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SBS announces makjang-free policy


Feel-Good Day

Oh, this is so refreshing: SBS has actually stated that it will be making a concerted effort to steer clear of makjang dramas. Can we have a round of applause, please?

Okay, so context: On May 13, a press conference was held for SBS’s new weekend drama Feel-Good Day (I believe some translations call it Glorious Day), which was attended by the director of SBS’s drama department, EP Kim Young-sub, who stated that the station will be instating an actual rule to eliminate makjang from their dramas. Huzzah!

But first, maybe I should start with an explanation of the term makjang. I believe many of you are familiar with the term (and girlfriday and I did give it a chapter in our book), but I have seen the term misused and confused around these parts. Sure, we can all probably name a drama or two that is commonly known to be makjang, but what does that actually mean?

What makjang does NOT mean: boring, stupid, dumb, cliched, unwatchable, or any other generically derogative term. There is a pejorative connotation to makjang, but please don’t use it as a catch-all insult! Makjang means a very specific thing.


Quintessential makjang drama Wife’s Temptation

The term makjang comes from a Korean phrase indicating a story that pushes things to the very last scene—that is to say, goes for the utter limit in terms of plot, emotion, manipulation, realism. It pushes things to (or past) our boundaries of normal behavior to elicit extreme reactions. So while a makjang drama may in fact be boring or stupid or cliched, the actual meaning is closer to what we in the West might term soapy.

Many makjang dramas are bad, but then again, many dramas in general are bad—it’s not a part of the criteria that a makjang drama must necessarily be illogical or unwatchable. There are good soap operas out there, and there are bad ones; being soapy in and of itself is not a negative thing. It’s the soap opera sensibility of twisting a story around and incorporating salacious elements that makes a story addictive, emotionally provocative, and makjang-esque.

So what makes a drama makjang? Take Wife’s Temptation (also translated Temptation of Wife, or Cruel Temptation), which incorporated plot points of adultery, revenge, rape, switched identities, and all sorts of extreme situations that have become common makjang tropes. Nobody will argue that this show—a huge hit with audiences and ratings back in 2008—was not makjang, but it’s generally also well-received as a good example of how makjang can still be well-produced and entertaining. It’s a different cut from the hot mess of a drama that was last year’s Aurora Princess, for instance, which was makjang in the worst way. That drama pushed its story to extremes in ludicrous ways that defied logic and also maybe physics.

Some dramas get tagged with the “premium makjang” label, setting it apart as a makjang of a higher cut. Perhaps the use of “premium” just proves the point about makjangs being bad if you have to qualify when one is good. But while the good example is rarer in dramaland, they do exist. For instance, JTBC’s recent hit series Secret Love Affair has been praised almost universally, and it is recognized as a drama that rose above its makjang trappings, despite sounding typically makjang on paper.


Makjang elements, non-makjang treatment: Secret Love Affair

Back to SBS and Feel-Good Day. This is a drama that lives up to its name, and according to girlfriday, is a feel-good and positive series that makes for an enjoyable watch. EP Kim Young-sub said, “Recently, as we at SBS have put out various different kinds of dramas, we have asked ourselves internally what kind of dramas the people want to watch, and what kinds of dramas irritate them. We want to make good dramas using the rule to stay away from makjang.”

You may wonder why this hasn’t happened before if makjang gets such a bad rap. The problem is, makjang drives ratings. People may swear at their screens while watching the ridiculous antics unfold on them, but it keeps them tuning in, as we saw when Aurora Princess’ ever-increasing insanity correlated with ever-increasing ratings. Or when King’s Family recorded higher numbers the crazier its plot became. Or why Wonderful Season, which is seen as a quality weekend drama with “nicer” plot turns, gets consistently lower ratings than the dramas that are recognized to be of much worse quality.

Which is why EP Kim conceded, “It’s true that it’s difficult to get the ratings without makjang. However, we believe that excluding makjang from dramas is truly the proper direction to go in. We will try our utmost to avoid it.”

I won’t say I don’t enjoy makjang in some cases (Boys Before Flowers is a common example of an extremely entertaining drama that was absurdly makjang), but I am encouraged by this announcement and hope it gains traction. We can all enjoy a little soapiness now and then, but it shouldn’t become your crutch for telling every story. And ushering in an influx of newer, fresher types of stories can only help dramaland.


