Marriage problems mean big ratings

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Marriage problems mean big ratings

“Men marry because they are tired; women because they are curious. Both are disappointed,” Oscar Wilde once wrote. Viewers of “Love and War,” which airs Fridays at 11 p.m. on KBS-TV, would completely agree with the Irish writer.
“Love and War,” which sounds somewhat too ambitious a title for just a weekly TV show, has been a big draw since its debut in 1999 in this marriage-obsessed society.
Subtitled “The Clinic for Married Couples,” the show takes the format of a court in which a couple discusses reasons for filing for divorce. In front of a judge and two psychiatrists, a man and a woman ― called a “divorce adjustment committee” ― each half of the couple takes turns making his case.
But “Love and War” is not a Korean version of “Judge Judy”; it doesn’t focus on the judge but on the married couple. The show neither approves nor disapproves of each divorce story, letting viewers be the judge. Each time one side makes an appeal, the show dramatizes the given situation.
Since the show airs late at night, it has some liberty to get racy in describing the relationship of the couple. The actors may not be the biggest names on TV, but they are familiar to regular soap opera viewers.
Last Friday’s episode dealt with a wife asking for a divorce after finding out her husband was too dependent on his sister. The show started with the couple in the court, the wife ready to sign the papers, but her husband still trying hard to persuade her out of the divorce. The camera moved back and forth between the court and the dramatized scenes of what the couple had been through.
The judge and the two psychiatrists gave advice to the couple. The topics of each episode are gathered by the producers based on real cases filed in the courts.
The show always wraps up with the judge appealing to viewers to always think twice about filing for divorce.
But the highlight of the show comes at the end, when a poll is taken, asking viewers to vote via the Internet or by phone. More than 20,000 viewers on average, mostly housewives, put in their two cents.
Kim Young-suk, a Seoul housewife in her 30s, is one such ardent viewer. For the last show, her vote was that the couple should not choose divorce. Not content merely to vote, Ms. Kim took to an Internet bulletin board, where she elaborated on her reasoning at some length.
“More than three married couples out of 10 get divorced these days in Korea,” says Oh Gang-sun, the producer. “I wanted to present the importance of holy matrimony.”
As long as the institution of marriage remains, the show is highly likely to linger on as a Friday night must-see for housewives. After all, everything is not quite fair in “Love and War.”

by Chun Su-jin

“What’s on Korean TV” appears Wednesdays in the JoongAng Daily.
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