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Jewel in the Palace: a 500 year-old first

Triangle and Stratos Television has launched its upcoming Korean drama series Jewel in the Palace. The series will be the first long-form drama screened in NZ in a language that’s not English. The show will be subtitled because Triangle Stratos “didn’t want to interfere with the integrity of the programme”, according to CEO Jim Blackman.

‘Long-form’ is possibly an understatement for a series that runs 54 x 60 minutes. Even screening ‘Coro-style’ twice weekly it will run until May next year.

It’s very good news for the country’s 32,000 Korean ex-pats, although naturally Traingle and Stratos hopes to attract a wider audience, as the show is the most popular drama ever screened in Korea. It attracted average ratings of 45.8% across its run when it screened there in 2004. Even those numbers were not a patch on its Iranian viewing figures; the series attracted 90% ratings there.

Certainly the Koreans turned on an impressive display to launch the programme, booking out the top floor of the Hyatt for an event sponsored by Triangle Stratos and the Korean Embassy.Korean Ambassador Kwang Il-Noh, Ethnic Affairs Minister Pansy Wong and Broadcasting Minister Jonathan Coleman all turned out to speak at the event.

The event was MCed by MP Melissa Lee, no stranger to television after her 15 year career as a presenter and producer for TVNZ’s Asia Dynamic and Asia Down Under before entering her “new job”.

According to Ms. Lee, she brought the series to Triangle Stratos after a request from the Korean Embassy to assist with placing some Korean programming with NZ broadcasters.

Triangle Stratos felt the show was a great fit for what the stations are trying to do, but was initially pessimistic about the opportunity as he felt the cost would be prohibitive – as it would have been without the assistance of season sponsors Kia Motors and Oggi Foods.

Jim Blackman used the opportunity to express his views on the state of TV in NZ, and the fact that little was being done by the country’s major broadcasters to cater for the increasingly diverse cultural demographic of the country as a whole, and Auckland in particular.

He also raised the issue of regional broadcasters, of which Triangle is one, and how and where they will fit into the broadcasting landscape following digital switchover.

Mr. Blackman enjoys the job of delivering content to the country’s ethnic minorities, even if he would prefer to do it with the sort of governmental assistance that TVNZ 6 and 7 have received.

Jewel in the Palace, produced by Korea’s Munhwa Broadcasting Company (MBC), has been extremely successful internationally, selling into 8 Asian territories, achieving record ratings in China, Taiwan and Hong Kong, and selling to 50 countries worldwide including the US, Canada and Australia.

MBC produces over 700 hours of drama programming each year, and has built on the success of Jewel, originally screened in 2003, with Prince of the Legend (81×60 minutes, 2006) and Lee San, Wind of the Palace (77×60 minutes, 2008).

The series debuts on Sunday at 9pm and continues on Tuesdays and Sundays.