Hallyu Wave Hits Cuba
kpopluv, Nov. 5, 2014, 5:13 p.m.
Korean soap operas continue their implausible success around the world by making a splash in Cuba. The leisurely pace and somewhat stationary acting of the Korean fare apparently contrasts pleasantly with the endless high-octane histrionics of Latin American telenovelas.
Early last year, state-run TV station Canal Habana began broadcasting "Queen of Housewives," the first Korean drama to air on Cuban TV. The program drew ratings of more than 70 percent. Next to air were "My Fair Lady" and "Secret Garden," which led to a boom in Korean TV dramas in the Caribbean nation.
"Jewel in the Palace" started on Monday, while "Boys Over Flowers" is being reviewed by the censors. Cubans who visited the Korean pavilion at the Havana International Fair which started Sunday asked where they could find the star of "Queen of Housewives," Sun Woo-sun.
Sun gave about a dozen interviews on Sunday, including with the official communist party newspaper. One street vendor in Havana selling pirated DVDs of Korean soaps said, "I sell more than 50 DVDs a week, and dramas with Lee Min-ho are especially in demand." Street stalls selling pirated DVDs are thriving in Havana. They sell for 3 Cuban pesos.
Cuba Vision, another state-run broadcaster, aired the Korean soap "You're Beautiful" without bothering to acquire the rights. But in reality all of the Korean TV dramas that have aired in Cuba were provided free of charge by the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency. Oh Young-ho, head of KOTRA, said, "Cuba doesn’t have formal diplomatic ties with Korea and is a communist nation, so we need to take a special approach to enter this market."
Orlando Guillén of the Cuban Chamber of Commerce said, "LG has been selling refrigerators in Cuba for more than a decade, but Cubans knew very little about Korea. But just one week after the soaps went on air everybody knew about Korea."
Cuban leader Fidel Castro's son Alex (51) visited the Korean pavilion on Sunday along with the ministers of agriculture and energy. He said he enjoyed watching "Queen of Housewives" with his wife and clasped Sun woo-sun in a warm socialist embrace. The younger Castro attended Korea-related events at the fair for three straight days. A keen photographer, Alex Castro is set to visit Korea next month to hold an exhibition.