The hottest topics in Korean TV soaps in 2007 were adultery and conflicts between woman and her mother-in-law, and the resolutions were inevitably physical.
Viewers were treated to cheating spouses being cursed, kicked in the stomach and hit over the head with a washboard. The stock conflict between women and their mothers-in-law also reached new heights of intensity on TV.
◆ Coming to Blows
The SBS series "My Man's Woman" offered a slightly new angle on the age-old adultery problem. In an early episode, Junpyo, the male lead who is having an affair with his wife's friend Hwa-young, is caught kissing her by his sister-in-law, Eun-su. Viewers were stunned when Eun-su kicked Hwa-young and hit her in the face.
The characters in the SBS drama "First Wives Club" also came to blows. In the drama, Han Won-soo who has an affair, beats his wife Nah Hwa-shin, and Han Bok-soo, who is angry with her husband's affair hits him over the head with a washboard.
"In the past, Korean drama showed fantasies about adultery, like something out of a fairy tale," cultural critic Kim Jong-whee says. "But now dramas show the reality that is created by adultery." Kim Soo-hyun, the writer of "My Man's Woman," earlier told the Chosun Ilbo, "I write my script based on in-depth inquiries of adultery itself, rather than dealing with it as an episode."
◆ Nasty Mothers-in-law
Conflicts between women and their mothers-in-law reached new pitch. One mother-in-law in MBC series "Winter Bird" accused her daughter-in-law of being "spoiled goods in a pretty package." In KBS' "Golden Age of Daughters-in-Law," a woman is seen to cause the death of her daughter-in-law when she visits her in hospital and harangues her about splitting up with her son. Some viewers felt this was going too far.
Some experts say these storylines are a step back in time. Park Woong-jin of the Korea Broadcasting Institute said, "It remains a question whether viewers can feel catharsis from such fights." In the case of Eun-soo, viewers were impressed already by her feisty character; the fisticuffs were surplus to requirements. "The fight was a hackneyed old device to attract viewers," Park says, but admits that the ubiquity of such scenes suggests viewers prefer action to storyline.