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Forbidden Realms: K-dramas fearlessly addressing taboos in compelling storylines [Spoilers- Part 1]

We wanted to start a series about K-Dramas that contain topics that are typically taboo in South Korea so here we are!

Some notable taboo topics that we will look into are intellectual disability, sex (friends with benefits), domestic violence, women dating men somewhat younger, divorce, Koreans' perception towards foreigners, lookism, single parenthood, the list goes on and on!

In part one of this series, we will look into the drama One Spring Night, and in Part 2 When the Camelia Blooms on the topic of "Single Parents" and how Korean society responds to single parents.

One Spring Night still
"One Spring Night" still

In the world of K-Drama and real life, there are many similarities. The main similarity is usually that of the perception of Korean society. Korean society can at times be very harsh and this is usually towards these taboo topics. Having lived in Seoul for more than two years you can see that some parts of society are very superficial, meaning that people judge other people a lot based on looks, status, money, etc. Don't get me wrong like any place there are also many lovely things about South Korea.

RM Quote
RM Quote

In the two dramas mentioned above, the story is centered on the premise of single parents and how society responds to them, some kind but most are not. I think the issue here in South Korea is people can be very judgmental because appearances are meant to be everything.

In both stories, two single parents navigate life with their child and meet someone they'd potentially like to date. The biggest issue with this in society here is that those people they want to date are usually single and childless and single parents shouldn't want to date someone "different" from themselves.

How the Dramas Tackle These Taboos

One Spring Night

One Spring Night Trailer

One Spring Night is centered around a woman named Jeong In in her 30s who has been in a long-term relationship with Gi Seok. These two are at the stage where Gi Seok begins talking about marriage but evidently, Jeong In is not too enthused by the idea. The other main character of this drama is Ji Ho who is a single dad also in his 30s with a son named Eun Woo. The drama ends with Jeong In and Ji Ho falling in love and Gi Seok resisting the breakup throughout the drama.

Single parenthood is frowned upon?

I won't speak too much on the drama itself, but a prevalent theme throughout is the negative attitudes towards single parenthood in South Korea. It is clear that people find it unacceptable first of all that Ji Ho is a single dad and second of all because he wants to pursue a relationship with someone who does not have a child.

Gi Seok and Ji Ho argue
Gi Seok and Ji Ho argue

Gi Seok makes his disdain evident in a somewhat condescending, yet polite way in his interactions with Ji Ho. I think his disdain did come from the fact that Ji Ho was stealing his girlfriend but you could slowly see Gi Seok wield Ji Ho's single parenthood as a sort of weapon to dissuade Jeong In and those around her from liking Ji Ho. In some scenes, the way he describes Ji Ho is like "that person" who is in a particular situation that people should stay away from and proceeds to say that he is clinging onto to Jeong In and their relationship in order to "save" Jeong In from the humiliation she would face of being "with someone" like Ji Ho who is a single father.

Jeong In meeting Ji Ho's family
Jeong In meeting Ji Ho's family

The drama ends with the acceptance of Ji Ho and Eun Woo (his child) by Jeong In's mother and sisters. I think it was a beautiful drama because Jeong In fell in love with Ji Ho and despite the society she lived in, stuck by her truth about what she felt. Of course, it can be hard to raise someone else's child, but it shouldn't be hard to simply 'love' should it? Perceptions of single parenthood in South Korea need to change in order to support people to live healthy and happy lives, not isolate them from society.

To read more on the topic of Single Parenthood please check out Part 2 where we will discuss When the Camelia Blooms! Comment below your thoughts on South Korea's perception of single parents.


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