Drama Casting & News
The perils of the live-shoot drama system
by | March 27, 2011 | 138 Comments


“I filmed all through the night until 6 o’clock this morning, and went home only to shower. We’ll have to pull all-night shoots tonight and tomorrow, too, to make the broadcast tomorrow.”

That’s direct from the lips of a drama lead: Yeom Jung-ah, playing the chaebol heroine of MBC’s Royal Family, which is now just halfway through its 16-episode run and already running into the live-shoot madness that comes with filming a drama practically in real time, week to week. And she’s not the only one; the other actors have expressed worry over how much longer they’ll be able to withstand such grueling shoots.

Its timeslot competitor, SBS’s 49 Days, had had similar concerns shortly after premiering; one source there said, “Our drama has a high chance of becoming a real-time, live-shoot drama right from the outset.” (Nooo! Not my pretty Jung Il-woo!)

Royal Family

A brief explanation about the live-shoot system:

Miniseries and special production dramas typically begin filming a month or two in advance of their premieres, although there are some that begin filming several more months before that (reasons: special effects, location shoots, production considerations like large-scale battle scenes). I’m excluding daily dramas, long-running serials, and sitcoms from this because those can have different schedules.

This head start allows dramas to have a few episodes in the can before the episodes hit the air, but the demands of production can catch up mighty quickly after that, and soon shows will be filming episodes the week they air. Two episodes per week means that each episode gets a few days for filming and editing, with not much room for extensive reshoots and the like. Sleep deprivation is a given; mistakes a distinct possibility.

So why do people insist on producing dramas under these strenuous conditions? And no, masochism and inadequate planning aren’t adequate explanations.

It really boils down to ratings, which in turn equals revenue. A drama that hasn’t quite hooked viewers can quickly rework its direction, hoping that’ll yield better results. (Though we drama fans know from experience that this may be more likely to produce schizophrenic plotlines and crazy character behavior than anything else: Daemul replaced a writer and lost a PD; My Fair Lady got confused and suffered an identity crisis; Mary Stayed Out All Night replaced its writer and went insane.)

But on the other hand, there are cases where tweaks can work. Even a successful show wants to chase more success; producers can read the positive fan responses and load on the fanservice to amp even more excitement (Sungkyunkwan Scandal, Secret Garden, and Boys Before Flowers are a few such examples).


But that kind of mentality is hard on all involved, not least the actors who have to power through insane hours and lack of rest. Actor collapses are unfortunately common, as are IV drips for the overworked cast and crew. And remember all those car accidents that plagued Boys Before Flowers? Jammed schedules were definitely a contributing factor. Plus, tired actors make mistakes, which can lead to big injuries in action shoots.

Recently, actor Lee Soon-jae had some disgruntled words to say about the whole drama production system. The veteran of dozens of dramas (like My Princess, Daemul, Wish Upon a Star, Beethoven Virus, and the High Kick series) and over 100 films said, upon the finale of MBC’s weekend makjang drama Flames of Desire, “The script came out for this one week before the end so there was a little breathing room, but the scripts were a mess for My Princess. We must fix this.” The My Princess production was in virtually real-time shoots, which explains the choppy pacing toward the end, where we went from cute and banter-y to dreary dullness in the span of seconds.

Lee added, “Not long ago, a drama even had a broadcast accident,” quite possibly referring to the glitchy finale of Sign. “What kind of country makes dramas like this?” he asked. “With conditions like this, actors won’t want to do dramas. Or instead, they’ll go after huge salaries, with per-episode rates as high as 20 million won.”

One possible fix proposed by Lee Soon-jae is that the broadcast stations, who bear some responsibility for these conditions, make contract stipulations with the outside production companies requiring scripts to be released ten days in advance. It’s a good idea, though I say good luck trying to get that to happen.

Paradise Ranch

The issue can get complicated if you look at all the various factors involved in bringing drama production to its current state — it’s not just a matter of saying, “Well, just start shooting sooner then.” There’s the fact that increasingly, drama series are being produced by outside production companies and then licensed to the broadcasters, rather than being developed in-house as in earlier days. With broadcasters a step removed from the process, money seems to float to the fore as the big driving force of everything — everyone wants everything done fast, and as cheaply as possible.

Consider the case of pre-produced dramas, by which I mean those shows that are filmed months in advance, given ample time to edit and polish, and completed prior to premiere. These are appealing options for actors who might like to recall that mythical condition called sleep, and for crews who can indulge the luxury of spending more than a day in the edit room. Often praised for high production value, they have also, unfortunately, not historically done well with audiences. (Examples: Road No. 1, Paradise Ranch, Friend Our Legend, I Love You, Terroir.)

And if viewers don’t respond to these pre-produced shows, there’s no way to take audience tastes into account — so you’ve just thrown away an expensive project. And production companies have a lot smaller profit margins than broadcasters, so one failed drama can be a huge blow, adversely affecting future productions as well.

Yet even that’s a better scenario than the case where the drama doesn’t even get to air. (See: Birdie Buddy, and possibly also What’s Up and Poseidon). If you can’t get on the air, you can’t recoup your costs.

49 Days

Plus, if you can’t get an airdate, you’ll have a hard time attracting actors, as the MBC drama department head stated. “It’s difficult for us to give up our current schedule (for advertising, filming at the last minute) while considering that actors wouldn’t know when the show even aired [before committing].”

Royal Family’s Yeom Jung-ah is trying to roll with it, but it’s hard: “My character’s personality transformation is extreme, so there’s a lot of work for me to do, but the script comes out so late that I don’t have time to study.”

Midas, likewise, has fallen into live-shoot scenarios, and that drama has had even more troubles managing its story development, with viewers heaping on the criticism for developments (like the broken engagement between Jang Hyuk and Lee Min-jung) that don’t make sense.

All of which adds up to… one pretty complicated, quite possibly very broken system. One wonders what kind of catastrophe has to occur for the industry to pay some serious attention to fixing the problems. Sadly, nothing motivates quite like disaster — you’ll never spur a sea change in the production world on good intentions and positive energy.

Via DongA, Sports Khan


138 Comments from the Beanut Gallery
  1. cherrylim

    i now admire actors and actresses

  2. infiniti512

    If Eric’s accident on the set of Wolf didnt spark change, what will?

  3. Em

    (Nooo! Not my pretty Jung Il-woo!)

    (I agree, we don’t need a Reaper who actually LOOKS like death!)

    • 3.1 oi

      both lines: LOL

      • 3.1.1 AHAHAHA

        “Reaper who actually LOOKS like death” …good one XDDD LOL

    • 3.2 meecheellee


  4. tegami

    Man, I really feel bad for the actors and the rest of the production team who suffer such terrible working conditions. And the dramas take a hit too, a lot of their storylines get so messed up….The reference to Midas really rings true, the development is really starting to show some cracks.

    I hope that broadcast companies learn their lesson before something REALLY bad happens. Who knows, maybe THIS will be the culminating end of the Hallyu Wave if dramas become terrible D:
    And hopefully THAT doesn’t happen. *knocks on wood*

    • 4.1 belleza

      “Who knows, maybe THIS will be the culminating end of the Hallyu Wave if dramas become terrible”

      A lot of people feel Hallyu is the source of the problem.

