Now over a year removed from my last arrival in China. Not a remarkable feat to some, but a landmark for me personally.
An alarming development, though: my scathing hatred for Mandarin-dubbed Korean soap operas on Chinese television has been flagging lately. Instead, I find myself coming dangerously close to caring about the principal characters. Every evening during my dinner break I come home to find my mother-in-law or my wife watching with rapt attention the saccharine melodrama of these uppity rich Korean soap stars. At first I was highly dubious. How could I help it? On the surface, these characters have everything: family, material wealth, picture-perfect smiles…
And then I realize that I’m risking hypertension. Why should I be so enraged with the conceit that these well-to-do Korean families (including one matriarch who looks and dresses like a certain North Korean leader) have troubles and worries that I couldn’t ever comprehend? So I put aside my condescension and embraced it for what it’s worth. It’s television after all.
And since it’s an export from a country that daily faces down the prospect of all-out destruction raining down from the tenuous border, maybe I can let this slide. The underlying creed for the show’s enduring popularity in Korea and here in China seems to be, “Sweat the small stuff, because the big bombshells are too macabre” to depict lightheartedly on the small screen.
Lately there’s been a dramatic turn where the pretty newlywed and new mom goes crazy with postpartum depression and sure enough…I’m hooked. Will she ever recover? Now I guess I have to stomach my incredulity and watch the saga unfold.
Rory Keane is an American-born teacher and writer who has logged nearly two years in China, and is working on another year-long stint in the Middle Kingdom. He writes about travel, sociopolitical issues, health, entertainment, and culture, among other topics.