BELIEVE it or not, the Korean telenovela has been with us for 11 years. ABS-CBN started the fad in 2005 with something close to trepidation, now see how far it has arrived.
On cable TV, an entire channel dedicated to Korean news and entertainment keeps viewers abreast of what’s new and trendy, be it serious or silly, plus there’s all the YouTube, downloading and other media to tap throughout the day, nonstop, with English subtitles that may be hard to read, but who cares?
Followers of the latest serial sensation, a patriotic paean to all that’s noble and virtuous in the Korean character, can’t have enough of the three-episode marathon every Friday night on KBS (channel 75 on Sky), not to mention the addicts who will stay awake for a day and a half just to get to the ending via some means or medium.
“Descendants of the Sun” tells the story of the Alpha Team, Special Forces, who are sent on perilous missions to keep the world safe, rescue victims of disasters and traffickers, and to do so looking their spiffy best in a camouflage uniform topped off with a black beret. Somewhere along the way romance blooms to facilitate the feud between a handsome captain and a beautiful doctor, their spats punctuated by a bit of innocent kissing and lots of teasing. (How very Asian!)
The 16-part series has been bought by a local network for US$30,000 per episode, and while I patiently wait for the denouement to unfold, I’m trying to put a finger on the genre. Is it romance? Action? A war picture? I would stick my neck out to opine that “Descendants” is Korea’s “Gone with the Wind,” with a heavy dose of Koreanization Kimchi’ed into the mix.
Just listen to the captain and the doctor exchanging their one-liners on what love of country means to each of them, then wham! a massive earthquake jolts them to their senses and brings out the best of her medical team and his Alpha Team. Medical and military equipment bedazzles, considering this is an emergency in chaos, though not as dazzling as the doctors and troops who have to think on their feet as they display courage, heroism, and humanism.
Propaganda? The trick is how to sell it without raising goose pimples.