US TV dramas become outdoor entertainment for South Korean youth

( dpa )- US television dramas have become so popular in South Korea that they have developed into outdoor entertainment among a growing number of tech-savvy young people.

Lone young people are often found hanging around trendy cafes with their laptop computers on their tables. While sipping cafe lattes and nibbling doughnuts or bagels, these people in their 20s and 30s are studying, working, surfing the internet and often watching US TV shows like Sex and the City.

It's not unusual for devoted fans of the shows to spend half a day watching their favourite TV dramas at cafes. Tops on the list are CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, Lost, Prison Break and Desperate Housewives.

"I feel like I'm breaking out of my daily routine when I am watching Prison Break," said Park Hye Jin, 21, who was watching the series at a Coffee Bean cafe in downtown Seoul.

The reasons for the trend include South Korea's ranking as one of the most connected countries in the world and the quality of the US shows, which appeal to young, tech-savvy South Koreans, who have a reputation for being hard to entertain.

"Our young people have become hooked on US dramas largely for their quality appeal, which has been improved in the past years," said Jeon Hyo Chan, a researcher at the Samsung Economic Research Institute.

On the Korean side, an expansion in mobile broadband access has made it possible for young people to move out of their homes to watch TV.

In the past year, almost 500,000 people signed up for wireless broadband service in a country where 14 million people already have fixed-line broadband internet access.

"Are you still watching TV in your living room?" is a joke often asked among young people.

Television shows instead have become something to enjoy on the move for a growing number of so-called digital nomads.

Such people are watching the shows on their laptop computers or personal digital assistants whenever they have a free moment while on the move - never mind whether they are in class, on the subway or a train, or in a cafe.

An online survey conducted in November by the website OnMovieStyle found that about a third of the 3,671 respondents said they watched TV dramas away from home on the internet or via video on demand.

The trend has benefited the franchises Starbucks, The Coffee Bean, Pas Cucci , Tom and Toms, and Mister Donut, all of which have opened new locations across Seoul in the past year.

"If we were selling 2,000 bagels a day last year, we are selling 4,300 bagels this year," said Jung Kyong Ho, who owns a bagel franchise in downtown Seoul that hosts many TV drama watchers.

Health experts warned, however, that the trend could have some adverse effects if the mobile TV watchers also indulge in cafe breads and pastries. Bagels, for instance, contain 250 to 400 calories each, which means their consumers must run one to two hours to burn them off.

"I really shouldn't because I've already had two doughnuts this morning," said Kim Mi Kyung, 22, who was tearing into her third at a cafe. "I can hardly button up the top of my jeans, but I cannot resist another bite."

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