The Korea Herald


Legendary K-dramas to return to TV amid exodus of viewers to streaming services

By Lee Yoon-seo

Published : March 5, 2024 - 10:53

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A scene from A scene from "Chief Detective 1958," starring Lee Je-hoon (MBC)

A slew of legendary Korean dramas are set to return to the screen as broadcasters attempt to increase viewership ratings by attracting middle-aged and older audiences, while younger viewers increasingly turn to streaming services for content consumption.

"Chief Detective 1958" will air its first episode on April 19, according to MBC. The new series is a prequel to MBC's 880-episode hit crime detective series "Chief Inspector," which aired from 1971 to 1989.

Starring actor Choi Bool-am as the main lead, detective Park, "Chief Inspector" follows investigators as they solve crimes that took place in real life. According to MBC, "Chief Inspector" had a peak viewership rating of more than 70 percent.

Set in Seoul in 1958, "Chief Detective 1958" will star Lee Je-hoon as the young detective Park and follow the stories that unfold as Park rises to become team leader of his department. The series will also star Lee Dong-hwi and Choi Woo-sung as Park's faithful sidekicks. According to MBC, Choi Bool-am will make a special appearance during the first episode of "Chief Detective 1958."

The new series is helmed by Kim Sung-hoon, who directed films such as the 2017 crime flick "Confidential Assignment" and the 2018 thriller film "Rampant."

A scene from A scene from "Jewel in the Palace," starring Lee Young-ae (left) and Ji Jin-hee (MBC)

Meanwhile, according to Fantagio, Lee Young-ae has been cast as the lead actor for the rebooted version of "Jewel in the Palace," a 54-episode mega-hit period drama that aired from 2003 to 2004.

Set during the Joseon era and following the life story of a palace maid, Seo Jang-geum, "Jewel in the Palace" recorded a viewership rating of 57 percent for its last episode in 2004, according to market research firm Nielsen Korea.

The rebooted version of "Jewel in the Palace," whose current working title is "Medic Dae Jang Geum," is expected to begin filming in October and air in early 2025. The new series will follow the story of Seo Jang-geum, who became a medic at the end of "Jewel in the Palace."

According to the agency of Kim Young-hyun, who wrote the script for "Jewel in the Palace," while sharing the inherent premise with the original show, "Medic Dae Jang Geum" will establish its own continuity such as by recreating parts of the plot and introducing new characters.

In addition, "Princess Hours," a 24-episode romance drama series that aired in 2006, is also set to be remade, according to drama production company Group 8.

Based on a popular Korean comic of the same name, "Princess Hours" is set in an alternate reality where modern-day Korea is ruled by a monarchy. The story revolves around the life of a high school student named Shin Chae-kyeong, who finds out that, due to a promise made by her grandfather to the former king, she is betrothed to Crown Prince Lee Shin.

The drama series had a peak viewership rating of 28.3 percent.

The remake version of "Princess Hours" will be produced by Jaedam Media, which was responsible for publishing the original comic, and Group 8.

According to experts, broadcasters' endeavors to bring back old hits are aimed at producing content that can ensure success by attracting viewership among middle-aged and older audiences.

"Younger viewers have moved on to watching content on streaming services. Therefore, broadcasters' drama series are seldom gaining popularity. Unless the production scale is great like 'Korea-Khitan War,' considering the current media environment, it is difficult for broadcasters' drama series to record high viewership ratings," said Hwang Jin-mi, a pop culture critic.

"Considering the current environment, broadcasters ... aim to create (content) that will guarantee success," she said.

"Viewership ratings of 5 to 6 percent in this environment is considered a success. The remade version of old hits will not only gain the attention of middle-aged and older viewers but will also at least guarantee 2 percent viewership ratings, (which is a) basic success," she added.