[WHAT’S ON KOREAN TV]A timely twist on workplace romance

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[WHAT’S ON KOREAN TV]A timely twist on workplace romance

Korean men in general love it when younger women call them oppa, literally meaning "older brother." It has long been a near-universal belief that a man should pair up with a younger woman, an age gap of four years being the most recommended.

Times have changed, though, and now men are saying nuna, or "older sister."

Local television dramas at least are flocking to storylines featuring older women and younger men.

MBC-TV last June aired "Romance," the story of a high school boy who falls in love with his teacher. The drama attracted tremendous controversy as well as popularity, with scenes of a teacher and a student kissing each other in a classroom.

The Korea Federation of Teachers' Associations was especially upset about the program. The organization asked the station to stop the show, but instead the drama came to a natural close, with a happy, if rather elusive, ending.

KBS2-TV is offering viewers an even more radical plot, with its new mini- series "Godok" (Solitude). Created by the well-respected producer-writer team Pyo Min-su and Noh hee-gyeong, "Solitude" started airing this week on Monday and Tuesday nights at 9:50 p.m.

The lead, Gyeong-min (Lee Mi-suk), bears just about every possible stigma a woman can in this society -- she's a single mother in her 40s. Whatever Gloria Steinem would say, her life is not overwhelmed with happiness. Then from out the blue, she meets Yeong-woo (Ryu Seung-beom), an aspiring young man in his early 20s. They first casually run into each other on Jeju Island, where Yeong-woo is traveling with friends. He falls in love with her at first sight, but she just considers him a rash young man and ignores him. A year later, they meet by chance again, this time in the professional world. Yeong-woo takes a job in an office and finds that Gyeong-min is his boss. He keeps making impassioned advances to her, which only confuse Gyeong-min and make her feel more lonely.

The show's creators say the intention was to present questions about the essence of love. There will be no scenes of the couple kissing in the office, they say.

Mr. Pyo was confident enough to place the drama in a time slot opposite television's most popular evening drama, "Ya-in Sidae" (Time of the Wild). No wonder the first episode had a low rating; just 8 percent of viewers tuned in. But Mr. Pyo is upbeat: "The drama will awaken the young about how sublime love can be, while comforting those who are alone about their solitude."

"What's on Korean TV" appears every Wednesday.

by Chun Su-jin

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