Southeast Asia’s Love for Lakorn

by Matthew Escosia
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By: Godfreyna Canja


If you haven’t already heard of the term “lakorn,” I might ask you if you live in a cave or in an undiscovered island, because they have been a huge thing in Southeast Asia for years now and have only been getting bigger. I am all for inclusivity though, so I’ll indulge you. lakorn is a term used for Thai TV soap operas or dramas, much like teleseryes for Filipinos and K-dramas for South Koreans. “lakorn nam nao,” as Thais call it, translates to “polluted soaps.” According to Amporn Jirattikorn, a professor from Chiang Mai University faculty of Social Sciences, the “polluted” characteristic of lakorn draws from its exaggerated portrayal of life, unreal and lavish visual settings and melodramatic plots.

Lakorns usually center on romance and melodramatic stories. But although some claim that lakorns are cliched and are always bound to have a happy ending, fans just can’t get enough of them, with the lakorn phenomena reaching as far as Vietnam, China, Cambodia and the Philippines.

In Amporn Jirattikorn’s essay, the rise in lakorn’s popularity may be because of growing economies. Vietnam, for example, has a growing cable TV market that created a higher demand for TV content. Additionally, advancement of technology and the explosive popularity of K-dramas contributed to the increasing popularity of Thai dramas in the region, not to mention Thai dramas are far less expensive for TV stations to syndicate than Korean dramas.

Me-ann, 22, a fan from Antipolo said that there’s a chemistry between the characters and the story in lakorn that she personally loves to watch. Even though there may be a bit of cliché, she doesn’t get tired watching it.

Migs from Marikina said he could relate to it. “There were some kilig moment scenes that actually happened to me and the story is nice and gives you good vibes. Even though sometimes the plot is the same, there’s always something different every series. Also, I think aside from the story, the actors have a lot to do with why it’s become popular. They’re very good looking and they have nice bodies,” shared Migs.

Kyle, another lakorn fan from QC says, “I guess we watch it because we get to dive into other people’s cultures and belief’s that’s different from our own. As humans we always want to experience something new or different. So I guess diving into Asian soaps like K-drama and Thai dramas makes us experience just as much.”

Southeast Asians, especially Filipinos may find lakorn relatable as their families may share the same values, being both Asian. There is also a familiarity in terms of appearance as Filipinos and Thais tend to look similar at times due to their Malay descent.

You’re my Destiny was the first lakorn that aired in the Philippines in GMA Network last year and in the first three weeks it garnered high ratings from the audience. Likewise, The Crown Princess, another Thai lakorn, made huge waves around Southeast Asia and held number 1 in Philippine primetime tv ratings, beating Pinoy Big Brother Otso, one of the country’s most popular reality TV shows, until its last week. This led to the lead actress Urassaya Sperbund visiting the Philippines to meet her dedicated fans in a fan event held last year.

Another thing that draws fans to lakorn is that actors regularly hold fan events in other countries, really interacting with their audience and getting to know them. This is true for recent fan events here in Manila like Yaya Sperbund’s and a number of other Thai actors’ fan meetings. In this regard, the kind of relationships they build with fans are truly one of a kind.

Additionally, although similar with teleseryes and K-dramas, one thing that sets lakorns apart is their open representation of LGBTQ characters. Most gay characters we see in teleseryes usually fall into the stereotype of gay men who are flamboyant and are usually there for comic relief. There are a number of lakorns that focus entirely on gay couples and it’s really refreshing to see a non-stereotypical representation of gays in a TV drama. This may be why audiences in Southeast Asia are becoming more and more interested in Thai lakorn.

How about you? Are you familiar with lakorns, and if so, why you think they’re worth watching? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below!




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