The Korea Herald


Global viewers warm to Korea's 'slow paced' dating shows

Melodrama storytelling, cultural intricacies 'refreshing,' viewers say

By Lee Yoon-seo

Published : Dec. 16, 2023 - 16:01

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Poster for Poster for "Single's Inferno 3" (Netflix)

South Korean romance reality shows are taking the world by storm.

The latest to heat up the screens is the third season of the Korean Netflix original series "Single's Inferno" released Tuesday. The first season secured a spot on Netflix's Global Top 10 TV Shows list for three consecutive weeks following its December 2021 release, the first Korean reality show to accomplish such a feat.

"Single's Inferno 2," which was released a year later after the explosive response to its first season, was listed among Netflix's Top 10 TV series in 14 countries including Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan and Singapore.

Other hit Korean romance reality shows such as "Love After Divorce 4" also entered the top 10 list in Singapore and Hong Kong in August, a month after its release -- with "Love Transit," a Japanese remake of the popular Korean dating reality show "EXchange" ranking as the eighth most popular title in the television show category on Amazon Prime Video in Japan.

Experts pinpointed to the unique characteristics of the Korean dating reality shows as the reason for such positive reception on the global stage.

"Korean romance reality show contestants are more focused on building relationships with each other. The shows center on details such as what the participants say to each other," said pop culture critic Jung Duk-hyun.

"Meanwhile, in Western romance reality shows, physical relationships take place at a very fast pace. Global viewers consider the pace of the romance in Korean dating reality shows as slow paced, yet delicate and intricate, and as such, Korean dating reality shows are considered 'fresh,'" he said.

According to Jung, Koreans also traditionally have a strong edge in portraying melodrama on TV, which provides depth and heightens the quality of Korean romance reality shows.

Viewers around the world said the shows provided a refreshing perspective on dating.

"I started watching 'Single's Inferno' after the K-pop idol I liked mentioned it on TV. Compared to other dating reality shows I watched in the US, it was very 'soft', but I liked that," Ana Gonzalez, a college student living in New York, told The Korea Herald.

"Participants were reluctant to even shake hands or hold hands. Such scenes contrasted drastically with the shallow relationships on US dating reality shows like 'Love Island.'"

Another fan of "Single's Inferno," Maria from New York, added that the show revealed the intricacies of a different culture.

"The show offered a fascinating glimpse into a culture that doesn't exist in America. It emphasized that love and relationships should develop step by step, in contrast to what is portrayed in US dating reality shows like 'Too Hot To Handle,' where everyone wants to sleep with each other on the first day," said the college student who only wished to be known by her first name.

The demand for diverse dating reality shows is expected to increase, experts said, as high youth unemployment and a flagging economy have not been conducive for going on dates.

"The current environment makes it difficult for young people to date, so there may be a desire to watch dating reality shows to satisfy their desire to date," said Jung.

"The desire to date is universal. Dating reality programs on global streaming platforms may just be the common denominator that people around the world may all enjoy," he added.