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Is it too early to talk about “Hallyu” in the Philippines? Koreanovela and its reception among Filipino audience Dong Hwan Kwon
Abstract “Hallyu (Korean wave)” in China, Taiwan, and Japan has become a new trend since the late 1990’s and its typical aspects seem to have reached the Philippines since 2003, especially through soap opera, so called “Koreanovela.” This research focuses on the Filipino experience of the flow of Koreanovelas in the Philippine Free TV to find how Filipino audiences have received the Koreanovela - specifically, what, why, and how they consume the Koreanovela. Two Focused groups were facilitated in the department of Mass Communication at University of the Philippine during September 9 to 12, 2005 to understand the consumption, attractive elements, and cultural reading and construction of meaning about Koreans. Participants agreed that Koreanovelas are widely accepted among the Filipino audiences regardless of gender and age and they have become a “phenomena.” Production quality, succinct plot, fashion and other aspects in and outside of Koreanovela production supports its wide acceptance in the Philippines. Interestingly, “cultural discount” is given to the Asian look in contrast to the years of western media exposure. Community based culture such as hierarchical family relationship between elders and younger ones, and the extended family relationships are attractive aspects to affirm cultural closeness and a high level of shared context between the two countries. Discussants also understand the Koreanovelas as a “cultural window” in experiencing implicit and explicit Korean way of life in contemporary society.
Cultural Space and Public Sphere in Asia 2006, Seoul, Korea / 257
Introduction Background : “Hallyu (Korean wave)” Phenomena and Regionalization of media market The “hallyu (Korean wave)” has been aired since 1990’s from China, Taiwan, and Japan. The regional distribution of Korean cultural products was begun with trendy dramas, then, extended to popular songs, movies, with the growth of Korean media markets. The export of Korean popular media contents has continually expanded even to Singapore (Kim, 2002), Vietnam (Lee, 2002), and Mongolia (Kim, S. H., 2002), which is beyond East Asia to South East Asia. Now the term, “hallyu” seems to connote the influence of Korean social and cultural aspects such as clothes, fashion, and technological goods among the Asian countries.
The international and inter-regional exchange of media products was first understood as the “Globalization” discourse by U.S. media. For the last few decades, critical scholars have argued that mass media production being produced from U.S. has destroyed the local value and culture (Shiller, 1976, 1991, 1998; Nordenstreng, 1993; Hamelink, 1993). The center of the argument lies on binary distinction by U.S. media as a provider and the rest of the world as mere receivers.
Yet the post- colonial analysis of the international exchange of media product has faced the different patterns of international media markets. Since the 1980s, the Latin Telenovelas, Hong Kong cinema, and Asian trendy drama popularity in each region has challenged the dominant globalization discourse. At first hand, such scholars as Barker (1997), Featherstone (1990, 1995), Robertson (1995), Tomlinson (1997), refused the simple binary relationship between the U.S. and the rest of the world in the media culture with pluralistic aspects of culture.
Hoskins and Mirus (1988) also tried to explain the reason that U.S. media is widely accepted from the social context of “cultural discount.” Due to the strong sociological, economical and political supports from the nation itself, U.S. media get less “discount” from the audiences of other nations.
In the analysis of the inter-regional media exchange, Straubharr (1991) first coined the term “cultural proximity” that argued that media productions from culturally close countries have greater reception than those materials from culturally far countries. He (1997) further argued that the world has re-organized from the major cultural bands such as Latin, Europe, and China cultures. Iwabuchi (200) turned the attention of cultural proximity into “inter-regional” exchange of media products in Asia (p. 29).
Yet the regionalization discourse was also criticized for exaggeration of regional aspect over western media power (Ha & Yang, 2002; Yang 2003, and 2004). Furthermore, it overlooks the similarity among the contents that are consumer-oriented in nature in media production. Though the quantity of mass media
Cultural Space and Public Sphere in Asia 2006, Seoul, Korea / 258
distribution from U.S. decreases, with increase of regionally made production, the mass oriented media domination gains wider penetration all over the world (Iwabuchi, 2001, Wilk, 1995). It was a change of the face but not the nature of the media production.
An alternative approach was made with the notion of “transnational culture” versus “regional culture” (Appadurai, 1998).
They have tried to understand the common cultural aspects among particular
consumer groups instead of the ethnic and geographical divisions such as Korean, Chinese, and Taiwanese etc…
“Hallyu” in the Philippines In the midst of the great expansion of “hallyu” and its discussion among Korean scholars, its typical aspect seems to have reached to the Philippines since 2003 especially through soap opera, so called “Koreanovela.” One of the two major nationwide television networks, GMA 7, began to import Koreanovela, “Endless Love’ in order to compete with popular Chinovela “Meteor Garden” from ABSCBN 2 at that time. It was quite successful, and since then, GMA has been the major player in the distribution of Koreanovela to the Filipino audience1. Nowadays even the rival network, ABS-CBN, also airs Koreanovelas 2 . At the time this research was done, Five Koreanovelas were being aired simultaneously from both ABS-CBN and GMA7 contrasting to the fact that the greatest hit Chinovela, “Meteor Garden” was just being reviewed without new series.