Makjang, the bad version: Aurora Princess

Via Joy News, Sports World

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i was hesitating on watching Secret Love Affair because i heard it had a lot of makjang elements but this gives me hope. has anyone seen it? is it ridiculously over the top or is it realistically good?

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SLA is psychologically and sociologically realistic. No excesses in the emotions or their expressions and we have to thank the writer and the cast for that. Classy is what comes to mind.

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I've watched a few episodes here and there, and while I can see where javabeans is going on with it not actually looking like a makjang, I won't say it's everyone's cup of tea.

I love both the mains individually and I do agree that their acting is awesome, but if you're not into what I call "intense emotion through classical music with dramatic relationships all over" I wouldn't delve any closer. However, it does have that more serious calm quality to it which may attract people, seeing the mumbojumbo and flimsy whimsical plots you get in dramaland nowadays, aha.

But yay to no makjang whooooo~ (I didn't think BoF was actually one, but now that you mention it...)

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I can see that it's a quality show. I don't much care for it, but that's a matter of preference.

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I know what you mean JB. It's a good show but not my cup of tea either. I watched a few episodes and never got around to following it realizing at the same time that I did not miss it at all so I moved on to other dramas. Just not into that kind of somber atmosphere in a drama.

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I know SLA may not be everyone's cup of tea but we can all agree that it's a good quality drama with superb acting from Yoo ah in and Kim hee ae.

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IMO it's one of the best dramas in 2014. It really doesn't try to wring out tears from you by any means and it doesn't use cheap tricks. It is refreshingly honest and quite realistic (at least I don't recall rolling my eyes at it), both when it comes to the story itself and the portrayal of characters. Some food for thought is there, too.
If you ask me, give it a try.

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Which drama is IMO?

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IMO = in my opinion

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hahahaa my mistake lol ... it's never to late to learn new things... thanks..

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I love it.

I hope Yoo Ah In will win the best actor this year at Baeksang. Huhu.

Thanks for the explanation DB. Let's see if this drama (Feel Good Day) really mean it, b'coz judging from its teaser... Hmmm I still can feel the makjang element in it..

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Oh yeah. I hesitated on watching it as well, since it's not really the kind of story I usually enjoy but I decided to give it a try because I adore Kim Hee-Ae and Yoo Ah-In. And I'm absolutely hooked now. It's so very well acted and well directed. It's got this sort of dark ambience, and the tension is always so palpable. The situations are messy and chaotic and therefore easy to over-dramatize but SLA always seems intensely concentrated or even restrained(?) to me. I don't know if that's the right way to describe it. In any case though, I think it very much deserves all the praise it's getting.

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Though some have called SLA "makjang" I don't agree. It might tilt a bit off of the "socially accepted" scale, I see very little in there that is particularly rare.

Probably the best example in current shows of absurd makjang is Doctor Stranger and Stranger.

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Yeah, the promo /ad campaign seem like the most makjang thing about the drama, theb what I watched IMHO.

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Doctor Stranger makjangy? I admit it is idiotic in that a lot of things defy reality but I wouldn't call it makjang. It doesn't push things to the utter limit, as Javabeans puts it. My emotions are not manipulated and things don't go super dramatic for sake of the dramatics only. There is a purpose, if not yet visible, and a direction.

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Agreed. I feel like makjang is more a thing when shows just pile on crazy thing upon crazy thing. SLA really has just two things that happen:

SPOILERS if you've read absolutely nothing about the show
- a corrupt women has a war with her even more corrupt bosses
- she also carries on an affair with a young man

The latter is makjang only in that it is emotional. Such things happen often enough in real life (certainly a lot more often than a lot of the other makjang fodder).

The former is makjang only if you think any show about corrupt offices or office politics is makjang.

It is emotionally rendered from an aural point of view, and there's a lot of "meaningless" scenes in which the characters brood. But the brooding is even pretty restrained, because the main character's personality is basically a tug-of-war between restraint and passion.

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The best reason not to watch Secret Love is that it's boring as hell. I actually stopped watching after the episode when they first "did it". What does that tell you?

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What it tells me is that the show isn't your cup of tea.
It is slow, in a high quality, art film, slow-burn, kind of way. It also turns out to be meaningful. Who would have thought that adultery could be redemptive?

