K-Drama Remakes of Popular American TV Shows

By Tiffany Simms

It’s a small world after all. Many of us international FeverFam have obtained our love for Korean food and culture through first gaining a love for Korean entertainment, especially K-dramas. Likewise, Koreans gain an admiration and interest for Western culture through popular American films and TV shows. DAY6’s Young K revealed he learned English from watching Shrek repeatedly, and quite famously, BTS’ RM learned English from the American sitcom Friends. Other countries’ media influences us so much so that we become inspired to adapt the original into something more suited to our own environment. With the increase of technological advances, the world is accessible and we are influenced by it.

Recently, the American entertainment industry has been inspired by Korean entertainment, reproducing popular Korean television shows for the American audience, such as The Masked Singer and Good Doctor. Similarly, Korea has also been inspired by the other side, adapting some of the United States’ hottest shows in recent years to Korean programming. Here are five to check out!: 

  • The Good Wife - 굿 와이프

The Emmy-winning CBS legal-political drama, The Good Wife, ran from 2009 to 2016. It stars Julianna Margulies (ER) as Alicia Florrick, a former stay-at-home mother who returns to her career as a litigator to provide for her children after a corruption scandal involving her Cook County State attorney husband goes public. The series is inspired by real political scandals of President Bill Clinton and North Carolina Senator John Edwards. Executive producers include Ridley (Blade Runner) and Tony Scott (Top Gun), Charles McDougall (Desperate Housewives), David W. Zucker (The Naked Gun), and the Kings (BrainDead). It has inspired the spinoff, The Good Fight, remakes for Japan and Korea, and there are more international remakes in the works. 

CBS International and Studio Dragon made a deal to make a sixteen-episode Korean adaptation of The Good Wife. Released in 2016, it follows the same premise except it examines corruption and politics in Seoul, rather than Chicago. It marks the small-screen return of one of the most widely-respected Korean actresses, Jeon Do-yeon (Secret Sunshine) and it is the first American TV show to be remade in Korea. 

  • Criminal Minds - Criminal Minds: Korea (크리미널 마인드)

Created and produced by Jeff Davis (Teen Wolf), the critically-acclaimed Criminal Minds is a police procedural crime drama for CBS. It premiered in 2005 and is currently on its fourteenth season. With an ensemble cast, it focuses on a group of FBI behavioral profilers who operate as the Behavioral Analysis Unit (BAU). Amidst the characters’ own personal struggles, they profile criminals, “the unsub” and victimology to investigate crimes. Throughout, it has starred Mandy Patinkin (The Princess Bride), Shemar Moore (The Young and The Restless), Matthew Gray Gubler (500 Days of Summer), Jennifer Love Hewitt (9-1-1), Adam Rodriguez (CSI: Miami), and more. It is one of CBS’ highest rated shows, running for over a decade, inspiring spinoffs, a video game, and its Korean remake. The show will end after its 15th season. 

tvN remade Criminal Minds for Korea in 2017 with its twenty-episode run being based primarily on the original’s third season. Each member of the Korean cast has an American counterpart: Go Yoon as Lee Han (Spencer Reid), Yoo Sun as Nana Hwang (Penelope Garcia), Lee Joon-gi as Kim Hyun-joon (Derek Morgan), Moon Chae Won as Ha Sun-woo (Emily Prentiss), Lee Sun-bin as Yoo Min-young (Jennifer Jareau), and Son Hyun-joo as Kang Ki-hyung (Aaron Hotchner). This drama focuses on this ensemble cast as profilers for the fictional National Criminal Investigation, “a team who track down criminals to solve cases.”

  • Entourage - 안투라지

The Emmy-winning American dramedy TV series, Entourage, running from 2004-2011, was created by Doug Ellin and produced by Stephen Levinson and Mark Wahlberg (Transformers) for HBO. Originally suggested to be a documentary of his life, the premise is actually loosely based on Wahlberg’s life as the show focuses on the fictional A-list movie star, Vincent Chase (The Devil Wears Prada’s Adrien Grenier) and his friends as they adapt from Queens to Hollywood. The show is known for regularly having famous guest stars and cameos. In 2015, Ellin wrote, directed, and produced a theatrical feature-film, also titled Entourage, to act as a continuation of the series. The principal cast returns and it focuses primarily on Vincent Chase who goes over-budget on his directorial debut and must ask the studio head for money. 

