And the answer: Subway.
Due to Korean broadcasting regulations, there are no commercial breaks, so product placement is used as an alternative source of revenue. There are 467 Subway locations across South Korea, making it a common set piece on Korean TV. Writers of Korean dramas sometimes go as far as incorporating the fast-food chain and other products into their shows’ plotlines.
Also known as K-dramas, Korean dramas have been popular in South Korea since the 1980s, although their origins go back even further. The first Korean TV series was broadcasted in 1962 by KBS, or Korean Broadcasting System, which has since persisted as Korea’s national channel. By the time color TVs became a staple in Korean homes, the landscape of Korean television began to expand and favor modern dramas.
Like most dramas, music plays an essential role in K-dramas. Original soundtracks are often crafted for each show, while most songs are performed by popular Kpop (or Korean Pop) artists. In fact, if the music of an artist is found to be especially popular, that artist will likely be invited to create the music for another K-drama (or two, or three). A notable example of such an artist is Baek Ji Young, who has recorded songs for approximately 20 different dramas.
Since advertisement is not an option, creators of K-dramas will often use product placement to ensure overseas profit for their programs. In 2010, the Korean Communication Commission loosened the restrictions on brand logos and companies appearing on broadcast television. These new regulations spearheaded an escalation of product placements. The record-breaking Korean drama, “Descendants of the Sun,” released in 2016, raked in 2.6 million dollars from product placements alone.
Learn more about K-dramas and product placement here.