US Adaptations of Korean Dramas Set to Hit the Small Screen


Over the past several years, countless dramas American TV shows have been imported and succeeded in Korea. Comedies such as “Friends” and “The Big Bang Theory”and dramas like “NCIS” and “Prison Break” have enjoyed high ratings.

But recently, Korea’s entertainment trade with the US also began to flow in the other direction, as Korean dramas gained popularity with American viewers. Thanks to the successes of these programs, US production companies have licensed a number of Korean programs to be adapted with American actors. Some examples include the dramas “Nine” and “Good Doctor” and a variety program called “Grandpas Over Flowers.” “Nine” and “Grandpas Over Flowers” are programs made by tvN, an entertainment network owned by CJ, which is revolutionizing movie-watching in LA with its 4DX technology. “Good Doctor” is a medical drama currently being remade by CBS.

One of Korea’s hottest recent dramas, "My Love from the Star," is also going to be remade in the US. The drama has also been a huge hit in China. The show is so popular there that a TV show provided a private jet in order to have the leading man, Kim Soo hyun, be a guest on their program. The leading lady on “My Love from the Star” is known for her love of fried chicken, which has cause sales in China to spike as viewers emulate her lifestyle. In the US, ABC plans to remake the drama with Sony Pictures Television.

Still, there are many obstacles for Korean TV shows to get remade in the US. After the format and storylines are bought and licensed by a production company, there still has to be a pilot episode that gets high enough ratings. So far, this process has not proved easy for remakes of Korean shows, and delays have also caused problems. The pilot for the American version of “Nine” has not been broadcasted yet, even though the licensing was concluded a year ago.

Despite these obstacles, Korean Entertainment is on an upward trend in the US, as well as across Asia. The prospects for success of “Grandpas Over Flowers” and “My Love from the Star” are quite good. The US-version of “Grandpas Over Flowers,”titled “Better Late Than Never,” will be adapted by well-known producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron. If the shows succeed, it will be the latest example of Korean pop culture’s success at making a splash in the US.

Kawoon Kim is an Asan Academy Intern at the East-West Center in Washington.