by amateurcritic, March 28, 2020


K-dramas air in PUBLIC BROADCAST (e.g. KBS, MBC, SBS) or CABLE TELEVISION (e.g. tvN, JTBC). The main difference is that, in South Korea, the public broadcast is free and has been around a lot longer, whereas there is a subscription fee to watch cable television.


For international viewers like myself, certain cable and public broadcast K-dramas can be watched legally through PAID STREAMING SERVICES (e.g. Netflix). The available K-dramas really depends on the country and the streaming service used. K-dramas on Netflix fall under two categories:

  • Netflix originals
    • K-dramas that air on cable television and Netflix simultaneously - each episode is available on Netflix 1 hour after the broadcast time in South Korea.
    • K-dramas created by and only available on Netflix (e.g. KingdomLove Alarm) - usually have fewer episodes which are all uploaded in one go and may have multiple seasons.
  • Old K-dramas - many of which are public broadcast K-dramas and all episodes are uploaded in one go.

| Features |

Cable television dramas are usually 16 or 20 episodes long, and the duration of the episodes usually varies from 60 to 90 minutes each. These dramas only air 1 to 2 consecutive days a week, which could make the weekly wait quite painful. The public broadcast has a much wider variety in that some dramas can have over 100 episodes, and some may air most days of the week.

| Ratings |

K-dramas, in general, are rated using the AGB Nielsen Rating. Essentially, a certain number of South Korean households are chosen at random to have their TV watching habits analyzed, from which a viewership percentage can be derived. Not all households pay to watch cable television, so public broadcast dramas usually have a higher rating.

Roughly, for cable television ratings, good dramas are > 10% (often quoted as the goal the cast and directors aim for when asked during interviews), excellent dramas are > 15%, and legendary dramas are > 20%. Sky Castle (JTBC) and Crash Landing on You (tvN) are the only cable K-dramas that surpassed 20% viewership ratings. Comparing the two largest cable television providers, there are currently over two times more tvN dramas taking up the top 50 cable television K-drama spots, but the top-rated cable television drama title is by JTBC.

Check out the top 50 highest-rated Korean dramas in cable television here.


Not much different compared to public broadcast K-dramas.

| Trailers |

Usually all over YouTube with good Samaritans that help add subtitles in a variety of languages. The trailer should also be on the paid streaming service. To watch the trailer(s) straight from the cable television provider, go to their official YouTube page: tvN drama, JTBC drama. Unfortunately, they do not provide subtitles.

| Press Conference & Interviews |

Before all K-dramas (also applies to movies) air, the main cast and director will hold a press conference for individual/group photos, to answer questions from reporters, and to promote the drama. After the press conference, the lead actor(s)/actress(es) do a series of interviews with different news outlets to further promote the drama. These interviews are usually scattered throughout YouTube. Something interesting is that K-dramas are filmed as the drama is airing, which is usually the case only for sit-coms from where I am. Usually, during the press conference and interviews, approximately half of the K-drama has been filmed. This method is quite pressuring for the cast and crew but useful as they could alter the drama after gauging public response.


As cable K-dramas only air 1-2 days a week, there's always a thirst to find any content that is related to the drama during the waiting period.

| Social Media |

(tvN drama, JTBC drama)

Episode previews - posted either right after or a few days after the current episode airs (as there are some episodes without previews especially later in the drama).

Behind-the-scenes footage - for shippers to do detective work, to see offscreen chemistry between the cast, and to watch funny bloopers.

General updates (usually 1 day prior or on the day of the new episode)
  • Plot summaries to refresh your memory before the new episode
  • Images to take a sneak peek into the upcoming episode
  • News on filming progress (e.g. if there are delays), how the cast is doing (e.g. injuries, hospitalizations, scandals)
  • Statistics including ratings, viewer demographics, comparison with other K-dramas that are also airing
OST - For dramas expected to do well, there could be a song released for almost every episode. Usually, the music video is released by the entertainment company that produced the music (e.g. Stone Music Entertainment), and it occurs before or together with the Spotify release. During the drama's run, the song album is released on Spotify under the artist's name. The album includes the song with vocals along with an instrumental version. Once all songs are released, and the drama is finished, there may be a compilation album that also includes other instrumentals used in the drama.
(@tvndrama.official, @jtbcdrama, celebrities)
Quite similar to what's posted on YouTube with the addition of the latest still images taken on set. Sometimes there might even be giveaways but are mainly for local residents.

The cast would also sometimes post photos and videos that they took of the set or with their fellow cast members. A common sight is photos of coffee/food trucks that close friends send to the actors/actresses, very heartwarming indeed.
My personal favourite must check out!
The Swoon is powered by Netflix and is basically a YouTube channel that posts videos promoting Asian Netflix Originals (not only K-dramas). All videos have subtitles in various languages. Video content includes:
  • Fun interviews of cast members answering questions while playing games (cast members appear much more relaxed)
  • Subbed trailers, behind-the-scenes footage, and iconic scenes (although their uploads do take a while)
  • Video compilations about K-dramas (e.g. recommendations on what K-dramas to watch, #SwoonWorthy moments)
  • Global giveaways (the gift may be made by the actors/actresses during one of the fun interviews)

| Special Episodes |

Some dramas have a special episode(s) and the content of these vary. It may just be actors/actresses reacting to scenes from the drama, a behind-the-scenes sneak peek of the drama's production or a recap of important events that occurred in the drama.


For anyone who had dedicated a few months raving about a good K-drama and watching each episode as it comes out, you will know what I mean. It's when the drama is over, and you just can't seem to get over it. The initial weeks after the drama is over are the hardest. You wait for that day of the week when a new episode should air but then you realize the drama is over and there won't be any new episodes. At this point, you might then be tempted to watch it all again!

| Wrap Up Party |

All cast and crew gather to watch the final episode together and celebrate all their hard work. Just like the press conference, photos and videos will be posted all over social media.

| Post-Drama Interviews |

The ending of a drama is surely as emotional for the cast as it is for us. Videos and articles of interviews regarding the cast members' thoughts on the drama, their favourite scenes, how they felt working with each other will be posted online (could also be found on Soompi). Be sure to check those out!

| Awards Ceremony |

Unlike public broadcast, cable television dramas don't have an awards ceremony specifically for their channel. As such, they will only receive awards from ceremonies that judge all dramas that air in South Korea that year, including:

  • Korea Drama Awards
  • Baeksang Arts Awards
  • Asia Pacific Actors Network (APAN) Star Awards
  • Seoul International Drama Awards
  • Asian Television Awards

Ending Remarks

If you read all the way here (even if you skipped around), I'd like to give my sincerest gratitude for checking out my first article! I'd like to thank DEVITTO for helping me get started on this writing journey. There will definitely be more to come!

I'm still relatively new to K-dramas (only truly getting addicted the end of last year), so for those with many more years of experience, please leave a comment if you have other tips to add or other perspectives as I'd love to read them.

Thanks again, and until next time!

Edited by: Cookie (1st editor), Yuanwei (2nd editor)

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