Dubbing and Anglophilia: Doctor Who in South Korea

Note: The curator of this post has translated the dubbed Korean back into English via subtitles.

Curator's Note

Speaking about art cinema in the postwar period, Mark Betz finds that “dubbing and subtitling have been integral features of the national and transnational film industries in Europe”—and that the embodied voice of the actor and the “matter of language translation/transformation” are crucial to these dubbed films theatrical reception (2009: 31). To move the notion of dubbing to television in contemporary South Korea, I would like to contextualize the phenomenon of Doctor Who using Betz’s terms “translation/transformation.”

Given the rise of Anglophilia in South Korea presently, dubbing is in high demand for all things televisually British. The fandom-like following of other hit television programs function like a rebooted of “Cool Britannia” that has translated culturally to Korea in the 2010s—for example, Sherlock, Luther, and Downton Abbey all retain a loyal viewership. But it is the dubbed Doctor Who series uploaded to YouTube that has led to the transformation of the series’ impact beyond its weekly runs on KBS, the Seoul-based media network. With Doctor Who’s complex dialogue, most of the meaning is surprisingly not lost in its dubbed YouTube incarnations. In fact, the voice actor hired to dub David Tennants’ lines gets the Doctor persona largely right. The Korean voice actor approaches the material with great enthusiasm, with an intonation that retains some of the quirkiness that is distinct to “The Tenth Doctor.” The linguistic accuracy is praised by many Korean “followers” of the series that spend much time online comparing versions of Doctor Who in English to the quality of its translation into Korean. Transformation, as it were, is not just culturally relegated to Anglophilia but also to Koreans—of exceptional linguistic aptitude—who compare side-by-side YouTube dubbed versions of Doctor Who to its KBS versions aired with Korean subtitles. It becomes a critical game of linguistic appreciation for the art of dubbing and a testament to how subtitled episodes of Doctor Who are more difficult to follow, especially given the show’s impressive lexicon of sci-fi jargon and colloquial phrases by supporting characters. Nevertheless, YouTube allows this dialogue to be followed with greater ease and comprehensibility, and this secures a whole new level of reception for Doctor Who in South Korea.


I am not very familiar with these kind of localizations but they are definitely fascinating. I wonder, too, whether there is an attempt to translate "British" humor or whether Korean viewers/fans have inculcated themselves into those discourse communities.

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