      • 4.1.1 Biscuit

        Many dramas want to cater to “foreign audiences” when I think they were best before Hallyu hit big :/

        I’m one of those who thought Hallyu was the start of Kdramas losing a bit of their special quality.

        • belleza

          “Many dramas want to cater to “foreign audiences” when I think they were best ”

          True. When you think about sageuks and dramas loaded with location shoots, both feed into that. Pure melodramas fell way out of favor in Korea, but were still being made due to the Asian market. You have projects from Olive 8, which are strictly made for the international market.

          I’m ambivalent about this, though, because the Hallyu market also fuels the luxury and preproduced drama market.

          I just don’t see a complete argument to move away from live shoot, until the Korean TV stations want to stop making romantic shows and transition toward real genre TV.

    • 4.2 Kamo

      1. Because of hallyu, actors’ and actresses’ cost skyrocketted. Before Hallyu wave, the biggest stars got $3000 per episode but now $60000 per episode. So the working condition got really worse b/c it cannot afford to pay more staffs which is crucial for quality of drama.
      2. After Hallyu wave, many good producers, writers and staffs were taken out from MBC, KBS, SBS to new private productions which are made for Hallyu sales market. Before Hallyu wave, 99% of the dramas were made within the broadcasting company like MBC KBS SBS. Recent dramas made within broadcasting companies:My name is Kim Sam Soon (it had really low budget, so Kim Sun-ah lowered her pay), Coffee Prince, Queen of housewives, Soulmate. If a drama is made within broadcasting system, everything flows smoothly with staffs, producers, and writers with good communications and sense of membership.
      3.Those private productions fight a tug of war with broadcasting system which make dramas’ quality worse. They share income, and they become really stingy with budget that improves drama quality. So drama just becomes money source. If ratings are high, nothing matters nowadays. They lost sense of responsibility and a sense that this drama is “ours'” or “mine.” When bad things happen, they blame each other for everything.
      4.Emerging power of actors and actresses gives power to agencies they belong to. So broadcasting system again have to fight a battle with them. This is the reason why there are crappy actors and OST in drama with big stars. They sell their hallyu star with crappy OSTs and new comers in their agency.
      3.The biggest hits in Hallyu sales market in Asia were dramas like winter sonata and autumn in my heart so they make dramas similar to these forever.

      To think about epic dramas made before hallyu wave, it makes me really disappointed. The uniqueness that K-drama had is really disappearing.

      • 4.2.1 Cardina

        Your points are void with the current situations in the industry. Simply a shame that productions can’t just make a drama that tells a story and not cater so much to the comments of viewers.

        Just watching the same plots and characters is boring. I find myself searching for old dramas to watch, like The Bodyguard from 2003. Now, the was a drama: Cha Seung-won and Lim Eun-kyeong, plus the awesome Song Il- gook

    • 4.3 lina

      I dont mind that kind of work hectic coz i will get high pay. If they get low pay, do u think they will do what they do now? Well, they sure take lots of suppliment. Executive B diatery supplement is something really good for hectic life. You all can try too.

  5. Dara

    Shushhhh! the Reaper is here. Hehe.

  6. jyyjc

    I feel tired myself after reading all that (not that it’s a long article, I was just feeling for the actors).

    I recall daniel henney did an interview somewhere where he compared shooting in america and shooting in korea and saying that in america he can get lots of rest but in korea he practically lives in the van. I’m glad for this article, I’ve always found the the live-shoot-drama system in korea rather interesting,

    • 6.1 Meix2

      Not as ‘interesting’ as it is ‘ridiculous and baffling’… How can anyone work this way? Then again, I guess the hardest hit would be mainly the leading actors as they have the most screen time, and not all the actors? But the filming crew must have it hard too.

      Perhaps they shoud make it standard practice to have 2 ‘specials’ mid series, rather than at the end so that the actors get some time to recuperate and the filming schedule gets to catch up? I don’t think 1 episode a week would work though cos it would take 4 months to finish a miniseries and alot of people (i.e. me with my limited brain capacity to persevere and follow plotline) could lose interest halfway. I stuck with drama series like CityHall for about 4 weeks before I realised that it was becaming the best drama EVER…. If it had aired 1 per week I would have simply have given up waaaay before that.

      • 6.1.1 jyyjc

        Well yes, I meant interesting as in baffling XP

    • 6.2 bd

      And actors in the States who have to shoot weekly hourlong shows complain about the hours/workload.

      Imagine what they would say if they had to shoot 2 hourly shows weekly and in near real-time!

      Frankly, I’m surprised that some big Korean stars who primarily had done been doing film have recently done TV, but then again, these days, it’s hard to find good film projects and doing TV usually leads to greater exposure outside of Korea.

      Otoh, I doubt we’ll see Jeon Ji hyun ever doing TV again unless things change.

  7. sandy

    such a dump system its all about the ratings that only means bad quality and no art and thats why korean dramas are getting worse even though they have the potential some pre produced dramas can be brilliant just watch harvest villa

  8. A2Z

    One episode per week?

    • 8.1 Laica

      It works in Japan.

      • 8.1.1 tjack

        And America

        • Saa

          Sounds more sane than anything else I’ve heard so far.

    • 8.2 snowing

      That’s what I was thinking too. One episode per week, and maybe even shorter episode (like 45 minutes instead of 65 minutes). If one minute of show takes about one hours of shooting. 45 hours of shooting and some more for editing sounds more humane and manageable. They can still write the scripts based on viewers’ input.

      • 8.2.1 diorama

        I agree that the Japanese system might work better. Their minidrama equivalents are generally 10/11 episodes of 45 minutes each; and this doesn’t affect the quality of the work, since most of them manage to encompass a lot of plot and character development within that time.

      • 8.2.2 belleza

        Before Korean TV can do that, they have to completely rethink how they do their programming schedule (way back in the 80s, I think Japan used to run a longer programming schedule.)

        Really, SBS cancelling their earlier program hour is a BIG loss for that kind of direction. I don’t think people here fully realized that. Without real evidence that drama programming could be ratings attainable from different slots, none of the stations will move to 8-9, 9-10, 10-11 style programming. You just won’t see the shorter programming, except on cable.

    • 8.3 jubilantia

      Yeah, and rely on quality rather than quantity. Korean dramas have good parts, but the editing could be so much better. I can’t tell you how many dramas I’ve lost interest in and just not finished because there is so much unnecessary silliness in each episode that could be fixed by editing and better writing.

      As mentioned in the post, Boys Over Flowers is a shining example, where the Japanese one zipped along with excellent editing and mostly logical plotlines, while the Korean one flagged and was dragged down with inconsistency. I know for some of the historicals it might not be logical, but the length of dramas could be a consideration; making them shorter, but with less crap in between. I just think the system is not just grueling and unfair, but truly dangerous as well.

