Chinese Officials Debate Why South Korea's Soap Operas Are Better


There’s a lot going on in China, so it may come as a surprise that when the country’s two highest governing boards met in Beijing last week, the hottest topic of discussion wasn’t the recent terrorist attack that left 33 dead or the country’s economy; it was a South Korean soap opera that’s been sweeping the nation and leaving its viewers wanting more. (and hungry for chicken and beer.)

The Washington Post provides a synopsis of the show, which may seem a little strange at first blush:

The show’s name translated in English is “My Love from the Star.” It has garnered more than 2.5 billion views online and has shot up to the top of the country’s viewership…
… It’s about an alien who accidentally arrives on Earth 400 years ago, meets an arrogant female pop star and falls in love.

I mean is that any stranger than the premise that there’s a vampire slayer out there? Or that there are alien teens living in Roswell? Or that there was, at one point in time, a TV show that centered around a healthy mother-daughter relationship that revolved around talking really fast and making incessant pop culture references? (God, I miss you Gilmore Girls; Paris Geller forever.) And even if the premise sounds silly, the show definitely has something that keeps viewers glued to their screens.

After the show’s female lead mentioned “beer and fried chicken” in one episode, it became one of the most invoked phrases online. Restaurants cashed in and started selling beer-and-fried-chicken meals.

And that’s not all. Some are taking binge-watching the show to a dangerous level.

One pregnant woman from Jiangsu, a province in eastern China, almost had a miscarriage, according to news reports, after she stayed up too many nights binge-watching and eating fried chicken and beer.

Understandably this has the government thinking. And the thoughts are all about why China can’t make its own soap operas that are just as popular, why it takes South Korea or America to get its citizens excited. And, as The Washington Post points out, “while China has long considered itself the source of East Asian culture, the domination of Japanese comics and Korean soap operas in Chinese pop culture challenges that view.”

It’s suggested that the reason Chinese soap operas don’t take off in the same way because of China’s strict censorship guidelines. And while no one has yet to come up with a better idea for a plot than pop-star/alien romance (it is pretty good), officials believe that the popularity of the South Korean soap opera may be a blow to Chinese confidence in their culture.

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