A fast, shallow rom-com it isn't; not that all rom-coms are necessarily shallow.

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I got hooked on the first 10 episodes but it kinda sizzled out into uninteresting story after that. Other than the 2 main leads, the other characters are so so boring.

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Realistically good...acting, writing, directing (my big 3). No phony sets, photographed beautifully...and the classical music, wonderful. An adult drama...what a treat! Sorry, I gush.

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SLA is an excellent show, with beautiful direction, acting, writing and scoring. It has a languid pace. It sits and thinks rather than rushing about. It asks about what people want out of life - power, love, position, acceptance, money - and what people are willing to protect or give up for those.

If you watch A Wife's Credentials - which has the same group behind it, including many of the actors - there are many of the same themes.

AWC is seen through the prism of a prototypical wife and family and the reality behind their facade. SLA is seen through the life of someone who achieved a certain amount of success and station, and what it takes for her to consider how she got there and what she would give it up for.

These aren't fluffy or even makjangy shows. They are adult and cinematic shows that require some effort and thought to watch. The dialogue is spare and the direction is both deliberate and lovely.

You have to be in the right mood to watch them. About half way through SLA I rewatched a couple of episodes of Sungkyunkwan Scandal to inject some fluffy YAI back into my life.

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i had initially steered clear of it but, like many have mentioned, it's not everyone's cup of tea. i rather enjoyed it and the leads are deserving of the praises they have received. it's not super melo, which would have made me put it on my back burner. it did, however, resonate with me long after the last episode was over.

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i know its over the top when i shout "ridiculous!" but despite my distaste for adultery themes, i was totally won over by secret. i could believe in this love
. and the end did NOT DISAPPOINT me. Totally adult. but i knew it was going to win me when they played the duet. i now count it as one of my real life experiences, like Misaeng.

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Oh WOW, really?

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Thank you Javabeans for explaining to us again what "makjang" is, and what it is not. I too feel encouraged by this news. It might be another good way to challenge the writers to think differently when writing their dramas. It might also challenge the producers to want something different, when working on dramas (I hope).

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Yeah, this is a great explanation of the term "makjang."

All dramas require conflicts. They stand or fall on the quality of their chosen conflicts and how they are executed on screen.

But makjang is all about manipulations. That's how makjang dramas hook viewers and keep them coming back for more, even when they employ crappy nonsensical conflicts. Sounds like cheating? Maybe, maybe not.

About Feel-Good Day, it is the only weekend drama I watch at present. I love it. Christ, I cannot possibly fathom how anyone can sit through Hotel King or Angel Eyes, but that's just me. I watch Wonderful Days on and off, solely because of Tacyeon, whose acting caliber is blossoming right before our eyes. It's amazing. It's as if he is turning into a James Dean. (But Wonderful Days itself is nothing but false, fake, absurdly slow march of one tempest in the teacup after another. Quality? I don't see it. Its eardrum-piercing dialects are driving me crazy.)

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Oh give it a day.

Remember when CNN was going to take the high road in news and the public said screw high road we want what we want.

Yeah SBS is about to learn an important lesson.

People like trash tv.

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LOL! I was going to add in my comment that I hope SBS sticks to their announcement, but now you have brought me back to earth. I was hoping my landing would not be so soon...

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Well, SBS is winning those weekday time slots at the moment and neither of their top dramas is a makjang so they can definitely afford to have this policy.

I hope that doesn't mean NO melo, though. And I hope MBC and KBS maybe take some notes!

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"Melo" does not equal makjang. While it is more common in melodramas, that is not what defines a melodrama. You can have makjang in any genre.

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I do like some makjang though, I think moderation is the key to everything.
Why can't we have a bit of everything?
I guess that's life.

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i see many confuse about makjang before including me, i read some comment that makjang is drama which contain birth secret n etc, my question that time is why many hate it as long it's done realisticly it still can be good
This explanation seem more logical to me if many hate it,i think if the twist of plot done overate n ilogical it's bad i think. I'm the one who enjoy temptation of wife in the beginning but in the middle this drama isreally overated, stupid untill i give up to watch, many long drama like that

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I like makjang dramas in doses...like maybe one drama a year at most. It only gets tiring when you watch a lot because the plot starts to really look irritatingly stupid. I don't get how people would think makjang dramas equate to boring at all. There's so much drama packed into every episode with twists and turns every few minutes.

