By Han Sang-hee
Korea and Japan have been at center stage when it comes to television dramas, and the Korean Broadcasting Institute has revealed the differences of the two close yet distant countries' drama production.
According to the report "Comparison on Drama Making of Japan and Korea", led by researcher Kim Young-duk, the acting fees given to local star actors exceed those in Japan, decreasing the competitiveness in the drama production market. While local actors' pay account for 60 percent of the drama budget, Japanese actors based on a similar budget receive only 20 to 30 percent the amount.
"Excessive fees can lead to oversized production costs, which may also lead to poor profits. Korea must come up with a rational fee estimate system by observing objective data", the report suggested.
The reason why Japanese actors don't get paid excessively is because of negotiations carried out based on accumulated data. Japan emphasizes what is called "potential ratings", which is basically possible ratings based on the actors' series ratings and number of appearances on television and other media for the three previous years. The report gave examples of this system, including that of Nanako Matsushima, who receives 4.5 million yen (approximately $ 45,514) with potential ratings of 14.8 percent; Yukie Nakama with 3 million yen ($ 30,342) at 14.1 percent and Takuya Kimura
receiving 3.5 million yen ($ 35,400) with 13.1 percent. Top local actors such as Bae Yong-joon
are known to receive approximately 250 million won ($ 185,800) and Song Seung-heon
70 million won ($ 52,025) per episode.
"We need a similar system that is transparent and based on trust", the report said.
Although many actors including kwon Sang-woo
, Go Hyun-jung
and Song have noted the difficulties in drama production and have decided to lower their paychecks, the problem still lingers among other "expensive" actors and also them appearing in the same dramas.
Apart from production costs, other differences included the number of episodes aired weekly and running time.
While Korean dramas usually air twice a week ― Mondays and Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays and on weekends ― Japanese productions mostly present dramas once weekly. Korean dramas are relatively longer, at 70 minutes, while Japanese episodes air for approximately 46 minutes.
"The two-day airing system may be effective in raising ratings, but to produce more globally competitive shows, we need to look into airing one episode per week and cut running time and pre-production", Kim said in the report.
Drama production in Japan starts about six months to a year prior to actual airing, which gives actors, crew and producers time to deliver their best work. Such is rarely the case in Korea.
"Many Korean dramas are made in a rush due to conflicting schedules", according to the report.
Many episodes of local dramas are made at the last minute, creating words like "jjok-daebon", which means scripts being given out right before the shooting of a particular scene. Some suddenly extend the number of episodes, riding on popularity, but later get criticized for stretching the storyline too much.
In order to break the bad production habits, Kim suggested the need of specializing.
"Having a producer and also a scene director may help cut the time in drama production and help strengthen overall quality", Kim said in the report.
Considering the impact television soaps have on social, economic and cultural aspects, it's important to understand how to best create them and how to present them in effective time slots, the report added.
"According to the Korea Economic Research Institute, the economic effect of the drama `Winter Sonata
' was 3 trillion won. For production companies, dramas are among the content they are highly interested in for creating a firm image of themselves and also as stable moneymakers", Kim wrote.