Finally, formerly hard-to-find K-dramas are in one app and subtitled in close to 150+ languages.
If the mega-hit Squid Game did nothing else, it convinced anyone on the fence of the high production value – including superb acting – found in K-dramas. The show was also successful in building up an emotional connection between the characters and viewers. But for those already firmly on the K-content wagon, the popularity of the gladiator game show was just another chance to yell, “See? I told you Korean dramas are awesome!”
Actually, let’s rephrase that. While Korea is solidly in the lead, there are awesome dramas from all over Asia, including Japan, China, Taiwan, and more. There’s an abundance of richness that’s “Made in Asia” and it’s about time the world paid content from this massive content more attention. Netflix has been helpful to the degree that, with a massive userbase, shows from Asia have gotten millions of eyeballs at once when they’re highlighted by the giant streamer.
But Netflix is hemorrhaging both subscribers and content. We’re not knocking them, but the coemption is catching up. More importantly, however, none of the major streaming platforms have been the place to find a ‘wide variety’ of Asian content. There’s so much more to be discovered and a dedicated app is the solution.
Perhaps you’ve heard people talking about a company called Rakuten, a conglomerate some call the ‘Amazon of Japan’ and their Asian dramas app. What we like about the app Viki is its devotion to a single mission: providing as much Asian content as possible and supplying that content with subtitles in pretty much any language you can think of.
Early on in the app’s development, they offered fans some specially designed software that allowed people to collaborate on subtitling. This was a brilliant move as giving devoted fans a chance to subtitle their favorite shows is not only smart from a business angle but also – honestly, who is going to do a better job translating than super fans of shows? -It’s right there in the name Viki: ‘video’ and ‘wiki,’ as in Wikipedia.
In fact, the idea of using volunteers to help subtitle content earned the company a Crunchie Award back in 2011. From relatively humble beginnings in 2007, the app has now grown into a huge player, a move facilitated by its 2013 acquisition by Rakuten, which gave the app the support and resources to boom.
One report had Viki registered users at 53M globally, but that number has likely grown. The number of languages available as subtitles certainly has grown – in 2022, you’ll find content there in close to 150+ languages – a number no other streaming app comes close to.
There's an exciting, original, well-acted, and fabulously directed cinematic world to be explored, and it’s all available via a single stop. And, not to sound too cheesy, but those who get into Asian content frequently mention things unrelated to acting or plotlines – they’ll tell you that some of what they see changes their worldview as they’ve gotten out of cultural comfort zones and literally seen the world through a unique lens.
As noted above, Korean content is in the lead and K-dramas are a good place to start getting into the Asian film world. There are many reasons why Korean-made shows are winning hearts and eyes, but some reasons mentioned by commentators include the fact that Korean dramas are more family-friendly or PG than a lot of Western television shows. Nudity or x-rated themes, for example, are very rarely portrayed.
We’ll leave you to decide whether violence is better or worse for society than nudity, but in general, it is fair to say the argument that K-dramas appeal to a wider range of age groups and countries because of their cleverly crafted content that doesn’t cross too many red lines – while staying relevant – is valid.
Until very recently one major market has not been riding the latest K-wave, and this location may come as a surprise to some: China. In 2017 China closed its doors to South Korean entertainment, a reaction to a Seoul/US defense deal. But it seems art is once again triumphing over politics as the five-plus year ban appears to be coming to an end after earlier this year, Beijing approved the Korean TV seriesSomething in the Rain, starring the hugely popular actress Son Ye-jin.
Reports say another Chinese platform is also offering Korean dramas while Chinese video sharing site Bilibili has put up the 2017 K-drama Prison Playbook. These signs that Beijing is easing restriction on K-content is huge and welcome news for K-drama fans in the world's most populous nation – and there are a whole lot of Chinese fans.
The thaw in cultural relations between these Asian neighbors is, however, a welcome development for another reason. Cooperation between the two is good news for all of us. Chinese companies financing Korean content or Korean writers helping shape Chinese content only means more awesome stuff to binge-watch… and remember, it’s available with subtitles in as many as 150+ languages!