K-Drama fans in India are growing impatient as two big-budget series have had their release in India postponed by Netflix, which has distribution rights for the show. King The Land, starring Im Yoon-ah and Lee Jun-ho, and See You In My 19th Life, starring Shin Hye-sun and Bo Hyun-ahn, are airing on the JTBC and tvN networks respectively in South Korea, and each episode is releasing on Netflix in other countries as soon as it is aired. But not in India.
Korean drama fans on social media slowly realised what was happening over the weekend, when they were greeted with a message on the platform for both shows instead of a play button: “Hindi Dub Coming June 29” (19th Life) and “Hindi Dub Coming July 13” (King The Land). Netflix is delaying the release of the show in its original language until it has a Hindi dub.
“Why would you not release [the shows’] episodes right away,” one user asked. “You can release Hindi dubbed versions later whenever you want to - what’s with this strange marketing strategy.” Another lamented, “keep the hindi dub version for yourself and release the original one oh god!!!!!!” Another declared, “I’m cancelling my subscription.”
A Netflix spokesperson declined to comment on the record, but the company indicated that it will only release the show when the Hindi dub is available, to “enhance the viewing experience” of customers. The weeks-long delay right now may not be the worst of it for fans who want to watch the show as it is airing.
While Netflix does produce Korean original series on its own, and releases entire seasons simultaneously, it also relies on tie-ups with Korean broadcasters, with whom it co-produces shows and releases them for streaming globally. In the case of these shows, though, Netflix has not always been quick to make other language options available upon each episode’s launch. The solution has been contentious; to hold back the release of each episode until such language options are available.
For example, the hit series Extraordinary Attorney Woo, about a lawyer with autism, was releasing on a weekly schedule around the world in 2022. But since Netflix was not able to get French subtitles ready on time for each episode’s release, audiences in France were only able to see episodes after a two-week-delay. In essence, they were two weeks behind the rest of the world.
As such, even when King The Land and 19th Life do end up releasing in India, along with an added Hindi dub, the number of episodes available may not be the same as in the rest of the world. It is unclear why Netflix is not releasing Hindi audio when it is made available, and releasing the series with English subtitles immediately, as it has done so in 32 of 37 countries tracked by the third party Netflix catalogue Unogs. Mexico, Argentina, and Colombia also don’t have the show yet, likely because Latin American Spanish subtitles don’t seem ready (European Spanish subtitles are available, so Spain has the series.)
It is also not clear how far in advance Netflix has access to the episodes for shows that they co-produce with Korean broadcasters, but dubbing studios in India generally do not employ translators who specialise in translating from the source language. They end up using the English subtitles, or ‘turnkey,’ to do what’s called a ‘bridge translation,’ where scriptwriters for dubs are working with an English translation, and not the original Korean version. And since the English translations themselves take some time, studios may not have much of a head start.