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Ideas for Korean Dramas

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So after weeks of working with a bunch of other Koreans... we came up with two scenarios for Koreans dramas. And given there are a fair number of Korean drama writers on soompi, AND the last round of suggestions I posted were taken... but no one believes me, I thought I'd post two with cooperation with others so they will remember it. I know I (and the others) won't get credit for the pitch, etc... but there were requests... so... I am using my writer talents for my friends.

Because they are admittedly longish... (too many cooks) I'll give the the pitch (which you need anyway) and then the long version with character suggestions, etc. Of course you're not beholden to this, but you know... be nice nod if you could get it in. Would I write it if I were more fluent in Korean, as a Korean? Absolutely. But Korea threw me away... so you know. Would I do it in the US--the US is likely to reject them because, you know, racism. And I definitely don't want them pressured to be turned white or white qualifying. I think these are pretty fantastic, especially if you put in the time to research. If you want me to actually write it, well, 1. Not fluent in Korean 2. How much will you pay me and my translator? ;)

Elevator pitches:

- Alt Joseon History Reverse Drama Harem set after the Imjin War, Women-centric (I suggested it last round, but I'm making it more attractive)

- Heart-warming adoptee tale set with Jaebeol family as the birth family.

Reverse Alt Joseon history Harem (I left historical research notes in for you to further research too).

After the Imjin War, Prince Gwanghae declared an "Honorable Women's list", which made the Queen Dowager upset with him and the crown prince (In real history he used the excuse of less arable land because of Japanese invasion to give land from widows to men, so they could get royal titles. In Nepal, in the mountains, less land has also meant that for some peoples there, the women marry a group of brothers who rotate time with the wife, guaranteeing land to her and them). So, she deposed him and installed the daughter of the Royal Consort Ui to the throne of Joseon. Joseon has been a Matriarchy ever since then with women ruling the throne and a harem to match. All of the key positions have been ruled by women. Men have to get permission to divorce, they cannot own land, and they are put on cycles per month rotation to favor their wife, who have all the power.
Since then, the merit-based system has somewhat fallen apart with men severely devalued. Men are considered weaker than women in every aspect-- not as smart, frivolous, fixated on material possessions (like hair, clothes, make up, etc and landing a good woman with money), unable to learn anything other than etiquette on how to properly serve women, unable to do military affairs, unable to do magic (Based on harnessing spirits and Mugyo) [I suppose one could have a male-based magic system too that more subtle maybe based on Buddhism? since men imported Buddhism to Korea], can't do ancestor rituals but must provide the food, widows are expected to die (because who will take care of the men and provide for them if their breadwinner is gone?), and much physically weaker. They are devalued if they can't marry by the time they are 30 because they are viewed as much less virile. They are there to lead women astray from their husbands in the minds of society, and they are the ones punished for faults. If they rape or are accused of rape, they are met with death. They are considered peacocks for decoration and fill the brothels and red districts. They are allowed dance and to do street dramas, but this is considered a lesser art form compared to the lavish palace versions.

Queen of Joseon, considered the most beautiful such that all the women want to imitate her... with her curly hair and freckles, is on the throne and has amassed a large portion of the men, leaving many of the Noble women unmarried. Her harem has grown huge with mostly pretty boys she's selected. She has lavish palace dances every day with pretty boys from her harem to entertain her. She also has them perform plays [Can reference previous dramas and do anachronistic references] for her more lavish than the next. The Prime Minister, has been supporting her habits to distract her from her duties while controlling the throne. The Prime Minister, while she has one husband and one concubine has been neglecting her husband and spending all her time with her concubine.

There is a rebellion swelling against them...
Extended version:
In the midst of this, there are Portuguese traders that have come to shore with black men who are slaves, come to do trade (this really happened in Korean history). One of the slaves comes to the court to help refine the map of Africa (Gangnido was done in 1402 and Portuguese contact with Japan happened in 1543, so it's not that far fetched according to history). While helping the Minister of Arts, they fall in love with each other. She teaches him Korean, and he teaches her about his part of Africa. He comes from West Africa. (Hausa [Queen Amina died in 1610], maybe and maybe give him a Korean name later?) There, both men and women can be tribal leaders and share responsibilities. He comes to teach her that both men and women can be equal. The court grants him his freedom for his services, and he stays and marries this woman, despite objections, who, then becomes a part of the resistance against the Queen.