  9. Julili

    I love me some Korean entertainment but I also feel that the way they do it is so chaotic.
    I don’t see how a drama done several months in advance can’t work, see how America does it! Dramas like Glee are done way ahead of schedule and yet they are popular.
    Sure, there we also have some dramas that started off amazingly but then died as season kept progressing (Lost, Heroes). But mostly there I think that’s what happens when you have season after season after season. What I love about Asian dramas is that for the most part they are only one season long.
    I feel like Korea does everything so rushed and wanting to gain as much money as possible. Yet they end up losing loads of money because well…. *points to article*

  10. 10 mellowyel

    does anyone know if the situation is similar in Japan, China, Hong Kong and Taiwan? I’m wondering if this situation is specific to Korea or if it happens all throughout Asia.

    also, i doubt we’ll see any changes soon. in the pop music industry people are talking about improving conditions for trainees and such, but it seems more like lip-service due to the numerous lawsuits than anything else. there’s yet to have been any real differences, at least as far as fans can see.

    • 10.1 Rie

      They only have one, shorter episode per week in Japan and although they do live shooting, I’ve rarely heard of this issue – you can really see it in the difference in editing standards between doramas and kdramas.
      Taiwanese and HK dramas start filming quite early (months) ahead usually.

    • 10.2 danni

      I wonder that as well. Japanese dramas are usually shorter (in running time as well as overall length) and only one episode is aired a week, so it may not be as bad. They do live-shooting as well, but it’s not as hectic. Each episode is shot well in advance of its airdate, I think.

    • 10.3 janna

      They pull late hours sometimes, but it’s only one episode a week. I remember reading that on the set of Galileo, Fukuyama Masaharu joked around saying that Shibasaki Kou would sleep everywhere, even on the floor which kind of freaked him out.

    • 10.4 eevee

      i dont think its like this in China. I’m pretty sure that they have a press conference, and then all goes into secret to shoot the actual entire drama. u dont get to see what they are shooting much except for the occasional fancams and entertainment news. then a few months later, the drama airs after everyone has finished. i think because China is not like korea in which there is only 3 TV stations (no duh, more people) so thats why less is wagered on rating and whatnot. But of course, during those few months of shooting, there are definitely days in which actors and crew have to pull allnighters. but then it comes down to the director if he/she takes care of you or not.

      • 10.4.1 belleza

        Not with the historicals, no. Most Chinese historicals (a scale that is often larger than both Korean and Japan) are shot about half to a full year ahead of shoot system.

        However, TW-idol dramas go through a live shoot. But the lead-in time is much larger, and the production shoots tend to be less crazy.

    • 10.5 belleza

      J-dramas go through the live shoot, but they benefit on two fronts.

      1) Shorter running times. One episode per week. 45 minutes per episode. 10-13 episodes. J-dramas run longer than K-dramas.

      2) Seasonal planning. Producers know when shows start and end, thus there’s no demands for episode extension or last minute show swapping.

      J-dramas writers usually conceive the beginning and ending, and then they fill out the rest of the show with episodic writing. This also has its problems. Tsuki no Koibito went through a lot of live shoot issues, due to VERY negative audience response from one actress. Thus, they had to rewrite a lot of the plot . . . and well, because the ending scenario has to be reworked, the story went vectorsplat.

    • 10.6 Hehe

      Taiwan rarely has live shooting THIS close to the episode…like, they’ll maybe be shooting for Episode 14 while Episode 8 or 9 is airing…at most. Typically, Taiwan dramas are done shooting before airing even starts. Shooting while airing only happens if there’s been a delay because of a weather thing, or a rescheduled airing (pushed ahead because of another drama’s cancellation), or some other unforeseen thing, and even then it’s like I said–shooting ep 14 when ep 9 is airing, which still puts them a good amount ahead.

      Japan’s live shooting isn’t NEARLY as hectic. They do it too, but the mess-ups and total chaos is relatively rare and usually impacted by something else that happens–someone gets entered, something interferes weather-wise, etc.

    • 10.7 mellowyel

      thanks for the info everyone!

  11. 11 Leona

    and sometimes kdramas look like reality shows… and acting will look as natural as possible or as cringe worthy as possible

    on the other hand no matter how brilliant the actors are she show will have serious editing and directing problems as Personal taste or Flames of ambition (I’m at ep 40 I’ve seen a few noticeable mistakes- Na Young sees in the morning pictures on the internet taken a few hours later- they could used an older pic of Baek InKi as u do here) even in MGIAG in latest episodes they edited a No Min Woo scene in the mirror: a few seconds his fringe was on the right with the car on the right and the next second fringe on the left with the car on the left- really show?)

    but what do u do with show like Midas where first 2 episodes were beyond bore…and even now they have too many characters and the secondary lead (No Min Woo again) has less appearances than Kim DO Hyun’s Papster- or his loser unbrother(I know the actor is fabulous but the char doesn’t have too much importance on the storyline) even main chars have smth to lose from this :KDH isn’t as active as he should be -all his skills are told by other chars but not even once proven to be so
    plus they could spend a lot more time with the break-up to give me a believable reason- all they could do – they made the heroine being annoying without being LMJ’s fault-her char looked needy and demanding -more like it was her fault they broke up
    more her the second love story is more believable than the first one with KDH- really?Myeong Jun has lots of money- but he is sick-pitiful yes, love material? no matter how good looking is No Min Woo- without previous feelings who would fall in love for a dead guy?maybe Cameron in Dr House- so this makes her sick too
    another one the synopsis about YMJ -where the hell is the playboy- they gave me YMJ in bed twice with the same girl- and not even once with another one – if he dumped that girl could be various reasons (one maybe she was married or he realized she loves only his money or she got bored with cute rockers and started dating Kim Hyun Joong or Choi Si won or whatever)

    ohh Playful Kiss mistake number one: they didn’t train KHJ’s acting as BSJ before the filming and didn’t modify the pace of the story – even they were shooting live – the scriptwriter did nothing in this direction plus KHJ looked unslept with ages when his trump card is his beauty

    Oh My Lady started so good and ended so… dull- because the main leads script repeated itself without playing on the new lil arcs like the lil kid or secondary leads or the villains
    (I missed a good written villain there)

    Sungkyunkwan scandal in his last days of filming Micky Yoochun was repeating the dances while filming with his dancers team even though the contract said clear he must end the filming before

    or Bad Guy- Kim Nam Gil almost said good bye from the set of his drama- and left them discovered with a few episodes and huge gaps in the plot

    BBF went astray with the script

    pre-produced dramas- most of them aren’t that appealing to me so I’ll never watch Athena, Poseidon or Birdie Buddy (sports drama aren’t my thing) because it is not only once when a kdrama improved after listening the viewers
    however I would watch What’s up now

    • 11.1 -_-

      lol i remember that ep of MGIAG, I was watching that and was thinking “did anyone else notice that but me”

    • 11.2 Qwenli

      just wanted to say that athena is not all pre produced. somewhere in the middle they nearly fall into a crisis because they were filming real time as well. When Cha Seung Won was hospitalised and Jung Woo Sung got into a car accident, I believed they panicked too.

      in fact when Jung Woo Sung got injured, they had to delayed one ep and broadcast a special program.