The Asian telenovelas’ popularity in the Philippines is somewhat interesting with the understanding of the social and media culture in the Philippines. Albeit the fact that the Philippines are located in Asia, the cultural shape has been much different from the rest of other Asian countries. The islands have been influenced by Spain and U.S. for more than four centuries and it made the country the “A small west in Asia.” Before and after World War II, U.S. media represented as “Hollywood3” have had a major
Since 2003, GMA has aired Endless Love1: Autumn in My Heart (가을 동화), Endless Love2: Winter Sonata (겨울 연가),
Endless Love3: Summer Scent (여름의 향기), All about Eve (이브의 모든것), Irene (인어 아가씨), Save the Last Dance for Me (마지막 춤은 나와 함께), Stairway to Heaven (천국의 계단), Sweet 18 (낭낭 18세), Attic Cat (옥탑방 고양이), Full House (풀하우스), Bright Girl (명랑소녀 성공기), and Beautiful Days (아름다운 날들), and Hotelier (호텔 리어)
ABS-CBN joined the Koreanovela import since 2005 with Memories of Bali (발리에서 생긴일), Stained Glass (유리화),
Oh! Feel Young (오! 필승 봉순영), and Lovers in Paris (파리의 연인), and Green Rose (그린 로즈)
See the website: http://www.seasite.niu.edu/tagalog/Tagalog_Default_files/ Philippine_Culture/50_years_in_hollywood.htm
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influence in establishing Western standard in many aspects in Filipino society. Though it has changed over the years, “white” skinned actors and actresses speaking English with American accent are still dominant in Filipino TV programs.
Study Framework: Regional and cultural understanding of the reception of Koreanovela
The research borrowed and modified the framework of communication and culture interact model by Pernia, Pascual, and Kwon (2004). The model focused on the cultural adaptation of religious programs in the Filipino audience that is based on the interpretive personal community.
“Personal communities refer to the set of active and significant ties that are most important to people, even if they are geographically distant. This concept of personal communities provides a better and more realistic framework to understand how issues affect family, friends, and community (Pal and Spencer 2003, quoted in Pernia, Pascual, and Kwon (2004)).
The preposition of the model was that the culture and communication are interactive. In other words, the culture is transmitted through the act of communication, particularly in the research, through television contents. The transmission of the culture is made within the particular context, in this case, Filipino culture. So the model drew upon the religious media reception made among Filipino audience in the Filipino context.
In this study, the focus is shifted from religious television programs to Koreanovelas. The perception of Koreanovelas and the understanding of Korean culture out of the mediated channel is the center of the study. The mediated communication medium, Koreanovelas in this case, represents the image and certain aspects of Korea and its culture. Therefore, by consumption of the media text, the particular contents surely make certain perception within the Filipino audience, which the meaning of Korea has constructed by mediated channel.
Yet the perception made from the media use is embedded with the culture that the audience belongs. It becomes a ground to understand the explicit and implicit cultures.
So the particular cultural background
is important in the perception of the foreign television contents, in this study, Koreanovelas. The cultural context gives the crucial cues for accepting or rejecting certain media contents.
The interpretive community that the individual belongs to is also crucial for understanding the reception
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of Koreanovelas in the particular context. Interpretive and cultural media scholars argued that the media reception is laid in the social, political, and cultural context. Furthermore, the television consumption is not only for the personal appreciation but also that of family and peer group, especially in collective and high cultural context. The limited number of television sets at home also affects the television viewership, and the discussion and interests shared within the peer group also strongly affect the reception and perception of television viewing. Therefore, the television reception is both personal and interactional in nature.
In this study, the perception of Koreanovelas and the understanding of Korean culture will be revealed by guiding the topics; the consumption, attractive elements, and cultural reading, and construction of meaning by watching Koreanovela. Mediated by cultural form, television soap opera, the perception is interrelated with that of personal and personal community, and the reception is embedded within the cultural background.
Figure 1. Revised culture-communication interact model
PERCEPTION OF & UNDERSTANDING OF THE
FOREIGN TELEVISION CONTENTS
& ITS’ COMMUNITY
Problem of the research
Therefore, the researcher intends to find out the reception among Filipino audiences of the Koreanovela. Since this is the first attempt to explore Koreanovela or “hallyu” in the Philippines the researcher is trying
Cultural Space and Public Sphere in Asia 2006, Seoul, Korea / 261
to find out how Filipino audiences have received the Koreanovela specifically, what, why, and how they consume the Koreanovela from the perspective of the Filipino audience.
With the popularity of Korean cultural commodity especially through mass media, Korean scholars from media studies, anthropology, and sociology as well as Korean studies have attempted to analyze the “Hallyu Phenomena” in Asia.
Cultural proximity theses Based on the cultural proximity thesis (Straubharr, 1991), Ryu and Lee (2001) analyzed the contents of widely accepted Korean television dramas among East Asia countries to find out the commonalities. From the content analysis, they concluded that the Korean dramas that have been widely accepted in Asia contain the Confucian values that are close to Chinese culture. Hu, J. (2002) also argued that Korean telenovelas contain the common culture and value between Korean and Chinese.
With this theory, Jung
(2001) and Kang (2002) attempted to draw a model of Korean television program exports based on cultural factors in relation to the “cultural proximity” thesis. The content analysis studies strongly supported the attractiveness of the closed culture in media contents and discovered the cultural factors in Koreanovelas.
Reception and audience analysis Turning the attention to the audience, some researchers attempted to get closer to the audiences who consume the Korean cultural commodities in Asian countries. They tried to find out the actual reasons watching “hallyu” cultural products among Asian audience. Lee (2003) researched on the reception among Chinese students who were in Korean Language classes toward Korean dramas and movies. Since the participations of the survey were the students of Korean Language classes, they have much positive views and perceptions toward Korean dramas and movies. The perception even created the motivation to know more about Korea in the future. Chai, B. (2002) applied Uses and Gratifications theory to test the use of Korean dramas and their satisfaction among Chinese audiences. He proved that the satisfaction from the use of Korean drama raises positive perception among Chinese audiences.
Using qualitative methods, with in-depth interviews, in the audience study, Xuehue (2002) and Ying (2003) both examined the reception Korean dramas among the Chinese college students. Similarly with the other reception studies, they concluded that the consumption of Korean dramas gave positive receptions. But the finding also showed that some negative factors were also shown from the interviews.
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Rhee (2003) tried to find out the economical benefits of “hallyu” popularity toward the effects in the sale of Korean products.
