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"Lovely Runner" highlights a very daunting issue in Korea's "perfect image" society

tvN's new hit series Lovely Runner not only reflects the status of K-pop fandom in recent years but also highlights a very daunting challenge facing many Koreans with disabilities. We reflect on how this series is the start of a new movement and why we're all for it!



Spoilers!





Synopsis


Ryu Sun Jae (Byeon Woo Seok Strong Girl Nam-Soon 2023) is a K-pop star and leader of his group Eclipse. Tired of the entertainment industry, Ryu Sun Jae decides to end his life. Im Sol (Kim Hye Yoon Cleaning Up 2022) is a young woman struck with tragedy as she is paralyzed from the waist down due to an accident when she was young. She was ready to give up on her life when a call from Ryu Sun Jae on a radio program changed her life. She becomes his fan and listens to his radio show for comfort.





Im Sol hears the heartbreaking news of Ryu Sun Jae taking his own life and feels deep sadness. Miraculously, Im Sol travels back in time 15 years prior facing Ryu Sun Jae as a 19-year-old high school student. She struggles to prevent his tragic future.


Highlighting the ugly truth


The K-drama industry has been oversaturated. Plot lines have crisscrossed and actors have played the same roles multiple times. Lovely Runner is the breath of fresh air that everyone needs from this industry! Highlighting specific challenges and situations for characters is something that every drama should address, especially if it tackles the hard stuff that no one wants to talk about.





Right from the start, Im Sol and her friend attend Eclipse's first comeback in five years. They are your typical fans and are really looking forward to the concert. While at the venue, Im Sol gets a call from a company wanting to interview her at that exact moment (we're not sure why this always happens). Confident in her abilities as a video editor, Im Sol goes to their office in hopes of securing a new job. Right when she is introduced to the interviewer, she is quickly turned away, without even given an opportunity to interview, because of her disability (she was in a wheelchair). The company's excuse? "Oh, we have a two-story office with stairs. We're sorry but we cannot hire you." (Fuming yet?)


Disability in South Korea


We want to focus on the wheelchaired disabled in South Korea for this article, as it pertains to the drama. Living in South Korea as a normal person is already challenging. With the constant pressure to be "perfect", meaning a good job, a high salary, and be "good-looking" is just the standard that everyone must adhere to. Of course, this stigma is changing, but not really.




Now imagine being disabled on top of the societal pressure put on you. Korea is NOT a wheelchair friendly country! Many videos and stories have highlighted this issue. Although the government is slowly becoming more wheelchair-friendly in terms of building access, there are still many infrastructure issues that must be considered, especially public transportation such as buses without the ability to "kneel". You can watch more on this issue here:





We can debate on the wheelchair issue all day, but more importantly is how blatant the interviewer in Lovely Runner turned away Im Sol based on her disability, without giving her a chance to prove her skill. This happens often in South Korea and we're glad that this drama is opening more eyes to this daunting issue. We hope that this series will continue to highlight the inequalities for the disabled as well as other societal matters!


Comment below with your thoughts about this issue and if Lovely Runner is on your K-drama playlist!



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