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Decade-old KBS drama ends amid controversy

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  • Published : Mar 30, 2010 - 15:48
  • Updated : Mar 30, 2010 - 15:48
KBS` decade-old drama "Love and War" airs its last episode on April 17.
Roughly based on real divorce suit cases, the drama has featured troubled couples and their endangered marriages every Friday night since 1999.
The state-run broadcaster said it decided to replace the 10-year-old program with a comedy show from April 30, citing difficulty in attracting advertisers in recent months.
The announcement comes as a surprise. The drama has enjoyed audience ratings of between 15 to 20 percent, the highest in its time slot.
"The drama has long maintained two-digit ratings and is one of the most popular shows favored by many cable TV channels. But it has remained unprofitable because of slowing advertising sales," a KBS official said in an interview.
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But most fans of the drama and some critics say that the short-term financial difficulty is not enough to explain the abrupt end of the long-beloved TV drama. The drama`s online bulletin board is filled with postings opposing the KBS decision and some fans have launched a campaign to revive the program.
"Love and War" has highlighted various reasons for divorce in the 10 years and some episodes that included frank sexual depictions and extreme scenarios were often followed by fierce disputes and harsh criticism.
For example, one episode sparked great outrage among the audience after it showed a daughter-in-law slapping her mother-in-law for not taking better care of her child.
Despite such criticisms, the drama has been praised for bringing domestic affairs out of homes to be openly discussed, reflecting the changing status of Korean women.
"Before the 1990s, most people believed marriage problems should be settled within individual homes. But the drama, first aired in October, 1999, attracted people`s attention, especially from women`s rights groups, as it raised the domestic issues for discussion in public," Seo Byung-gi, an entertainment reporter, wrote for vernacular The Herald Business, a sister paper of The Korea Herald.
Compared with previous episodes that portrayed a wife as the vulnerable victim of her husband`s affairs, recently-aired episodes have featured women who claim their rights. In the process the program offers the audience related law knowledge. Of course, a growing number of women are also depicted as the ones responsible for breaking a happy marriage.
Reasons for divorce have also become varied, the drama shows, ranging from the usual extramarital affairs, mother-in-law and daughter-in-law conflicts and financial troubles, to relatively new ones like plastic surgery, game addiction and transgender issues.
"Love and War" has no high profile actors, and some scenes reflect its low budget - 50 million won per episode, almost half the average production cost of most Korean dramas. But fans and critics alike say that the somewhat clumsy organization of the drama makes it appealing to ordinary people and gives it a similar feel to a reality show.
The drama becomes more realistic and serious in the scenes toward the end, in which the man and woman in question sit with court arbitration committee members - consisting of a judge, a lawyer and a psychologist - and speak in his or her own defense. At the end of the conversation, the judge, played by veteran actor Shin Gu unchanged for the past 10 years, asks the couple to consider their divorce decision for four weeks.
Allegedly affected by the scenes featuring the arbitration committee, the Family Court launched in June last year a similar divorce-consideration system that requires a couple in divorce proceedings to rethink their decision for one month. (The period extends to three months when they have children.) The actor Shin is also acting as a goodwill ambassador for the campaign.
Buoyed by the TV drama`s popularity, its film version titled "Love and War: the 12th Guy" was also released last year. Even though the film was produced by the same shooting crews of the drama, its box office sales were not successful.
By Lee Ji-yoon

(jylee@heraldcorp.com)