Debate ignited over age gaps in Korean dramas
Casting of actress nearly half the age of male lead ignites debate on Korean dramas
It has been six years since Korean drama fans saw something big from Yoon Shi Yoon, who was discharged from the military in January.
The new period series Mirror Of The Witch, which premiered in Korea on May 13, was set to be a comeback drama for the award-winning actor.
But the controversial casting of his latest leading lady has all but stolen his thunder.
Yoon, 29, was paired up with someone almost half his age - 15-year-old child actress Kim Sae Ron, who plays an adult in the show.
Don't get me wrong. Both are talented in their own ways, and their characters are supposed to be of similar ages.
DIFFERENCES: Yoon Shi Yoon, 29, and Kim Sae Ron, 15, in Korean drama Mirror Of The Witch. PHOTOS: JTBC, VIU, YOUTUBE/ KBSDRAMA
Plus, there are no intimate scenes between the couple so far.
But it is certainly the last straw in a string of recent Korean dramas with lovelines (Korean slang for romantic storylines) that are uncomfortable, ridiculous, and in this most recent case, with Kim being the youngest actress to date, outright inappropriate.
Previous examples include Entertainer (Ji Sung, 39, and Lee Hyeri, 21) and Marriage Contract (Lee Seo Jin, 45, and Uee, 28).
'CORRECT' AGE GAP?
Perhaps the "winning" age gap has to be the 21 years between Lee Bum Soo, 46, and Girls' Generation's Yoona, 25, in 2013 drama Prime Minister And I.
And I'm not the only one cringing at this disturbing trend.
Korean netizens, who have dubbed these couplings "uncles and their nieces", have gone on to suggest that such dramas should scrap the lovelines altogether, labelling them "distracting" and "gross".
Referring to Entertainer and Prime Minister And I, one netizen wrote: "There are a ton of talented and pretty actresses in their late 20s, early 30s. They're just never cast for anything. 'Not having enough actresses' isn't enough of an excuse. People just want to use young, female idols for the headlines and can't find a male actor to match."
Perhaps the real issue is not the lack of actresses, but whether compatibility has slid to last place in the list of deciding factors when it comes to casting, such as good looks and popularity.
Despite the online disapproval, there must be enough viewers who do not see such age gaps as a problem at all. After all, it only makes sense for the supply of these dramas to stem from demand.
Undergraduate Lynette Chang has watched 2005 drama My Lovely Samsoon, which features an actress eight years older than the actor, 10 times over the years.
The 22-year-old said: "I think age gaps are all right as long as the actors are of a reasonable age to play mature characters.
"In (another drama) Dong Yi, there's a 16-year age gap between the main leads, but it doesn't feel weird because (actress) Han Hyo Joo was 23 and an adult when she took on the role as a court lady."
I would love to look into the minds of these actors to know what they are thinking when acting opposite a partner so different in age, maturity, and experience.
But we are none the wiser, as directors and producers have kept silent on the casting process, and the stars' responses to media queries about age gaps are always the same standard ones that dodge anything potentially sensitive.
Kim, for example, praised Yoon for his baby face at the press conference for Mirror Of The Witch.
But this was not before Yoon cracked a joke, telling her: "You just have to answer like how I told you ahead of time. You just have to say you don't feel the age difference."
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Ji Sung, 39, and Girls’ Day’s Lee Hyeri, 21, in Entertainer
Actor Lee Seo Jin, 45 and idol-actress Uee, 28, in 2016 drama marriage contract.
Lee Bum Soo, 46, and Girls’ Generation’s Yoona, 25, in 2013 drama Prime Minister and I.
Catch Entertainer, Marriage Contract and Prime Minister And I on viu.com or the Viu app for free. Entertainer also airs on Thursday and Friday, 8.10pm on Channel ONE (StarHub TV Ch 124, 820 and 823/ Singtel TV Ch 513 and 604).