Forbidden love in ‘One Fine Day’

July 16, 2006

If Romeo and Juliet had not been the son and daughter of mortal enemies, and if their families had given their blessing to these young lovers – Romeo might have found himself a prettier girl, and Juliet would possibly have tired of her shilly-shally lover anyway. Consequently, the love story that has endured through the centuries, simply wouldn’t have happened.

As evidenced through many love stories in history, the rule remains the same: A forbidden love is always more powerful and naturally arouses more empathy.

MBC primetime drama "One Fine Day" follows this rule faithfully. Only this time, the scenario eclipses Romeo and Juliet – the tragic romance sprouts between brother and sister.

Geon (Gong Yoo) and Ha-neul (Sung Yu-ri), who are
reunited after losing touch with each other for 15 years,
come to realize that their mutual affection is something
more than that of a brother and a sister.

The two main characters of the drama – Geon (Gong Yoo) and Ha-neul (Sung Yu-ri) – are devoted siblings who lose touch with each other for 15 years. Although they are not blood-related, Geon and Ha-neul are legally siblings due to the marriage of their father and mother. After the death of their parents, the young Geon and Ha-neul are sent to an orphanage where they tearfully part with each other. Adopted by a new family, Ha-neul’s hellish life begins with a mother who regards Ha-neul as her dead daughter and a brother who is obsessed with her.

Then one day, her "real" brother Geon comes back to get her, just as he had promised, and as she had imagined a million times in her dreams. But slowly, the two loving siblings begin to realize that their affection for each other is something more than that of a brother and a sister.

Watching them, viewers begin to fall into the trap again. As much as they want to deny it, this forbidden love is too tempting to ignore.

The love between "fake" siblings is one of the most frequently used tools in Korean TV dramas. Through the use of this effective tool, Song Hye-kyo and Song Seung-heon of "Autumn Fable," and Kim Ha-neul and Ko Soo of "Piano" had all drawn tears from millions of female fans.

Tragic, maybe, but unless female viewers all have a distorted vision of love, the romance between brother and sister should disgust them and not make them cry. So, why does this repeated tool always work so well with females?

First, there is a need to understand the Korean term "oppa." Literally meaning "big brother," the term is used by women for their big brothers or older boyfriends.

According to socialists, females only began to call their boyfriends oppa from the 1990s. Before the term became a frequent appellation, women called their boyfriends "jagi," meaning "honey" or "sweetie."

Although feminists are critical of the term due to the somewhat male-dependent implication, oppa well conveys a female fantasy about an elder brother to take care of them affectionately. By calling their boyfriends oppa, women hope for a dependable man who will become their big brother as well as a lover. Arousing men’s masculine fantasy to protect women, the word gives pleasure to men also.

So naturally, a desperate romance with a big brother is always tempting for female viewers. At the same time, they are put at ease knowing that the hero and the heroine are not blood-related. And even if they were, this is only fiction so they can enjoy their fantasy on the screen, safely distanced from the reality of a social taboo.

But coming dangerously close to the territory of incest, the fascinating plot must be supported by a strong tool to purify and justify the romance.

So far, "One Fine Day" has been doing a good job at this part by shoring up the drama with episodes of the hero and the heroine’s angelic childhood memories. Watching the naive children who had never imagined their future tragic romance, viewers are convinced that their love was "meant to be," and that Geon and Ha-neul are mere victims of ill fate.

"Love is as common as grains of sand on the beach. We wanted to add another corny and heart-rending love story to the list," the drama’s director Shin Hyun-chang said.

True to his words, "One Fine Day" is enjoying a steady popularity among female viewers as the corniest love story ever.

But despite such merits – including actress Sung Yu-ri and actor Gong Yoo’s evidently improved acting – the drama is showing signs of decline in popularity just a week before its ending.

The drama, which began with a fast tempo showing the tearful process of the two main characters’ parting, reunion and growing feelings for each other, has begun to slow down with repeated misunderstandings and make-ups.

And with the focus too much on Ha-neul and Geon, other characters aren’t very convincing. Without much explanation about the other characters, the two separate love triangles centering on Ha-neul and Geon seem almost ridiculous.

As witnessed in the past, many Korean dramas have lost fans near the end of the series due to the loosening plot and repetitive situations. In order to keep the female fans glued to the TV screen every Wednesday and Thursday night, "One Fine Day" must come up with convincing tools to decrease the ongoing tension between characters.

Many female viewers want this forbidden love to go on.

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By Shin Hae-in