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Korean soap operas gain popularity in North America

2005/08/30 | 180 views | Permalink | Source

Already big hits in other Asian countries, Korean soap operas are now grabbing audiences in North America. In the San Francisco Bay Area alone, "Jewel in the Palace (Dae Jang Geum)", a television series about a royal cook, was viewed by more than 100,000 people, U.S. daily San Francisco Chronicle reported on Sunday.

The figure exceeds that of ABC's "Extreme Makeover", the WB's "Starlet" or PBS' "Live from Lincoln Center", which are in a similar time slot, according to the daily. The drama series, which sparked Korean television series craze in Hong Kong earlier this year, began airing on the Chinese television station KTSF in spring. The series is dubbed in Mandarin.

"I was almost dreaming about it, everyday anticipating the next episode", Melissa Lo, 25, a U.C. Berkeley graduate, told the daily. "My mom said, 'who knew Koreans were so refined and sophisticated? '"

Produced at a cost of $15 million, the tale of an orphaned royal kitchen cook who went on to become the king's first female physician 500 years ago has pulled in $40 million worldwide since it first aired in 2003. The series has even spawned a theme park and restaurants in Hong Kong that serve dishes featured on the show. In Bruno, California, alone, YesAsia ( Open the link ), a popular online retailer, sells 20,000 to 30,000 English-subtitled Korean dramas every month, and sales are steadily growing, according to the retailer. In Hawaii, the daily continued, the University of Hawaii held a conference last year titled "How South Korean Dramas Influenced Pop Culture Worldwide".

"Korea was sort of overlooked before", Kevin Roe, 51, a San Jose attorney, told the daily. "But now it's worth investigating".

In addition to the Bay Area, Korean soap operas are available in Los Angeles, Chicago, Honolulu, New York and Washington, D.C, and can be seen anywhere in the country on the cable channel AZN Television.

By Lee Yong-sung

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