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[Opinion] “Page Scripts” Symbolize Darker Side of Korean Drama Industry

[Opinion] “Page Scripts” Symbolize Darker Side of Korean Drama Industry

Posted December. 31, 2007 05:29,   


The assault on producers of the SBS drama “King and I” by actor Yoo Dong-geun is a symbolic incident which shows the changes in dynamics in the entertainment business.

Although Yoo was reportedly drunk, the incident came as shocking news to the entertainment world, where producers have the authority over actors and actresses. By publicly apologizing to the producers and the victims, Yoo seems to have settled the issue for the time being. Nonetheless, the problem of giving scripts to actors and actresses on the day of shooting, the underlying cause for the assault, is still haunting the Korean drama kingdom.

No other countries broadcast more dramas than Korea. Perhaps because of Korea’s emotion-rich ethnicity, Korea offers all kinds of dramas, including morning, daily, weekend, Monday and Tuesday (Wednesday and Thursday), and special dramas. Despite the richness in quantity however, drama producers have to bear with substandard production conditions. A prime example is the so-called “page script” system that gives actors lines for the day’s shooting only. Sometimes actors and actresses do not receive scripts until after they finish their makeup. These “page scripts” arrive by fax or e-mail, page by page. Worse yet, they are sometimes transmitted by mobile text messages sentence by sentence.

Since actors and actresses have to act their parts without knowing what will happen next, it is hard for them to identify with their characters. Furthermore, they cannot rehearse with their counterparts beforehand because everyone is busy memorizing their own lines. Acting by “page script” often means they have to stay up all night, sometimes pushing them to breakdowns. For the producers, they are kept in the dark about the shooting location until the “page script” is released. Since this allows no time to ask for cooperation at the locations beforehand, producers sometimes damage properties on location, such as cultural assets. The biggest problem with “page scripts” is deterioration in drama quality because the flow of the story may be interrupted at each page.

An official in the broadcasting industry said, “Korean dramas love secrets of one’s birth, affairs, losing one’s memory, a good girl winning against a bad girl, Cinderella-like characters, incurable diseases, and conflicts between mothers-in-law and daughters-in-law. Without these seven topics, they are left with nothing.” This is also why the plots of Korean dramas are disappointingly predictable, whereas U.S. dramas make viewers look forward to the next episode. Problems regarding “page script” can largely be blamed on the scriptwriters. Roh Hi-Kyeong, a scriptwriter famous for not writing “page scripts,” said, “Providing the script before shooting is an act of respect to the producers.” A scriptwriter should be able to tolerate the “hassle” of writing a script beforehand if he or she wants to show respect to viewers, let alone the producers.

Chung Sung-hee, Editorial Writer, shchung@donga.com