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66 Percent Of All K-Dramas Focus On The Wealthy

BY Adrienne Stanley | Jun 17, 2015 12:55 PM EDT

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On June 16, the Korean outlet Donga Ilbo published an article which examined the percentage of dramas which prominently feature conglomerate families or a term known as chaebols, as compared to series which focused on characters from other socioeconomic backgrounds. According to the report, two out of three Korean dramas which are currently airing on terrestrial (non-cable) broadcast focus on chaebols. Sports Donga primarily referred to three programs for their feature: KBS' "Bluebird House," MBC's "Make a Woman Cry," and SBS' "High Society." 

After reviewing terrestrial dramas that are currently broadcasting, Donga Ilbo concluded that 13 out of 19 (68.7 percent) of series highlighted the lives of chaebols or business scenes set within fictitious conglomerates.

The article presented a monologue delivered by Choi Joon Ki (Sung Joon) in "High Society," as evidence of why the average K-Drama viewer is fascinated with the exploits of the rich. "If you are born rich, you will get rich," said Sung as Choi Joon Ki.  "Others must live hard, even if it what they love is happiness. This what my parents said. I will not be fooled. Those in poverty can never be happy." 

These harsh sentiments are held by Joon Ki, a hardscrabble middle manager who struggled to emerge from a childhood of abject poverty. He encounters Jang Yoon Ha (UEE), a reluctant heiress who hides behind her identity as a grocery store clerk while avoiding the inevitability of an arrange marriage. 

A cultural critic examined the monologue presented by Joon Ki and the prevailing sentiment of the series. "He is thinking, 'I want to be like that,' said the critic. "Without even trying to be rich like that, there is a longing and frustration, that is at the same time, a projection." 

Donga Ilbo also examined "Bluebird House" and "Make a Woman Cry." However, there are several other prominent nighttime dramas that meet the criteria of the study. In the popular SBS series, "Mask" Soo Ae portrays a poor girl who is blackmailed into relinquishing her identity to accept the life of a conglomerate heiress. The series airs against the MBC drama, "Warm and Cozy," which stars Yoo Yeon Seok as a privileged heir-turned-Jeju Island restaurateur. His brother Jung Geun (Lee Sung Jae) is an hotelier and real estate developer, who falls in love with a diving woman.

Teen dramas are not adverse from providing this form of wish fulfillment for their young viewers. BtoB's Yook Sungjae portrayed Gong Tae Kwang, the bitter son of a celebrity and wealthy school official, in "Who Are You: School 2015." In many ways, his self-destructive personality and tragic circumstances, mimicked Choi Young Do (Kim Woo Bin) from "The Heirs." Both characters maintained sad existences until they were introduced to poor girls, Lee Eun Bi (Kim So Hyun) and Cha Eun Sang (Park Shin Hye), respectively. 

What are your thoughts on the popularity of chaebol dramas? Why do viewers keep tuning in to watch the exploits of the wealthy and powerful? Comment below. 

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About the writer: Adrienne Stanley is a contributing editor for KDramastars. She is also a contributing writer for Kpopstarz, MTV Iggy and CJ Entertainment's KCON blog. Her passions include a love of K-pop and Asian drama. When she is not writing, she is hanging out on Twitter (@retrogirladdy). 

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