The Korea Herald

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More reality shows exploring divorce are on their way

By Lee Yoon-seo

Published : March 25, 2024 - 14:48

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A scene from A scene from "Decision to Divorce," starring Ko Min-hwan (left) and Lee Hye-jeong (MBN)

South Korean broadcasters are rolling out new shows about divorce among real-life couples following a wave of successful reality shows that previously explored the same theme.

The Maeil Broadcasting Network said it has decided to regularly broadcast "Decision to Divorce" starting in April following the show's successful pilot season of five episodes that aired from January to February.

"Decision to Divorce" features couples going through difficult times in their marriages and offers them an opportunity to experience what a divorce would be like.

The pilot season of "Decision to Divorce" starred three couples -- Korean chef Lee Hye-jeong and her husband, who have been married for 45 years; soccer player Jeong Dae-se and his wife, who have been married for 10 years; and comedian Ryu Dam and his wife Shin Yoo-jung. Ryu Dam's first marriage ended in divorce in 2011 and he later married Shin in 2020.

The pilot season of "Decision to Divorce" had a peak viewership rating of 4.2 percent.

JTBC also plans to air its new reality show, "Divorce Deliberation Camp: Refresh," (translated) starting April 4. The show features ordinary married couples who have opted for divorce or are contemplating splitting up and want to experience the divorce process.

While the format and subject matter of the reality show are similar to those of "Decision to Divorce," the JTBC show explores the lives of ordinary individuals, instead of celebrities or public figures.

Shows addressing the topic of divorce among real-life married couples have gained popularity following a series of successful Korean reality shows exploring similar themes over the last few years.

Korean streaming service Tving's original series "Between Marriage and Divorce," which streamed for two seasons from 2022 to 2023, featured ordinary married couples contemplating divorce as they navigated the conflicts and issues in their marriage.

TV Chosun's "We Got Divorced," which released one season in 2020 and one season in 2022, focused on divorced public figures or celebrities living in the same house. The show had a peak viewership rating of 9.3 percent.

The rise in the number of programs addressing divorce reflects a societal shift where divorce has become more acceptable, meaning it is no longer a topic considered to be taboo for discussion on television.

According to data from Statistics Korea, while the number of marriages decreased substantially from 326,000 in 2010 to approximately 194,000 in 2023, the decrease in the number of divorces was not as sharp, standing at 116,000 in 2010 and 92,000, in 2023.

A scene from season two of A scene from season two of "We Got Divorced," starring Ellison Kim (left) and Ji Yeon-soo (TV Chosun)