In 2016, a Korean adaptation of Entourage aired on tvN with sixteen episodes. The show follows the same premise but in a Korean setting, as it is “a story about a movie star and his entourage of buddies navigating their way through show business and enjoying all the perks along the way.” Despite a seemingly all-star cast of Cho Jin-woong (Signal), Seo Kang-joon (Are You Human Too?), Lee Kwang-soo (Running Man), Park Jung-min (Dongju: The Portrait of a Poet) and Lee Dong-hwi (Reply: 1988) and a fun insider look into the dramatized version of the entertainment industry, the show scored low ratings, possibly due to it being ahead of its time for Korea because of its Western style and black-comedy. Like its predecessor, it included celebrity cameos in addition to its ensemble cast, such as MAMAMOO, Sam Kim, Moon Geun-young, Park Chan-wook, Kim Tae-ri, Ha Jung-woo, Kim Sung-kyun, and Hyukoh, just to name a few. Not to mention, f(x)’s Amber Liu is a supporting cast member. 

  • Suits - 슈츠

Suits is an American legal drama created by Aaron Korsh (Everybody Loves Raymond) set in a fictional NYC law firm but filmed in Toronto, Canada. Korsh’s original idea for the TV show was to make it a “half-hour Entourage-type based on my [Korsh's] experiences working on Wall Street." The show begins with Mike Ross (Patrick J. Adams), getting a job as a law associate for Harvey Specter (The Spirit’s Gabriel Macht), despite being a college dropout. The majority of the show’s premise revolves around Mike and Harvey closing cases,  but also assuring Mike’s secret is not exposed. Additionally, a recurring cast include Meghan Markle, Gina Torres, Rick Hoffman, Sarah Rafferty, Dulé Hill, and Katherine Heigl. USA Network’s longest running television show, it ran from 2011 to 2019 with its ninth and final season. Due to the show’s success, it has induced a spin-off, Pearson, and remakes in both Japan and Korea. 

Released in 2018 with just sixteen episodes, the Korean adaptation of Suits is the third Korean series co-produced by NBCUniversal after Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo and Saturday Night Live Korea. The show’s premise is nearly identical and the main characters are equivalents to the original’s, namely Park Hyung-sik (Strong Woman Do Bong-soon) as Go Yeon-woo (Mike Ross) and Jang Dong-gun (Taegukgi: The Brotherhood of War) as Choi Kang-Seok (Harvey Specter), marking Dong-gun’s small-screen return after six years. 

  • Designated Survivor - Designated Survivor: 60 Days (60일, 지정생존자)

David Gunnenheim originally created the political thriller drama, Designated Survivor for ABC and it ran on the network for two seasons, from its premiere in 2016 until its cancellation in 2018. In 2019, Netflix picked it up and gave it a third and final season while allowing its customers to stream all three seasons. The series stars Kiefer Sutherland (24) who originally had no intention to return to television until he read the Designated Survivor script, which he believed had the potential to last ten years of his career. Sutherland plays American politician Thomas Kirkman, who after being named the designated survivor for the State of the Union address, shockingly becomes President of the United States as a result of an explosion killing everyone else in the presidential line of succession. The show focuses on his life during this difficult transition period while also investigating the explosion. 

In the same year of its predecessor's final season, Designated Survivor : 60 Days premiered on tvN and Netflix. Following a very similar premise as the original, Park Moo-jin (Dong Yi’s Ji Jin-hee), as the Minister of Environment, holds the highest ranking government position of those persons left alive after an explosion at the National Assembly, therefore causing him to automatically yet reluctantly act as President for sixty days. 

What is your favourite Korean remake of an American TV show? What American TV show would you like to be remade in Korea next? Let us know in the comments below! 

Looking for more to binge-watch? Check out American Remakes of Korean TV Shows!

Cover Image: Suits (KBS; NBC UNiversal)
Written by Tiffany Simms

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