Korean Drama and Its Effect on Tourism

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The following essay will be investigating if there is a link between the promotion of Korea in the television shows, widely known as Korean drama (Kdrama). I will use the popular drama series “Goblin: The Lonely and Great God”, as its popularity has led to tours being created of the onscreen locations. For example, Jayu Park (Freedom park) is a western styled park, this location was used in the filming of the series (Tour, n.d.).

Viewers see this scene in episode 9, where the female lead, Ji Eun-Tak summons the male lead to the park (Tour, n.d.). I shall audience and reception theory to examine how the drama played a role in tourism of the onscreen locations. I begin by giving background information to my chosen genre and case study, then I will introduce the theories. I will then use the theories to explore how Korean drama’s help promote the tourism of the country, particularly, how the success of Goblin added to this. I end this essay with a conclusion.

The Korean phenomenon, known as the Korean Wave, a term that was created by the Chinese press in the late 1990s (Bae et al., 2017:1). The wave refers to when young Chinese people started their interest with Korean culture through music and drama’s. Korean Wave went beyond the Asian continent, reaching overseas to the international market (Lee, 20111; Jang et al., 2016 cited in Bae et al., 2017:1). Although, the Korean Wave is well received today, this was not the case in the early stages.

Trolan (2017:204) argues that the Korean Wave “has become an integral aspect of Korea’s global image and marketability”. With the assistance of fans, Korean pop culture is being consumed at an increasing rate which has opened doors for many musicians, actresses and actors to break the America market and win accolades at international award shows (Trolan, 2017:204). High demand of Korean pop culture, has led to many people wanting to learn the language, dress like their favourite musicians/actors/actresses and increased the need for Korean electronic goods etc.

Amongst this has the need to see these places also been an important factor in the interest in Korea. This shocked the government as their nation was ‘now starting to be viewed as a cultural powerhouse similar to Japan and the US within Asia and beyond’ (Trolan, 2017:204). In their attempt to take advantage of the ‘Korean Wave’, the government used this platform to promote tourism to their country along with improving their public image (Trolan, 2017:204). They deemed this ‘Hallyu’, which is the nation’s brand. Korean

pop music (Kpop), sport, food and drama, are all a part of cultural diplomacy. Trolan (2017:204) states that it is unclear how beneficial this has been to the Korean government. However, Psy, a Korean artist popularly known for the song ‘Gangnam style’, has been promoted as a cultural diplomat which makes it apparent that the Korean government intends to use the ‘Korean Wave’ as a tool to further their political and cultural strategies (Trolan, 2017:204).

I have chosen to use the television series ‘Goblin’, as my case. This drama is centred around Kim shin, a goblin who is immortal (Asianwiki.com, n.d.). The show starts of in ancient Korea, where the male lead, a successful war general initially got cursed to becoming a goblin due to the jealous King. 900 years later, still in search of a human bride that can end his immortality, he rescues a pregnant woman who was supposed to die, from the Grim Reaper (Asianwiki, n.d.). The woman gives birth to a girl, the female lead Ji Eun-Tak who can see spirits.

9 years later, her mother passes away and she comes face to face with the Grim Reaper (ibid). In the modern time, the high school student, Ji Eun-Tak hears and sees spirits speak on the ‘Dokkaebi’s bride’ (goblin’s bride). She is taken in by her aunt’s family, however, they do not treat her well. Kim shin appears to her on her birthday, as he hears her voice (ibid). Although he is unsure why he does so. Kim shin soon starts to appear to Ji Eun-Tak, by force. Ji Eun-Tak informs Kim shin that she is his human bride and that he is a goblin (ibid.). The show had 16 episodes all an hour long. The drama became very well accepted and popular, receiving several awards i.e. Best drama award, Best new actor, Best actor etc. (ibid).

Allkpop (2017) a website which discusses various Korean music, dramas and other popular culture, reported that ‘Goblin’, gained a lot of support from the United States, China and other places in the world. A video of a school in China where students are watching the popular drama instead of focusing on school work also emerged (allkpop, 2017). They further state that the fans of the drama, created many “start-up sites have been emerging selling ‘Goblin’ related products like photos, postcards, and mugs’ (allkpop, 2017).

