[ENTERTAINMENT]An Affair to Remember - or Best Forgot

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[ENTERTAINMENT]An Affair to Remember - or Best Forgot

There was a time when merely showing lovers on the verge of a kiss was taboo in Korean television dramas. But now the TV stations are not so sensitive about showing those once blush-evoking scenes. They are even producing dramas depicting extramarital affairs - a fact, though often denied, of many real-life Korean marriages.

Lee Kyung-young, 42, is a favorite when it comes to actors playing in the role of a man engaged in an extramarital affair - a part he has played with caddish skill in many TV dramas and films, such as "Bulkkot" ("A Flame"). He currently stars in a TV drama titled "Pureun An-gae" ("Blue Fog"), aired on Korea Broadcasting System on weekend evenings. He plays the role of Seong-jae, a middle-aged man. Seong-jae is a man whom many men may envy and women consider the ideal mate. He owns a prospering company and is a father and husband in what appears to be a happy family.

But this framed picture of success hangs crooked on the wall. Seong-jae feels something is missing in his life. His sense of being unfulfilled surfaces in a chance meeting with a 23-year-old sports dance instructor, Shin-woo (Lee Yo-won) and they begin an affair.

Every middle-aged man's dream? How often in real life do a 46-year-old man and a 23-year-old woman fall in love? None of that matters across the television landscape.

But acknowledging the power of the screen, Lee says this drama is not trying to defend extramarital affairs. Speaking in Seong-jae's defense, he says, "A man who has not been truly content with himself for the whole of his life finally finds the true meaning of life and begins to question his own identity, thanks to a woman he met."

But, for many of the drama's female viewers, particularly middle-aged married women, his summation of the storyline is just an excuse.

Some women say the drama legitimizes affairs by infusing them with romance and notions of "destiny." Some men identify with Seong-jae. No wonder the program has caused controversy.

There have been reports of men who are so afraid of their wives' reactions to their watching the drama that they view it secretly through the Internet.

Lee says he has seen the impact the drama has had first-hand. "One day, I was filming a scene where Seong-jae walks down a road in the Gangnam area. I was so surprised when some passers-by, men who looked like they were in their 30s and 40s, shouted out, 'Go for it, Mr. Lee!'"

The last episode of the drama is scheduled for May 27. The ending may disappoint those who want the forbidden love affair to have a happy ending. But, according to the writers, Seong-jae succeeds in recovering his once lost identity.

"Blue Fog" is noteworthy in at least one sense - it contradicts the message that extramarital affairs by middle-aged men are simply going to happen, and that men are merely innocents as their sexual desire leads the way.

by Woo Sang-gyun

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