[ESSAY] How Will Short-Form Videos Impact Korean TV Drama Reception?

Short-form content also plays a crucial role in the popularity of dramas in the entertainment industry. Recently, the younger generation tends to consume TV dramas not only through global SVOD platforms such as Netflix, but also through short-form platforms such as TikTok, Reels, and Shorts.


Author : LEE Hamin, KIM Nahyun, KIM Sae won (Seoul Nationl University)

Date : 2023.Dec.

This is the era of short-form content. Originating from Tiktok, Youtube Shorts, which are vertical videos of less than one minute, are dominating the global content world. When a new song is released, singers post challenge videos of themselves dancing with other singers on various short-form platforms, such as TikTok, YouTube Shorts, Instagram Reels, and various other online viedo platforms to gain attention. TV channels are also trying short-form marketing by editing highlights or preview scenes from entertainment programs or dramas and posting them on short-form platforms.

Recently, the K-pop male idol group EXO's song "First Snow," which was released 10 years ago, suddenly gained popularity thanks to challenge videos uploaded on short-form platforms, and achieved records in music shows and charts. This case demonstrates the impact of short-form content. In addition, the recent success and popularity of J-pop, which has been driven by short-form content, is evidence that we are currently living in the short-form era. The J-pop group Yoasobi and the singer Imase have gained significant popularity on short-form platforms and have achieved high rankings on Korean music websites. This phenomenon is remarkable considering that J-pop was previously overshadowed by the dominance of K-pop, despite its golden age in the 1990s.

How Do Shorts Mediate TV Drama Reception?

Short-form content, which refers to short videos that typically last less than a minute, gained prominence after Chinese tech company ByteDance launched TikTok in 2017. Later, the global spread of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 led to an increase in time spent indoors, which naturally led to an increase in the population consuming short-form content. Meta and YouTube successively enter the short-form industry, solidifying short-form as a more influential form of social media content. In Korea in 2020, singer Zico's promotion of his new song "Any Song" through the "Any Song Dance Challenge" on TikTok was a successful trend, marking the beginning of short-form being recognized as an important video format. Today, with short-form fully established as a trend in the video platform space, the era of popularity based solely on the short-form format itself is fading. The forecast suggests that the focus will shift to the content and density of short-form video, which will become more important.

Short-form content also plays a crucial role in the popularity of dramas in the entertainment industry. Recently, the younger generation tends to consume TV dramas not only through global SVOD platforms such as Netflix, but also through short-form platforms such as TikTok, Reels, and Shorts. Instead of watching full-length videos of an hour per episode, they are consuming and enjoying dramas in a new way through short, edited videos. Not only drama production companies, but also viewers select scenes from dramas and turn them into shorts. They add background music and subtitles, edit the videos, and then share them online. These shorts often get high view counts, contribute to the buzz and popularity of the original works, and even create buzzwords. As short-form platforms emerge as new influential platforms that are leading changes in the drama industry, examining how YouTube shorts influence the reception of Korean TV dramas is of significant academic importance.

To assess the impact of shorts, researchers collected and analyzed data on both short and long-form videos from YouTube related to the TV drama "Extraordinary Attorney Woo" from 2022. The drama, which follows the challenges and growth of Woo Young-woo, a genius lawyer with autism spectrum disorder, garnered significant attention and was a highly discussed production in 2022. Researchers specifically entered the Korean search terms "μ΄μƒν•œ λ³€ν˜Έμ‚¬ 우영우" and the English search terms "Extraordinary Attorney Woo" on YouTube, collected the top 100 videos based on views, and analyzed them. In particular, the researchers classified the types of high-view short films of "Extraordinary Attorney Woo" into several categories based on common characteristics. The abundance of a certain type of shorts indicates not only a high consumption of shorts, but also optimal topics for producing and creating shorts. In addition, analyzing views alone, in addition to types of shorts, reveals preferred themes for short consumption.

Tiktok Challenge based on the impressive scenes of TV drama.

Focusing on the Relationship of Two

The research results indicated that there were cultural differences between Korean and English shorts. However, there was a notable abundance of shorts containing humoristic codes and those depicting the relationships between the drama protagonists. Shorts dealing with humor and the dynamics between the drama protagonists garnered high view counts. Shorts were found to be effective in emphasizing the actors' performances. Shorts focus on the individual actors, allowing the audience to closely observe the actors' facial expressions, dialogue delivery, and overall acting performance. Particularly, in the shorts with high view counts, Park Eun-bin's cute tone, the innocent way she moves her eyes, performances portraying being bullied by friends, and acting where she cleverly resolves situations were frequently discovered. The actor not only remains the protagonist in long-form videos but is given an additional close-up and framing in shorts, contributing to capturing the audience's immersion and attention within a short time frame.

