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U.S. Web drama explores world of Korean TV

  • Published : Apr 25, 2016 - 17:06
  • Updated : Apr 25, 2016 - 17:06

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Still from “Dramaworld” (Viki)
A new U.S.-produced Web drama series could potentially expand the reach of K-dramas around the world.

San Francisco-based streaming site Viki last week launched “Dramaworld,” a series centered on a U.S. fan of Korean dramas. The response from viewers around the world has been enthusiastic, according to Viki CEO Tammy Nam.

“The reaction... has been amazing,” Nam told The Korea Herald in an email interview Saturday. “Our community of fans translated the show into 30 languages in 24 hours, including Arabic, Estonian, Hebrew, and Greek!

“The engagement in terms of followers, ratings, comments is on par with a top-10 show on Viki,” she said.

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Tammy Nam, CEO of Web-streaming site Viki (Viki)
“Dramaworld” kicked off on April 17 on Viki, which features a selection of global drama series subtitled in different languages. As of now, the majority of the site’s content is from Asia, but a handful of shows from France, Germany and the U.S. are also available.

Nam said the company had been aiming to create content for a global audience that would not be restricted to specific nationalities.

“We had been wanting to create on original series for some time, and when director and writer Chris Martin presented the idea for ‘Dramaworld,’ I knew it was the right show for us because it appealed to global fans of K-dramas,” Nam said. “The story was about them, not written for a domestic Korean audience.”

The show’s dialogue is mostly in English, making it more accessible to international fans, Nam added.

The 10-episode series will also feature cameo appearances from Korean celebrities including Choi Si-won from K-pop group Super Junior, actresses Han Ji-min and Lee Ji-ah, girl group Rainbow’s Ji-sook, rapper Yang Dong-geun and Australian comedian Sam Hammington.

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Still from “Dramaworld” (Viki)
“Dramaworld” features 20-year-old college student Claire Duncan, played by Liv Hewson, who is transported inside the fictional realm of “Taste of Love” after an accident involving her smartphone.

In that universe where romance and happenstance reign supreme, Claire and Seth, another intruder from the real world played by Korean-American actor Justin Chon, maneuver the plot so that the main characters are able to fall in love according to plan.

“The themes in Korean dramas are universal -- love, life, relationships, tension,” Nam said on the global appeal of K-dramas.

Even the making of the show involves international players: It is coproduced by China’s Jetvana Entertainment, South Korea’s EnterMedia Contents and the U.S.’s Third Culture Content. The show is currently streamed on Viki worldwide, except in Korea and China, and new episodes are uploaded every Sunday. While Nam said that plans for its Korean release were underway and the company has distribution partners for Korea and China, she declined to elaborate further.

Meanwhile, Viki is teaming up with Skybound Entertainment, the studio that produced the U.S. series “The Walking Dead,” for a K-drama that will be shot in Korea with a local cast and crew. Titled “Five Year,” the 16-episode series will center on a family living in the face of apocalypse and will be distributed on Viki and Korean television, Nam said.

Ambitious plans

Viki was founded in 2007 with the aim of making “great global entertainment accessible to fans everywhere,” Nam says. “We plan to do that by licensing TV shows and movies from broadcast and studio partners worldwide, producing our own shows, and hopefully innovating in many other ways.”

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Still from “Dramaworld” (Viki)
The site was acquired in late 2013 by Japanese Internet giant Rakuten, and currently operates as an independent subsidiary with offices in San Francisco, Seoul, Singapore, Shanghai and Tokyo.

Nam, who worked in Silicon Valley for more than 20 years, became Viki’s chief marketing officer five years ago, then its CEO in 2014.
Though it had not been her original goal to work in media, she has come to love the industry because “really smart people work” there.

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Still from “Dramaworld” (Viki)
“In many ways, content licensing is a tough business to be in, but what’s inspiring about companies like Viki is that there’s a clear vision: Making the world a smaller place by helping people to better understand other cultures and languages

“Most other companies, to be honest, are pretty boring!” Nam added.

Her personal vision is to “make the world a better place by helping to change people’s perceptions.”

By Rumy Doo (doo@heraldcorp.com)