He did the correlation studies about how high acceptance of Korean cultural
commodity affects the reception of Korean products. In the conclusion, he pointed out that general correlation was made between the use of cultural commodity and the perception of Korea and people. Yet He also pointed out some factors are considerable not to conclude the correlation between the factors. For instance, low educated and low-income groups have high consumptions of “hallyu”products and the factor does not provide high expectation of the sales of Korean products. His research, based on the large sample population (N=2017), suggests some considerations of the positive assumption on side effects of “hallyu” in the sales of Korean product.
Tsai, C. (2003) did similar comparative study between Korean and Japanese dramas and their perception among Taiwanese audiences. From the study, he found out that Japanese dramas had higher and positive reception in various factors, although Korean dramas have higher viewer rates. What the research has revealed is the economical factor in the popularity of Korean dramas in Taiwan.
Political and economical analysis of changing media environment Seeing from the macro perspective, some researchers attempted to understand the “hallyu” phenomena from economical, sociological, and political aspects. Son (2001) analyzed the changing social context of Asian broadcasting situation to explain the export of Korean drama in East Asia.
She examined the
expanding quantity of broadcasting market due to the development of cable, satellite, as well as commercialized free television market in Asia where the local production quality and ability do not feed the need.
Based on Waterman & Rogers research (1994), Jin (2003) focused on the changing paradigm in the East Asian countries in exchanging television programs in contrast to the 80’s context,. Based on ten years of broadcasting exchange among East Asian nations, he argued that neo-liberation political policy, democratization, and liberation of broadcasting markets results in the changes from Western domination of media market in 80s. He also pointed out that the Asian financial crisis also helped to turn to the cheaper import of foreign programs within the region.
Ha & Yang (2002) also argued that the “hallyu” has resulted from the factors of political liberation, economic growth with development of television technology and capitalism in broadcasting in China which creates the need of Korean cultural commodities in East Asia. Yang (2003, 2004) further refused the notion of “cultural proximity” in relation to “hallyu” phenomena in East Asia from the macro perspective. She explained that the Confucian culture does not firmly hold the changing culture of East
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Asia; furthermore, the “hallyu” has far reached not only China and Taiwan but also the Southeast Asian countries which have more complicated religious, social, and political context.
The synthesis from the literature review Based on the review, several analyses were made. First, the present studies regarding “hallyu” phenomena in Asia were attempted with various perspectives, micro way which examine from the audience’ perspective and contents analysis, then, macro way to look from political and economical point of view. All attempts are helpful in understanding regional exchanges of Korean cultural commodities in Asia.
Particularly, audience study focused on reception analysis was well developed in a way to
understand different contextual phenomena from the point of view of the viewers. Empirical and in-depth interviews were used for this purpose in the field.
Yet, the context of the study was limited to China and Taiwan. It was partially due to the popularity of Korean cultural commodities in both countries but also it shows the limitation of access in the study of wide acceptance of Korean media in those countries. So far no research was made in the Philippine context where Koreanovela has been a “phenomena” since 2003. The limited analysis also hinders the various analyses in understanding the meaning of the popularity of Korean cultural commodity in various cultures.
In a way, cultural proximity thesis in understanding “hallyu” phenomena is limited due to the lack of application in different culture. Are Korean soap operas only popular in the Confucius cultural boundary? Is the culture and value only limited to the Chinese cultural influence? What about other cultures in the Asia, such as the Philippines? If Korean soap opera is well accepted among Filipino audience what are the factors in the phenomena? The questions are being raised when the penetration of Korean cultural product is enlarged.
Furthermore, the reception researches are limited in asking what and why questions on the hallyu phenomena in China and Taiwan. What, among Korean cultural commodities, are popular in a particular context and why do they gain the popularity? They lack in asking how they understand Korean and culture from their media viewing, what are the features that are constructed as Korean and culture from the point of view of the viewers?
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Methods The explorative at the same time, explanatory reception study was done with Focused Group Discussion (FGD) method, to find out the viewership of Koreanovelas and how they have been received from the viewership. FGD was used to understand the personal and personal communities’ collective reception and perception of Koreanovelas among Filipino audiences.
Research Procedures The two FGD were done September 9 and 12 of 2005 at University of the Philippines campus. The first FGD with graduate students was done in the classroom which took about 40 minutes. The other FGD with an undergraduate group was done in the Graduate Students Lounge from 11:30 and it lasted 80 minutes.
All FGD was conducted with permissions. Discussions were all recorded and later transcribed by research assistant, Grace Tia. All the transcriptions were re-validated by the researcher and a research participant.
FGDs were guided by open-ended discussion guide topics (see appendix 1). The guide topics were used to provide the topics of the discussion by the participants not to direct the discussion by the researcher. The procedure was maintained as naturally as possible and the opinions and reactions were spontaneously made to make the discussions fluent.
Focused Group Discussants For this study, the research wanted to have two groups of which one is randomly selected and the other is purposely selected to receive various perspectives on the given topic. All discussants were currently enrolled (both undergraduate and graduate program) at College of Mass Communication, University of the Philippines, Diliman campus. permission of Prof. Deza.
The graduate group was purposively and randomly selected by the
Due to the randomness in this selection, the discussants were not the ones
prepared for the topic but they freely discussed what they have watched and thought about Koreanovela.
On the other hand, the undergraduate group was composed up of a group volunteers for Koreanovela discussion. The researcher requested five professors of the communications research department for possible volunteers for the discussion. Among them, Dr. Umali agreed to announce the FGD for her class then, the discussants were voluntarily gathered and relatively prepared with some insights on the topic. Neither of them received any financial rewards for the discussion participation. Neither of the groups were not intended for any representation of the youth or UP in the perception towards Koreanovela.
The first graduate group, whose discussion was done September 9 from 6:30 – 7:10 PM at classroom 201,
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is composed of 6 graduate students at College of Mass Communication, UP, Diliman. Most of them, except one male discussant, the age of 6 female students were between 23 and 31. Most of them were working as teachers, instructors as well as government employees, and studying with part-time student status. They are living in urban cities.
