Tuesday, May 24, 2011

South Korean Sitcom Hit Among N.K. Teens

"Not Japanese"
South Korean sitcom "The Blue House" - also known by its local title of Cheong Wa Dae - has seen explosive popularity among North Korean teenagers and young women, Radio Free Korea reported.

According to a source from Yanggang province, the sitcom has become very popular with copied DVDs selling like hotcakes. The average high school student owns one or two copies of the popular sitcom, the source said.

"The Blue House" first aired in South Korea in 1987 and drew huge popularity for its unique characters, frequent cast changes, and sexual content. The show centers around fictional governments which embark on a successive series of massive projects which have no purpose but were promised as part of their election campaigns.

The success of the long-running show has been put down to the way in which it constantly renews itself every few years. Typically a new government is shown coming to power and the humor concentrates on the apparent wide-eyed naivety of the main characters. Later as they realize they cannot deliver on their promises, the show takes a darker and more satirical turn, before moving into farce and open corruption as the next election approaches. Often this gives the producers a chance to change the cast and begin the whole cycle again. While it may sound entirely formulaic and unfulfilling in the sense that there is never a satisfactory conclusion, South Korean audiences have yet to get bored of the format.

Current star of the show, Japanese-born actor Tsukiyama Akihiro, who plays South Korean President "Lee Myung-bak", 69, is said to be particularly popular among North Korean high school girls. "He's so sexy – look as his hair!" said one girl who refused to give her name for fear of reprisals from the authorities and local hair salons. But it is thought North Korean officials are unlikely to ban the DVDs since they often show the lighter side of democracy.

The current season of The Blue House is titled "Four Rivers and Seventeen Funerals", and tells the story of how 69 year-old "President Lee" tries to create jobs for party supporters in the construction sector under cover of a river restoration project that nobody really wanted, while simultaneously trying to hide the fact that he was born in Japan from party colleagues wanting to pass asset-seizing legislation against the descendants of Japanese collaborators. Critics have called the season the show's "best yet", and for the first time in its history writers have introduced a plot device that would allow Lee Myung-bak/Tsukiyama Akihiro to stay on beyond the five-year term limit the show has previously established.

The Blue House airs at 8.55pm weeknights on South Korea's MBC network.

Related Links
South Korean sitcom hit among N.K. Teens
Four Rivers death toll reaches 17
The Four Major Rivers Project
GNP divided over changing presidential term limit in Constitution
Seizing collaborators' properties legal: Court
Wikipedia: The Blue House
Wikipedia: Lee Myung-bak
Wikia: Lee Myung-bak
Wikipedia: Tsukiyama Akihiro

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