No matter if you just want to join the conversation, compare reviews or catch up with recaps, there are lots of possibilities out there to feed a Kdrama obsession. Nowadays you can find a dazzling amount of information on the web – in fact, it can be quite overwhelming sometimes.
So I created this guide to help you find the info you’re looking for and ways to connect to other Kdrama fans.
Kocowa (United States only)
Which streaming websites are available to you depends on where you live. Kocowa and Viki are the big players in the United States (where we are located) – the last one is also accessible in other countries but with different country-specific conditions. Other companies stream dramas in different parts of the world, but without any firsthand experience, we can’t really say anything about them.
The growing popularity of dramas has actually made streaming – at least in the United States – a lot more difficult, confusing and expensive. This is due to the licensing deals made by the Korean TV stations. Some dramas are licensed exclusively to only one streaming site, others are available on several ones. Now you can even watch a few Asian dramas (sometimes exclusively) on big global streaming outlets like Netflix, Amazon Prime and YouTube; however, these companies usually have only a small selection. You can find a much bigger selection on these two drama-focused content providers:
Kocowa (Korean Content Wave) is a joint venture of the three big Korean TV networks (KBS, MBC, SBS). It is available only in the United States and streams only Korean content from those three TV stations. It focuses on current dramas and also offers K-pop and variety shows. New episodes are subtitled fast. But you won’t find dramas from Korean cable channels (like tvN, JTBC, OCN) or other Asian countries, nor a full backlist of older dramas from KBS, MBC and SBS.
Viki offers U.S. users a wide selection of Kdramas and Chinese dramas (in addition to a few dramas from other countries), some of them exclusive, some not. It cooperates with Kocowa so you have a wide selection of current Kdramas from KBS, MBC and SBS.
Subscription fees (there are some free options), technical specs and offerings keep changing so check them out to see what works for your individual situation. And, of course, it’s always useful to search the web for possible competitors and better options in your geographical area.
Soompi Kdrama Forum
Soompi’s Kdrama forum is a long-time favorite place for discussion among fans.
Of course, Wikipedia is the obvious go-to site for facts. Generally, it’s a great source of information about Kdramas but there are two caveats: Not all dramas have their own Wikipedia entry in English, and some entries, especially for older dramas, give you the complete plot. Ouch! So, be careful and skim the entry for possible spoilers first.
If you don’t find the info you’re looking for on Wikipedia, try this database. It covers Asian dramas and it is well organized but it’s very bare-bones. Really, just the facts.
Mystified by some of the words in Kdrama subtitles? Baffled by terms in Kdrama blogs? Like other subcultures, dramaland has its own vocabulary – a mix of Korean language and fanspeak. For watching dramas, the Dramabeans glossary is sufficient but if you want to understand the intricacies of fan language, The Fangirl Verdict’s page is better.
Asian Addicts Anonymous
If you want to explore the world of Kdrama related blogs and websites even more, check out NeeNee’s extensive link list for Asian entertainment related sites.
This is a Korean movie and drama database with lots of useful info about Kdramas. I like the news page and the blog with reviews of Korean films and drama episodes plus items on Korean culture and lifestyle. You can also search for actors and actresses but the most useful aspect is the search option for reviews. A unique feature is the list of addresses and contact info for management companies, distribution companies and production companies (including TV stations) in Korea.
This is an information hub about Asian dramas in general. You can find reviews of TV shows and movies, news, trailers, articles and forums. And you can open an account and create your own drama list to track what shows you’ve watched or plan to watch. They also provide recommendations based on the dramas you liked – a cool idea but the feature didn’t work that well for me.
Even though a lot of information about Korean dramas is now easily available on mainstream websites, blogs are still relevant. Not only are they fun hangouts for fans but they also provide important kinds of critical information that you can’t find anywhere else. I’m talking mainly about the three “R’s”: recaps, reviews and ratings.
These detailed retellings/reactions allow you to relive each episode, be exposed to a different interpretation and sometimes discover details that you missed. A quick look at a recap of the first episode might also help you decide if the show is worth watching, while a look at the last episodes might allay your fears of an unwelcome ending.
Worth The Drama
• Reviews and ratings
You can get good thumbnail descriptions of dramas on streaming sites but if you like reviews, blogs are a great resource. While a lot of blogs celebrate Kdramas in general, some take advantage of their independence and provide critical reviews and the occasional bad rating. And yet others make an implicit critical selection by simply focussing only on the best dramas, like we do here at dramaroma.
The Problematic of the Unproblematic
The Fangirl Verdict
The Cat that watches TV
• Drama News
• Drama Locations
HOW TO JUDGE REVIEWS AND RATINGS
Drama reviews and ratings tend to be less critical than film criticism. I think this is due to the fact that while a film critic can usually endure the two hours of sitting through an excruciatingly bad movie (and then publish a crushing review), most drama viewers simply drop a drama after a few episodes if they don’t like it. Who wants to lose 16 – 20 hours of your lifetime suffering through a terrible drama? So it’s mostly the fans who watch the whole thing and then give it exuberant ratings. Sure, there are always some who don’t like the ending or the plot development or the tone changes and still watch the whole thing and then write critical reviews – but these tend to be only a few.
Then maybe viewership ratings in Korea might be an indicator for the quality of the show? Well, no. Or maybe. Potentially. A lot of really popular dramas in Korea are not very successul internationally – and some dramas with a big international following hardly made an impact in Korea. However, if you forget about the absolute numbers and just look if the weekly viewership in Korea is steady or even rising, then this could be … possibly … sometimes … an indication that this might be a drama worth watching.
The best way to find new dramas that you might like is simply to follow a reviewer with similar tastes. Sample many websites/blogs and find reviewers who are on the same wavelength. That means looking up some dramas you really liked and some dramas you really hated and comparing them with the reviews you’re reading. The more review pages I read the more surprised I am by the sometimes wildly different ratings of the same show.
HOW TO START YOUR OWN BLOG
If you look around the Korean drama blogging scene, you realize that blogs come and go quite a bit. The classic scenario goes like this: Somebody stumbles across Korean dramas, is completely fascinated and starts a blog. And puts in many hours of her free time writing reviews,recaps and other articles. After a few months or sometimes even a couple of years and many, many dramas later, the fascination dwindles: What seemed foreign and intriguing in the beginning becomes normal, the formulaic structures of dramas become more obvious and one pretty face gets substituted with another. Or real life re-establishes itself with its demands, and the blog is eventually abandoned.
So, if you’re thinking about starting your own blog, the simple truth is: There’s a much better chance for long-term blog survival if you join forces with other writers and publish a blog together. And here’s more advice from Thundie about creating a Korean Drama blog.