Table 1. Demographic information for graduate student group
Course of Study
Area of Living
MA Com Res.
Malaya B. Abadille
MA. Com Res.
MA Media Studies
MA. Com Res.
MA. Media Studies
Marjorie Naguimbing Manlula
The undergraduate group, whose discussion was done at classroom 201 September 12 from 11: 30, is composed of 7 graduate students at same school. All discussant are females of age between 18 to 19 years old. All are living in urban area with full time student status.
Table 2. Demographic information for undergraduate student group
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Course of Study
Area of Living
Kristine H. Bautista
B.A. in Communication
Jenna Mae L. Atun
Student (Research Assistant)
Cristina O. Diaz
The focused group discussion was guided by four discussion topic areas: 1. the consumption, 2. attractive elements, and 3. cultural reading and construction of meaning of Korea. The research was intended to understand the reception of Filipino audience, what, why, and how they have received Koreanovelas in the Free networks in the Philippines.
The consumption of Koreanovelas in the Philippines
Viewership of Koreanovelas Most of the discussants have been familiar with the Koreanovelas since 2003 when Endless Love 1: Autumn in My Heart or later, Lovers in Paris was shown. They have been exposed to the Koreanovelas from direct or indirect consumption though some of them have difficulties distinguishing Koreanovelas from Chinese ones. The undergraduate group discussants had greater viewership than the graduate group except for the one, discussant 4. They have listed the names of the Koreanovelas at the table.
Undergraduate group says about Koreanovelas they have watched, All answered:
Endless Love 1, 2, 3, attic cat, memories in Balies, full house, all for love,
stairway to heaven, sweet 18…
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Mostly from GMA (Participants: And ABS-CBN)
All answered collaboratively: Young
Beautiful days (Facilitator:
Beautiful Days) , and Oh Feel
(Facilitator – Oh Feel Young), All About Eve… Save The Last
Dance … Discussant 4:
There are plenty of Koreanovelas ..
Some discussants were able to recall the names of the dramas and actors and actresses though they have confessed the difficulties in memorizing the Korean names. They listed Korean actors and actresses like Hye Gyo Song, Ji Woo, Choi, Ji Hye Han, Sang Woo Kwon, Rain, and, Dong Gun Lee. It showed the deep viewership and interests regarding Koreanovelas.
Regarding Korean actors and actresses, Discussant 1:
I recall only their faces… (oh…) their names … hard to learn… (laugh… )
Song Hae gyu. Choi Ji woo, Kwon Sang woo, (others say
ohhhh…) Han Ji Hye, I just remember their faces and the names of the characters they play… Discussant 5:
actually we only address their names in the Koreanovelas
The interests go beyond the personal viewership of Koreanovelas and were extended to the personal communities around them such as families, friends, and work mates with whom they have daily relationships. They generally perceived a large and various viewership of Koreanovelas in their personal communities. One discussant literally said that it is “phenomena” to watch from 4 years olds to grandparents regardless of genders.
Undergraduate groups said, Facilitator:Anyway, Not only you but your relatives, your friends, your personal communities people around you, do they watch Koreanovelas? All:
(strongly, Yesssss) very much.
Forties…my mom watches it, Attic Cat… my grandmother…women all ages actually watch Korean Telenovelas
Even regardless of gender…
My brother watches O Feel Young…
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our classmate’s brother not only a teenage boy … and he used to play basketball all the stuff and when Memories of Bali was shown he goes home and watch that think a teenage boy… (laugh…) it is
funny… He is (someone’s) brother… (laugh)
Graduate group also said, Discussant 2:
My sister she’s addicted to Korean Telenovelas.
Every household in our compound is addicted to Korean Telenovelas.
Facilitator:So it’s really famous. Discussant 4:
(assertively saying) Yes, everyone.
Extended Korean media consumption by some advocates Especially from the undergraduate group, some of them already have great degree of consumption of Korean mass media through Arirang TV, the only satellite Korean channel that is available in CATV in the Philippines. They have wide interests in Korean cultural commodities such as movies, music, music video, and Koreanovelas the ones that are not avaible on Philippine Free television channels.
When I watch TV I always make it a point to switch to Arirang
once in a
while (others: me too I watch Arirang) like you’re gonna
see Rain in a
music video… and once in a while they have
this because Arirang is in
English right? And they have this
show Showbiz Extra and then once in
you will see
So do you watch cable TV as well? (Discussant 1: yeah) The
Korean Discussant 2:
Arirang TV…(answer: yes) how often do you watch? 2 to 3 times a week… especially during Sundays because I love watching Korean movies… they show Korean movies during Sunday… (Discussant 1: in the evening 11 pm but I still watch it… I like it…)
Even before F4 fever I was watching Arirang because they have really good it’s like short stories they have really good plot it was very good…and every weekend I make it a point to watch Arirang…
Koreanovela, as a part of Filipino life Particularly, the discussant 3 from the undergraduate group made the point, “Koreanovela as a way of life” among Filipinos. She explained how Filipinos reacted to the daily Koreanovela shows and how they
Cultural Space and Public Sphere in Asia 2006, Seoul, Korea / 269
related them to their lives. She said,
I would also like to bring a point… Korean telenovelas are already serving … you’re already a way of life…I mean you watch for example Attic Cat during the night and after that tomorrow you and your friends will talk about it…the next day you will talk about it…I mean these characters like Noreen and Kevin, in Full House with Justin and Jessie they all become household names…everybody knows
Attractive elements in Koreanovelas
Succinct Plots and stories Discussants pointed out some of the attractiveness of Koreanovelas comparing from the Mexican and Local ones. They perceived that Koreanovelas have dealt with the universal love stories in a different and fresh manner, with the plot that is simple, fast, and funny, and the manner of dealing with love story which is not sensual or sexual compared to Western soap operas.
Undergraduate group said, Discussant 5:
But I personally think that the reason behind the rise of these Koreanovelas, I think, is based on the stories that they
create … that they
share and … I mean… we were fed up these long and
complex stories of
Mexican telenovelas and our local telenovelas.
