Dramas with crazy and wild plots and storylines are all the rage in Korea nowadays. With the success of dramas such as Extracurricular, Sweet Home, Penthouse, Itaewon Class, The World of Married Couple and many others, more people are slowly realizing that Korean dramas are more than just cheesy word puns and cringey storylines.
Seeing these kinds of dramas are very refreshing and it provides the viewers a taste of variance because this is different from they have watched way back then. Back then, it was totally impossible to air dramas with lots of violence, foul language, sexual innuendoes and even weapons used in scenes. Until now, knives are still blurred out when appearing in dramas as a step to follow due to the strict broadcasting guidelines that TV stations have in Korea.
However, it is fair to say that not all 19+ dramas are really worth the rating they were given.
This comparison happens when Korean dramas labeled as "extreme" and "mature" are aired side by side with Western dramas of the same tags on streaming services such as Netflix. For example, the hit series Elite has tons of sexually suggestive scenes and language throughout the drama, and thus the 18+ tag is appropriate. They even show a lot of sexual scenes and frontal nudity, which is common in the Western world.
However, in Korea, we have dramas like Penthouse that got a 19+ rating due to a messy kissing scene among two of the characters, tons of slapping and head hitting, and several scenes of pushing people into buildings. We also have Nevertheless, which bore a 19+ rating on its second episode due to the "intense" makeout and sexual scene between the characters. Those scenes involve the female character sitting on the male character's lap, then making out intensely (at least according to Korean broadcasting standards) and then the camera pans into the sight of the male character's bare stomach, as though suggesting that his pants will soon be taken off.
While these scenes and dramas offer places for imagination to go and think of the next outcomes, the 19+ rating looks too much. In Western standards, it can only be 16+ or even PG-13. Those kissing scenes and "violent" scenes are nothing compared to the scenes of the dramas outside Korea, which involves tons of blood, gore, lust, and other mature elements.
It is understandable that Korean culture has to play a huge role in this. Koreans are known to be very conservative, and until now, they aren't still open to discussions of certain topics in public, such as sex, the LGBT community, violence, and so on. It can attributed to the fact that Korean culture in general is heavily tied to Confucianism, though a huge percentage of Koreans do not practice any religion.
We are not saying that Korea should throw their cultural values in favor of capitalization. What we're pointing out here is that Koreans should keep up with the times, at least in producing dramas that really justify their ratings. This is very important nowadays, especially when we see Korean drama and culture as important exports to other countries that generate millions of dollars and contribute to the Korean GDP. They should make a great leap forward and be more bold and adventurous when it comes to producing dramas that are really mature.
If Korean movies such as The Coin Girl and Parasite can feature controversial scenes, what makes Korean dramas different? The fact that everyone can watch it at home? Netflix can be watched anywhere too but they can still keep their standards consistent.
At the end of the day, Korean dramas need to step up. They have the best production, actors, writers, and execution among other countries, so they need to capitalize on that and take the giant leap towards innovation and change.