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Dramaworld’ Mixes Cultures, Introduces Korean Dramas to Fresh Audience

Seth and Claire, played by Justin Chon and Liv Hewson, in a still from "Dramaworld," which premieres April 16 on the web-streaming service Viki. Courtesy of Viki

It's easy for viewers to get absorbed into their favorite TV shows, sometimes to the point where they feel as if they're a part of that world. But in "Dramaworld" — a new web series based on Korean drama fandom — that's the premise.

In "Dramaworld," which is scheduled to debut April 17 on web-streaming service Viki, 20-year-old American college student Claire Duncan, played by Liv Hewson, is obsessed with watching Korean dramas — the fictional "Taste of Love" in particular. One day, as she is engrossed in the show, Claire realizes that the plot is going awry and her favorite character is falling for the wrong girl. Through her smartphone, she gets magically transported into and becomes part of the drama's universe.

With the help of Seth — a drama character also from the real world and played by Justin Chon — Claire navigates her way through "Taste of Love," righting the story along the way.

With episodes ranging from 12 to 17 minutes, the series includes both Korean and non-Korean elements, with a cast of Korean and non-Korean actors as well as both Korean and English languages spoken on and off camera.

Chon told NBC News that, at first, the show seemed complicated and was difficult for him to conceptualize. He said that he had a lot of reservations about whether or not it would work because it was partly in English and partly in Korean.

"Because the writing is good and the throughline of the main character is very clear, actually, it was way more seamless than you would think," Chon said. "That's why I'm so excited about it more than anything I've done in the last three years because it's so unique. It really is breaking a mold. It's an entirely new genre."

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Writer, director, and executive producer Chris Martin was initially drawn to Korean films while living in Asia after college but later developed a taste for television dramas.

"It has this really weird ability to pull you in and make you very emotional," Martin told NBC News. "And that's what I think that everyone responds to because everyone has this soft spot in their hearts for love and that's one of the differences from the States."

Seth Ko, played by Justin Chon, in a still from "Dramaworld" Courtesy of Viki

The 10-episode series will also include cameos from Korean celebrities, such as Choi Siwon — a member of K-pop group Super Junior — and actress Han Ji-Min. The show is a co-production between China's Jetavana Entertainment, South Korea's EnterMedia Contents, and the United State's Third Culture Content and is Viki's first original series, which it created with its international userbase in mind. According to the company, 34 percent of the service's users come from North America, 23 percent from Europe, and 25 percent from Latin America.

"Dramaworld was a really great start for us," Tammy Nam, CEO of Viki, told NBC News. "It will really help us introduce Korean dramas and Asian TV shows to a whole new audience, I think, because it's very accessible and a lot of it is in English."

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The company's primary goal, though, was to try to make something its entire user base could relate to.

"I always thought that it would be amazing to create a show specifically for the international fan base, which is actually very different than what currently exists right now," Nam said. "No matter where they are, [Viki users] feel like it was written for them because they can really relate to this fan in the show."

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Clarification: An earlier version of this story stated that "Dramaworld" is scheduled to debut April 16. Its debut has been rescheduled to April 17.