The Heads of the resistance is none other than the Prime Minister's concubine, not the Prime Minister's husband, who has been loyal this entire time. (Delaying this discovery is a good idea) Tired of having to service the Prime Minister every night, and entertain her, he has been leading a double life. He wants men in control again. The other conspirator is the Queen's top consort, who looks like a bumbling fool with his love of jokes (especially dry humor), stupid puns, food (though not fat, just fancy food), and has tried to look as useless and tolerant of the system as possible. But he loves his Queen deeply, which is why he wants to end the system and ask for equality. They have been meeting and arguing at an eating establishment since Royals aren't let into Red Districts, where a widowed lovable Halmeoni (You can get her to sell Subway sandwiches to camera, etc for laughs. Subway and Quiznos have a sense of humor... so why not ask if they are willing? Since it's alt history--make winks to the audience that you know it's not accurate.) has been slowly learning all of the court secrets... which is how the Queen learns of their dirty plots.

The person who wanted this scenario fleshed out also wants the Queen to be... "Queen can’t be too flaky- forgetful to a fault, yea. Clumsy . Cold, a bit snarky, always on edge and with quite an appetite.  Forgiving of the wrong folks. Always looking for good in them but not trusting. Independent and she has to drive a black carriage!"

How this concludes, with equality, crushing the rebellion, or with men, again, taking power and thus making everyone question what was better is up to you, if you choose this idea. Five Act or 기승전결 is up to you. (Or mix them).


Suggested issues to include (and why you might want to write this) and errata:

Can challenge current Korean issues of spousal abuse, feminism, gender issues (Such as nonbinary people), trans (Such as transmen), Make Mugyo a state religion since it was supported a lot by women during Joseon (also supported LGBTQIA, past and present. Baksu~~) And also challenge our understanding of history by adding in people like Lady Jang Gye Hyang (1598-1680), who would be against the current government and for rule by men, mention mention Heo Nanseorheon (Pre-Imjin war... she needs a drama done about her because she's always overshadowed by her brothers and made into a brat, rather than a full character and an intelligent woman, which she was). ImYunjidang (1721-1793) and Kang Chonggildang (1772-1832) for example... also aren't often mentioned figures. There were historical figures in real life that were for and against the new Joseon order of Neo Confucianism, though many of the women that spoke out had their papers burned by the patriarchy. Inserting those figures historically sageuk have been resistant to insert because it goes against the ideas of Joseon being an idealistic patriarchy might add spice to the drama. One can also challenge the idea that "traditional" values are male dominated by pointing out that widows in Joseon pre-Imjin war could own land and pass it to their daughters unchallenged, that LGBTQIA was more widely accepted, and that there were great Queens before that like Seondeok by upholding them as the rule, rather than the exception as reasons why the Matriarchy is "superior" to the previous Patriarchy.


One of the women who helped with this premise likes Lee Min Ho a lot....  lol She'd probably request that the Prime Minister's Concubine be Lee Min Ho. (He hasn't done a Joseon historical drama in a while and I think he could play both sides well--warm and sweet and then cold and callous...).


Probably needs a woman to write this one versed in feminism and history or a woman and man team. I hope it passes the Bechdel test (Two women talk about something other than men, preferably more than one time), the Mako Mori Test (Women have a motivation other than romance or the man and doesn't degrade over time). and the Sexy Lamp test (The women have agency to make decisions, face consequences and rescue themselves)... there is no fridging--i.e. killing characters without knowing them solely to motivate the main characters to do something,  and makes us think deeper about gender issues, feminism, etc. I suppose if the writer hits really hard on social issues, it would be probably JTBC material (who haven't done a Historical drama in a while). Tonally, I was hoping for a mixture of laughs and thinking about the issues more deeply, and some tight action to keep us guessing.

If you want to argue marketability: I saw Romance of the Tiger and Rose (China) and Ooku by Fumi Yoshinaga. And a friend of mine (also Korean) wanted a drama with her and her (drama) harem of guys, so... we want a Korean commentary on feminism done this way, but with sharper feminism and more imagination attached. Covering modern feminist issues is fine since it's fantasy. Be transgressive.


BTW, for sponsorship: (since the costumes might cost extra, etc) easy... cosmetics advertised by men, done anachronistically to camera, on purpose. Other plugs can be done this way too... which would sell the product, but also make people question gender roles at the same time. Or you can also do plugs this way and suddenly gender them, making people question how this item is "male" or "female". Like a brush, or a wall, drink, sandwich (lol Quiznos and Subway), etc. can be called "Masculine" or "feminine" and be sold to camera, if the sponsors cooperate. (Sold by Pretty Boy actors to the audience... there's a good chance.)

This should get you to at most episode 6, if it's paced well and you plotted the rest of the angles. If it's action-filled with lots of twists then the basic scenario will get you through to episode 4. The twists can come later.


And the other one was invented between me and another Korean adoptee...


Elevator Pitch: Heart-warming adoptee tale set with Jaebeol family as the birth family.


