Around Town: The Korean paradigm shift

March 14, 2013|By Anita S. Brenner

The paradigm has at last shifted. Our town is now officially cross-cultural.

What cross-culture? Obviously, it's Korean.

The Korean wave has really arrived in La Cañada Flintridge, and not a moment too soon.

Some point to the billion downloads of the music video “Gangnam Style” as the turning point. Others say it was the Korean automotive industry. Neither answer is true. The turning point for South Korean culture occurred when local channel 18 started to air the popular evening soap opera, “My Love, Madame Butterfly.”

“My Love, Madame Butterfly” is an example of the genre of televised Korean miniseries drama called Korean drama, or K-drama. The show features Yeom Jung-ah as the character Nam Nabi, a young but washed-up actress who is betrayed by her husband. Nabi means butterfly, hence the reference in the title.


The husband tricks Nam Nabi into marriage by pretending to be in love with her. His goal is to secure the deed to his family's land. As the cards stack up against him, the husband fakes his own death, a betrayal of his bride and his own parents.

Nam Nabi is devastated. Her reputation is destroyed. She is caught up in a scandal. She loses all her money. Public opinion turns against her.

She is forced to move in with her in-laws. At first, Nam Nabi is conceited and self-centered, but after a while, family life begins to change her. Nam Nabi becomes selfless and giving. She helps the family succeed in their ventures. At this point, the supposedly dead husband returns and the plot thickens.

We were all afraid that Nam Nabi would wallow in her victimhood, but no! The plot thickened and revenge is in the air.

Unlike American and Spanish language daily soap operas, K-dramas air on two consecutive nights. Some air on Monday and Tuesday. Others on Wednesday and Thursday. “My Love, Madame Butterfly” has a 9 p.m. slot on Saturday and Sunday nights, with subtitles.

The subtitled version lags a few months behind the all-Korean episodes, which are available on YouTube and other online sites. As of this week, channel 18 has shown 32 of the projected 50 episodes.

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