Goblin captured viewer’s attention not only for the love of the drama but also the onscreen location. This subsequently, sparked many tours to being created to visit these famous sites. These locations have become hotspots, allowing fans to act out some of their favourite moments of the drama. For instance, the beach scene where the Ji Eun-Tak and Kim shin meet on her birthday (Park, 2017). She accidently calls on Kim Shin after blowing out her cake. In the scene, she is wearing a red scarf when Kim Shin appears he is holding buckwheat flowers. Due to the attraction to this location many sellers have started to rent out, a red scarf, flowers and an umbrella to tourist for a 1000 Korean won each. Every day, Jumunjin beach is filled with people lining up to recreate this scene (Park, 2017).

As mentioned above the theories I shall use to investigate the link between tourism and Korean drama are audience and reception theory. Stuart Hall (1980:163) created the Encoding/Decoding model, although having been criticised for being too linear in terms of looking at the sender/message/receiver. This is due to the fact that it is too focused on the “level of message exchange and for the absence of a structured conception of the different moments as a complex structure of relations” (Hall, 1980:163). However, it can also be useful when viewing the process in regards to a construction created and maintained though the delivery of connected, though diverse instances “production, circulation, distribution/consumption, reproduction” (Hall, 1980:163).

Hall (1980:163) states that the “object” of these exercises is the messages and the meanings in the method of “sign-vehicles” of a form prepared, similar to other types of messages and languages, within the process of programs in the syntagmatic chain of dialogue. The circulation of products occurs in the discursive form (Hall, 1980:163-164). This procedure, therefore needs the ‘means’ at the making stage. It is also in this form through which it is transported to diverse audiences. Upon completion, this discourse is to be interpreted and changed again, into societal norms for the circuit to be accurate and finished (Hall, 1980:164).

“If no “meaning” is taken, there can be no “consumption”. If the meaning is not articulated in practice, it has no effect” (ibid). The model thus, is interested in understanding the consumption, circulation and the creation of messages (JM, 2011). Meaning is not a fixed outcome from the sender, as the message is not clear and audiences are not inactive receivers of the meanings of these messages. The message is the encoding whereas the reception of this message is the decoding (JM, 2011). This theory will enable me to examine how locations would be the messages that are encoded, where I shall decode how receptive the audiences have been towards ‘Goblin’.

I will also be using Kim Schrøder’s (n.d.,1) theory of reception analysis to gain a better grasp of audience reaction to the television series. The theory discusses how individual can create meanings of media products whether that be in form of discourse, textual or visual communication (Scrøder, n.d., 1). The theory was originally used to qualitative analysis when deciphering conventional media platforms i.e. television shows. Thus, it sought to clarify how consumers recognised media driven lives, in both the private and public sphere (Schrøder, n.d.,1).

Schrøder (2) puts forth the epistemological reason for the reception analysis is to comprehend how media plays a role in people’s morals, ethics and characteristics. Furthermore, the theory points out how individuals can be swayed by media products, though other factors do come into play, hence they are able to reject or accept what is given to them (Schrøder, n.d.,2). This theory shall provide me with the insight to further understand how the audience receive ‘Goblin’. How audiences from around the world were also able to relate to the show and the onscreen locations, enough to visit Korea. This will be explored in the following section.

I will now be discussing how ‘Goblin’ attracted tourism to Korea. Film tourism, according to Hudson and Ritchie is a dynamic and multifaceted notion… which relies on many aspects “outside the control of a destination” (2006:395 cited in Mordue, 2008:333). Bae et al. (2017) describes tourism based on the Korean wave as ‘Hallyu tourism’. This is when foreigners visit Korea on the basis of seeing the Hallyu attractions that fascinated them to the place in the first place. Tourism influenced by the Korean Wave began in the mid 1990s, with Japanese people coming to visit the nation and onscreen locations of popular Korean drama’s (Lee, 2011 cited in Bae et al., 2017:3).