Twenty-five years ago, there were identical twins born to the same mother, but because her petition to get a paternity test failed from a Jaebeol family, she was forced by her lover's family to give them up for adoption, despite her best efforts to get into the single mother's homes (the adoption agency ones are pretty terrible because they try to wear down the women into giving up their children and seats are very few at the government ones). A woman had been stalking her while pregnant in order to give up her children for a kickback from the adoption agencies and from the family itself (There were KBS and MBC reports about it in the early 2000's), so with major heartbreak, she decided to give them up. However, her lover never knew this was a case.

The children were split up. One went to the United States, was adopted to a white family, and the other was adopted to Korean family, but never told they were adopted.

In the current time, the US adoptee, has been working for a year and a half to get her dual citizenship. She has a degree in Business accounting and is a very warm person. Despite her talents, she is teaching English in Suwon. She has an allergy to allium (Garlic, onions, etc), which makes it hard on her to eat Korean food. Every time she eats it, she gets gas and a tummy ache. She is constantly mocked by the ajumma in restaurants over it. She does not speak very fluent Korean and only knows Kindergarten Korean. She also often has delusions from Korean dramas as being real. Intelligent, smart, but has a hard time proving it to the Koreans around her because of her lack of language skills. People keep commenting on how she's single, but she finds it hard to date anyone once they find out she is adopted, so thinks she has no roots. Her records were sealed by the military. (US Military adoption is like that) So she takes a trip to Daegu's police station to get a DNA test. Meanwhile...

Meanwhile her twin has grown up in a steady Korean family, but there are things that never quite matched about her story and the family she's lived with. Their profession aspirations are totally different from hers, everyone else has a baby picture, but she doesn't. That feeling of "Jeong" sometimes feels like it's missing. The neighbors talk behind their hands when she passes them. This is when she accidentally discovers the truth talking to a neighborhood recycling Halmeoni. Unlike her twin, she has no allergy to allium and loves it. She mainly works at PC Bang and menial jobs and never really aspired to much because she's always felt like she didn't really truly belong.

Extended Pitch
At the same time, their father has become the head of the company and a major CEO of a conglomerate. He is unaware of the twins' existence... so there are lots of passing shots between the family members as we get to know them. The company politics have become tricky because the father's seat was never really guaranteed. He still thinks about his lover from time to time, but his seat has become more and more unsure as he's opted adamantly out of marriage.
The twin's mother is working at a small time job, and is forced to keep silent about the time she's tried very hard to forget. People shame her if they find out she had children.

When the twins finally get to remeet because of DNA, this shakes up their father's position and his company. The family secrets come out and the mystery of who sent the mysterious woman to stalk their mother starts to unfold, not only the secrets of the company, but of their father and mother's relationship, and of the family relations. But in the middle of this is that feeling of "Jeong" or instant belonging. (I don't think the love of the adoptive family should be diminished or it should be written like if you have more family, you have less love... but that there are things that connect people in different ways and the drama explores those ways of connection and disconnection.)


Issues that can be covered: Single Motherhood, Paternity testing (There was a recent Korean case on this and also another case about 10 years ago, where an adoptee found out they (male) were the son of a Jaebeol person, but the family refused any contact, etc--should be in Korean as well.), Economic differences, what Pres. Kim Dae Jeong called Adoption as the "brain drain" of South Korea (He said it on film, too, just before the reforms <3 Still my favorite president), Prejudices against foreigners, adoptees, and addressing the fact that finding family is difficult because of the shame around adoption and it's not instant. A person can start at 13, and still go through a ton of work and hoops to try to get any info. (The Korean agencies can also be mean/overworked with one person working all of the cases, like for HOLT and ESWS it's this way.) Also can address problems like how cousins can want to find each other, but get blocked because of adoption (You can't marry up to Second Cousins, but if you're adopted, you can't find your extended family members, even if you had connection to them in the past and they know you exist and they aren't allowed to search for you either because the agencies and law block them). Agencies lying that children are either dead, or that they never got communication, when they have. There is a story I know where a mother inquired every year about her child and wrote letters and then the agencies told her they got nothing, and then the matching adoptee wrote every year too, hoping to find their mother and equally got nothing. The agency lied to both of them. Also the old proxy system before it got outlawed where women would stalk pregnant single women to get records. (It's updated to the lawyer proxy system where lawyers stalk single women).


Warmth, not makjang, emphasis on Jeong and nunchi... and Warm and Fuzzy in the end at least... with spurts of humor interspersed would be nice.


Personally, I think if MBC or KBS is willing to help with the footage from the Proxy system report in the early 2000's where women were stalked by other women, those are the networks to pitch it to. It's up their ally. If not... cable. (I love SBS, too, no lies, but they didn't do a report back in the day.) Oh and make it 16 episodes-ish. Not family drama. We don't watch family dramas for length reasons...

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