And … I think we wanted
the changes in the stories….
Graduate group also said, Discussant 4
For Latins’ there’s a big difference like the context, the theme, and even the (VO: the story line) yeah the story line, as I’ve said the Latin or western oriented soap are more sensual most especially Latin, Mexican sensual because its part of their culture and even the clothes that they wear …
Undergraduate discussants also pointed out the typical happy-ending plot among Filipino and Latin soap operas, which they considered as boring. As compared to the other novellas, they appreciated the ending of the Koreanovelas as fresh and different from the typical ending, which sometimes made them disappointed and unsatisfied.
Cultural Space and Public Sphere in Asia 2006, Seoul, Korea / 270
Undergraduate group said, Discussant 1:
But I have to commend Koreanovelas because I like the plots
telenovelas… poor boy meets rich girl
or vise versa… they fall in
love and family resists (hahaha…) then
happily ever after … but in
Koreanovela there’s twist you have to think
what is going to
happen … among protagonists…. It is not given. You
use your mind. That is what I like best.
Yes and one thing, I think the ending. (yea…) there’s something to do with it …. in Filipino novellas you always you’re sure that they’ll probably end up together… you’re sure that they’ll end up together. If we don’t watch the whole season, you are sure that they end up together so might as well watch the last episode. But Koreanovela, I think every ahh…
As the discussant 6 of undergraduate group mentioned above, the realistic plot that seems to be happening in the life made audiences interested in Koreanovelas. They particularly pointed out that Koreanovelas did not attempt to mystify the story in the soap opera. The story projects the life of the contemporary Koreans.
Graduate group said Discussant 2:
All About Eve.
Actually they project a real story in the media
industry…All About Eve. The way people compete in one position how you pull down this people just to get that position. It’s projecting the real story. Discussant 4
Actually my father watches some of them because sometimes they focus on situation in the certain industry like O Feel Young (laughs), he likes that because it’s about a business from a … is it a supermarket …
They also pointed out the distinction on the female characters sometimes, assertive or aggressive, leading
Cultural Space and Public Sphere in Asia 2006, Seoul, Korea / 271
the plot of Koreanovelas. Filipino audience perceived the negative aspects of the stereotypical female lead characters in the local novellas and understood the distinction to be positive compared to the local ones.
Undergraduate group said, Discussant 2:
The Philippines … the lead female always have to be this good Damsel in distress…always they always to follow the typical Filipina that is soft spoken always obedient but in Korean telenovelas we see lead female characters that are really feisty…and Vivian… that has a lot of attitude… they are assertive… always negate the typical Filipino character…
Yet the discussants also found a formulated conflict in the Koreanovelas and that they understood as a formula of any telenovela. They clearly pointed out the dyad conflicts between rich boys and the poor girl, the relational conflicts among the leading characters though some variations have been found in the previous discussion.
Undergraduate group said Discussant 1:
For me, one thing that I quite remember is that all Koreanovelas are made up or the
yung …bida… the main actors are actually are sons businessmen CEOs.
(hahaha…) and you know are all Koreans that rich and really to have each of them seem to have one company each (hahah…) then you know the girl is always so poor tapos parang at first , I was so excited of the plot but more and more as Koreanovelas I notice that all of those novellas have sons of CEOs and this waitress … who is living in slums so…(Fac. – yah..) Discussant 4:
The rich and poor girl…
Asian attack in the Philippine television Interestingly discussants strongly pointed out the regionalization of media consumption as Straubharr (1991) argued. Both the undergraduate and graduate group agreed that the Asian character was considered as new and fresh in their eyes at this time. Filipino audiences, having been long influenced by western media, have a new taste from the Asian telenovelas particularly, Taiwanese, and Korean ones.
Undergraduate group said, Discussant 6:
Because we are westernized I think that’s one point… but for me that’s the main attraction of Filipinos to Korean because we are just so tired of western stuff so we are gonna focus … instead on the Asian…
So is it gonna cultural trend that you prefer Asian faces?
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Right now… right now…you can’t really tell the future
The regionalization of media consumption was not only limited to explicit culture but also the contextual and implicit similarities found among Koreanovelas.
The discussants felt more comfortable
with and culturally close with the implicit and high contextual expression of love in the soap operas unlike Western telenovelas. Furthermore, they pointed out that the Koreanovelas described the ordinary Korean people who are not much different from Filipinos.
Undergraduate group said, Discussant 7:
Yes. Actually I noticed that as compared to western telenovelas, love scenes in Koreanovelas as well as Taiwanese and Filipinos are less … they are … conservative… taboo… di ba as compared to western telenovelas, Mexican parang ..
very obscene I think I’d be offended. … for me so
I think being
conservative is one factor… … (ahah…)
Not only the love scenes but also the way they dress… I think If you watch Mexican telenovelas even western ones the girls are usually very made up… they have very heavy make up and they have wear flanging necklines (laughs) short hemlines like that but in Asian especially in Korean they dress like how we dress everyday (Facilitator: like ordinary people) yes because you don’t really see like when you’re at home dress up like your going to the party all the time… high heeled shoes…and your going to sleep with make up…laughs…
Continuing to discuss on the plot as an attractive element, undergraduates distinguished Koreanovelas from other ones saying that they are story-based compared to other star based novellas. In other words, Koreanovelas focused on the plot compared to the Taiwanese and, even, Mexican telenovelas.
discussion showed the recent penetration of Koreanovelas in the Philippines. Its characteristics are different from the previous popularity of other novellas in the Philippines.
