The Era of Korean Adaptations: Is It Smart or Lazy?

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In the era of adaptations, is anything really original anymore anyway?

I laughed at a tweet recently depicting a gif of a kpop star laughing a little maniacally, with the caption reading something along the line of "American show producers looking for the next big Korean hit to steal". What the tweet was referring to was Fox’s take on the popular Korean music competition show The King of Mask Singer, renamed The Masked Singer for audiences here. It took off with American audiences almost instantly, of course, with the population’s thirst for competition series in the vein of America’s Got Talent and The Voice, only this time with their favorite celebrities under pressure on stage and forced to wear ridiculous costumes. It’s fine. I mean, X Factor has been spread all across the world so it’s no surprise that a show like Mask would find its way around eventually.

But then I noticed the very next day on Korean entertainment news site Soompi that they posted an article about Korean film The Villainess  being adapted into an American TV series. And the day after that an article about how Korean drama Strong Woman Do Bong Soon is in talks to be remade into an American drama. If anyone is familiar with the show The Good Doctor on ABC, you might be surprised to know that it is also adapted from a Korean drama. Then there’s the fact that 2016’s hit Korean horror Train to Busan immediately went into a bidding war for adaptations after performing extremely well with worldwide audiences in film festivals. America, of course, won that bid and are working on creating an American version.

Now I do realize that the American film industry isn’t the only one buying rights to foreign content to adapt. On the flipside, Korea also took our popular Suits series and Criminal Minds to remake into Korean dramas for their own viewers. Plus it’s not as though anyone is stealing anything; if a show creator in Korea wants to sell their content for other countries to adapt, that is one hundred percent within their rights to do so. It just leaves me a bit conflicted on how to feel about it. Is it unfair (considering how many originals written by Americans and Asian Americans specifically right here at home are left untouched by executive hands?), lazy (because why do the heavy lifting when it’s already done?) or is just financially and competitively intelligent (waiting to see how content ranks on the scales in foreign countries before bringing it over here)?

Then again, in this era of adaptations in general, is anything really original anymore, or all we all just borrowing ideas from each other?

Leave your opinions on the matter in the comments below.