Dramaland reality vs. actual reality in Korea

Now, we drama-lovers know that dramaland doesn’t necessarily reflect reality, and that not every Korean man or woman are in their twenties or thirties, nor are they all doctors, lawyers, or business executives. It is hard to gain some perspective, though, if you’ve only experienced Korea through the media.

The Korea Communications Commission released a report recently, titled the “2016 Report on Media Diversity,” to show just how differently dramas reflect the socioeconomic and generational makeup of South Korea. They studied 43 dramas that aired between January and September last year on the Big 3 stations (MBC, KBS, and SBS) plus tvN and OCN, and took note of the drama characters’ occupations and ages.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, they found that drama leads were often young and had specialized jobs with above-average pay, while there were comparatively low numbers of drama heroes and heroines who were blue-collar workers or above the age of 50. Personally, none of these results were unexpected, but it was interesting to see just how disproportionate the ratios were, especially in comparison to censuses of the actual Korean population.

In terms of occupations, by far the most common job among drama leads were specialists or professionals, which took up 42.2% by itself, while in reality, those jobs only take up about 10.7% of the Korean workforce. On the other side of the spectrum, we have blue-collar jobs, which were only represented by 0.8% of drama leads last year, while 12.9% of the Korean labor force have such jobs.

It’s a similar story when looking at drama leads’ ages, although it’s actually even more disproportionate, if you can believe it (I can). Of all the dramas the commission examined, 55.5% of the leads were in their thirties or forties, and 38.3% were in their teens or twenties. Do the math, and that accounts for a whopping 93.8% percent of lead characters in dramas. According to a 2015 population census in Korea, the actual percentages of those in their thirties and forties is 31.9%, while those in their teens and twenties are 24.1%. Meanwhile, we have Korean people in their fifties and sixties, who make up 25.9% of the total population, only taking up 2.8% of lead characters on our TV screens.

I’m not sure whether this report will have any actual impact on the industry, and I don’t necessarily think the commission’s intention was to change the drama landscape. But I appreciate that this kind of report exists, because while we can always talk about how dramaland isn’t a fair reflection of reality, it’s nice to have some numbers to point to as evidence and get some perspective.

For those of you interested, I’ve included the chart released by the commission showing the comparisons between the drama survey and the censuses, and provided a translation of the same.

Via Yonhap News

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