Undergraduate group said, Discussant 2:
And Korean telenovelas always focused on the stories as compared to the Taiwanese one, In Koreanovelas, they are different characters what you will see…for examples, Lee Dong Gun you can see him in the Lovers in Paris but you can … he still plays someone in Sweet 18 you don’t get confused that his
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character is being brought from Lovers in Paris and Sweet 18. But… as compared to Taiwanese ones, when you think of F4, you think of meteor Garden how the story involved around their personalities, and mainly not i… t focuses on the characters as F4 singers and boy band types instead of stories
Production elements Discussants also mentioned some production related characteristics in the reception of Koreanovelas. They pointed out that music, location and setting of the story, and, cinematography were considered as strengths of Koreanovelas.
Undergraduate also group said, Discussant 7:
I think with Koreanovelas the songs we have the local versions of the songs… and the songs become popular as well because of the Koreanovelas, right? … Kitchie Nadal… one local artist she’s not really well known before but because of Lover’s in Paris, Wag na Wag Mong Sasabihin she became a hit…
And also one thing the song…Mama bear ay maganda (the three bear song)… all the people know that song… and you can really see when you go to other communities you can actually see how Full House is very very popular even with the low income communities.
Graduate also mentioned, Discussant 1:
I heard this before…this point was raised before there was emphasis on the settings…like in the story Attic Cat the story happens in the attic… full house in the house of Jessie, in Endless love 1 the beach is significant… in Endless love 2 in Choon-Chun… it’s really important … but here (Filipino telenovelas) the story takes place any where and (Discussant 5: the world is too small) they always bump into each other…
Outside elements besides production quality Discussants also pointed out the outside factors beside the production aspects of Koreanovelas in the recent phenomena. They received the Filipino dubbing as culturally relevant and a contextualization process of foreign television contents in the Filipino context.
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Undergraduate group said, Discussant 7:
But I like watching Korean telenovelas in tagalized version than in English Subtitles because I don’t know the tagalog version I can really relate and understand what they have to say…(Facilitator:
O really ? can you see the
dubbing is relevant?) Discussant 6:
yeah… very much… sometimes they change the dubbing to fit the culture… how Filipinos talk…
Yet, some argued that the dubbing actually distorts the real meaning of the original culture, which is Korean. They understood that there might be some loss of original meaning in the translation. Some even pointed out the loss of original meaning as deception.
Undergraduate group said, Discussant 7:
Actually that’s the one thing that the non-fans …ahhh… I know some people who do not watch Koreanovelas and any other dubbed because they say that are you sure that’s what their trying to say their just fooling you… as in I don’t know if that’s what their trying to say but as far as I can understand that and I can appreciate it… I will watch it… o they’re just fooling you…
One more outside factor that the discussant pointed out was the promotion of Koreanovelas from the network that imported. They understood the recent popularity of Koreanovelas was supported by the forceful promotion and advertisement from the network.
Graduate group said, Discussant 5:
I think that’s also one factor the way how the network promotes a program.
Yeah very true… aggressive promotion.
Whether you like it or not, the way they market the program you will be glued it.
Some negative aspects in the reception of Koreanovelas Some discussants did not appreciate the plot that was too melodramatic and the story which was somewhat exaggerated from the real world.
Graduate group said
They’re too melodramatic.
I don’t like the melodramatic soap operas kase.
like the funny ones like Full House, Sweet 18, Attic Cat, Lovers in Paris.
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I don’t like people who cry all the time. It’s too depressing. characters who die.
That’s why I don’t watch Green Rose.
I didn’t watch Stairway to Heaven. (laughs)
I don’t’ like
You’re suppose to be entertained right
then go home at night you want to be entertained so why watch something like that…
Telenovela as cultural products and meaning constructed
TV viewing as culture education Discussants understood the cultural construction of the Koreanovela among Filipino audience as it was drawn in the study framework. They perceived and appreciated the Korean culture from the mediated form of lessons from telenovela.
Discussants literally mentioned, the Koreanovela as a culture
“education” apparatus, which Filipinos see and understand the everyday life and society of Korea. They perceived viewing Koreanovelas as a way to understand Korea.
Undergraduate group said, Discussant 4:
I think Koreanovelas open the mind of Filipinos about Koreans …. Our professor, Prof. Umali said before that Filipinos think Koreans are noisy people, something negative. But, then because of the Koreanovelas… the perception of Filipino people toward Koreans become positive so people wanted to go to Korea and experience the culture there… and also one more thing, Koreanovelas help really, before I’m not familiar with Korean culture I don’t even know what they look like so through Koreanovelas, I think it gave us window so we can see Korea and we can see the culture … and we could see how they live there… so it became something like an advertisement something like that for me so sometimes I before I think now I think of going to Korea someday to really see what they actually look like something like that...
Common Hierarchical and close family relationship Among many cultural features that the discussants perceived, hierarchical and extended family or community based family relationships were dominantly mentioned both by graduate and undergraduate discussion groups. They thought that those features are commonly shared within Asian countries including the Philippines. With watching the Asian-ness in the Koreanovelas, they felt more closeness in the cultural aspects, which actually made them more interested in watching the Koreanovelas. The perception agreed with the cultural proximity arguments (Straubharr, 1991) but in different ways from the argument in East Asia.
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Graduate group said, Discussant 4:
And maybe the stories are very much similar to our culture.
really?) Like we can understand ah, we can understand ah that ah children listen to their parents (Facilitator: obey your parents)
… it’s very, very similar to our
Undergraduate group said, Discussant 1:
And I also would like to add… that the strong family ties in Koreanovelas. It is always present. Like in one show titled Irene shown in GMA7…
mothers is living… still living with her son’s house and even the married son is also living in the same house … so we can see the extended family ties… same goes to with Filipino marriage
… when a child married he or she can stay at
his or her parents house…
Different work values In addition to that, particularly the discussant 3, in the graduate discussion group, understood the different work values, such as greetings among peers and break within working hours, from watching Koreanovelas.
Graduate group said, Discussant 3
Yeah… in terms of work relationships… I used to have a Korean boss he use to own this IT oriented company and he’s my boss … He always ask me… “Why Filipino love break?”… “What do you mean break Joe?”… “Filipino observe early morning break and then before you go you have breaks in Korea it’s not allowed.” “Ok Joe.”
