The Success of Netflix Original Series: Extracurricular
June 22, 2020 by Hyelim Jung
Extracurricular is a Korean Netflix Original Series that was released on April 29, 2020. It consists of 10 episodes, and there is much anticipation that Season 2 will soon be released. This Netflix series involves a high-school boy who is seemingly a good, hard-working student, but who is actually the agent for an organized prostitution ring for young women. He uses a smartphone application to communicate with his female workers anonymously so that nobody would know he is a high-school student. What is more shocking is that his secret “business” includes a classmate in his class, a girl who wants to earn extra money to buy gifts for her boyfriend.
This sensational series gained popularity quickly and ranked first place in the Most Popular Content Chart for Netflix Korea. This is an exemplary case for the success of Korean Netflix Original Series, perhaps following the success of Kingdom.
_What made this series so popular? _
First, we can’t ignore the unique social situation of Spring 2020. With the COVID-19 pandemic and social-distancing regulations, most people were stuck home instead of hanging out outside. In this particular period of time, the so-called “Netflix Marathons”, which were already trending, came into full swing. People would spend hours at home watching consecutive series of episodes on Netflix, sometimes pulling all-nighters. Extracurricular was perfect for anyone hoping to do a Netflix Marathon, because it only consisted of 10 episodes, around 60 minutes each. It almost became a popular expression to say that you “finished Extracurricular in two days.” Netflix even made use of this trend and used the following phrase as its marketing catchphrase: “Planned on seeing just one episode, but ended up seeing the sun rise.”
Another factor is the relatively unrestricted nature of the Netflix platform that allowed Extracurricular to freely depict a gloomy reality. Because the series was not aired on cable TV, it was not regulated with rules that are as strict. The heavy and often controversial topic of sexual prostitution is introduced openly, and there is a wide use of profanity all throughout the series. This way, Extracurricular portrayed very realistic relationships and dialogues between teenagers. Such explicit realness was quite shocking, but it definitely made the viewers get absorbed in the series.
Third, perhaps the most important factor is that this show reminded the viewers of a recent incident that occurred in Korea, known as the Nth Room Case. The show was aired just one month after the Nth Room Telegram incident, in which sexually exploitative videos of women and underage girls were created and sold through Telegram chat rooms. With the shock of the incident still lingering on the public, viewers of Extracurricular were inevitably reminded of the crime that happened in real life. Thus, the content of Extracurricular was taken much more seriously; it couldn’t be discarded as a mere made-up story. People have become much more interested and sensitive towards such issues now.
_What are the implications of its success in Korea? _
This is why Extracurricular is so radical; it brings out a sensitive social issue to the forefront. Before, sexual crimes- especially involving teenagers- were not openly discussed in dramas or TV shows. It was as if the topic itself was so bad that discussing it was tabooed. However, Extracurricular showed that the Korean media and the viewers have changed. The media doesn’t hide such issues anymore. Therefore, the very fact that Extracurricular ranked as the top series on Netflix is a positive sign; it proves that the public has become growingly aware and attentive towards cyber crimes and teenage sexual exploitation. One can only hope that such awareness will also lead to a decline of crimes in our society.