What can we do for teenagers to enjoy their web drama safely?

A couple of months ago, I stumbled upon an interesting web drama on my smartphone app lying in my bed. The title of the drama was ‘Pongdang-pongdang Love’. It was a time-warp love story between one typical high school girl and King Sejong who is the most famous king in Korean history. Once I saw the first episode, I couldn’t stop watching full episodes. It was a pretty short drama but has a well-made storyline and characters are adorable. This new kind of drama was definitely interesting!

Web drama is a type of web series which is released on internet or mobile. It is filmed about 10 – 20 minutes per episode and generally distributed through streaming service such as Netflix or online video site such as YouTube. In Korea, the internet service provider Naver and Daum have their own channels for transmitting web dramas.


Popular Web Dramas in Korea: Exo Next Door, Lily Fever and Pongdang-pongdang Love in order. (Source: Naver TV Cast)

This new type of drama is certainly getting more popular for its various and creative themes compared to terrestrial TV dramas. It has appealed to producers and directors too due to its small production budget which is less than one out of ten of TV dramas’.

Keeping up with its popularity in both sides, the regulation-related issues are also emerging in online service industry and society. The biggest problem is that there is no appropriate regulatory system for web contents yet, even though the main users of web contents are teenagers who can be more easily affected by media. They are placed in the most important life stage of forming identity but it seems like web contents providers don’t care much about it.

As an example, the web drama Lily Fever revolved around lesbian-themed story which is not encouraged on terrestrial TV in Korea. It transmitted lesbian kiss scenes and other scenes provoking homosexuality via online channels. In fact, most web dramas in Korea have been produced for the purpose of promoting a corporate image, product, or even K-pop stars. So, it is more likely that it contains distorted and commercialized messages in it. Anyway, after the complaining by social associations, the Lily Fever changed its level to adults only. Korean Communication Commission has tried to solve this kind of problems and come up with new regulation system for web contents, but there still exist many obstacles in local media environment.

The situation is not so different in European countries. It is an admitted fact that the number of young people watching home TV is falling off while the number of young people watching web TV is increasing around European countries. Nevertheless, the OTT (over the top) regulatory reform by European Commission and European Parliament has not been done as there remains many challenges such as conflicts between traditional telecom and OTT service operator, regional fragmentation as a single digital market, etc.

The web platforms and digital devices are continuously transforming or converging. We are not sure whether the regulation system for web contents can keep pace with the swift tempo of this changing. One more thing we should give our attention is that many teenagers are using their smartphone or computer individually unlike watching TV together in the living room. In this situation, critical media literacy will be more important than in the period dominated by mass media.

We should give more attention back to strengthening critical media literacy of teenager, considering changed digital media platforms and newly created web contents. In addition to this, the voluntary programs or activities by independent social associations should be more developed to support teenager’s critical ability at the outside of regulatory boundary which is still unstable.

The author Sei Kwon worked in advertising and brand marketing agency and is currently studying for master degree in Media Education, University of Tampere.




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