Sunday, 5 December 2010

(Asian) Women's Problems Seen Through (Korean) TV Drama

Picture taken from

In "All About Marriage" (Please Marry Me), Jung-Im potrayed the Cinderella style of Asian married women. In Cinderella, girls share the dream of their prince charming to come, to rescue Cinderella from her sad story and to find the happily ever after ending. Indonesia has this kind of story in our lines of traditional stories, Bawang Merah dan Bawang Putih. But those are stories for girls. In this Korean drama the girl changed into a married woman. Aired by KBS in 2010, this film is probably inspired by the story of Susan Boyle who inspired the world by her performance in the Britain's Got Talents 2009. Cinderella is of course can be found anywhere. For some Indonesians the story of Cinderella is a bit out of date. The translation of Cinderella in Bahasa Indonesia is Upik Abu. While we used to say being an Upik Abu for those who work hard at home, now another term is better accepted..."Oshin". That Japanese film "Oshin" was so popular here in Indonesia that changed the perception of Upik Abu. May be because Oshin struggled in her life without the significance present of a prince charming, so she was a leading character for struggling women.

"All About Marriage" is not a serious drama like "Oshin". Yet, it blend the basic problems that women (perhaps it should be read as Asian women) are dealing with. This film shows us problems faced by different generations, not only by Jung-Im, but also by older generation like her mother-in-law. I think the most important idea from this film is the fact that Jung-Im like most Asian women did all her best to help her husband Tae-ho in his career. While sacrificing her days at home (without kids, which for some Asian men could be used as a reason to adultery) her husband enjoys his advancing career by flirting with Suh-young, his co-worker. How she survived her days and be able to stand up again as a woman is really wonderful (although it's still very Cinderella, as she was helped by another man, Hyun-wook)

I haven't got a lot of chances to watch Korean films. And, actually my interest in Korean films started up after my visit to Seoul. But from those Korean films I learned about problems that are faced by Asian women. The problem of being a daughter-in-law who need to serve the family of her husband. The problem of choosing between her own life and career and her family commitment. And also the communication problems in the family.

In another film, "You Are My Destiny", we can also see the problem between mother-in-law and daughter-in-law in generations, and also problems on communication.

In this other film (picture above is from KBS World), Jang Sae-byeok has to face both the urgency of a being a modern working wife, and the high demand of her mother-in-law to fulfill her duty as a traditional wife who moved into her husband's family. This film also shows how the different social status also played important source of problems and miscommunication. Perhaps the situation isn't always the same, there are other inspirational films that can enriched us with real daily life problems, yet it's clear that we are facing changing generations without leaving our old attitude of perceiving women's traditional tasks.

It's very obvious that Cinderella's dream is still shared between women, may be not just in Asia... While seeing Oshin as an ideal example of a struggling woman, I have to realized through these Korean films the bridging of the old tradition into the new era, the progress of understanding a woman position in the Asian society and how to deal with it in our own daily lives.

I think Indonesian women in my generation (and in big cities) are lucky as we're not really attached to traditional obligations to move into the husband's family. Even if you're moving in, I don't think that there is an obligation to serve for the whole family as I've seen in those films. Yet, similar problems (especially those communication problems) do exist. Seeing it in a film can help us reflected on our own daily problems and hopefully make us wise enough in facing our own problems.

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