I really enjoyed Flames of Desire/Ambition even with all the birth secrets, potential incest, etc.

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I loved Flames of Ambition, too! That show was over the top with anything and everything but it was so addicting to watch.

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I applaud this decision.

My take is that premium makjang dramas are not bad from time to tome, but the key is here the word premium. If one wants to reach for intensive emotions and extreme plots, one should make sure to do it well, otherwise the outcome is lame or laughable or both (maybe that's why people think makjang=stupid).
But the other thing that often comes to my mind while watching a drama is that life is often stranger than fiction anyway, one just needs to take a good look to find wonderful stories to tell. No need to make up twists that call for a big fat WTF???, sometimes really less is more. Though that "less" is more difficult to write well and act convincingly. If that is what SBS is aiming for, I hope for nice dramas in coming months.

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Hahahahaha, nice try SBS!

So. Not. Buying. It.

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LOL! I can see why though...

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SBS will hold to it too!
Untill a drama rating start to go down of course then bring back the makjang!

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The revolution is here!
On another note I could summarise your long definition of makjang in 1 word "telenovelas"! I remember one I watched as a teenager called "la mujer de mi vida", good Lord! U think kdrama mothers are evil, think again! The only saving grace was the 2 leads-gorgeous as hell!

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telenovelas are amazing and have a great production. At least the ones in my country. There are many of them that won several international prizes.
Let's not use telenovelas as definition to something bad because they are really important on the latin culture.

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Novelas also vary a lot from country to country. I'd say the mexican novelas are a bit more over the top, while brazilian and argentinian are more realistic.

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*Slow claps*

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They will keep their word.....................not.

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I hope that this will allow sbs to think out of the box I would like it to be more like jdrama's more

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You have J-dramas to be J-dramas. Why do K-dramas have to be more like J-dramas?

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I think they meant quality-wise. Jdramas have diverse stories, better writing. It's not absurd to want competent writing and interesting stories that rely on quality, rather than manipulation, to hold viewers.

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First of all, I never said Cyan was "absurd" to ask that question. Secondly, according to you, Jdramas equal better writing and quality than Kdramas. But if I am not mistaken, Kdramas are, and have been for a couple of decades, more popular than Jdramas at least in Asia. They have their own Kdrama-ness that draws people in. I agree that Kdramas in general can use better writing, but I do not think what they need is to be more like Jdramas. They have to develop their own traits and flavors in a more positive direction.

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Popular does not equal of good quality. And bad quality does not equal Koreanness. They can still be Korean but not rely on makjang and repetition.

That is my point. "Like" jdramas does not mean devoid of their cultural identity or made more "Japanese". It is impossible to be like another culture and not something that should be asked of any culture anyway.

Similarities can exist in many ways and fields. Diverse premises and quality writing being two things jdrama has more to offer on and things which are generally good to have in art and entertainment.

And those are things Korean dramas can have, which do not compromise their uniqueness or Koreanness.

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You sure read a lot into being "more like Jdrama."

I am one of those people who think that TV dramas are products to be consumed, rather than works of art to be studied in the way, for example, Shakespeare is. Sure, if they have art-like quality, that is even better. But the main purposes TV dramas fill are entertainment for consumers and money for producers. And I believe Kdramas have been more successful in these respects than Jdramas.

As you pointed out, popularity does not necessarily mean good quality, but neither does it equal bad quality. Just because Kdramas are in general more popular than Jdramas, that surely does not mean they have worse quality than Jdramas? You make it sound like Kdramas are popular because they all rely on makjang and repetition. Some Kdramas are popular because of that reason, but many are not. Most Kdramas that are popular are popular because they do what Kdramas do best - romance and comedy, with diverse premises and quality writing, I might add. And I think a lot of Jdramas that are good are good because they focus on what they do best - exploring various professions and workplaces. American dramas excel in cop shows, legal and medical dramas. I love British period pieces. To each, its own.

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Oh I agree that popular can be good too, but I also know that popularity does not come from quality, but other elements, even if quality can be found in it. So yes, makjang is what brings ratings and therefore popularity in the domestic market, where the big money comes from.

Koreans do not actually like comedy much in dramas. That is why, domestically, melodrama, sageuk and such sell better. Overseas sales do matter in certain areas, mainly China and Japan, but we and our love for romcom do not unfortunately matter much.

