It's been almost a year since tvN's Hotel Del Luna aired, delivering to us a tale like no other. And thanks to IU's work as the ill-tempered owner of the eponymous hotel (which, got her nominated for this year's Baeksang Awards), along with Yeo Jin Goo's role as the hotel manager Gu Chan Sung, we can't help but be riveted and await each episode with much excitement. Beautifully incorporating mythologies into this romance that spans most of Korea's history, this drama written by sisters Hong Jung Eun and Hong Mi Ran was one of the highest-rated tvN dramas that graced our screens last year. And what do you know? A Hotel Del Luna American remake is coming soon to bring this timeless story to a global audience.
An international collaboration
This surprise comes after CJ ENM's Studio Dragon, the production company that created the drama, partnered with Skydance Media to produce new global dramas and films. Skydance Media, known for the Mission Impossible films and TV show Grace and Frankie, will be collaborating with Studio Dragon every step of the way and they'll both have control in the projects they're handling. The Hotel Del Luna American remake will be written by Alison Schapker, famous for her work on Alias, Lost, and Fringe.
According to Soompi, this remake, along with other upcoming projects of Studio Dragon and Skydance Media, will be created for the enjoyment of people around the world in hopes of elevating the status of South Korean content.
Adaptation for the world
Looking back, there have been a few South Korean productions that were remade in the US. Most of which weren't received well by fans of the original due to the major deviations from the narrative, but some had been generally received well. One is the still-running The Good Doctor, starring Freddie Highmore, which went on a good start by following the South Korean original well. But the thing with The Good Doctor is that, unlike Hotel Del Luna, it's set wholly in the present and its soul isn't hinged on something so culturally specific.
Hotel del Luna is a fantasy romance that revolves around the tragic life of Jang Man Wol, the ill-tempered owner of the eponymous hotel that caters to spirits waiting to go into the afterlife. Her story spans a thousand years — from the late Goryeo era right up to the present — and it references beliefs and beings drawn from Korean folklore. So, we're wondering, how will this be translated into the upcoming version?
Lost in translation
To resonate better with its audiences, like many other adaptations, the Hotel Del Luna American remake will have to fit the local culture and history of where it will air. And given that Western countries can have a wholly different set of beliefs, changes will definitely be inevitable. Fans of the original might have to brace themselves. The cultural nuances we Asians are used to, as well as those specific to Korea in this case, might be lost.
We might see Man Wol's life spanning the history of the US, perhaps starting from the British settlement or even way before that to fit the millennium-long timeline. Or perhaps, the long history might be erased altogether. Hopefully, that won't be the case because that would just lessen the gravity of her grudge and pain, wouldn't it?
Ghosts and the concept of reincarnation can easily remain untouched as there are various belief systems around the world that touch upon those. Even the character of Kang Ho Seok, the jeoseung saja or afterlife messenger, has a Western equivalent in the form of the grim reaper, which is already how he's translated in the Netflix subtitles. What would be difficult to imagine is how they'd replace the Mago, a goddess from the Korean mythology, who controlled the lives of the souls in Hotel Del Luna.
Unless this version intends to show the exact same elements, with the same histories and mythologies, albeit in English with preferably an Asian-American cast, it's likely that there will be major changes to how this story will be delivered.
Aside from the Hotel Del Luna American remake, globalised adaptations of other South Korean titles such as Parasite and Sky Castle are also reportedly underway. Watching these adaptations will definitely be a different experience compared to viewing the source materials. Different — but whether good or not in its own right, we'll have to wait and see. Regardless, viewers from Asia will be exposed to another culture, which can be an enriching experience as well.
Ultimately, what we hope for is that these remakes will invite new viewers to explore and discover new titles that lie beyond their borders, bringing everyone — no matter where they are in the world — closer together.
(Cover photo from: @tvndrama_official)