Popularity of Goong

Credit: I Heart Lakorns


Four years prior to the premiere of Goong, the manhwa version was released. In the same year when Goong was screened, Indonesia came up with a remake, titled Benci Bilang Cinta, probably to catch on the wave of popularity at that time.

A year later, the Thai version of ‘Perhaps Love’ was released, sung by professional singers. Goong S (Prince Hours) aired too. Three years on, the first Goong musical was staged which continued until 2014.

In 2016, the Thai version of the drama will be released.

I will explore the areas which reflect the popularity of Goong:

1) Promotion of locations on official Korean tourism site

Credit: (L) Wikipedia ; (R) The Korea Herald

The filming locations have also been promoted on the official Korean tourism website, and this was so because the show was well received. For instance, listed as one of the sites is the Anapji Pond (left), where scenes of the front and back palace courtyards were filmed (Visit Korea, n.d.). Another one listed by Visit Korea (n.d.) is the House of the Mind (right), where Lee Shin and Chae Kyeong spent their fourth night together.

Credit: Salam Korea

Due to the immense popularity of the show, the teddy bear museums in Korea even placed on display bears dressed in the outfits of the Goong characters. On display, too, is Shin’s teddy bear that Chae Kyeong pretended was him (Visit Korea, n.d.), and she would talk to it and dress it up, which represented the way she views Shin.

In the show, Chae Kyung and the Empress also visited a teddy bear museum while they were at Jeju Island. Also, at the end of every episode, there will be a still shot of two bears which reflects the relationship between Shin and Chae Kyung in that episode. It is not hard to wonder why the museum was promoted as part of the show, as the bears carry much emotional significance.

“I think I might want to go there one day,” Felicia noted.

2) Soundtrack remakes

Credit: YouTube

One of the YouTube uploads of ‘Perhaps Love’, a soundtrack in the series, has garnered close to an astounding 3 million views on YouTube, proving its sheer popularity.

So well received is the song that a Thai sing-a-long version had been produced, just a year after the Goong’s debut, sung by professional singers:

Credit: Kira Kapiliza

Fans from the Philippines have also come up with a Tagalog version:

Credit: Aishi Teru

Of course, the Chinese fans are not left out, with 《這是愛嗎?》:

Credit: wengwa

3) Overseas remakes

Side-by-side comparison of the Korean vs. Thai vs. Indonesian . Credit: (L) Movie Asia; (M) Heartlakorns; (R) TV Sinetron

Goong performed exceedingly well in Indonesia and Thailand, two Southeast Asian countries, such that local remakes have been made. An online search points to the fact that Goong is the only show which originated from Korea and has more than one overseas remake. This is one aspect where the show is unique; Boys Over Flowers also has various remakes, on top of the Korean one, but the first version was filmed by Taiwan (i.e. Meteor Garden/流星花園).

Indonesia’s version, Benci Bilang Cinta (Hate Saying I Love You), was launched in 2006. On the other hand, Thailand’s version, Princess Hours Thai (เจ้าหญิงวุ่นวายเจ้าชายเย็นชา), is slated to be released in 2016. Years before the making of the latter, the Thai versions of the Perhaps Love and I’m a Fool OSTs had already emerged.

Among the three, the storylines are similar, just that in the Indonesian version, the story does not centre around a royal family, but a wealthy one. It is quite different from the Korean/Thai one in terms of the costume, makeup and quality of video, which may be due to budget and time constraints. It seems like the Thai one strikes a greater resemblance with the Korean one. Both the Indonesian and Thai versions adapt the global (i.e. Goong) to fit in their local contexts — local places, actors and language.

Regrettably, my knowledge of both the Indonesian and Thai versions is limited to this due to language barriers, as most articles or videos are produced in the native languages only. However, it would definitely be interesting to analyse the similarities and differences of the shows in greater depth, and can be explored as a topic on its own.