And while dramas right now are just entertainment and business, I am one who does wish and believe that movies and television can be art and at least good entertainment too, so our approach shapes our expectations and criticisms.

So I do not see that quality and diverse writing in Korean drama and therefore wish to see it. But we can agree to disagree and hope this move by SBS will bring more options for everybody. That is only a good thing.

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I'm pretty sure Shakespeare was meant to be consumed and make money. It is only the addition of history that made it study worthy.

But yes, I watch whatever I find interesting. I think artsy elements are sometimes interesting because they are new, different, or extra pretty.

The definition of good is always debated to no real end. I personally don't believe in the concept of "art". I will acknowledge skill, but art is merely a culturally influenced group delusion.

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I'm not sure what others consider the distinction between kdrama and Jdrama, but what ruins jdrama for me is hammy acting and direction and inattention to detail.

The acting and direction in a lot of jdramas remind me of kiddy shows on the Disney channel or an old Three Stooges short; the actors stand in the middle of the screen, gesture and make faces, and bark out their lines to make sure the five year-olds in the audience can follow along

Insultingly dumb plot details, like those we complain about on Dramabeans on medical shows, seem to turn up constantly on jdramas. So you get an otherwise serious police drama in which the main character is the only cop who questions suspects, or is the only one to enter the building when there is an entire SWAT team on hand, or is framed by planted evidence when any detective willing to make a phone call should be able to to check his alibi , but they don't, since the plot requires they don't follow up on any leads.

And so on, and so on . . .

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unless you like the bbc and govenment paid you will always get the bottom line in your dramas market wise, TV is for the masses not for those that may like to pick over a drama and say oh it was ok but the lightening used was so and so, frankly as one of the masses, who cares?
That said there is a limit to what even the masses can put up with, or maybe better to say there a limit to how much a drama can insult ones intelligence/common sense and get away with it

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Is it just me ? I have a particular problem with Jdramas and variety shows where the Japanese accents all sounded like they are speaking through their noses and the Japanese women have high pitch voices...more like little girl voices or voices high on octane gas....so difficult to take them seriously.

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There's a lot of inaccurate generalization going on:

Japanese renzoku dorama differ considerably. The cable networks like WOWOW tend to have more mature, intelligent storylines, while broadcast networks like Fuji TV cater to the masses with models, idols and singers in silly romcoms. Similarly, kdrama differs considerably between the broadcast networks (KBS, SBS...) and cable (tvN...). The same is true of American television. Just look at the difference between what's on ABC/NBC/CW and HBO or Netflix-original.

The thing that really differentiates Japanese and Korean drama overall is the live-shoot system's pace, the duration of episodes, and the length of tv seasons.

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I don't know about that.. Makjang sells, makjang is what brings ahjummas to the yard. I'd say just make dramas with different 'vibes', and let every drama-aholic be happy.

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maybe they just need a warning before a drama starts, like they have on cigarettes boxs "warning this drama may hold certain content of Makjang, veiwer discretion is advised"

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I actually do like makjang in korean dramas but inm teeny weeny doses but the only problem is that korean dramas tend to over do it and i end up scratching my head and screaming at my screen like a mad girl *Le Sigh*. If sbs keeps its promise and avoids makjang dramas for at least the next 2 years i will cook and eat all my louboutin shoes.

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Cool thanks for your explanation of the term 'makjang' JB! I've seen it used to describe things before but always got it confused with melodramas..

Hmm and I didn't thik I'd seen any makjang dramas before but apparently I've seen two - BoF and King's Family? ( which btw I'm still mad at, should've dump that sucker after the main couple I was rooting for got weirder, once the cute was gone there was nothing to sustain me till the end except pure stubborness to see it though! smh)

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I commend SBS for taking the first step towards eliminating makjang from their dramas...although I don't know if they themselves can hold themselves to it if (and when) their ratings drop. Their weekend dramas of late were makjang-leaning, so I'm actually surprised that they would be the ones to come out like this and go against the very thing that seemed to be garnering them ratings.

By the way, Feel Good Day is pretty good as a weekend drama -- caught the first two episodes the other day and liked it enough that I'm attempting to watch the rest this weekend :) There are a lot of actors in there that I like, and it's similar to Triangle in having this throwback familiarity to it.

