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Forbidden Realms: K-dramas fearlessly addressing taboos in compelling storylines [Spoilers- Part 2]

If you haven't read part 1, you probably need to! You can do so HERE.

Welcome back to our discussion about taboo topics in South Korea, in this article we continue to discuss Single Parenthood in Korea and how Korean society responds to single parents through the lens of K-drama! Let's begin!

When the Camelia Blooms poster
"When the Camelia Blooms" poster

When the Camelia Blooms (2019)

"When the Camelia Blooms" Trailer

Once again, this centers around a single parent, this time a single mother named Dong Baek (which also means Camelia in Korean) and her son Pil Gu. In this drama, we see once again the perception of single parents in South Korea and how they get treated. This one goes a little further too because Dong Baek owns a restaurant that serves alcohol (essentially a bar) and gets judged for this as well, since most of the men in that small town like to gather and socialize at her establishment. Dong Baek typically takes comments about not having a husband lightly but it gets heavier when a single man named Yong Sik starts to have interest in her.

Father Figure

Jong Ryeol - Pil Gu’s Biological Father
Jong Ryeol - Pil Gu’s Biological Father

In One Spring Night, the mother of the child supposedly abandoned the father and son, but in When the Camelia Blooms, the father was in a relationship in Dong Baek where she felt overlooked and underappreciated so she leaves the relationship. The father Jong Ryeol does come back into the picture as well.

Single Mother Judging a Single Mother

Yong Sik’s Mother Deok Soon
Yong Sik’s Mother Deok Soon

When Yong Sik's interest in Dong Baek becomes known to his mother, she reacts furiously. She and Dong Baek had been friends and she had protected Dong Baek from the mistreatment of the other women who lived in the town. Yong Sik's mum is aware of her judgments, saying that she was also a single mum after her husband passed away and was treated similarly to Dong Baek and knows that she shouldn't be treating Dong Baek that way, but that's how parents are they want the best for the child, she explains further.

It's okay for them but not for me

You see this a lot in Korean Society where a lot of people are openly judgmental or people are seemingly okay with a situation e.g. single parenthood or marrying foreigners but when asked if their own child could do that they react strongly and say "Of course not, I wouldn't want that". You can see this a lot in IAMFROMKOREA's videos where he interviews parents about young Koreans marrying foreigners.

IAMFROMKOREA's Video: Korean Parents on Accepting Their Children Marrying Foreigners

At the end of this drama, people eventually accept Dong Baek and Yong Sik's relationship and their situation, and I mean that's usually how it works out even in real life, people accept it and move on with their lives. The difference is, in real life, there are people who don't accept it and either force their children out of it or disown/cut them off completely. (Of course, this is a broad generalization, but we have encountered individuals who have told us.)


Dongbaek and Yong Sik’s love prevail
Dong Baek and Yong Sik’s love prevail

If I'm honest I am not sure how to conclude this article, except to say I can't speak to the fact of children needing two parents in a family unit, the world has changed so much these days and the idea of the family unit has changed especially with the influence of the LGBTQ+ movement. I do think a child needs both parents however, that is not to say that single parenthood is bad, sometimes like in the cases of these dramas it is inevitable and the child is still raised lovingly, but sometimes the child's mind still lingers on the thought of having that missing parent present in their lives.

Ladies questioning Dongbaek when she says she doesn’t have husband
Ladies questioning Dongbaek when she says she doesn’t have husband

Either way, South Korea still frowns upon the topic of single parenthood. Unfortunately, it is just inevitable sometimes for a variety of reasons (unsuitable parents/partners, abuse, etc). I feel like a shift in these ideas and cultural perspectives could be helpful for the declining population rate here in South Korea. I think the perspective that needs to change is that sometimes things happen in life and that's just the way it is, it's not usually that person's fault either and they don't need to be condemned for the rest of their life for it, they deserve a chance to live and love just as everyone else does.

When the Camelia Blooms still
"When the Camelia Blooms" still

What do you think about Korea's attitude towards single parenthood? What would you suggest to change it? Comment below!


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