Actors navigate stormy waters as K-drama production ebbs

Actor Lee Jang-woo, right, enjoys a bowl of sundae (Korean blood sausage) soup with mukbang YouTuber Tzuyang. This year, Lee opened a specialty soup restaurant in Songpa District, Seoul. Captured from Tzuyang's YouTube video

The Korean content industry is undergoing a drastic change amid dwindling investments and fierce competition, spurring industry players to adopt creative strategies for survival and growth.Some actors are now producing dramas to share on YouTube or performing abroad in countries like Japan. Meanwhile, online streaming services (OTTs) and broadcasters are experiencing a complex relationship, as they go through both competition and collaboration in the content distribution landscape.These shifts in the ecosystem stem from the fierce competition and skyrocketing production costs fueled by an oversupply of content during the COVID-19 pandemic, leading to a significant decline in drama production due to deteriorating profitability.According to the Korea Drama Producers Association, around 100 dramas are set to be released this year by OTTs and broadcasters, down roughly 30 percent from 2022.

Actor Kim Ji-seok was mistakenly referred to as “Ji Seok-jin” by a restaurant owner, who confused him with the entertainer, resulting in an awkward autograph session. This incident sheds light on the challenges faced by a veteran actor with a 20-year career, especially during periods without drama projects lined up, despite his established reputation from works like “Chuno” (2009) and “When the Camellia Blooms” (2019).Frustrated by the lack of acting opportunities, Kim decided to take matters into his own hands, creating a YouTube drama titled “I am Kim Ji-seok,” drawing from such experiences. He aimed to survive in the industry by producing four dramas around the theme “Surviving as Actor Kim Ji-seok,” essentially creating work for himself amid a dry spell of offers.With only one mini-series airing per week at major broadcasters like KBS, MBC, and SBS, the reduction in TV drama production has led to an increase in actors taking on second jobs to support themselves.

Similarly, actor Lee Jang-woo, once dubbed the “Prince of Weekend Dramas” for his roles in hits like “My Only One” (2019), now finds himself more often cooking ribs and boiling noodles than acting in front of the camera, as drama offers have become scarce. He opened a restaurant, spending his days chopping 100kg of radishes to make kkakdugi (radish kimchi).The trend of actors seeking opportunities overseas is gaining momentum. Among them, Chae Jong-hyeop, as well as actors from the group 2PM, Hwang Chan-sung, and Ha Yeon-soo, are currently filming dramas in Japan.While the pay may be lower than in Korea, the opportunity to take on leading roles is a significant advantage.”Working on projects in Japan entails high costs, including overseas living expenses for staff, and the impact of the content is typically weaker compared to Korea. Therefore, we did not consider Japan for projects until around 3 or 4 years ago,” said an official at one entertainment agency. “However, with the number of drama productions expected to decrease further next year, we are actively considering offers from Japan and paying attention to local 토토사이트 networks.”

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