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'Descendants of the Sun' commands six-figure tag in Japan

All Headlines 13:48 March 13, 2016

SEOUL, March 13 (Yonhap) -- Sensational South Korean television series "Descendants of the Sun" has been exported to Japan with a big price tag, industry sources said Sunday, reviving a foray into the market that the country had trouble reaching lately.

The sources said the KBS 2TV drama has been sold at US$100,000 per episode. It airs on Wednesdays and Thursdays, and the sixth episode of the 16-part series will be on air this Wednesday.

"Descendants of the Sun" is the first South Korean drama to command six figures per episode in nearly three years, according to the sources, indicating that Japan, which once seemed reluctant to import South Korean shows, is ready to bring in programs from its neighbor.

An earlier KBS series, "Winter Sonata," took Japan by storm in 2002 and established a market presence for South Korean shows there. Over the ensuing decade, popular TV series commanded as much as $200,000 per episode, and then in 2012, "Love Rain," starring Hallyu icon Jang Keun-suk, went for $300,000 per episode.

"Love Rain," however, was a bust in the ratings war at home, and was also poorly received among critics. Other dramas that were sold to Japan in the similar price range also disappointed both critically and commercially, leading to a downward spiral for South Korean TV programs in Japan.

It coincided with the rise in anti-Korean sentiment in Japan, and the few dramas that were sold to Japan barely cracked $100,000 per episode.

Enter "Descendants of the Sun," whose most recent episode drew a 31.2 percent rating in the nation's capital last week.

A love story between an Army captain and a doctor who travel to a war-torn country called Uruk to save lives, it's the first Korean show to be aired in South Korea and China simultaneously. It's also been noted for being completely pre-produced. Traditionally, Korean shows are produced on an episode-by-episode basis to leave some wiggle room for tweaks.

"When 'Descendants of the Sun' got off to a phenomenal start in both Korea and China, Japanese buyers put it at the top of their list," one local industry source said. "The competition led to such a high price tag."

It's the first show by the male lead Song Joong-ki since the end of his mandatory military service. Song Hye-kyo, the female lead and a long-time Hallyu star, is in her first TV drama in three years.

Industry sources say Jang Keun-suk could get his redemption in the international market with much-anticipated SBS series "Jackpot," which will premiere on March 28.

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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