  12. 12 danni

    I’ve always thought live-shoots for dramas were crazy (I remember the BBF madness and the accidents), but it really doesn’t seem like there’s any alternative since pre-produced dramas always seem to get the short end of the stick. Maybe they should plan a mini-break at least halfway through a series run because by then, the drama knows where it stands with its audience to speculate how to finish up the rest of the show and the actors and crew can rest up. They could just show a re-run during that time, so that way they wouldn’t lose the audience and people that haven’t gotten around to watching it yet could catch up.

    This could be frustrating to the audience, but patience is a virtue and I’d prefer to wait for a new episode because a lot of time is actually being spent on it rather than because the actors and crew are collapsing or getting in accidents.

    • 12.1 jubilantia

      Or they could actually do their homework and write a drama that will appeal to people, like everyone else. I mean, you should write what is good and people will like it. You are supposed to do a show and let people be entertained, rather than base the show’s outcomes on the audience response. Their job is to try to figure that out beforehand. I know you can’t always predict that stuff, but this madness has got to stop.

  13. 13 Kiera

    Now I know why actors like Won Bin exclusively do movies.

    • 13.1 Jomo

      And you can’t blame them, as much as we want to see them for more hours on our screens.

      That is why I was delighted that CSW, who has so many more movies on his CV than dramas, will be doing another.

      Maybe his management team put safety clauses in the contract, such as a driver to take him home. All the BOF accidents should have forced somebody to do that.

  14. 14 Jomo

    “One wonders what kind of catastrophe has to occur for the industry to pay some serious attention to fixing the problems.”

    God forbid some promising young actor or production team member dies.

    It is like pre-union days in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory where 148 people died in a fire: Many of the workers could not escape the burning building because the managers had locked the doors to the stairwells and exits.

    These folks aren’t in as dire a situation, but the motives of the money hungry management are exactly the same.

  15. 15 Laica

    Thanks for this well-written and informative article, JB – you answered a lot of the questions I’ve had. Poor actors!

    • 15.1 Laica

      Also, question: do actors in Korea have unions, like SAG in the US?

      • 15.1.1 tjack

        That is a really good question. And I wonder if SAG came about because of situations like this.

        I also heard that in America you can’t shoot for more than 12 hours straight. You have to take a break.

        • teleri

          SAG definitely came about because of this kind of thing – the Hollywood studio actor factories in the 30s/40s/50s. They were movies, but some of the young contract players were shooting 3-5 films at a time – Judy Garland for instance developed her addiction problems due to having to be on amphetemines in order to meet her contract obligations – this when she was in her teens!
          So S. Korea is at that point, sounds like! I really love the dramas (really love the old Hollywood films too) but that doesn’t excuse the abuse of all those making the shows. Hope they get unionized too!

  16. 16 Rie

    I wonder whether this system also contributes to the precipitous drop in quality sometimes seen in kdramas at around ep 8-10… it might mostly be due to the start of angst, but I think it surely has to do with exhausted actors+scriptwriters+crew too… 🙁

  17. 17 Maria Green

    Hm one episode per week sounds good, its an idea that can work, we want better drama, which we can watch again and again if possible.

  18. 18 -_-

    I love K-Drama’s but man I’ve found a whole new respect for actors/actresses….I feel so bad for them, working them like they are machines….I wonder why are pre-produced shows not so popular. I get what they mean but saying “If something doesn’t work with the fans we can just fix it”, but you have to think about your actors, if something goes wrong with them then there is no show. Besides what difference would it have made if Dream High, MGIAG My Princess was pre-produced, I would’ve still love them

    • 18.1 asianromance

      I think pre-produced dramas are also not popular because there is no live buzz about them. There is a certain excitement that comes with seeing new stills from drama as the drama is airing and camera phone pics of people walking by the shoot. There is a current context to the drama and there is a current context to the behind the scenes images. It’s a bit more exciting.

      Not that I can condone actors being inhumanely sleep-deprived like this, but there’s got to be a middle ground somewhere between pre-produced and shooting an episode an hour before broadcast.

      • 18.1.1 tjack

        I lurve my Kdramas and I agree with the live buzz stuff, but it is on crack with Kdramas.

        I never cared about on scene production shots or whatever with Greys anatomy or any of my other favorite American TV shows. I didn’t even know if it was filmed a week or a month in advance. But I did like seeing behind the scenes stuff every once in a while (I am also not sure if those were shot a week or a month in advance).

        It seems like the intrigue with Kdramas is that fans can decide how the show will proceed. Fans have power over the show for live dramas.

      • 18.1.2 -_-

        I agree, there is something about that live buzz that makes a drama so much more excitable to watch but really do that need to work an hour before the broadcast. I mean for one, that puts alot of pressure on the editing team and there work may come out to be so suckish and to have your workers working all hours of the night with barely any sleep is just wrong. I don’t see why can’t they just simply film a week in advance, it will make everyone’s lives a whole lot better.

      • 18.1.3 jubilantia

        But can’t you make behind-the-scenes stuff as you go and then release it as the drama is aired? That buzz is not worth the inhumanity of live shoots.

    • 18.2 belleza

      Pre-produced dramas also tend to be specialty driven, and don’t fit the family/ajumma rom-com format. But nowadays, most of the pre-produced stuff are being sold to cable and optioned out to the Hallyu market. So something like Road No 1 gets heavily paid by foreign investors (i.e. Japan, Taiwan.)

  19. 19 janna

    I’d like to know which scriptwriters take the longest to put out work. Sorry if writing is hard, but maybe you should have a concise idea of how the beginning, middle and end are going to be like before you tackle another show.

    Being a devils advocate: Why should a writer change their plot to please others. I’ve yet to see a PD change/plot change/character drop that made a better show.

    • 19.1 Leona

      he/she doesn’t have just to please others …but the viewership – coz Koreans have the last word no matter what we say overseas – the advertising money are theirs and they spend on the products advertised before and in the broadcast

      Look at dramas like Baker King, Royal family,Sign or Flames of Ambition etc – that did very well in S. Korea and nobody cares in international fandom while dramas like You are beautiful, Soulmate, Playful Kiss, Tamra Island, Prosecutor Princess we loved them but in S.Korea are rather meh or overlooked
      They won’t care that we want What’s up because

      WE DON”T GIVE THEM MONEY or rarely we can find exactly the products endorsed in the dramas – maybe Samsung or LG and even we would want to buy them online because 95% of their sites are in Korean and hardly we could order smth

      • 19.1.1 janna

        No, I mean they change the plot to please their Korean viewers. Which I’m still going to stand by thinking it’s a dumb idea to change your writing just to please some of the people some of the time.

        • Leona

          nobody looks at your drama- the next one won’t be anymore plus production company won’t let you go with it

          • joe&jane

            Do you or did you watch Grey’s anatomy ? Had the writer listened to its audience, they wouldn’t have lost so many et became so dull….

            Something less hectics would be good, better work conditions mean better drama, but I, for one, am all in favor of a minimum amount of live-shooting and catering to one’s viewer like and dislike.

    • 19.2 jubilantia

      Agreed. As a writer, it’s your job to figure out what people want before the drama airs and give it to them, not waffle and figure it out as you go along.

