These days, K-Dramas are taking over international Netflix. 9 Korean drama series have made it onto this year’s list of most watched Netflix shows so far, and the trend is showing no sign of stopping. However, while these dramas may be hits on Netflix, some of the most popular on the platform picks didn’t do so well in Korea—and here’s why.
1. It’s Okay To Not Be Okay
TvN’s It’s Okay to Not Be Okay is currently the 2nd most-watched K-Drama on Netflix internationally. The drama has drawn acclaim all over the world for its great romantic chemistry, unique themes, and high emotions.
However, the drama’s ratings are relatively low in Korea, down to 4.2% for episode 10. In comparison, Crash Landing on You (another recent tvN drama) achieved ratings of up to 21.6%.
Some netizens said that Kim Soo Hyun’s acting was one reason they didn’t like the drama. It’s Okay to Not Be Okay is Kim Soo Hyun’s first lead role since his military service, which put him on a three-year acting break. As such, his return to the screen was highly anticipated. However, viewers on some online communities said his performance as Moon Kang Tae felt “forced”.
On top of that, the drama has been subject to several controversies since it began. Many Korean viewers felt that certain scenes in the drama constituted sexual harassment, such as a scene where Seo Ye Ji’s character (Ko Moon Young) enters the staff locker room and runs her hands over Moon Kang Tae’s bare chest without consent. It’s Okay to Not Be Okay was later accused of plagiarizing a letter written by SHINee’s Jonghyun.
Another possible reason for the low ratings is that many Korean viewers feel It’s Okay to Not Be Okay isn’t a great drama for family viewing. As a result, they watch the show on Netflix alone rather than on television where views contribute to ratings.
2. The King: Eternal Monarch
SBS’s The King: Eternal Monarch is currently the 10th most-watched show in the world on Netflix, #1 out of all K-Dramas. Fans of the show were in love with the star-studded cast and beautiful cinematography.
However, Korean viewers didn’t respond so positively, with the drama reaching a low of 5.2% ratings for episode 11. In comparison, Dr. Romantic 2 (another drama on SBS) achieved ratings of up to 27.1%.
Like It’s Okay to Not Be Okay, The King: Eternal Monarch was subject to several controversies in Korea. For one, many viewers felt that several elements of the drama’s fictional kingdom appeared to be based on Japan, including the architecture and warships.
On top of that, Jung Eun Chae (the drama’s second female lead) came under fire during the drama’s airtime for having an affair with singer Jung Joon Il.
Another cause of criticism from netizens was the drama’s excessive product placement. In episode 8 alone, viewers found more than 5 incidences of product placement, many of which disrupted the flow and immersion of the story.
Finally, pop culture critic Kim Hern Sik suggested that The King: Eternal Monarch lost viewers in Korea due to the lack of realism. While fantasy dramas do great internationally, Korean viewers tend to prefer realistic shows.