Diane Min, head of format sales at CJ ENM; Bonggyu “River” Kang, executive producer and showrunner for KBS Media’s The Return of Superman; and Jongwoo Kim, producer of MBC documentary Meeting You sat down with Rebecca Sun of The Hollywood Reporter to discuss their unscripted shows and the expanding international market for Korean entertainment in a THR Presents Q&A powered by Vision Media.
CJ ENM’s reality competition show Love at First Song first debuted in Vietnam in 2018 and is now headed for a North American adaptation. The show pairs couples to blindly rehearse a song together before revealing themselves and their chemistry during a live performance. The couples live together, practice together, perform and compete together, but may swap partners in every episode — for love or music. The show goes through many different phases and often feels like several reality shows rolled into one — a formula that Min says “took careful observation and analysis of the most successful elements of singing and dating shows. This format is a unique hybrid of multiple genres, including music, survivor, reality and dating. Our producers gave serious thought to what aspects make the type of show very popular.”
Love at First Song isn’t the only Korean show to permeate into other markets. KBS Media’s reality show The Return of Superman — which follows celebrity dads who take over parenting duties for two days while their wives get to relax — has found viewers and celebrity participants from around the globe. “The Return of Superman is about exposing your personal, private lives to these audiences,” Kang said, adding that the commonalities among parenting for all nationalities contributes to the show’s popularity. “In parenting, it’s easy to miss the very precious moments of your children. However, in the show, the cameras follow the kids all day long and the viewers and even the parents can take an up-close look at the children growing up. … I think love for cute children is universal.”
Min credits the rise of Korean music, film and television internationally to the content’s simultaneous uniqueness and universality. “Korea is one of the most famous content hubs, and Korean audiences seem to be very keen on adopting new trends,” she said. “So, therefore, there is always going to be something new that has the potential to market everywhere. … Many markets have been looking toward Korea for new ideas. Having this competitive market, we have to keep sourcing new ideas and new formats.” This includes diving into new technology, as is the case with the MBC documentary Meeting You, which uses virtual reality to reunite a mother with her deceased daughter. The VR model is created based on photos, videos and interviews of the girl to replicate some of her exact gestures and facial expressions. “I wanted to show the personal emotions of human stories in a different way this time,” said producer Jongwoo Kim. “VR is a very immersive technology. It’s part of the journey and part of the adventure.”
This THR Presents is brought to you by Korea Creative Content Agency (KOCCA); additional Q&As and other supplementary content can be viewed in THR‘s new public hub at THRPresents.HollywoodReporter.com.