The narrative in Lee Jun-ho and Im Yoon-ah's popular K-drama that women have no voice and have to shoulder all the domestic work despite having a full-time job is distressing
Netflix's highly rated and widely-watched new K-drama King the Land, starring 2PM's Lee Jun-ho and Girls' Generation's Im Yoon-ah, is all the rage.
Of the total 18 episodes, 14 have been released on the streaming service; two new episodes are released every weekend. While the show is an easy-going rom-com about two people who are poles apart but perfect for each other, there are some parts of the series that can make you raise an eyebrow.
Going beyond the obvious, I have some specific issues with the latest episode of the show. Kang Da-eul (Kim Ga-eun), who is one of Sa-rang's (Yoon-ah) best friends, plays a working married woman who not only has to excel at her workplace but also do all the domestic chores.
Seeing her do it all at work and home without complaining or telling her in-laws or husband off when she is clearly overworked and underappreciated is upsetting because it is a reflection of the societal expectations of Korean women even in 2023.
But here's what really got my goat: In episode 14, Da-eul finds out that her husband, Seo Chung-jae (Choi Tae-hwan), has been lying to her about not having a job. And now that she is the only earning member of the house, she gets to boss him around and finally get him to do chores as the "head of the household".
Even her in-laws, who earlier did not pay a heed to how much work Da-eul did, are suddenly in her favour and make their own son (who, until now, they were perfectly fine with sitting around the sofa and watching TV while his wife toiled in the kitchen and went grocery shopping after a long day at work) do the housework because he was no longer the head of the household.
The narrative that women have no voice and have to shoulder all the domestic work despite having a full-time job is distressing. But the fact that the only time a woman can even ask a man to do anything around the house is when she's the sole breadwinner is downright offensive.
The way that this entire situation is handled by the makers of King the Land is just wrong. Da-eul and her in-laws making Chung-jae do household work only because he is no longer making money is problematic in many ways.
Of course, the fact that he hid the fact that he lost his job and blew his severance pay on playing golf needs to be punished, but there should have been some sensitivity shown in just what is considered punishment and how. Showing housework as something that is demeaning and beneath a "man" (read: breadwinner) makes light of the unpaid and hard labour that women are anyway expected to do.
Although the makers most likely intended to show Da-eul as empowered in her new role as head of the household, what they end up doing is mocking homemakers. And that is upsetting.