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SQUID GAME:The rise of Korean drama addiction

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Squid Game

If watching Squid Game means the prospect of playing red light, green light now fills you with nerve-shredding terror rather than fond childhood memories, you aren’t alone.

The Korean thriller, which tells the story of debt-ridden people competing for a huge cash prize in a deadly series of children’s games, has become Netflix’s biggest ever series launch – streamed by 111 million users in its first 28 days.

In doing so it knocked Bridgerton off the top spot, making clear that Korean dramas – K-dramas for short – have most certainly been given the green light by audiences worldwide.

So, how can we understand this rise, and what are some of the other K-dramas to look out for if you’re a new convert?

Squid Game: The rise of Korean drama addiction
Park Hae-soo and Lee Jung-jae are two of the stars of Squid Game

Squid Game’s breakthrough popularity marks the latest wave in a Korean culture tsunami that’s built throughout the West in recent years.

The show joins K-pop artists such as BTS and Blackpink, who have become household names in music, and films like Parasite and Minari, which achieved Hollywood recognition and Oscars success.

But the K-drama takeover is far from the overnight sensation it may first seem.

Although they’ve only recently gripped worldwide audiences, K-dramas have been popular in Asia for decades.

Increasing liberalisation throughout the country in the 90s saw huge amounts of money poured into the entertainment industry. As Japan battled economic decline and China rose, South Korean culture pounced – offering TV that was both more relatable than US shows and morally palatable to Beijing.

Squid Game: The rise of Korean drama addiction

Over the next decade it challenged Japanese might to become a new purveyor of Asian cool, with 20% of viewers in Japan watching 2003 drama Winter Sonata.

A 2011 report by the Korean Culture and Information Service concluded: “In many Asian cities, Korean dramas seem to be influencing lifestyles and consumer behaviour, which speaks to their cultural appeal.”

Parasite’s success

Global interest grew as streaming services like Viki and DramaFever made it possible for viewers to legally watch Korean content online with English subtitles, opening K-dramas up to a new audience over the past decade.

As their grassroots popularity increased, so did distribution deals with Western streaming upstarts Hulu and Netflix. When Warner Bros shut DramaFever in 2018, Netflix began further investment.

Slowly over the next two years, a growing number of subscribers would become hooked on K-dramas, drawn into the varied storylines and comforting escapism.

The word-of-mouth success of 2019 romantic drama Crash Landing on You – which stayed in the top 10 in Japan for 229 days and was the sixth most-watched show on Netflix in the US between March 21 and March 27, 2020 – coincided with the big-screen success of Parasite to spark new-found levels of interest.

Squid Game: The rise of Korean drama addiction
Ji Chang-wook is one of the recognised K-drama stars

Then the pandemic happened, and with the Western entertainment industry (literally) shuttered down, K-drama fever truly hit. Netflix revealed that viewing of Korean content across Asia increased fourfold in 2020 compared with 2019.

London-based writer and K-drama fanatic Taylor-Dior Rumble explains: “Most popular K-dramas are typically ultra stylised, glossy and quite removed from reality, which is why they’re such a great form of escapism.

“After such a bleak few years, people are gravitating more towards heart-warming forms of entertainment,” she says.

There is a “wide range of shows containing plenty of unique ideas and unexpected storylines that you’d probably never get from a British or American channel”, which range from fantasy and sci-fi to action and thriller, Rumble says.

This broad appeal is helped by the family-friendly tone. “There’s practically no nudity or sex,” adds Rumble. “Korean society is quite conservative so this means a lot of their shows hold cross-culture appeal.”

Add in high-end production values and stunning locations, and Rumble says the dramas offer “a rich and pleasurable viewing experience that you simply don’t get enough of anywhere else”.

K-dramas also reflect worldwide social stresses that resonate with many younger generations.

“As the wealth gap between the rich and poor continues to widen and other inequalities continue to increase, Parasite’s frank exposure of the extremes in Korea resonated with so many people” says Rumble.

Squid Game, she feels, is similarly pointed beneath its bloodied popcorn exterior.

“It tackled a lot of situations, such as debt and the pressures of providing, which was probably somewhat relatable to a world still recovering from a pandemic that has been incredibly difficult for a lot of people.”

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GENERAL NEWS

Ghanaians have misconceptions about Shatta wale-Sammy flex

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In a candid interview with Emcee Bebe on Ultimate 106.9FM’s “Entertainment Records” show on Saturday, February 10, 2024, Sammy Flex debunked common misconceptions about working with Shatta Wale. The headline reads, “Sammy Flex Reveals: Shatta Wale is not Difficult to Work With.”

During the interview, Sammy Flex addressed the prevalent belief that collaborating with Shatta Wale might be challenging. Contrary to these assumptions, he stated, “Shatta Wale is not difficult to work with, as many think.” Flex shed light on the collaborative dynamics, emphasizing the importance of understanding and aligning with Shatta Wale’s creative vision.

As the conversation unfolded, Sammy Flex shared his ambitious vision for the future, revealing, “My vision is to let Shatta Wale’s music reach every household in the world.” This statement underlined his dedication to expanding the global reach of Shatta Wale’s musical influence.

The revelation provides a new perspective on the working relationship with Shatta Wale, challenging preconceived notions. Sammy Flex’s commitment to bringing Shatta Wale’s music to a global audience signals a significant aspiration within the entertainment industry, capturing the attention of fans and industry insiders alike

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There’s no vocalist better than me in the history of Ghana music- Shasha Marley brags

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In an exclusive interview with Emcee Bebe on Ultimate 106.9FM’s Entertainment Records show on Saturday, February 10, 2024, reggae artist Shasha Marley boldly proclaimed himself as the all-time best vocalist in the history of Ghanaian music.

The statement came as he discussed the remarkable vocal quality showcased in his latest single, “Spintex Road Traffic Jam.”

During the interview, Shasha Marley expressed confidence in his vocal abilities, attributing his self-proclaimed title to years of dedication and musical craftsmanship.

Emphasizing the uniqueness of his voice, he stated that “Spintex Road Traffic Jam” serves as a testament to his unparalleled vocal prowess and versatility.

The artist’s claim has sparked discussions among music enthusiasts, with some supporting his assertion and others engaging in debates about the rich history of vocalists in Ghanaian music.

As the news of Shasha Marley’s bold declaration continues to circulate, fans eagerly anticipate the response from fellow artists and the broader music community.

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