“Island” is a Korean fantasy-hero drama set on Jeju Island about three individuals – Won Min-Ho (Lee Da Hee), Van (Kim Nam-Gil), and Johan (Cha Eun-Woo) – fighting against a greater evil set to destroy the world.
The six-episode mini-series aired on TVing in South Korea and on Prime Video globally for over three weeks and is based on a popular Naver Webtoon with the same name. Right after its release, “Island” became the first K-content to enter the Top 10 on Amazon Prime Video, certifying K-Dramas’ popularity overseas. What is interesting is that within South Korea itself, the series received mixed reviews from the audience. While Cha Eun Woo and the other lead characters acting were the main attractive point of the series, the audience felt that the storyline was bland and disappointing.
SOUTH KOREA AUDIENCE
The negative sentiment from the South Korean audience is higher than the International audience. The ‘Island’ drama is based on an action webtoon; the South Korean audience is more familiar with the story, and their expectations are way beyond the international audience. The central part missing is the lack of romance, which the audience expected greatly from the lead cast. Here are the top four negative conversation themes for the series:
- Sad Ending. For the global audience, drama series with tragic endings are very acceptable, such as Daenerys’s death on Game of Thrones or How I Met Your Mother (before it turns downright ridiculous as Ted runs back to Robin with a blue French horn in his hand). On the contrary, the audience in South Korea expected a happy ending for the lead cast, leading to the local audience not liking the series.
- Don’t Like Having a Season 2. Unlike the global audience, the local audience in South Korea started hating the trend of the second season in general. They expect the story to be finished in one season, as it might also create a distraction if other potential K-dramas are released during the second season. The audience had high hopes for Season 1, but when it ultimately disappointed, they had low expectations for Season 2.
- Not enough romantic scene. Appealing to the global market, “Island” focused on thriller and horror themes – meanwhile, the audience familiar with the webtoon was expecting romance. The lack of focus on romance or less romantic scenes satisfied the global audience but disappointed the local audience.
- Clash with other K-Drama ‘The Glory.’ On top of the disappointing storyline, “Island’s” release was also not optimal. At the same time as the series’ season pilot, another K-Drama, “The Glory,” was also released on Netflix. While “Island” was released per episode, “The Glory” was released as an entire season. This untimely release date forced viewers to choose between binge-watching the whole season of “The Glory” or watching bits or pieces of “Island’s” early episodes. With a strong storyline & well-structured flow of events backing “The Glory” series, “Island” paled in comparison.
With six episodes released on Season 1, “Island” Season 2 will air on February 24, 2023. Will the show maintain its global interest and manage to attract the local audience as well?
Introduction – Hi, everyone. I am Kokila Devi, working for Radarr Technologies as an Insights Analyst. I completed my master’s degree in Data Analytics. I’m fascinated by watching Kdramas, and I’ve used the Radarr platform to find out why a particular Kdrama performed well internationally but flopped in South Korea.
*Analysis based on a sample of social media conversations using keyword matches from December 2022 to January 2023.