Salvadorans love Korean Soap Operas! Who knew?

How many of you have flipped through the cable channels and stopped, ever so briefly, on a Mexican Soap Opera? Here in America, the Mexican Telenovela is ubiquitous.  They are often the butt of jokes in movies and English-language TV shows.  But, did you know that since 2004, Korean Soap Operas or “Doramas” have dominated the Latin American TV market?  It’s true. La Prensa Gráfica, a daily online newspaper from El Salvador stated, “Doramas or Korean Soap Operas are stories that have captivated millions of people around the world.  Salvadorans have found themselves enthralled in these narratives that have succeeded in showing the world the face of South Korea – a country with such a rich cultural tradition” (See article)

The renaissance of Latin American telenovelas happened around 2004.  South Korea that year broadcast 104 different TV shows throughout Central America.   This interest in Korean Soap Operas has gone global – now even reaching China’s population.  Choo Yeon-Gon, Korean Ambassador to El Salvador said in 2006, “Before, only shows from Taiwan and Hong Kong were watched in Asia.  Today, Korean shows fill all the top spots”.

Why is Salvadoran media carrying these shows?  Simple, at first, they didn’t have to pay the Korean Media for the shows that were being broadcast.  Korean Ambassador Yeon-gon commented that the Korean government was interested in showing off the Korean culture to Latin Americans and the early evidence showed that they were being very well received.   One reason for their success is that they deal with topics of universal interest – across cultures, governments and continents.  (See article)

To test the theory that Korean Soap Operas are just as popular in 2015 as 2004, I visited the Korean Embassy in El Salvador’s website.  What was the 3rd listing on the left from the top?  An entry about a Korean Soap Opera.  It said “The Embassy from the Republic of Korea announces the transmission of the Korean Soap Opera “The Princess’ Man” which will be presented on Channel 21 from 130pm until 3pm, every Sunday, beginning in April 2015.  This transmission is supported by the Korean Foundation and the Korean Broadcasting System.  This epic romance Soap Opera reached 25% of the viewing public and was extremely popular in Korea.” (See article)

How did we at COAR (Cleveland) come to realize that Korean Soap Operas were popular in El Salvador?  Well, in March of 2015, we lead a student mission to El Salvador co-lead by a Korean Priest who was temporarily living in the USA.   The minute that he landed in El Salvador, it was as if Elvis had just arrived.  Kids ran up to him…or they stared from across the room…fascinated.  At first, we thought, wow, these kids aren’t used to seeing Koreans here?  But, upon a little investigating, it turns out that ALL of the kids watch these Korean soap operas, faithfully.  It used to be true that Salvadoran kids knew US teen actors from the Disney Channel or Nickelodeon TV as well as any US kid.  But, now, its possible that some Salvadorans know more about Korean Soap Opera stars than they do about the latest Disney generation…wow!

The proof that the Korean Soap Opera has gone global is that there are even Spanish language FAN BLOGS for Korean Soap Operas.  Of course, the world always had fan sites for Harry Potter, the Lord of the Rings, even TVs Supernatural.  But, now, Korean Soap Opera fans in El Salvador have their own Spanish language blogs!  Will these Doramas hit the USA with the same amount of enthusiasm?  Who knows?  Keep your eyes open …