  20. 20 Lenita

    it’s amazing though that the quality is relatively high. just to compare, the dramas in indonesia are also shot in real time, and i never watch them cause they’re so crappy.

    perhaps air-time of once a week can lessen the burden. i’m always amazed why it’s twice a week. it’s a treat for audiences but i imagine it’s hell for the production. i guess they get paid for it, but in the interest of quality, i think audiences would accept once a week run time…

  21. 21 asianromance

    I wonder how some of the older actors deal with this. Lack of sleep is already hard enough on younger actors!

    There really should be a stipulation where actors can have the script sooner. Then directors can plan more efficiently and actors will probably have less NGs because they wouldn’t have to start memorizing 10 hours before the shoot when their brains are already fried from lack of sleep. I always get wary by episode 8 of a drama. The quality always seem to falter a bit. And then by episode 12, it’s even worse. There aren’t many dramas where it gets better as it’s ending.

    There have been studies saying that a night without sleep is like being drunk. You wouldn’t let a drunk person work on your set, would you? In a law and order episode, a character mentioned a situation where a policeman had mistaken his gun for his inhaler and shot himself to death. Do we need a fatal accident? Like an actor so sleep deprived, he fell asleep while he was going down the steps, broke his neck, and died?

    Even in the US, an entire season doesn’t get preproduced. They just stay a few episodes ahead of schedule and take breaks. I think if it’s in the contract that the drama will start shooting earlier or will have a one week airing break 3/4ths of the way through the drama– in return for the perk of sleeping, maybe a smaller salary can be negotiated to make up for a more dragged out production.

    • 21.1 tjack

      “You wouldn’t let a drunk person work on your set, would you?”

      Not unless your Charley Sheen apparently.

  22. 22 astoldbyannabanana

    maybe instead of airing 2 days in a row, air with a couple of days inbetween (ex. monday, thursday)? I’m sure the audiences wouldn’t mind. In fact, they might like it better rather than getting a hit of drama high for 2 days and then a 5 day dry spell

    • 22.1 :D

      yea, i like this idea.

    • 22.2 blahblahblah

      That’s a really good idea! We should go to Korea and give ’em these suggestions…

  23. 23 soinlove

    Well written article! Points the good and the bads.

  24. 24 soinlove

    And I’d like to add, maybe a contributing factor is that audience comments and input are SO important in korean entertainment because korea is such a wired country, and comments from normal citizens can spread so quickly and easily, so audience feedback multiplies.

    • 24.1 lili

      u made me think about one of the first scenes on BBF, when the K-netizens were making drop drastically stocks value of Go Jun Pyo’s mother company because of what happened at school. K-netizens are Truly powerful, they can make it shine and rain for anyone and anything.

  25. 25 Christy

    what an insane, dangerous system! seriously one can die from extreme sleep deprivation. ’nuff said.

  26. 26 pugz

    Wish they would stop treating the actors like disposables. Each extended sleep deprivation is like a having a concussion, really not cool for long term health. Maybe they should all go on strike…

    • 26.1 oi

      A union and all on strike sound great to me.

      • 26.1.1 belleza

        The last time there was a near-strike, the international drama audience freaked out. Sounds good in theory until you realize that show you love ain’t airing this week.

        • Leona

          any pause in the schedule means less viewership see
          Bad Guy, Gloria

        • oi

          I know what you are saying, but I am sure and I promise I won’t freak out

        • oi

          Question: would it be possible to turn things the other way around: we don’t watch K-drama’s until working conditions have improved?

      • 26.1.2 jyyjc

        If that were to happen, I would be able to finally get more work done. sigh.

  27. 27 Maddy

    This any quality of scripts are reasons why I find Hong Kong tv dramas (at least the older stuff by TVB) a lot better. The leads have a solid script in hand and can decide if the direction of the character makes sense to them… but most importantly, actors don’t end up doing live shooting the week of broadcast. This is why accidents happen so often!

    argh, I worry for their lives. Every all nighter takes at least a good 10 hours to make up for the 8 hours… or so someone told me. LOL

  28. 28 liz

    49 days are filming episode 9/10 so no worry now about tight schedule, but well they can always go insane.

    I dont get this thing of filming two or one day before airing.

    The producer don’t trust himself that his work will be good or catch the fan attention?

  29. 29 oi

    JB, thank you very much for writing about this. I have always wondered when these crazy working conditions will change.

    One ep a week sounds like a good start to improve working conditions and the quality of k-dramas in general to me.

    The actors are amazing. They keep delivering inspite of the lack of sleep. But you can tell by the eye bags that start to show, the bloopers and the story that starts to go bananas.

    Maybe that is why Kim Jae Wook prefers to sing, although I prefer to see him acting.

    • 29.1 oi

      I don’t blame the actors for the story line going bananas.
      And can’t blame Kim Jae Wook for preferring to work as a singer

      • 29.1.1 Leona

        again actors are better payed than singers but popularity means better pays for singers and actors too 😛

        • belleza

          Compared to Japanese and HK actors, K-drama leads are paid CRAZY levels. This is one big reason why.

          • Leona

            frankly I could watch any of jdrama or hk dramas or South American dramas… or American dramas (Lost Dr House Star Trek Stargate Universe you know the kind) however I choose Korean dramas – yep they deserve it

            and I love actors who aren’t extremely popular ( popular yes but not with a whole fandom behind them) like No Min Woo, Kim Nam Gil or Yoo Seung ho ( this isn’t legal yet) , Joo Won – tell me he ain’t a good actor 😛 errmm and Jae Hee

          • belleza

            I think that’s a major difference I notice whenever people talk about K-dramas as opposed to J-dramas. You really notice how K-dramas are star vehicles, whereas J-dramas, even with famous actors, come down to the writing.

  30. 30 belleza

    I’m a fan of live shoot. It puts the focus where it should be in Korean trendies — how well are we loving the chemistry? I also appreciate that without the shooting schedule, you wouldn’t have a lot of “comic relief” from side actors, since much of it is sort of ad-libbed to fill out the time.

    What I’ve never been a big fan of is location shoots, and that is where live shoots really suck. Even when you do location shoots well in advance, the writers haven’t come up with a complete story. As a result, they often write the stories around the location shoot.

    I love the prepackaged dramas too. In terms of editing and acting execution, they even the competition with J-doramas, and can rival American cable TV.

    • 30.1 Leona

      except the last phrase you told everything that goes through my mind too…
      which are those prepackaged dramas?to my knowledge?SO I could tell what I love and what I hate about them

      actors ad-libbed a lot in QSD too – that drama had episodes filmed 2 months in advance

      • 30.1.1 belleza

        Prepackage stuff: stuff like Alone in Love, Fight, Harvest Villa, etc.

        The first thing you’ll notice about these shows is they play more like a movie. There’s more single camera placement than TV shows. Ever notice how EVERY sageuk involves people sitting at a table and talking without getting up? It’s because they’re using multi-camera placements, and the actors can’t move without ruining the shot. People do a lot more moving in the prepackaged dramas, when they’re talking with each other, and that helps the realism of the acting.

