[ENTERTAINMENT]Righteous gangster creates a wild hit TV program

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[ENTERTAINMENT]Righteous gangster creates a wild hit TV program

According to common wisdom, one of the most trusted standards of being an ajumma, or middle-aged Korean woman, includes how dedicated she is to watching television dramas.

These days, however, it's the other sex that is glued to the television set, at least on Monday and Tuesday nights at 9:55 p.m., to see the SBS program "Ya-in Sidae" (The Time of the Wild). In public places all over Seoul, anywhere with a television, you can see middle-aged men flocking come time for a new episode.

From the day the drama began on July 29, it has kept topping the ratings. Last week, it pulled a staggering 49 percent. And because the show is supposed to continue until the middle of next year, it looks as though the phenomenon will continue for a while.

The drama is based on the real story of a heroic gangster, Kim Doo-han (1918-1972), whose eventful life spanned from Japanese colonial rule to the early days of the Republic of Korea. It's not the first time that Kim's story has been told. Kim Doo-han was the son of a much-respected independence activist, Kim Jwa-jin, who even as a gangster continued to fight against the Japanese. After independence, Kim Doo-han was elected to the National Assembly, where his radical sense of justice led him to take such actions as throwing filth at the prime minister.

It's not only men who are enthralled with the show. The period drama has a love story to go with the action. Lee Seon-min, a 24-year-old college student who runs a fan Web site for the TV drama, says her online club has more than 70,000 members. There are more than 700 similar clubs found around the Internet.

"People are nostalgic for the heroic figure in times of difficulty," said Oh Sin-sook, a public relations representative at SBS.

by Chun Su-jin

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