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How Korean Drama Grew In Popularity In India Amid The Pandemic

“Indians have a new ‘K’ in their lives, not Karan Johar, nor Ekta Kapoor, but popularity in Korean culture”, conveying that 2020 has become the year that India embraced the soft power of Korea.

It comes as no surprise since Korean pop culture has been already thriving subcultures in India for some years, but thanks to the pandemic, they’re now part of India’s mainstream. In 2020, given the ease of access through various OTT platforms, many urban, english-educated youth, who previously preferred to consume American or British sitcoms, starting to switch to content from other regions, and now K-dramas is in full swing.

According to an Economic Times report, there was a 256 per cent rise since March in the number of Indians opting to learn Korean on the language-learning app Duolingo. On India’s music streaming platform JioSaavn, the internationally renowned K-pop band BTS moved from 68th place in January to eighth in October.

(Photo Source: ET’s tech analysis)

Undoubtedly, Netflix has lifted K-dramas out from periphery to mainstream, Korean content grew in popularity as more people found the time to stay at home. Streaming platforms have been quick to gauge Indian user’s growing appetite for Korean content. Viki, a US-based Korean drama dominated streaming platform witnessed the site traffic climb up from 3% to 36% in March and another 46% over the course of the last six months. Local streaming services such as MX Player also report that Korean content has been a big driver for the international category with shows such as Rich Man, King's Love and 1% of Something. “Korean content has garnered great interest, especially among the millennials because Indian youth are able to relate to the situations and narratives it explores,” said Karan Bedi, CEO, MX Player, whose service has commenced a deal with south Korean television network SBS for 10 plus new shows, “The belief in family values while pursuing a modern approach towards life resonates really well with the viewers in India” he added.

(Photo Source: ET’s tech analysis and Netflix and Viki)

Since March, at least six Korean titles have appeared on Netflix India’s trending list, including Kingdom 2, Crash Landing on You and Light Up The Sky (a documentary centered around popular K-pop girl band BLACKPINK), while “It’s Okay to Not be Okay” and “Crash Landing on You” have featured in the India Top 10 overall and series rows.

With the Covid19-induced spike in the popularity of K-dramas and thanks to the ease of access of Korean contents from OTT platforms, the prospect of Korean content in India is only set to rise.