        The #1 thing the Korean film actors complain about isn’t the crazy hours, but the lack of rehearsal time. Because they often get scripts last second, they don’t get enough time to figure out the characterization or play the line just right. It’s challenging, but it also forces them to play off each other more, rather than to base on text.

        • Leona

          Harvest villa I gave up in first 4 eps – subject not on my taste while Sign I loved everything except finale – his sacrifice not convincing enough for me – I had to convince myself why he did it but I loved secondary OTP and didn’t believed for a second the primary one – even they were somehow ordinary folks in love

          Alone in Love – too much angst I skipped it (rom coms, melos only if I like the cast or the subject too much)

          Fight- errmm you lost me here – gimme another GPS please about this one

          the thing about the round table they make it on trendy dramas too – remember Gumiho Hunter in his lair, Brilliant legacy even it was just one person or better in Flames of ambition, Royal family, even Pasta – all of them around the cooking spot – they do it specially in family dramas no matter if they are good or bad 😛

          it doesn’t matter for me this fact if they prove what are they sayin’ with proves – look at Midas they say all kind of stuffs about main male leads but nobody believes them coz they aren’t supported by the action itself – the same thing it is against the chars in Flames of ambition they all say Min Jae is a pampered kid – and it doesn’t help that Min Jae is played by a kid – they made sound like the char is 14 years old not 21, while the old guy they all say he is scary when he looks like a good old grandpa – the same actor Lee Soon Jae was the scary King in Yi San or Queen Seon Deok – I would say about this char that he is cunning and no one know what he is thinking in reality

          PD made all of them move in Bad Guy but that didn’t bring him the precious ratings however he won Rainbow PD award in Hong Kong

          it is nice to see convincing acting but all the moving won’t make them a lot of money

          look at a tw dramas or at a mainland drama : what can you see way more overacting than in a kdrama – when we see overacting like Seo Woo does we are pretty harsh with them, even Chinese dramas(TW or mainland) have way more movement than a Kdrama

          depends a lot on the culture, actors, their acting school and what ppl that are looking for at them love to see on their screen

          • belleza

            Most “showy” usually goes to Japanese-style acting (across the board: TV, film, etc.), more or less, they go through a more external, demonstrative style. People don’t really appreciate this, but young idol actors get enormous amount of direction and rehearsal. Japanese acting is kinda straightjacketed. Because of how J-dramas are written, if the writing is not there, it’s difficult for an actor to compensate and carry the piece.

            Korean-style acting is kind of the opposite, it’s more inline with the American style, which involves casting and relationship with camera and, you know, “looking good.” Korean acting tends to be the most “emotive”, though other countries may perceive it as overacting. The main thing — and this is probably not something most of you guys understand unless you’ve watched A LOT of Asian TV — is Korean leads are often asked to truly carry a show. If the writing is wacky, if the story goes off into la-la land, the Korean lead must somehow make it work. They have to work HARD to sell this image of the character and seem congruent to everything around them.

            Mainlander acting is usually the most truly theatrical, as majority of actors graduated from proper acting schools. Some would say the Mainlander has the most “serious” acting chops, per actor, for that reason. It’s a very external demonstrative style, but other countries sometime view it as a little bland. However, I kinda feel it’s the true middle ground between J and K styles. The two Queen Seon Duk popular characters — Misihl and Bidam — would be VERY typical in a Chinese historical.

        • Leona

          I ate some words – I apologize – I drank a big glass of red wine before posting

  31. 31 Birdie

    No viewers,themselves, would work under those appalling conditions.Why do we expect the cast and production crew to do that? Like JB said,what kind of disaster will it take to change things? The high number of suicides in the entertainment industry have not changed anything.

    On another note, I was wondering why Midas has so many plot holes,and why I cannot relate to the characters there. LMJ character and JH character did not seem to be a couple in love to start with, the way the breakup happen did not make sense.The other female lead seems to just sit there and recite her lines.But,if the cast do not have the whole script in time and understand their own characters development at the beginning,then it does not translate. Too bad.

  32. 32 purexorange

    I’ve always wondered about this! thanks for posting this
    I know HK dramas film a new series for 3 months and then it usually shows the NEXT year. I’ve read articles about actors being tired and stuff but not to THIS extent where korean actors have to get IV drips and are rushed to film for an episode the next day. In Taiwan I also know that they film months ahead. Even if the show is broadcasting and they are filming , they are already a few episodes ahead.

    If this has been going on for some time , like how these kdramas are filmed I don’t think it’ll be easy to change it so quickly. My heart goes out to all the tired actors and production crew =[

  33. 33 Lilian

    I believe culture plays a role too. Just the whole asian mindset that you’re not working hard enough unless you faint. And if someone else is working more hours than you, then it makes you look bad.

  34. 34 Aya

    very informative!

    How far can they go, subjecting everything to ratings and revenue even on adversely affected terms or massive drop in quality (actor performance, editing, writing, etc.)?
    There should be something else driving them besides making profit… maybe developing or settling for ONE big legit system to recognize and honor TV excellence will pave the way (no ridiculous self-awarding networks please, but something like the HFPA / Academy of TV Arts & Sciences maybe?), rewarding content value instead of income or Hallyu value, assigning fellowships for promising students/producers/writers and establishing scholarships.

    There’s some good suggestions and comparing going on here, nice discussion guys 🙂

  35. 35 glacierkn

    Yes, now I know why top actors prefer movies.

    I agree with switching to a 1 ep per week system. Then, there could be twice as many dramas airing over longer periods of time.

    Now I really appreciate those few dramas these days that are excellent (like Sign, minus the finale glitch). I wonder how they even pull these dramas off.

  36. 36 Nana

    The whole system is very dictatorial.

    The production teams must obey the broadcast station who cares only about money. In order to make money, they need ratings, hence viewership. However, Korean viewership won’t watch if the drama doesn’t go THEIR WAYS.

    I don’t know if K-dramas go for DVD packaged, singer’s CD and stuffs like J-dramas usually promote at the end of each episode to make extra revenue. But that still isn’t the solution to this headache.

    The whole mind set is that viewer can dictate the drama. This loses the sanity of the drama.

  37. 37 Kat

    What a great explanation of what goes on! My only question is, does anyone know why the American TV system is so different? Or is it?

    • 37.1 Jomo

      The US’s labor laws are a lot stricter – and Hollywood has had unions watching out for them for years.

      You can’t hurt a mouse on the set of an American production without getting in trouble. I think that is a good thing.

      • 37.1.1 The Owls

        Owls eat mice. Will we get into trouble then?

        • jyyjc

          Not unless you’re Hedwig.

        • Jomo

          The Owls are allowed to do anything, as they are noble and wise.

    • 37.2 bd

      Back in the day, when the studio system was “king” in Hollywood (before the advent of TV), working conditions were pretty hard as well, esp. for those contract actors who had to shuffle from 1 “B-picture” to the next.

      But still, there is more ‘down time” for actors doing movies (than for TV).

  38. 38 Amg1

    *Quality v.s Rubbish*

    (The Cyber-Culture Wars In K-Drama)

    All endeavors in a “commercial” world, is gear to make the most profit possible at the end of the day,
    So it should not come as a surprise that K-Drama land has “fallen prey to its own success”. As in war, the first casualty is the “truth”, in this case, quality, and script writing, are the first casualties in the K-Drama wars, and the deplorable working conditions of the Actors and crew a short second.