But it's weird that they'll have a press conference for it when it's already aired 6 episodes...maybe it was postponed until now due to the ferry?

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Yes, the press conference had already been cancelled several times because of the tragedy. The cast was wearing yellow ribbons during the conference.

I agree, it's a nice light-hearted drama. The uncle played by Son Chang Min is particulary awesome!

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eh, but I like 'em soapy. I hope what this really means is they're keeping out those unnecessary what-the-fuckeroo scenes (which we all know are purely driven by ratings -hello, writers who think they can take the easy road to writing a hit drama) but not, y'know, banning the whole shebang.

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Don't think it's possible to completely rid of makjang tropes but it's already telling that i happen to be watching only SBS dramas atm (doctor stranger, YAAS,angel eyes) -- I've preferred mainly SBS dramas over the other stations in recent years because i find their shows more refreshing or atleast more watchable.

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Thank you, JB, for explaining the meaning of that word. For some reason, I always thought that a show had to deal with adultery for it to be called a makjang.

A supreme court justice once said that when you see pornography, you just know it, that it did not need additional explanation. I guess it is the same way with a makjang drama. It pushes things to the extreme that you just know it when you watch it.

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I like organic realistic plotting, which Secret Love Affair definitely was. I dislike what we in the American literary world would call "melodrama" which I think is how this announcement might describe "makjang" -- stuff piled on in such an extreme over-the-top way that you have extreme evil, extreme goodness, extreme bad luck, that the story makes no sense at all and just feels as if the gods are playing around with some innocent person's life.

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Soaps are nice, but there are many types of viewers and not everyone loves makjang-riddled plots. They are an easy way out for those who cannot find other ways to keep audiences. Makjang is cheap and manipulative.

With viewers outside of the core drama audience turning to foreign shows and cable for different types of genres and stories, I can see why the Big Three would be wise to consider this. New technologies, new ways to make money, new types of audiences (in both age and taste) they can make money from.

It's a shame to only do one thing for one type of viewer. So I personally welcome any diversity and willingness to at least try and be more creative with their writing and what they have to offer. And audiences will adapt. Makjang is a time-spending device anyway.

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".. Makjang is cheap and manipulative.."

I think that is the key here. I don't blame the writers 100% - the writers have to sell what they write, and if nobody will buy that show written about for example some undercover group of corruption inspectors, we will never see it.

And whoever buys the scripts have decided that the same old tropes, plots, and makjang sells. They are afraid to step out of the box.

Just one example of a Japanese drama that *NO* K-drama has ever done is "Hanzawa Naoki" - about bankers. It was the highest rated j-drama in over 10 years, 35-40%, and in some markets topped 52%.

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That is true. If writers want freedom, they need to comply, to some degree and add elements that sell. When they don't, we get writer switches, we get stations taking over the story, we get good dramas suddenly going makjang and messed up.

That is why this move is important, if SBS can stick to its guns. Because it's a support to writers who do want and can do better and be creative and still captivating in their writing.

Out of the three stations, SBS has been the one to take risks more often, with dramas that don't fit typical formula or genres and even though this decision will be a hard one to keep, the fact that it was made and any effort made to keep it, to any degree, fills one with hope.

Change does not happen in a day. Indications of mindsets evolving, of this industry evolving, are something.

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Hanzawa Naoki isn't even original screenwriting. It's an adaptation of Ikeido Jun's novel series. Just like Tetsu no hone and Roosevelt game.

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I have my doubts that they will really stick to it, but if it just reduces it to a reasonable level I will be happy.

But if you look at the ratings for current shows - one of the most over the top makjang ridden shows ever - Doctor Stranger - is leading.

But I think that for Korean shows that makjang is more of a symptom than a cause. There is MUCH less variety in topics in k-dramas than in most countries. Korean dramas have pretty much three or four basic plot lines - revenge, Cinderella, chaebols vs good guys, ... and good guys vs chaebols?

And professions - they are pretty much limited to lawyer, doctor, poor hard working but cheerful street vendors, and gangster/bodyguards/debt collectors (all dressed in black with black ball caps).

On the other hand, the range of topics and professions in Japanese dramas is hugely varied - even including vegetable inspectors and bank examiners.

Hopefully, it might encourage some exploration of wider fields of topics, issues, and professions that you almost never see in current and past dramas.

