Both MBC and SBS are tapping into female-driven plotlines with their latest offerings: "My Wife is A Superwoman" and "Jamyeonggo."
SBS` tragic historical romance, "Jamyeonggo," may struggle to attract viewers bogged down by a lackluster economy and in need of a pick-me-up. Yet its re-interpretation of the classic tale of "Princess Nakrang and Prince Ho-dong" promises to revamp an otherwise stale genre.
Scriptwriter Jung Sung-hee took liberties with the myth of the fallen Nakrang kingdom (c. 100 B.C.-37 A.D.), juicing it up with a new heroine.
In the original version, the king of the town-state of Nakrang gives his daughter`s hand in marriage to Ho-dong, son of the third king of Goguryeo.
Harboring plans to conquer Nakrang, the Goguryeo prince asks Princess Nakrang to destroy her kingdom`s magical drum, the "jamyeonggo," which possesses the power to sound an alarm when invaders are near. The princess chooses love over country.
"My assistant scriptwriter gave me a clue that showed that `jamyeonggo` was a person," said scriptwriter Jung at the press conference last week.
Using the clue as inspiration, Jung fashioned the tale around a new character, the daughter of the king of Nakrang and his first wife, calling her Ja-myeong.
Jung`s version presents two princesses Ja-myeong, and the daughter of the king`s second wife, Ra-hee, the traitor-princess of the original fable. A prophecy predicts that one of the princesses will betray her kingdom; the other will save it.
Princess Ja-myeong, played by actress Jeong Ryeo-won, must choose between her true love, Goguryeo`s Prince Ho-dong, and her kingdom. Forced to cross swords with her half-sister Ra-hee, she sacrifices love and life for nation.
"This is the first time that both the director and the scriptwriter have worked on a historical romance," said actress Jeong.
Also a first for the 28-year old actress, who starred in the hit MBC drama "My Lovely Samsoon" (2005), Jeong stated that she found her character "fascinating."
Both Jeong and co-star Park Min-young, who is playing Ra-hee, underwent extensive training for their fight scenes. The preview showcased the two princesses, flying through the air and twirling swords in what promises to be an action-packed series.
Starting next Monday, MBC`s heroine, played by veteran actress Kim Nam-ju, will be defending a different kind of kingdom in "My Wife is a Superwoman."
Returning to the small screen after an eight-year hiatus, the 37-year old actress tackles the role of a prom queen-turned-housewife. Bolstered by friend and co-star Lee Hye-young as a school dweeb-turned-domestic goddess and "Fantastic Couple" co-star Oh Ji-ho as her less-than-ideal husband, Kim promises to garner laughs as a desperate housewife struggling to make ends meet.
"I chose this because I like upbeat dramas," said Kim at the press conference on Wednesday.
The preview drew laughs, showing Kim as the popular schoolgirl and Lee as the geeky one, both of them fawning over first loves, then segueing to them as dowdy and glamorous housewives disillusioned by the challenges of married life.
"I play an ugly schoolgirl who loses the man she loves," said actress Lee. "When I first did make-up for my character and went on set, no one said `Hi` to me."
Dwarfed by enormous glasses and covered in freckles, Lee`s drastic transformation into character Yang Bong-soon elicited a few chuckles from the press on Wednesday.
Will this spoof on school romances and housewives be enough to beat out KBS` "Boys Over Flowers"?
"Since `Boys Over Flowers` is a strong rival, I think we can get ratings of over 15 percent," predicted co-star Oh Ji-ho.
MBC`s "My Wife Is A Superwoman" airs on Mar. 16 at 9:55 p.m. SBS` "Jamyeonggo" airs a special tonight and two back-to-back episodes tomorrow at 9:55 p.m.
By Jean Oh