Whether watching on apps with subtitles in 150 languages or a major streaming service, K-content is on a K-roll
From 2016 to 2021, Netflix released over 130 Korean shows and movies. Last year, however, a nine-episode series about 456 folks who are so down on their luck that they willingly choose to play children’s games that have been reimagined as team gladiator events became Netflix’s most-watched series ever. We’re talking of course, about Squid Game, which took the crown as the top-viewed program in 94 countries, racked up 1.65 billion viewing hours within the first four weeks of it being launched and captured over 142 million Netflix ‘member households.’ Exactly how much money Netflix has earned from Squid Game isn’t officially known, but we do know it cost just US$21 million to make. If Squid Game was a contestant playing against other TV series made in 2021, it would have won – even if it was blindfolded and had its hands tied behind its back. Netflix’s vice president of content (Korea) Don Kang, told the media that Korean shows on the platform saw viewing hours grow six-fold in 2021. Naturally, the streaming giant knows a cash cow when they see one, and the company is set to boost the number of ‘K-content’ titles significantly in 2022. And, considering what has already been released and reviews of what’s on the horizon, Netflix is set for another bountiful year as the number of global viewers newly willing to check out something from Korea skyrockets.
We’ll list some of the newly released or to-be-released shows a little further down in this article, but before showing you what’s new, it’s worth considering what new hits often do: create demand and interest in older content. This is almost as important as creating new programs as a resurgence in older films and series is free money. And now, with many a Korean drama app available that provide shows and movies with subtitles in anywhere from 100 to 150 different languages, newly converted K-content fans are going to start discovering an entire universe of Korean shows that didn’t make it big in say, 2016, but could suddenly become a fan favorite in 2022. Were you one of those who – in 2016 – loved Guardian: The Lonely and Great God (aka Goblin)? If so, prepare to start hearing your friends and relatives discussing the immortal goblin Kim Shin and being wowed when they discover Kim Sun was then-General Kim Shin’s younger sister in a past life. Millions of people this year are going to discover gems such as Stranger, Oh My Ghost, Vagabond, Black, and dozens of other great K-content that previously flew under their radar. –It goes without saying that older shows becoming hot again is manna from heaven for studios and the entire chain of content providers.
But back to what 2022 has in store. Everyone loves zombies and All of Us Are Dead (released in late January and directed by Lee JQ and Kim Nam-su) provides oodles of delightfully horrific visuals as first truculent teenagers at a high school – and then many others – contract a mysterious virus and start chomping on each other. –Yum! Twenty Five, Twenty One arrived in mid-February and provides a nice trip down nostalgia lane as a group of friends in the late 1990s do all those things people do when they’re young, unmarried, childless, and don’t have a mortgage. Juvenile Justice is now out and features an interesting plotline surrounding a judge who tries underage suspects, but who happens to hate young offenders. Remarriage & Desires is set to provide some sex appeal and satire as we follow ambitious ladder-climbers who seek to gain status via marrying or remarrying into the tiers of Korean society. Or if you’re less fond of beautiful people backstabbing and bedding their way to the top, perhaps you’ll dig A Model Family. This show is worth betting on as the premise is instantly alluring: about to go bankrupt and get divorced, a random dude finds a car packed with cash. As you might imagine, cars stuffed with cash generally don’t belong to the Girl Scouts and indeed, the Dong-ha (portrayed by Jung Woo) soon finds himself neck-deep in the affairs of a less-than-friendly drug organization. And 2022 isn’t only about Korean shows, K-movies look set for a fabulous year as well, with people waiting intensely for Seoul Vibe starring Yoo Ah-in of Hellboy fame. Also upcoming is Money Heist: Korea – Joint Economic Area, a Korean remake of the Spanish series. Romance lovers can look forward to 20th Century Girl, starring Kim You-jung — who is beyond question one of South Korea’s most awesome actresses.
To sum up: Squid Game rocked and happily, credible reports say season two is definitely being developed, but while 2021 was a breakthrough year for K-content – you ain’t seen anything yet.