Now I understand when I watched the ad agency soap
opera I understand why these Koreans how these Koreans value their work and even observe their time their official working time.
May coffee break ka na …
you observe coffee break… as soon as we … bout this we attend to our work… we love making coffee we love to take our breaks don’t you have official breaks… but for Koreans the only official break is lunch break.
Negative gender and other relationship Besides similarities and positive interests, discussants also perceived some negative values among Koreans through the viewing of Koreanovelas. Especially in the relationship between male and female, police officer and the criminals were not culturally accepted among Filipino audience.
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Undergraduate group said, Discussant 5:
The relationship of man and a woman … I mean here in the Philippines, when you see some guy kicking or slapping a woman … I mean.. It should not be… but with Koreanovelas, I mean …with Full House, with Attic Cat… what else… we see…men physically …not abusing… men are very physical with women. I don’t know if it is bad thing or a good thing in Korea but here in the Philippines it’s not a good thing
Undergraduate group again said, Discussant 4:
I see in some Koreanovelas or even Korean movies the police are like it’s a normal practice they treat badly the criminals… something like that… They abuse the criminals they punch that…but if you that in the Philippines you will be liable for a crime some thing like that…Is it normal for Korean police to treat the suspects like that? …
Cultural tapestry 1: Food, dining, and communication An important part of the cultural tapestries of any culture, food is an essential part of their life. Discussants saw various dishes and the dining culture, which are different from that of Filipinos. And they understood the meaning of dining together within a family. It was the place to share and made decisions for family matters. Interestingly they perceived the drinking as an interesting social aspect of distinctive Korean collective culture. They understood different context in the drinking with peers. They also see the gender equality in drinking scenes in Koreanovelas.
Undergraduate group said, Discussant 4:
One more thing… I always see in Koreanovelas like for example after work they always have a drinking session… I don’t know if it’s a culture or it is a point of recreation for men like that…but here you only drink when you have a problem……(bill- really)
o he’s drinking he has a problem there has to be a
problem… Discussant 5:
And girls … the women (in the Philippine soap operas) do not drink but in Koreanovelas they also drink…
Graduate group said
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I like the food. their eating.
Kimchi. (Discussant 2: see weed) They actually cook while
I would like to do that.
And they always drink the one in the
green bottle Korean beer or something, Korean wine, So Ju… Facilitator:
Korean liquid, it’s not beer but it’s a (Discussant 4: So Ju) yeah…
Even women like to drink (and they drink and they drink)
yeah, they drink
Undergraduate group said, Discussant 6:
And the… in every episode, at least three times… we see them at the dinner table. The most important decisions made are always talked about while they are eating…with the family … very Filipino…(Discussant 3: but we have chairs and they don’t ) (laughs)
some have chairs… even beds… they have a lot of
Cultural tapestry 2: Traditional custom and contemporary fashion Custom is also another way of appreciation of any given culture. Discussants pointed out the distinctive feature and the use of Korean traditional clothes, Hanbok, as a way of life in Korea.
Graduate group said Discussant 4
In Sweet 18, they are wearing the traditional Hanbok, was it Hanbok, it’s about two prominent families in Korea it’s part of their tradition to marry the children their suppose to be wearing that thing, that Hanbok while their newly wed or something.
They even have the traditional Korean wedding with the knots and
all the bowing they keep on bowing actually, they love to bow. Korean I think.
Filipinos is just (Discussant 6: Kissing the hand …)
They also saw some advocates of Koreanovelas following the fashion and hairstyle as the expressions of cultural appreciation.
Undergraduate group said Discussant 6:
Even the fashion for the girls, what’s her name?
Jessie, she’s always wearing
cute clothes… it’s like jacket with shorts…and the hair and right now it’s like a trend you will see in the dept. stores with those kind. (Facilitator: I didn’t know about that) Discussant 1:
And I have a friend when she watched Endless Love – Jenny episode…I don’t know the title when she watched that… Jenny is dyeing right? … because she
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has cancer she was also wearing cardigan jacket… with different colors pink, green… and one time I asked her why are you wearing that it’s so hot… ah I saw it…she bought a lot of cardigan… Discussant 5:
Filipinos love straight long hair… and in Full house we saw Jessie wearing different kind of hairstyles… and it’s curly… and actually my friend watching full house made her hair curly…
Besides the cultural tapestry, discussants also perceived an impression with the way of Korean wedding, engagement party, marriage by arrangement of parents, social taboo that unmarried couple staying in a house, as social and cultural aspects.
Expansion of worldwide viewership through Oversees Filipino Workers (OFW) Interestingly the popularity of Koreanovelas among Filipinos was not limited to within the Philippine Islands. Some discussants eye-witnessed the spread of Koreanovelas through the Oversees Filipino Workers (OFW) all over the world.
Undergraduate group said, Discussant 1:
I would like to share… my sister lives in Dubai then she came here in the Philippines while she visits…
this happened last month…Green Rose was
showing on ABS-CBN 2… then she watched 3 to 4 episodes of Green Rose she became hooked attached to the show. Now she is back in Dubai she’s asking me to look for a copy of Green Rose and I ask her,
“where am I going to get a
copy of Green Rose?” and she told me …find a way…(laughs)
Yeah… even my niece who’s 6 years old she’s living in Saudi… but then last month they came back she didn’t know how to speak Tagalog but she was watching Attic Cat… she didn’t understand a thing but she like she calls Noreen ugly girl but now she calls her Nice girl… and then the boy she calls him good boy and then Denise she calls her bad girl…and then Dominique she knows him because it’s the name of the King in Barbie in the Princess and the Pauper so she knows Dominique the rich guy…then she just watch she watch it more than I do… it’s very cute I think she watch more on the visuals rather than the story… and she’s only 6 years old…
The future of Koreanovela in the Philippines: a trend, a fed Interestingly, in the wide acceptance of Koreanovelas among the Philippine audience, discussants
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predicted the future of Koreanovelas as a faded trend and would be substituted with something new. In addition, Discussants also saw the changes among the local networks with adaptation of the pattern of Koreanovelas. But they continued seeing the regional exchange or interests in Asian contents among Filipino audience.
