*Nurzihan Hassim, Sheila Yvonne Jayasainan & Nur Leila Khalid
The formulaic content of Korean dramas or K-dramas, particularly from the resurging sageuk genre that integrates elements of history with modern twists of romance, has become more salient with viewers who find agency and opportunities for shared voices. This paper explores the significance of characters presented in sageuk K-dramas in shaping societal roles that resonate with viewer expectations and examines the emergence of parasocial relations from their viewing experiences. Additionally, the role of peer engagement among viewers that influence the extent of their parasocial relations is also analysed. Data was collected from viewer discussions on KissAsian, an online streaming website and centred on two formidable sageuk K-drama series; the first being Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo, and second, Goblin: The Great and Lonely God to ascertain viewer reactions and perceptions that correlate with the performances of fictional characters presented to them. Findings reveal that viewers sought gratification from inclusive and familiar settings whilst the prominence of actors in the selected sageuk series as well as communication with other like-minded viewers online was observed to have heightened the extent of viewer engagement and affinity for K-dramas.
Keywords: K-drama, parasocial relations, audience studies, new media, sageuk