National Capital Area for the latter. On average, Defendant has the highest viewership ratings among Korean public channels. As for Voice, it maxed out at 4.9 percent for the nation for the former and 5.406 percent for the nation and 5.540 for the Seoul National Capital Area for the latter. On average, Voice has the highest viewership ratings among Korean cable channels.
Only time will tell if the trend for melodramas will continue. Yet if history does repeat itself, melodramas will last about two years, and then romantic comedies will make a return. That is usually the pattern K-dramas often go.
For those who are interested in watching Defendant or Voice, but don’t have access to Korean channels, the former can be viewed on Viki and OnDemandKorea, while the latter can be viewed on DramaFever, Viki, and OnDemandKorea.
[Featured Image by the Seoul Broadcasting System (SBS) and Orion Cinema Network (OCN)]