[KS] Korean Teledramas

Angela Jin jinangela at hotmail.com
Thu Nov 3 13:39:11 EST 2005

Such a class or paper regarding Korean yonsokkuk would be truly exciting for 
many reasons, including the fact that it would encompass a diverse range of 
disciplines from psychology, sociology, and anthropology to media studies, 
history, economics, and politics.  For example, just in looking at the 
development of the middle-aged housewife character in "Ahjuma" (2000 ?) and 
the more current "Rose Life" on KBS, analyses from all these different 
perspectives come into play.

In an interview I conducted with a Korean drama producer a few years ago, he 
stated that he bases his dramas' storylines on "real life," on the stories 
that Korean viewers today could relate to personally whether it be about 
family, relationships, school, or work.  (Thus, the 'variations on a theme' 
as Stefan mentions below is inevitable.)  He weaves fantasy (and/or history) 
with common emotional elements of Korean daily life.  I believe he doesn't 
produce these dramas with the purpose of dealing with social and class 
issues per se, but rather in the process of telling the "human story" he 
inadvertently does so.  Another question - do Korean dramas then reflect 
what is currently happening in society or, because of their power on the 
viewership, are they more forward-looking and predictive of where society is 
to go?

-Angela Jin-

----Original Message Follows----
From: "Stefan Ewing" <sa_ewing at hotmail.com>
Reply-To: Korean Studies Discussion List <Koreanstudies at koreaweb.ws>
To: Koreanstudies at koreaweb.ws
Subject: Re: [KS] Korean Teledramas
Date: Wed, 02 Nov 2005 10:56:39 -0800

Dear KS list members:

Certainly, one would think that a good course could now be constructed, 
based upon the raw material provided by so many decent teledramas.  (I take 
it Charles Mueller is referring to _yo^nsokkuk_: serial dramas.  One 
additional advantage they have over North American serials would be the fact 
that they eventually end, and all their storylines are resolved--quite 
unlike programs here in North America that can go on for decades without 
ever coming to an end!)

Historical dramas such as _Yain Sidae_ or _Yo^ngung Sidae_ (although not 
really serial dramas) would be good to work with.  A workplace drama would 
provide material for learning about day-to-day Korean culture (workplace 
etiquette; _hoesiks_; and so on).  A family drama that deals with 
engagement, marriage, and/or divorce, and relations between daugters-in-law 
and mothers-in-law (as they all seem to do) might be fruitful, too.

One thing that strikes me about Korean teledramas is the recurrence of 
certain basic themes or motifs: two sisters, for example, one of whom is 
poor, adopted, and mistreated but ultimately prevails over the other, rich, 
spoiled sister.  Or the lovers destined by fate to be together but whose 
relationship cannot begin until the very end of the drama, because of all 
the obstacles thrown up by the writers (class issues, the objections of 
families, a third person, etc.).

In fact, there seem to be endless permuations on such themes, let alone any 
others that are used but which I can't think of right now.  Is it even 
possible--I am merely asking and certainly not speculating--that such dramas 
have historical roots in, say, _p'ansori_ (anciently) or the influence of 
Japanese drama (in more modern times)?  (For example, could the two-sisters 
motif be a throwback to, say, the story of Hu^ngbu and Nolbu?)

Yours sincerely,
Stefan Ewing


>From: Charles Mark Mueller <bul2mun at yahoo.com>
>Reply-To: Korean Studies Discussion List <Koreanstudies at koreaweb.ws>
>To: Koreanstudies at koreaweb.ws
>Subject: [KS] Korean Teledramas
>Date: Tue, 1 Nov 2005 13:27:31 -0800 (PST)
>I would agree wholeheartedly with the suggestion that more attention be
>paid to Korean tele-dramas. I think it's unfortunate that people
>sometimes refer to this genre as "Korean soaps" as this term conjures
>up memories of the mindless pabulum served up on U.S. TV. Personally, I
>think Korean teledramas are often superior to the films coming out of
>Hollywood. They have deep and complex character development,
>sound-tracks (often created for the particular show) that stand on
>their own as good pieces of music, and excellent dialog that often
>entails complex inuendo and humor. The shows also lack obvert
>sexuality, and as a result, focus on telling good stories instead of
>providing sexual titillation for porn addicts.
>They also deal with class and social issues that are oddly taboo in the
>U.S. To this, one could add that the casting is strikingly progressive.
>On a couple shows now, I've seen handicapped characters playing parts
>in which the handicap never appeared as an issue. I'm favorably
>impressed with much of what I see on Korean TV.

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