SEOUL, Oct. 19 (Korea Bizwire) – The unreasonable and deadly shooting schedules common in the Korean TV industry have once again received criticism as Korean actor Joo-won spoke of the difficulties and lack of sleep he experienced during the shooting of his recent hit drama, ‘Yong-pal’.
As the actor recalled the hardships he went through while he was shooting ‘Yong-pal’, a popular drama that ended recently, his eyes got misty. Powering through six days without any sleep, and getting IV shots between scenes to get a boost of energy were just some of the things he had to go through.
However, Joo-won had to smile and bear the deadly routine, and so did all the staff members, because ‘it’s the way TV works’. Not getting any sleep and working overtime has even become a ‘virtue’ in the industry, and those who criticize the system are considered ‘weak’ or ‘without work ethic’.
In the worst of circumstances, the crew has to keep shooting until the day an episode is aired, and the tapes have to be sent one by one so that the deadline can be met. The industry calls this kind of situation ‘shooting live’, for it is literally almost a live broadcast.
However, these conditions lead to various accidents. Not to mention broadcasting glitches like the screen suddenly pausing, but also actual accidents in which the members of the crew get hurt, including the actors.
Even so, the dramas are usually remembered by the audience as ‘quality products’, and this kind of consequentialism makes the system live on.
There are two big reasons why the ‘shooting live’ system has yet to be improved – the programming of the networks, and the reactions from viewers.
Dramas have to go on air, but network lineups are settled at the last minute, forcing production schedules to be set in a hurry. In worst cases, the shooting starts less than a month before episodes begin to air.
However, producing the final product before getting the green light from a network has many drawbacks. There are chances that the finished drama might not be picked up, or air long after it has been shot. The value of the drama drops in these cases. Besides, without a confirmed timeslot, it is almost impossible to receive investment and sponsors, and even casting is difficult, as actors do not want to gamble on something unsure.
The second reason is because Korean viewers want their share of input into their favorite shows – more than any other audience in the world. They share their reactions to TV shows openly, and participate in an aggressive way. Many dramas have managed ratings by reading the viewer reactions online, and reflecting them in the story or in the characters.
Officials and experts say that the interactions with the audience and quick modifications are the strength that lead Hallyu dramas to be popular. Furthermore, the continuous failure of pre-produced dramas has also helped the ‘live broadcasting dramas’ thrive, as viewers have turned away in the past from shows where the content is already established and can’t be modified.
However, the ‘shooting live system’ that never seemed to die is starting to change, and the trigger is Chinese money.
As China has become one of the biggest markets for Hallyu dramas, the Chinese government has started to censor Korean dramas before they are aired. In order to target the Chinese market, pre-production is required.
Since Korean dramas can be viewed illegally in China through the internet only a few hours after they are aired, in order to officially export dramas to China, simultaneous broadcasting is a must. But because of the two to three month long review period that the Chinese government imposes, Korean production companies have no choice but to produce everything beforehand in order to simultaneously air a show in Korea and China.
Officials are admitting that they will have to give up the real-time reactions of viewers, but they concede that they will be able to produce shows of higher quality.
By Francine Jung (firstname.lastname@example.org)