Below is a comparison table of the Indonesian (left) and Korean (right) versions. As can be seen, there are several familiar scenes as the Indonesian producers copy ideas over from Goong to make it more similar to the show.

Credit: Wikipedia

Here is an episode of the Indonesian version:

Credit: Dimas

And the making of the Thai version (to be released):

Thai remake (the making); Credit: Nuk Skywalker

According to Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary (2016), glocalisation means adapting products or services that are available globally, making them suitable for local needs. Likewise, in the cultural sense, it is clear that the producers of Goong picked elements from around the world and redefined them in the show — where the world is like a global cultural supermarket. I will discuss more in ‘East Meets West’.

Here, it is evident that the Indonesian and Thai producers selected elements from the Korean version and fit into their own.

As Goong moves from Korea to, say, Indonesia for its remake, it loses its national identity and takes on a Indonesian identity (e.g. language, cast, practices) for greater relevance to the Indonesian audience, so as to appeal more to them. When distant events have a local resonance, people identify strongly (Levy & Sznaider, 2002). Doing so would very possibly mean higher viewership ratings within the country. Here, we see that the Indonesian producers appropriated the global in the local.

Asked if she might prefer the Korean or Thai version, Yok Yam, a 24-year-old female Thai university graduate said, “I think I’ll prefer the Korean one. The original shows are mostly better.”
“I’ll not watch the Indonesian remake because I tend to avoid remakes,” 23-year-old Felicia, from Indonesia, pointed out.

Forum users have echoed her sentiment. This conveys the idea that there is a notion among some that remakes are not as nice, which highlights the possibility that they may not be as successful as the original show even though local producers have adapted it in the local context to appeal to local tastes.

Kraidy (2003) suggested that the boundaries between the global and the local are fluid. Viewed from another angle, due to glocalisation, the boundary between Us vs. Others is also elastic. On the one hand, this boundary is weakened because in these three countries, audiences essentially consume the same product, just packaged differently to cater to local tastes. On the other hand, the boundary is also heightened as the identities reflected in each of the three shows are different.

4) Adaptation

Credit: Sandra Granato

Just a year after the successful run of the series, Goong S (Prince Hours) was released. That the spin-off adopted the name Goong despite it having a different cast and plot shows how well received the show is, so much so that the producers of a new drama wanted to ride on its popularity by the use of its name.

5) Musicals

The drama was soon adapted into a musical in 2010, where Lee Shin was played by U-Know Yunho of TVXQ. The subsequent musicals saw a change of cast, as singers from other boy bands took over that role.

Here is the first run of the musical:

Credit: Quynh Anh

6) Parodies

The overwhelming popularity of Goong also resulted in the creation of several parodies which can be freely found on the Internet. Below is one of the more popular ones, starring singers Ki Bum (playing Shin) and Hee Chul (playing Yul) from Super Junior.

7) “Mashups”/Snippets

Credit: Princess Hours
Credit: shuoniaiwo

The great popularity of the show can be inferred from the numerous picture and video “mashups” created by fans, posted on social media such as forums and YouTube.

8) Polls

Credit: Fanpop

Fans have also created polls, related to the characters and storyline, that others who watch Goong can participate in and be engaged in this whole community. The audience can also test their knowledge of the show by completing a pop quiz. The fact that the fans could come up with a variety of questions and make the effort to do so reflects the impact of the show.

Economic/political impacts

The above clearly indicate the great economic benefits the Goong producers have reaped, such as by selling remake rights to Thailand and Indonesia and to the musical producers.

Not only so, the government has also stood to gain by profiting from the increase in tourism revenue due to the show, as fans fly in to Korea to visit those charming sites featured. In the political sense, the scenes also enhance the image of Korea as one that is wealthy and beautiful.

The other entertainment content (e.g. parodies) stir up interest in the show and point viewers to it, thereby increasing the popularity of the show and its by-products, making them more profitable.

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