TV adaptations are a tricky thing, but as challenging as it may be, South Korean storytellers seem to have figured it out, churning out remakes brilliantly translated into their culture and context.
From BTS’ record company HYBE acquiring Scooter Braun’s Ithaca Holdings to Crash Landing On You climbing the list of Netflix’s Top 10 Most Watched shows in the US—South Korea continues to dominate the global entertainment industry. With the overflowing talent and the continued support of the South Korean government to their art, it is very common for South Korean films and K-dramas to have American, Chinese, or Filipino remakes.
Wherever one figures in the world, adaptations will always be a tricky thing. As challenging as it stands to be, South Koreans seem to have a good hand on this. As good as they are being original storytellers, they also have a way of making an existing narative their own. Some are so brilliantly translated into their culture and context that upon closer inspection, one will be surprised to find out it was a remake.
That being said, have you ever wondered how good they are in adapting TV shows from the west? We compiled 8 shows that you can add to your ever-growing must-watch list, complete with trailers and where you can watch them:
The success of the Netflix Spanish thriller, La Casa de Papel, or more popularly known as Money Heist fueled its newest, most-awaited Korean adaptation.
As of March 31, Netflix revealed the cast and promises that while it will follow the original storyline about the journey of eight thieves, their hostages, and the task force tackling the heist, it will definitely be distinctly South Korean. We are all looking forward to this new Netflix Original Series which will be launched globally soon.
The newest addition to this list will only air on JTBC as of now. But we couldn’t resist adding this to the list because this is the second time that Ji Jin Hee and Kim Hyun-joo will be working together after I Have A Lover. Ji Jin Hee plays a National Intelligent Service (NIS) agent who receives his hardest mission to date, to prevent his wife, played by Kim Hyun-joo, from becoming the head of the Corruption Investigation Office for high-ranking officials. This is based on the BBC television drama that aired in the UK and in the US in 2016.
The World of the Married (Netflix, Viu and iflix)
One of JTBC’s biggest hits in Asia, The World of the Married (A World of Married Couple) was based on BBC One’s 2015 series titled Doctor Foster. In a nutshell, this story tackle the story of a doctor who finds out that her husband is having an affair. The Korean version was controversial for having an R-rating, but compared to its British counterpart, it is still considered tame.
Veteran commercial model and actress Lee Na-young returned to the small screen after nine years for the Korean version of the hit US comedy-drama series, Younger. While a number of alterations were made in order to cater to the Korean audience, both remained true to the novel that inspired both shows—the male lead falls in love with an older woman while they work in a publishing company.
In 2011, creator Aaron Korsh made Gabriel Macht, Patrick J. Adams, Sarah Rafferty, and yes, Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex, household names when he created this American legal drama. Its Korean adaptation aired in 2018 featuring Jang Dong-gun, Park Hyung-sik, Chae Jung-an, Ko Sung-hee. While the latter only had 16 episodes, compared to the original that aired for nine years, reviewers claim that it is still a must-watch.
This drama focuses on the rise to power of a politician after the assassination of the president. The Korean adaptation boldly portrayed the issues of South Korean politics—from LGBTQIA+ rights and their cold war with North Korea. Critics claim that the Korean version is more realistic and less messy than its US counterpart. For this one, we will let you be the judge. You can stream the original also on Netflix.
After fifteen years, the classic US crime drama concluded in 2020. You can still catch the reruns and the two spin-offs on tv or on Hulu. But if you want to see the first international remake of this show where highly trained criminal profilers solve cases and their personal issues, the Korean version will not disappoint. With Lee Joon Gi in the cast, who wouldn’t want to stay tuned?
Who can resist the charm of the movie 17 Again, where a thirty-something dad suddenly wakes up younger. Played by Zac Efron and Matthew Perry, the 2009 film was such a hit that it inspired JTBC to make it into a K-drama. Fans of the show gush over the feels that the remake provides, the story’s emphasis on familial love, while it even discussing issues such as teenage pregnancy.
Here are the honorable mentions—the ones that we need to watch once the streaming sites acquire the rights to air it in the Philippines, unless of course, you are already using a VPN:
A story of a dedicated and driven detective who meets an intelligent psychopath and murderer, this is one crime thriller that will make you question how far would you go to fight and uncover the truth? If you like Batman or prefer dramas that have eccentric characters, you have to watch the British psychological drama, Luther, on Hulu and the Korean version which aired on MBC in 2018.
It was a huge gamble for tvN to adapt this show from the US because of South Korea’s conservative outlook on family and marriage. But because of the superb performances of the cast combined with a controversial ending, it earned the hearts of even the fans of the original. It also earned several nominations, mostly for the Best New Actress category for supporting actress, singer, and model, Nana.
The award-winning HBO comedy-drama show first aired in 2004 had its Korean remake in 2016 starring Cho Jin-woong, Seo Kang-joon, Park Jung-min, Lee Dong-hwi, and Lee Kwang-soo. Despite the high expectations and a powerhouse cast, it didn’t enjoy high ratings in South Korea. But that shouldn’t stop you from watching as it depicts the life of an actor and his friends as he becomes a star.
Adapted for Korean audiences by OCN in 2018, Mistress is a story about four women whose lives will change because of a series of murders. If you love mystery, romance and a story about self-discovery, this remake of the British and American show will provide the entertainment that you need. It stars Han Ga-in, Shin Hyun-bin, Choi, Hee-seo, and Goo Jae-yee, and was produced by Studio Dragon.
The 16-episode Korean remake of the British drama is often part of the “underrated list of K-dramas that you have to watch.” Why? It belongs to both the addicting thriller police genre and time travel. Also, you have a soft spot for the Reply series, the nostalgia that this show brings will keep you watching for hours. It received praises for its cinematography and its ability to respect the original yet keeping it distinctly Korean.
As with any remake, there will be hits and misses, especially to a very particular audience. In this selection alone, some were received with applause in South Korea while a few were not as appreciated. Our verdict? It is still a case-to-case basis. One thing is for sure—the South Korean adaptations are still a delight to watch, whether or not you are a fan of the original.