Furthermore, shorts were found to be optimized for highlighting the relationships between characters in dramas. In particular, there were many shorts focusing on two-person dialogue in which the interactions between characters were explored. Similarly, in the shorts for "Extraordinary Attorney Woo," numerous shorts focused on 'Woo Young-woo's relationships.' This included the romantic narrative between Woo Young-woo and his lover, the friendship narrative with a long-time friend, the confrontation with a selfish character in the drama, moments revealing Woo Young-woo's father's love, and dramatic narratives unveiling the secret of Woo Young-woo's birth. These shorts were designed to maximize audience immersion toward the characters' expressions and dialogue by using close-ups of their facial features and expressions.

Moreover, it was evident that shorts effectively convey impressive and unique dialogue. Shorts actively produce not only humorous lines but also intense and provocative dialogue, as well as warm and poetic expressions. This characteristic clearly demonstrates that shorts are a fitting format for emphasizing the appeal of Korean dramas, especially in an industry where the melodrama and romance genres dominate. Typically, scenes in Korean dramas are emotionally rich, with emotions condensed through story and dialogue rather than action, making them well-suited for shorts. Korean dramas frequently include scenes where dialogue plays a crucial role in shaping the overall narrative. Particularly within close-up frames in shorts, dialogue delivered alongside excellent facial expressions leaves a lasting impression on the audience.

In other words, through the analysis of shorts of "Extraordinary Attorney Woo", researchers discovered that shorts effectively capture specific types of scenes and drama elements. Specifically, shorts prove to be effective in conveying actors' performances, relationships between key characters, and delivering dialogue that induces laughter and emotions. Considering these analytical findings, shorts can be seen as a new media format that skillfully reveals and reproduces the traditional strengths of Korean TV dramas, such as the harmonious combination of actors' performances and close-ups of beautiful faces. Therefore, shorts will accentuate the existing strengths of Korean TV dramas, contributing to the revitalization of both short-form content consumption and the overall consumption of Korean TV dramas. Consequently, shorts will bring new dynamics and an upward trend to both short-form content consumption and Korean TV drama consumption. Overall, shorts are expected to invigorate the global reception of Korean TV dramas as a dynamic new media format.

Neglected by Shorts

Certainly, there are shortcomings in the production and consumption of content utilizing shorts. The drama "Extraordinary Attorney Woo" addresses a diverse range of societal issues, spanning from discrimination against people with disabilities to North Korean human rights, domestic violence, children's rights, sexual autonomy of disabled women, and discussions on fairness. It played a significant role as a public sphere, bringing these social issues to the forefront. Notably, "Extraordinary Attorney Woo" gained considerable social attention, coinciding with protests by the Solidarity Against Disability Discrimination, advocating for the rights of people with disabilities. The unique background of the writer of "Extraordinary Attorney Woo," Moon Ji-won, who graduated from the Haja Center, also captured viewers' attention.

However, despite the role of "Extraordinary Attorney Woo" as a public sphere addressing issues related to disabilities and marginalized groups, viewers did not extensively engage in discussions about the societal themes conveyed by the drama through shorts. This can be attributed to the difficulty of encapsulating complex discourse about structural contradictions of society and realities within the short period of one minute. In other words, due to the inherent nature of shorts, which limits the contextual depth of the drama narrative within a minute, discussions about the serious themes presented by the drama were not as prominent. In other words, the narrative context of a drama is inevitably weakened by the nature of shorts, which are less than a minute long. Moreover, regardless of the seriousness of the topic, they are edited to capture attention. Therefore, while they may emphasize certain social issues such as disability, they fall short in contributing people’s understanding of the broader context in which such social problems should be dealt with. This is because of the limited length of shorts, which weakens the context of the narrative and edited to draw people’s attention regardless of the seriousness of the issue.

In conclusion, shorts are not the most suitable format for conveying social issues that require serious public discourse. This is a notable limitation of shorts, especially considering the social implications of "Extraordinary Attorney Woo". Although shorts may not be the optimal media format for initiating profound discussions on structural problems of the society, their characteristics align well with certain themes including humor, romantic relationship portrayals, and highlighting actors' performances. These themes are compatible with the characteristics of Korean dramas, suggesting that shorts have the potential to bring vitality to the domestic and international reception of Korean dramas in the future.


Edited. 2024.02.02

Short form content tends to focus on the relationship between two people.


This essay is an excerpt from the research paper entitled "How Do Short-form Videos Impact TV Drama Reception? Focusing on the Case of γ€ˆExtraordinary Attorney Woo〉,' written by Hamin Lee, Nahyun Kim (master's student at Seoul National University), Sae won Kim (master's student at Seoul National University), and Dr. Seok-Kyeong Hong (professor at Seoul National University).*