Bae et al. (2017) define Hallyu tourism into two categories, broad and narrow meaning, this is dependent on the interest of tourist. Narrow meaning refers to foreign tourist that partake in Korean Wave related activities i.e. going to see film sites etc. Broad meaning refers to foreign tourist visiting the country because they have an interest in the Korean Wave, however do not partake in any of their activities (Bae et al., 2017:3). Clearly, the tourist who visit the ‘Goblin’ filming site fit in the narrow meaning category. As many tours being made to visit the filming sites allowing fans to remake scenes and take pictures of these places.

These fans are actively engaging with these tourist attraction due to their interest in the Korean Wave. As fans demands have led to tours being formed, this shows how people are able to generate meanings with the communication product beyond what it intended (Schrøder’s, n.d.,1). Through technology, they were able to transform themselves from watching the drama at their homes to now embarking on a visit to these destinations, making them a reality (Scrøder, n.d., 1). With film becoming charming attraction spots for tourist, audiences who engages with the film become intrigued by the country of which it is filmed. This in turn, influences the audiences to visit the country, thereby becoming a tourist (Bae et al., 2017:4). The term for this is “movie tourism” and is widely known for being a cause that increases tourism appeal (Ko, 2009 cited in Bae et al., 2017:4). Kkday, Visit Seoul and

Visit Korea are among some tourist websites that offer tours to important ‘Goblin’ locations around Seoul and Incheon. They offer fans of the drama an experience to relive some of the memorable moments from the show. Ko (2009 cited in Bae et al., 2017:4) argues that this is the commercialisation of the filming sites in relation to the drama or movies, has made film tourism “one of the modern cultural tourism, and it is an important tourist product”.

In line with Stuart Hall’s model, the meaning taken from the drama was many things, tourism was amongst this. The international audience where able create meaning which led to consumption (Hall, 1980:164). ‘Goblin’ could not have foreseen the response that it would have received and thus them being the senders could not give a determined meaning to the viewers (JM, 2011). They also had no control of the way which the viewers received their product (JM, 2011).

In this case, it led to increased tourism. Although, people also judge communication products based on their own ideals and morals and so choose to either accept or reject products if it is not something for them (Schrøder, n.d.,2). Bae et al. (2017:4) directly link tourism to the Korean Wave in the example that they provide of Japanese tourist. In 2003, a Korean drama was broadcasted in Japan called ‘Winter Sonata’, the following year the average Japanese visit increased by 35.5% in comparison to the prior year (Bae et al., 2017:4). The Korean Tourism Organization conducted a survey in 2004 and almost half of the respondents stated that their visit was inspired by Korean Drama (ibid).

This essay sought to provide the reader with an understanding that there is a link between Korean drama’s and tourism. The essay gave the reader an introduction to the Korean Wave, as it was important to establish the rise of tourism to the country in the last 30 years. The theories enable me to grasp the audience response so that I could clearly distinguish how receptive they were to drama and investigate how this led to tourism of onscreen locations of the drama ‘Goblin’. The discussion examined how ‘Goblin’ became an international hit and how the huge fan base created a demand for not only the product but exclusive tours around the Seoul and Incheon locations where the filming took place.

The success of the Korean Wave or Hallyu created a market for tourism and has attracted many people to come to the country in hopes of seeing everything they have seen online. Film tourism allows viewers to enact their favourite moments from dramas amongst other things, it transforms from something distant to something right in front of you. Bae et al. (2017) also point out that there is a link between tourism and the Korean Wave. ‘Goblin’, also sparked many tours to be made in honour of the series and thus also contributes to the tourism of Korea.

Cite this paper

Korean Drama and Its Effect on Tourism. (2021, Mar 28). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/korean-drama-and-its-effect-on-tourism/



How does tourism affect Korea?
Tourism has a significant impact on Korea's economy, as it is one of the country's major sources of revenue. It also helps to promote Korean culture and heritage to the rest of the world.
How has the Korean wave influence tourism in South Korea?
The Korean Wave has had a positive influence on tourism in South Korea. More people are interested in visiting South Korea because of the popularity of Korean dramas, music, and other forms of entertainment.
How much does K-drama contribute to Korean economy?
K-drama contributes a lot to the Korean economy. It has been said that the Korean Wave has helped the economy by boosting tourism and exports.
What are the impacts of Korean dramas?
Korean pop culture is so popular because it is unique and interesting. It is also popular because it is easy to access, since many Korean dramas and music videos are available online.
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