    The second factor that has brought this anomaly, is the “Codependent” relationship between the K-drama producers/investors, TV stations, and the public at large.
    We must remember that South Korea is the most “Internet Accessible” nation on the face of the planet, Europe, Asia are by far more Internet accessible than the USA as a whole.

    The meaning of this is that the public at large in South Korea, can almost give instant feedback as to what they like or not, translating into thousands or millions of Won ( ₩ ) from one hour to the next, making or braking a drama in the span of a few short hours.
    Local TV in Korea as in other parts of the world is gear towards the local economy, the reason why they rarely pay attention to what outsiders have to say concerning their work ethic and practices.

    We want to blame the industry for their reckless behavior, but the primary culprit IMHO is the Korean “public” at large, the Korean public have found a new way of showing the power of the “Cyber-Mob” mentality, people jump on the wagon not because they have a “discriminate” taste, or because they are more “script-savvy” than the rest of us, but because at the end of the day they “control” how their “Wallet” is going to behave, thus making the almighty ( ₩ ) more important, than the proper development plot/character on any drama.

    I have had the opportunity to watched a lot of the “old”
    K-Dramas, and I have mention before how the quality in the last 2 1/2 years has drop dramatically, do not get me wrong not all the current dramas “suck”, but in the last year alone more than one have “bit” the dust.

    The “Greatest Prophet” once said: “You cannot please two Master’s, for at the end you will please only one and an let the other one down”. The K-Drama corporates have tried to please two masters, and as we can see lately they have been able to only please one, to the detriment of the over all fans, not only in Korea, but their international fans also, and that at the end of the day is of great shame!!!!! : O {

  39. 39 SadieStarr

    its sad D:
    not only the tele industry in korea but also idols..

  40. 40 Arhazivory

    Its really disgusting having to work under these conditions. I’m so annoyed that I want to slap someone….but I don’t know who….and I’m too bloody far away.

    • 40.1 Don't call me Mr Hand Towel

      Er….slap yourself? I do that sometimes when I want to stop myself from tilting. It really works.

  41. 41 guini

    …now I know why the actors/actresses ask more than 20 million won for a drama coz basically its a life and death situation…..what happen to the quality over quantity? I always admire kdrama for their heart and soul coz I never had that kind of feeling to any other dramas but now I wonder if they realized how heartless they are to do this to the staff including the actors/actress.

  42. 42 belleza

    “I have had the opportunity to watched a lot of the “old”
    K-Dramas, and I have mention before how the quality in the last 2 1/2 years has drop dramatically”

    Mmm, it depends on what you mean as “old.” K-dramas back in the early-mid 90s tend to have simpler (i.e. less crazy) storylines, and the rom-coms were way, way dialed down. In a way, mid-90s Korean dramas played a bit like American urban TV. If you like shows like Living Single or Monique, Korean TV was your thing. Toward the mid-late 90s, “high” workplace dramas were becoming the thing, and you got to see them experiment with court shows, light police drama, things like that. Moreover, they started to spend bling on location shooting, such as shooting in Los Angeles or New York City.

    I’ve always felt the major problem with the last 5 years has been the decline of the rom-com. It used to be that K-drama rom-coms,which are the easiest to produce and most affably work with live-shot, could do blockbuster ratings. However, since 2006, you see less and less real hits. The alternative are makjangs, but traditional melodramas had also been declining in ratings from 2004-08. So, what did we get? Rom-coms with overblown budgets.

    • 42.1 Amg1

      “Old dramas” as you clearly have stated, had a very simple formula, you got the beginning, the middle, and the end, all those 3 elements were very cohesive in nature, there was a thread of “Logic”, that bind them all together, and at the end of the day we had a story, that even when it went all Melodramatic, as in the case of the “Four Season Drama’s”, their some what sense of “logic” propel them to be such a success, not only in Korea but Internationally.

      (By the way you should know by now that I totally “agree”, with your observations!!!!!!) : O }

      I will make reference again to the “Open Story Format”, where the writer has an outline for the “beginning and end”, but the middle will be base solely on the “public’s feedback” (ratings), living us with the “Frankenstein” drama, where the character’s become a “mash-up” mess of “Schizophrenic non sense” that not even “first rate actors” can save the day, as in the case of “Playful Kiss, Mary Stay Out All Night, just to name a few!

      As we have discuss in the past, that the main reason why I like J-Doramas, is the fact that 8 times out of 10 the story line will very cohesive as they develop the over all drama an characters, as opposed to the K-Drama that are mainly “Idol Centric” in nature.

      I agree that it goes both ways, A very good script (story line) can be ruin by Actors who lack proper Charisma, but as we can see like you mention, in the past 5 years many dramas in Korea have “tank” beyond salvage, even when they had big rated actors, and big budgets, case in point, “Road #1”, Even my beloved “Yoon Eun-hye’ was not able to better the atrocious writing in her drama “Take Care of the Young Lady”.

      But over all I “Dig” your assessment, I think all the point that you made are “Right On The Money”!!!!

      • 42.1.1 belleza


        “I will make reference again to the “Open Story Format”, where the writer has an outline for the “beginning and end”, but the middle will be base solely on the “public’s feedback” (ratings)”

        Gotta understand, the much bashed “live shoot” format is actually the most popular way TV shows are done in most countries. It’s the default one used with soap operas and telenovelas, even when writers do have an overarching narrative (i.e. “beginning”, “end”, etc.) intended. If you’ve grown up watching daytime dramas like General Hospital, Days of Our Lives, etc., then you know about how writers guage what couples work, how audience response affects plotlines, and how production issues cause all sorts of wackiness. Because — at the end of the days — what drives the story is audience response to the romantic couple.

        Most Korean TV are soaps, the coded term for this are “trendy dramas”, but more or less, these shows are soaps. THAT’s the “problem.” If people want the entire genre to move forward, then they have to take the same step that Japan did in the early 90s and move away from soaps toward true genre television, where soaps are only a small part of the whole. Then, at that point, the live shoot format may not be used.

        Where live shoot really fails is when producers don’t account for the PRODUCTION constraints it imposes. THAT is the lesson that American daytime drama TV learned in the early 90s, when they tried to outdo each other with exotic location shoots. They realized it cost too much, created huge writing problems, and didn’t create the big rating dividends that they hoped for. At the end of the day, it still came down to audience responding to a couple or not, and they are rarely fooled.

        Also, it’s not like writers make an arbitrary plot. There’s still a basic structure. You can expect a kiss around halfway through the show. You can expect a romantic triangle, where the support guy ALWAYS loses. If it’s a melodrama, you can expect some revelation to occur later on. If it’s a rom-com, usually there’s an issue with a family or chaebol. There’s a reason why most K-dramas are formulaic. It’s kind of a set template, so the writers can tweak and tweak without going off the deep end (*cough* East of Eden *cough*)

        “the fact that 8 times out of 10 the story line will very cohesive as they develop the over all drama ”

        Yeah . . . I’m inclined to agree. I think Japanese dramas, at their best, compare very well with American cable TV. Though I would add that Japanese dramas can also be shunningly terrible in a way Korean can’t, just by being so wrongheaded in story.

