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How K-Dramas Portray People With Disabilities

BY Joan MacDonald | Mar 08, 2014 11:20 AM EST

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K-drama plots have used disabilities such as vision and hearing impairment before. They often predict a tragic love story that could not be. Or the impairment causes a misunderstanding that spells tragedy. But lately k-dramas have started to include characters that are considered disabled in more varied ways.

Last year "Good Doctor" was a hit partly because it explored the interesting subject of Asperger's Syndrome. Some people diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome, which is included in a spectrum of autism disorders, can have unusual abilities in certain areas without the social skills that make it easy to function in life. They may have exceptional musical or mathematical or conceptual abilities. But at the same time they may find it difficult to relate to others. They may not be able to read the facial expressions that signal emotion which most people learn as babies. Or they may behave childishly in other ways. That was the case with Joo Won's character in "Good Doctor."

Despite his disability, his character managed to prove himself and the audience cheered him along.

While the plot  "Good Doctor" took some liberties iwhile describing the disorder, that an actual doctor might disagree with, it did help many people learn more about Asperger's.

"God's Gift - 14 Days" has also taken on the subject of disability. Two characters that are pivotal to the plot have developmental disabilities. Ki Young Gi, played by Baro, is the disabled boy that Lee Bo Young's daughter plays with. When Lee Bo Young is allowed to go back in time, he may well help her prevent tragedy. That would be interesting because her character is very concerned with her daughter being smart and achieving in school.

Jo Seung Woo's character's brother is facing a death sentence for killing someone, which he probably did not do. But he was not able to defend himself. While the fact that this plot features a developmentally disabled man with a disabled son is misleading, this show does deliver two truths. First, the disabled are often unfairly blamed because of their inability. And second, they may need someone to stand up for their rights.

The upcoming drama "It's Okay, It's Love," takes on the subject of Tourette syndrome. A person with Tourette syndrome may have a nervous behavior they cannot control or may even blurt out words in inappropriate situations. Lee Kwang Soo announced this week that he was considering a role in this drama but did not say which role it was. Noh Hee Kyung, who wrote "That Winter The Wind Blows" and "Padam Padam," will write the romantic melodrama so it is bound to be both serious and heartbreaking. Jo In Sung and Gong Hyo Jin are rumored to be considering roles as a psychiatrist and a mystery writer. And EXO's D.O. has already signed on to the cast.

It will be interesting to see how these dramas and future dramas handle the subject of disabilities.

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