The Korea Herald


Korean dramas depicting countryside youth enjoy bump in popularity

By Lee Yoon-seo

Published : Jan. 22, 2024 - 15:11

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A scene from A scene from "Welcome to Samdal-ri" starring Shin Hye-sun (left) and Ji Chang-Wook (JTBC)

The end of 2023 and start of 2024 have been flooded with South Korean dramas depicting the lives of youth who lead their lives in countryside, amid the increase in demand from the audience for stress relief, according to experts, Monday.

"Welcome to Samdal-ri," a popular 16-part JTBC romantic comedy drama, which released its first episode on Dec. 2, 2023, wrapped up with its last episode on Sunday.

The drama series narrates the story of Cho Sam-dal (played by Shin Hye-sun), who lived in Seoul for 18 years and returned to her hometown of Jeju Island, after a mishap in the workplace.

The drama series' last episode logged a viewership rating of 12.4 percent, according to Nielson Korea, breaking its 15th episodes' viewership rating record of 10.4 percent.

A scene from A scene from "Boyhood," starring Im Si-wan (Coupang Play)

"Boyhood," a 10-part drama series which exclusively aired on Coupang Play from Nov. 24, 2023 to Dec. 22, 2023, also gained popularity, depicting the coming-of-age story of Jang Byung-tae (played by Im Si-wan), a high school student from Buyeo, South Chungcheong Province.

After the release of "Boyhood" on Nov. 24 on the streaming service, the series was ranked as the most popular title on Coupang Play for five consecutive weeks.

Cable channel ENA also released a 12-part drama series titled "Like Flowers in Sand," on Dec. 20, 2023, set against the backdrop of the fictional region of Geosan in South Gyeongsang Province. The story focuses on the story of Kim Baek-doo (played by Jang Dong-yoon), who aims to become a wrestling athlete on a sandpit. The drama series is scheduled to air its last episode on Thursday.

Riding on the trend for works portraying the lives of young people in Korea's rural areas, Netflix is also scheduled to release the 16-part original "You Have Done Well." According to Netflix, the official release date is yet to be set.

The star-studded cast of the new drama series includes actors Lee Ji-eun, also known as IU, and Park Bo-gum. The drama will focus on the stories of young people who live on Jeju Island during the 1950s.

Pop culture critic Jeong Ji-wook said constant releases of drama series focusing on the lives of young people in regions other than Seoul follows the growing demand of audiences for stress relief.

"Following the outbreak of the pandemic, people here were very stressed. When everything became hard and it wasn't clear what to do or how to solve anything (content creators) attempted to offer some kind of 'healing code.' With such factors, it seems that the characteristics of countryside, along with love and growth stories of young people, have contributed to the creation of such titles," he said.

He added that through such works, the audience is able to satisfy their cravings to experience a new environment.

"The works also deal with settings that are not routinely seen but rather unique and atmospheric. The works depict entertaining episodes within a distinctive and captivating scenery, which inspire curiosity from the audience," said Jeong.