Is Netflix Ruining K-Dramas? 3 Changes That Not All Viewers Are Happy About

“I’m sick of it.”

K-Dramas aren’t new to international audiences, but they are relatively new to Netflix. Over the past few years, the streaming service transitioned from hosting Korean dramas to producing its own original content.

Longtime viewers, who began their K-Drama journeys outside of Netflix, have pointed out a few changes that not everyone loves.

1. Flawed subtitles

From botched translations to “westernized” dialogue, some viewers (especially bilingual ones) say Netflix’s subtitles are lacking. Often, these subtitles favor straightforwardness for the sake of clarity that can, unfortunately, strip away cultural context and a deeper meaning.

This can make it very difficult for anyone hoping to use Netflix to help them learn the Korean language.

For example, Netflix frequently replaces terms of address such as “oppa” (a word women use to address older brothers and older male friends) with the character’s name. The differences between jondaemal, polite speech, and banmal, informal speech are also glossed over.

In particular, Squid Game viewers called out Netflix for butchering the character Han Mi Nyeo by mistranslating her dialogue.

Kim Joo Ryung as Han Mi Nyeo in “Squid Game” | Netflix

The English translation says, ‘I’m not a genius, but I can work it out.’ What she actually said was, ‘I’m very smart, I just never got a chance to study.’

That is a huge trope in Korean media. The poor person that is clever and smart, but isn’t wealthy. That is a huge part of her [Han Mi Nyeo] character. Everything she says, is being botched […] all the writers want you to know about her, is that.

— Youngmi Mayer @youngmimayer/TikTok

2. Episode Formatting & Seasons

Up until recently, most K-Dramas were one-season series consisting of 16 episodes. They aired weekly or bi-weekly until the show ended. Each show was self-contained, neatly wrapping up by the finale, and second seasons (like IRIS II) were rare exceptions.

IRIS II poster

Now, Netflix is splitting some K-Dramas into halves, airing Part 2 months–even years–after Part 1. The Glory Part 1 premiered on December 30th last year, and Part 2 is hitting screens on March 10th.

Unfortunately, fans now have to wait long periods of time for some “unfinished” shows to conclude.

3. Explicit content

My NameSquid Game, and Somebody are just a few examples that set apart K-Dramas on Netflix and K-Dramas made by Netflix. Netflix K-Dramas, especially thrillers and romances, tend to be grittier and contain sexual content that goes against broadcasting guidelines for television in South Korea.

My Name contained a sex scene. | Netflix

While some viewers welcome the change, others find the nudity, sex, and violence gratuitous.

Many international viewers initially gravitated to K-Dramas because the “clean” content and slow burn romances were a breath of fresh air after watching western TV shows.

In US romances, characters’ relationships are often, but not always, fast-paced and sexually charged.

What are your thoughts?

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The Glory