Undergraduate group said, Discussant 5:
actually I think it’s more a trend… I mean you go with the trend… you go with the flow…I mean people are fed up with Mexican novelas…let’s go with something new… I mean people are getting fed up with Taiwanese so they go with something although it’s not really new I mean… sometimes the faces are just the same…Taiwanese and Korean you can’t distinguish which is Taiwanese which is Korean… but the stories …I mean … the stories are different…the plots are different.
The last account toward the future of Koreanovelas provided fast changing trends and interests among Filipino audiences. They all agreed that the pick of the popularity of Koreanovelas in the Philippines would not last long due to the nature of soap opera audience to look for something “new.” And the loyalty toward Koreanovela was not significant. They see the last popularity from Mexican, Taiwanese telenovelas and actors and actresses that have faded away. Providing new and fresh contents with various plots and actors and actresses are suggested in order to keep the interests from the Filipino audience.
Summary and Conclusion The answer of the topic, “Is it too early to talk about Hanliu in the Philippines?” can be answered as “No,” by the discussions made by the research participants. The number of imported Koreanovelas in the Philippine free television networks, and its reception among discussants clearly showed the wide reception and its cultural effects among Filipino society and people. Discussants asserted that the television viewing of the Koreanovelas has become “a way of life” among Filipinos and the influence of the viewership extended to the interests on the explicit and implicit culture.
Discussants mentioned wide acceptance of Koreanovelas regardless of gender, and age among Filipino audience. They literally mentioned that it is “phenomena.” Some advocates mentioned that they have used some other Korean mass media channels, particularly Arirang TV, which is the only Korean satellite network, and Pirated movies and VCDs and DVDs for review and collection. They have great interests in
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the Korean mass media as a new way of entertainment, culture, and trend.
Interestingly “cultural discount” was given to the Asian look and culture, which was quite different from the original argument. Due to the long and strong western influence in the Philippine media, discussants strongly mentioned that Filipino television audiences have felt the need of something “new” out of western contents on TV. They understood the popularity of both Taiwanese and Koreanovela in the Philippines as the trend to Asian face, story, and culture, which are more relevant and close to the Filipino audience. They affirmed that the trend would be continued regardless of any telenovelas as long as they are from Asia.
At the same time, “cultural proximity” argument was also proven. Discussants have found some cultural similarities in the social aspects such as hierarchical family relation between elders and younger ones, the extended family relationship, and others… At present, the regionalization argument was only done within the nations which Chinese and Confucian cultural value have been deeply embedded, such as China, Japan, and Taiwan. Yet similar but different cultural proximity has been shared within Filipino audience with toward Koreanovelas. When the Filipino audience recognized the cultural similarities, they felt more relevance and close sympathy, which eventually have led them to closer viewership of Koreanovela.
Discussants have perceived Koreanovelas as a “widow” of understanding Korean and its culture. Koreanovelas have become a cultural window to view what Korea and its people look like, such as traditional and contemporary fashion, music, food and others... They have found some cultural aspects from which they have constructed the Korean-ness.
Not only the explicit material cultures but also implicit cultures and values from the Koreanovelas have helped Filipino audiences in understanding of the given country. A discussant pointed out how she perceived the different values and attitudes among Koreans in relation to work. Yet through the viewership of Korean telenovela she expressed that she was able to understand and work together with Koreans in her workplace. Due to the nature of television soap opera, which deals with life and the people with a culture, the viewership from another culture has served as an opportunity to understand the explicit and implicit culture.
Limitation and Recommendations for further study The research has attempted to know the perception of Koreanovelas among Filipino audiences. Due to the limited existing knowledge and research regarding the matter in the Filipino context, the research was limited to exploring broad reception among Filipino audience, if it is not too general topic as Koreanovela in the Philippines. The research would be better if the scope of the subject is limited to certain aspects,
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such as a particular time, telenovelas, and group of audience.
It was also limited in the character of this study to have purposively selected discussants from undergraduate and graduate students at University of the Philippines, the College of Mass Communication to generalize the finding as general reception among Filipino audience or youth. Due to the nature of the subjects who are currently studying mass communication, their perception towards the subject might be somewhat different from the general audience, though their critical and analytical insights made this research fruitful.
The result of the research suggested to further investigation of reception among various audience groups. Due to the wide variety of audience groups regardless of gender, the comparative study of receptions between the different audience groups both rural and urban area, such as how the different social groups read and receive the Koreanovela as a way of learning Korea and its culture could be done.
In the research, advocates have gone to use Ariang TV as another media channel for Korean media. It has been aired to propagate and introduce the culture of Korea by the government. The reception and viewership of the Arirang from both Koreans who live in the Philippines and the Filipinos was suggested.
The content analysis of the Koreanovelas that have been shown in the Philippines was also worthy of investigation. The research was limited to understanding the perception among Filipino audiences. The contents that have been filtered by broadcasting companies were left for the further study.
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Focused Group Discussion Guide Topics
The consumption of Koreanovela a.
Familiarity of Koreanovela in the Philippines
The period of the familiarity
The personal and personal communities’ viewership of Koreanovelas
“Personal communities refer to the set of active and significant ties that are most important to people, even if they are geographically distant. (Pahl and Spencer 2003, quoted in Pernia, Pascual, and Kwon (2004)).
Interests or attractiveness in the viewership a.
The attractiveness of Koreanovelas •
Stories and Plots
Fashion and others
Positive and negative differences between Korean telenovelas and other novellas such as Latinovela, and Chinovela
Telenovela as cultural products and the meaning constructed a.
The representation of Korea through Koreanovelas
The cultural features that represented by Koreanovelas
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