        The thing with the 45 minute, 10-13 episodic format, is that if Korean dramas were adapt to this, you would lose a lot of the stuff people love about Korean dramas. You’d lose a lot of the “shipper” moments, the ad-lib comical bits by the side characters, and well the psuedo-MV montages.

        “Even my beloved “Yoon Eun-hye’ was not able to better the atrocious writing in her drama “Take Care of the Young Lady”.”

        Frankly, I felt people (i.e. YEH fans) overreacted to My Fair Lady. The mediocre writing wasn’t any worse than your average show, but a lot of people ended up overreacting to the lack of ratings success. I mean, people like Secret Garden, even though it’s easily the worst show Ha Ji Won has done since she became a big star. But, Secret Garden was a massive hit, and it’ll likely be perceived as a lasting Hallyu drama for years to come.

        But, big picture, this is why I get pissed off when people bitch about the salaries that top Korean actors take. Just like American athletes, they get paid that kind of money, because they EARN that kind of money. They’re not only the leads of a show; they’re like the project managers that have to take the failure of the project, even if they’re not at fault. Their image always rides on the line. Japanese leads do not get paid as much (sometimes 1/4 to 1/10th), but do not face the same pressure. If one project tanks, as long as there is good perception from their peers, they’ll get another shot at another top project. Moreover, if they can quantify that success in terms of pop music sales, commercial earnings, etc., their management recognizes that and will continue to promote them as a top lead. That’s what happened with Aya Ueto. Her dramas would do spectacularly low ratings, but she had one of the highest Q ratings for CMs, so she continued to get starring roles.

        • Amg1

          I agree with you!! Brilliant as Always…. : O }

  43. 43 Don't call me Mr Hand Towel

    It’s amazing that I still looked pretty even after going without sleep for so many days. I think it was the head tilting that kept me looking fresh. Nothing like a little exercise to rejuvenate the mind and body.

    • 43.1 Hot Reaper Boy

      I don’t tilt….is that going to be a problem, you think?

      • 43.1.1 Don't call me Mr Hand Towel

        But you do that eye-widening thing a lot. That should help, I think.

        • Hot Reaper Boy

          Thanks, dude. Anytime you need an elevator just give me a holler. I owe you.

  44. 44 Biscuit

    I pity the actors, but I also pity the idols who are not used to this live-shoot system and already have a hectic idol schedule. Particularly when they are doing their music promotions. You always see an idol saying they want to tackle acting, but sometimes I really worry about their health.

    • 44.1 chajjye

      Many idols tend to act when they are not promoting, i.e. 2PM Wooyoung and Taec in DreamHigh, 2AM JoKwon and BEG GaIn in All My Love (?). Of course, you have the exception, i.e IU (with her Real album)

      Once they become trainees, they are taught everything from singing to acting to languages…then they debut with comebacks almost every half a year. It’s amazing they’ve got time to sleep and think bout funny things to say during variety shows. And variety shows can film up to 9 hours for that short 1 hour program. O_O It’s crazy, this industry. LOL. Crazy.

  45. 45 Qwenli

    This is one article that I was really looking forward to because I think most of us korean drama addicts have issues with the lifeshooting system (who wouldnt?)

    And I am happy to read what everyone has to say about the different systems in each country. I learn alot from here.

    I think for HK, I just want to add that they have the benefit of having a monopoly situation with only one popular broadcaster, so they can plan a year ahead and shoot way in advance as well.

    Also I will like to highlight that Jang Hyuk has also fallen sick filming Midas and was reported to had to be jab with painkillers to keep going. They were filming in extreme cold weather, travelled to Busan for a bumpy yacht scene and then even as a financial biz show, they want to add in a fight scene (probably to capitalise on Jang Hyuk’s fighting skills).

    I know lots of Koreans actors/actresses got criticise for bad acting, now I know we cant blame them. If the script only come out on the day of filming, there is not even time to memorise your lines. Where is there time to construct the character or practise?

    I saluted the actors that can go without sleep for days. This is not human at all. I know they are always short of jobs but whatever happen to human rights? Maybe the actors association shd put in some request for minimum hours of sleep/rest.

    I really hope the system get revised too, otherwise some major accidents may happen and also we viewers will just be plagued by dramas that have a great 1st few eps and with a weak or wierd ending!!

  46. 46 chajjye

    It’s crazy. Especially with the HD system, the actors’ eye bags are so obvious that by the end of the drama, they just looked like they need sleep more than love.

    HyunBin had confessed that after Secret Garden his health deteriorated a little and he had to get IV drip (it’s actually so common in Korea right now, don’t you think? Idols get IV drips almost all the time. It’s like eating kimchi. Their arms must have many needle scars. -__- )

    Sigh….I love my Korean dramas and my Korean mainstream pop, but please give these people rest. Pulling an all nighter was already jeopardizing my health as a normal person, what more them? 🙁

  47. 47 theedie

    Regarding the concern over high ratings, do they ever use test audiences over there? I know when it comes to making movies (not sure about tv shows), the majority of studios do pre-screenings of their movies to test audiences to gauge their reactions and get feedback to see if their stories are being perceived by the audience the way they intended. I know Pixar does this all the time, and they’re the masters of quality when it comes to cinema. I would think Korean drama productions would greatly benefit from using the test audience method for retooling their dramas if they’re so worried about pleasing viewers.

    • 47.1 theedie

      woops, forgot to specify that it’s American studios who use test audiences

  48. 48 guini

    …oh poor HB! i missed him already. No wonder when actors came from their MS they look healthier and here i am thinking they’re suffering in the military? now I believe MS is a breath of life for this actors and going to the normal mainstream of being human.

  49. 49 Jewels

    I am not a fan of live shoot dramas. Late scripts and all night shooting especially in the middle of winter with no heating system on is madness. The actors – many of them are sleep deprived, we can see that with the awful bags under their eyes, we can see their breaths when they are talking, look at Dream High for instance – those poor kids, and we hear how some actors, for instance Hyun Bin had to get IV treatment because of exhaustion.

    The problem is when all these things occur, the quality decreases as well. We may see problems in editing, which is not a rarity, is see these errors routinely. I feel very sorry for the actors, I really hope that they are highly compensated for the hardships that they go through filming a kdrama. I only wish that the conditions for filming change.

  50. 50 kit

    i pity anyone in the entertainment business. to any standerby, it just seems like easy work, lots of celebrity love, money at your fingertips. they’re just ignorant though, or believe that it’s the price that comes with fame. it’s so cutthroat, especially in places like korea.

    i think even worse than being an actor is being a singer though. a kpop star, to be precise. you may scoff at the music they’re singing, but they’re dealing with such a rigorous schedule every day of the year, unlike actors who at least have time to rest after a project is over.

    all in all, i have so much respect for them. i didn’t even understand how LDW could memorise all of his damn lines in Partner which was in a similar situation, let alone emote them so well.

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