The Rise of the Ajummas in Dramas


The main character of dramas lately hasn’t been a frail young girl in her 20’s. More often than not, they’ve been older women just coming out of a divorce or dealing with a broken marriage – often simply described as an “ajumma.”

In the past, an ajumma used to describe an older married woman with short, curly hair and a loud, boisterous personality that could be heard several blocks down the street as she shuffeled her kids home wearing clothes that looked as if she lived in them for days. Gone is that image, however, as dramas lately have been completely revamping the image of an ajumma into someone more chic, feminine, career oriented, and with a younger love interest wrapped around their finger. 

New dramas have given birth to new terms like “ajummarella (ajumma + Cinderella)” and “ajummefatale (ajumma + femme fatale).” Just in September alone, there have been four dramas completely centered around the lives of charismatic ajummas like MBC‘s “Indomitable Daughters-in-Law,” “Hooray for Love,” and “A Thousand Kisses.” Recently, “Can’t Lose” joined the line-up, as actress Choi Ji Woo plays the role of a recently divorced career woman. 

What’s different about the leading ajummas in these dramas compared to past dramas about ajummas is that they’re no longer just “someone’s daughter-in-law” or “someone’s wife” or even “someone’s mother,” they’re now someone with a respectable career that happens to meet new love along the way. They appeal to a larger audience in that the experience they have from their past break up comes into play in their new relationship as the drama unfolds, creating an infinite amount of more possibilities. 

One of the main focuses behind its success is that while teens and those in their 20’s have long since left the TV screens for more digitally hip devices like DMB, SNS, and even just watching online, stay-at-home ajummas still watch TV. What better marketing than to play to the romantic fantasies of your main audience? 

One viewer said, “These days, I have been enjoying dramas that have a story line involving a divorced woman and a younger man as opposed to an unmarried couple. Although it’s unrealistic, just thinking about it is a lot of fun.”

It’s also reality that Korea has been going through a doubled rate of divorce lately, so the drama hits closer to home for more people. The ajumma syndrome is going strong so far, and it just might be a popular drama topic that is here to stay. 

What do you think of dramas about older women?