By Park Chung-a
Teen marriage emerged as the main theme of many domestic movies last year. They included "My Little Bride
," "Marrying School Girl
, " and the most recent and most controversial "Jenny, Juno
," which deals with the marriage of middle school students following an unexpected pregnancy.
Now, television dramas are also joining the trend. Last year's popular KBS drama "Little Bride" was a love story between an 18-year-old girl and 28-year-old prosecutor ending in marriage. SBS' "My Sister-in-Law Is 19" also featured the marriage of convenience between a high school girl and a doctor.
In line with such a trend, many current popular TV dramas deal with the subject of marrying young and feature young mothers who are much younger than those in real life.
The recent KBS TV drama "Sassy Girl, Chun-hyang
," which ended three weeks ago, also featured the married life of a high school girl.
In MBC's current daily drama "Be Strong Kum-soon," which began airing in February, Jeong-wan, a student residing in a boarding house and Kum-soon, the niece of the owner of the boarding house, spend one night together and she ends up pregnant. To make things worse, as soon as they get married, Jeong-wan dies in a car accident and Kum-soon is left alone to cope with a life as a young widow.
In another MBC drama, "Wonderful Life
," which airs on Mondays and Tuesdays, "spending one night together" leads to pregnancy and marriage as a consequence.
The beginning of the drama is very similar to the movie "Jenny, Juno
" as the couples in both works are described as "unprepared parents." In the drama, Seung-wan goes to Singapore with his girlfriend but meets another girl named Sei-jin, a backpacker traveling alone. The 21-year-olds spend the night together and conceive a baby in the first scene of the drama. Although they hardly know each other, because of their strong sense of responsibility, they both start a new life as a student couple with many obstacles ahead of them.
In addition, a new KBS TV drama titled "18, 29" features a 29-year-old married woman whose memory, thoughts and attitudes all revert back to when she was 18 after being in a car accident. Although the woman got married as an adult, she thinks of herself as an 18-year-old and the drama actually focuses on describing the life of a married teenager.
However, this growing phenomenon of "marrying young" in TV dramas is in sharp contrast to reality, in which the average age of marriage is getting higher. According to the Korea National Statistical Office, the average age of first marriages is 27.3 for women and 30.1 for men as of 2003, compared to 24.9 and 28.0, respectively, in 1991. Also, the birth rate marked 1.19 as of 2003, which is the world's lowest.
"Is this drama the result of some kind of conspiracy by the government because it is worried about the dramatic decrease in the birth rate?" wrote a viewer of "Wonderful Life
" on its Internet board.
"It is very ironic that the average age of couples in the TV dramas, especially those of women, is getting earlier while in reality an increasing number of people delay marriage and the birth of a child due to economic reasons," said Kim Chang-nam, a pop culture critic. "Although the case of teenage marriage is less than 1 percent in reality, the media is repeating the subject of early marriage and early teen romances. By portraying marriage as the result of some unexpected adventure or accident, such dramas could distort the true meaning of marriage, which accompanies lifetime commitment and prudent preparation."