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The Role Of Women Is Changing In Korean Television

by Ji Hyun Joo / Jan 12, 2016 02:56 PM EST
Korean actresses at movie festival

Korean soap operas have taken a place of its own in entertainment, satisfying the guilty pleasure of people all around the world.

Amidst the love triangles and kimchi slaps that we’ve witnessed, it is evident that the representation of women in these dramas have changed little by little.

Going off of the dramas that my mom used to watch back in the 90’s, most of the female characters were confined to the home. They were mostly seen caring for the children, even having to quit their jobs after getting married in order to satisfy the expectations of their in-laws by shifting their focus to family.

The Korean dramas of 2016 are a bit different.

Traditional societal expectations are still structured into the plot of many soap operas. Women being expected to live with their in-laws after marriage is still a source of conflict for many female characters.

However, as more women are entering the workplace and taking on leadership positions in Korean society, female characters leaving the household has become the norm.

In the drama, “Eom-Ma,” which currently airs on MBC, the women are seen choosing to work without holding the pressure of handling all of the household duties.

The plot of the dramas has also shifted.

“Eom-Ma,” which is mom in Korean, focuses on the happiness of a woman who has spent her life sacrificing for her children after her husband passed away. The drama still touches on the conservative parts of Korean society, including the limited social freedoms of a woman who was once married, while putting importance on the female lead’s ability to choose a direction for herself.

Despite the backlash she receives from her children as well as others around her, the female lead decides to find her own life and her own happiness. The previous belief that a woman’s life is limited to her husband and children continues to be corrected.

Even though there is a somewhat positive shift for female characters in television, things are still looking a little bleak for women in the Korean entertainment industry. There is little room for women to be recognized in an industry that is still male-dominated.

“2015 was all about men," comedian Kim Sook told a talk show.

“The chefs who spearheaded the cooking craze were mostly male and all the nominees for top entertainment awards in 2015 were men. Women entertainers had no place in entertainment."

However, more room for women would mean that the trends within Korean television would need to change.

“Women don't particularly enjoy making fun of themselves or looking anything less than beautiful on camera, nor do they fancy being placed under surveillance for long hours, which is what today's reality shows are all about,” explained culture critic Ha Jae-keun during a phone interview with The Korea Times.

“It's not a trend I see changing any time soon

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