The Writers' Dilemma

In Korea, it has been said during the entire show production, writers hold the most power compared to anyone else in the crew. However, they too, have their dilemmas. Here’s a short insight to a Korean writer’s world. 

Through the session “Localization to globalization: How the idea and approach of format development change” at BCWW, three experienced writers shared their thoughts on globalization and distribution. Their accomplishments and accolades* are as listed below. 

  1. Kim Mi Yeon - Wrote for KBS’ variety show, “Happy Together” - Produced various variety shows such as “Qualifications of Men”, “Crime Scene”, “Music Bank” and probably most well known for “Running Man” - Co-produced “Chay Di Cho Chi”, the Vietnamese version of “Running Man” with Korea's Seoul Broadcasting System (SBS) and Vietnam’s HTV7 

  2. Mo Eun Seol - Member of the Korea TV and Radio Writers’ Association  - Produced various variety shows for more than 20 years, such as “Qualifications of Men”, “Saturday Freedom”, “Music Bank”, "Happy Together”, “1 vs 100”, “Yoo Hee-Yeol’s Sketchbook” and “Fantastic Duo”  - Awarded the KBS Entertainment Award in 2017 and is currently the main writer for shows by JTBC and KBS. 

  3. Shin Yeo Jin - Member of the Korea TV and Radio Writers’ Association  - Writer for various variety shows such as “Two Yoo Project Sugarman”, “Heart Signal”, “Let’s Eat Dinner Together”, “Dancing with the Stars” etc.  - Received a writer’s award for Korean Arts and Culture in 2020

L-R: Kim Mi Yeon, Mo Eun Seol, Shin Yeo Jin

During the discussion, they’d mentioned writers originally have little understanding of intellectual properties as they were largely focused on salaries, hence, they weren’t concerned if shows they’d created being an international hit, much less receiving royalties. 

Secondly, while working on the creation process, it’s common that ideas came from countless members of the team during brainstorm sessions and perhaps even during coffee breaks, which made it a challenge to define how royalties were distributed. In more recent time, there is more clarity in roles and responsibilities and writers are now able to request for a larger piece of the pie. 

Writers also tend to follow Korean celebrity trends and visualize the shows they create with the most prominent celebrity of the moment in mind. Also, it is fairly common for writers to tweak their stories and endings based on fan reactions. Hence, in the case of drama series, most of them don’t have the longevity to go beyond one season, deeming it unsuitable to scale in most global markets.  Not to mention the cultural nuances and general access to resources in Korea compared to international markets, which could certainly pose added challenges. 

Nevertheless, the writers are keenly aware of the need to adapt to global markets’ demands and spoke of creatively incorporate more twists or unique selling points, favoring more genre crossover and proliferating Korean shows’ overall appeal in the global playing field.

*Photos and list of accomplishments and accolades of the three writers are referred from the Speakers' section on BCWW 2020's website.