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South Korean soap operas surprisingly popular in communist Cuba

HAVANA--For the past three decades, Brazilian telenovelas have helped Cubans forget their litany of woes for an hour a day. But today, dozens of South Korean soap operas are earning wide audiences.

Following in the footsteps of South Korean films and K-pop, “doramas” — South Korean soaps dubbed into Spanish — first appeared on Cuban televisions earlier this year.

“Queen of Housewives,” “My Fair Lady,” “Dream High” and, for the past month, “Secret Garden,” are all winning fans on the Communist-run island.

Dozens of other South Korean shows are being passed around in digital form on USB flash drives, a common way for Cubans to spread information because of the lack of widespread Internet access.

“South Korean shows are selling the best lately. They are easy to follow and very funny,” Yosmely Batista, a 21-year-old who runs a film and TV series stall out of his apartment in Havana's Centro neighborhood, told AFP.

“Why are they so successful, given all the cultural differences between South Koreans and Cubans? I suppose because it's so foreign — they hardly ever kiss on South Korean shows!” says Batista.

On offer at his home shop: about 60 TV shows, half of them from South America (Brazil, Colombia and Mexico) and the other half from Seoul.

Laura, a 13-year-old schoolgirl, says she has downloaded 24 Korean shows onto her computer, but has only watched nine of them so far.

“Boys Over Flowers” is the most popular among her classmates, she says.

“I just love them, they are short and really different,” the teen explains.

South Korean soaps, which echo the melodrama of Latin American telenovelas, have allowed Cubans to see a totally foreign world: officially, Havana 4only has diplomatic relations with North Korea.

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