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I don't agree "Doctor Stranger" is a makjang. It has a very improbable story line, but that is not makjang. Makjang is, like JB pointed out, a show like "Wife's Temptation," pushed to such extremes that any viewer will agree that it is indeed a makjang.

Now, if Hoon marries Soohyun, only to reunite with Jaehee (silently staring at him with big, sad eyes as he was taking his marriage vows), and he starts having an affair with her and then it turns out Jaehee was Soohyun's long lost twin sister, and Soohyun takes her revenge by kicking Hoon's crotch until he becomes impotent and Jaehee claims that she is pregnant with Hoon's child etc. etc. then, we have a makjang on our hands.

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I understand you guys like Doc Stranger but I think you are pushing it. If that is not makjang, nothing is. There is plenty of absurdity and manipulative scenes in almost every second how can that not be makjang?

What is the problem in liking makjang anyway? It's like liking kpop, yeah, most of it is bad but it can still be fun and I have no problem saying I like this or that song. Just like I don't have a problem saying I may like makjang if it's fun. :)

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True, I like Dr. Stranger. But I really don't think it's makjang because the way Javabeans describes it with the kind of examples given....those things sound a lot like the Indian dramas I have watched growing up. Using that sort of basis, Dr. Stranger is nothing like that stuff. So it's not a matter of being a secret makjang fan and not admitting to it. I just feel the description doesn't fit with this show.

Anyways, I would request Javabeans to decide if Dr. Stranger is makjang or not 'cause, well, she's the Kdrama expert.

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DayDreamer I think you have a different definition of makjang. For me it's a story that relies on the absurd, on the unrealistic in a very over the top way, that matches the definition above . It makes no difference if Javabeans says DS is not makjang, I hope she doesn't, because then I will only think she is one more fan of DS who is afraid of calling it what it is. :) I hope you don't mind what I'm saying because I always like your comments on the OTs, let's agree to disagree about the strange doc. :)

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I haven't seen too much of Doctor Stranger but I'd probably not label it a makjang drama. As I mentioned above, makjang can have negative connotations but it isn't a synonym for crazy or illogical. There's a specific tonality to makjang that Dr. Stranger doesn't quite hit. (In the same way that a drama involving a mysterious murder doesn't necessarily have to be a "murder mystery drama," a drama with unrealistic or absurd elements doesn't have to be a makjang.)

I would caution you against labeling everyone an unreasonable fangirl of a show just because they don't agree with your assessment, however. That line of thinking shuts down discussions, rather than promotes it.

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@javabeans please don't misunderstand me. I am brazilian not american or korean. For us, being a fan or being called a fan, always has a POSITIVE conotation. Note how I never used the word fangirl which is completely different. I am slowly realizing being a fan has a very different feel in the korean and maybe american society too, because it might be sometimes related to fangirling, but it is never something on my mind when I call someone a fan of something.

For instance it makes no difference to me if I call you a fan of a soccer team I don't like, my opinion about the team or of you doesn't relate to that. Not sure if you understand but it's a cultural difference, having said that, thanks for the input!

If makjang shows needs to have a tonality than that certainly adds to the discussion because as far as I understoo over the top stories was all it took to make one. :)

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I am not saying "Dr. Stranger" is not makjang because I like the show. I am simply saying it does not fall into that category.

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@Lixie

Being absurd doesn't necessarily mean it's 'makjang'. Makjang is very specific in its tone, and to me the closest way to gauge whether a drama is employing the makjang code or not, is if it's being provocative.

Yes, Dr. Stranger is ridiculous and is riddled with absurd plot lines. BUT, Dr's intention is not to provoke its audiences with those elements to keep them coming back, but rather, Dr is ridiculous for the sake of being ridiculous. As an aside, I do believe that Dr is more satirical in nature, and that it's self-aware of its own absurdity, to a point, that they employ it as a humor device rather than a bait to entice viewers.

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I disagree. If getting your fathers's kidney in NK, escaping to Hungary, having your heart stopped right on schedule at 3 hours, getting shot by NK agents after being chased through Budapest, falling off a bridge, and then showing up as a doctor in a South Korean hospital is not makjang, then we need a new definition.

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It's okay to disagree. But if people are disagreeing, chances are it's not makjang.

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Windsun, I was going to make a long list of the crazy in DS but I like your short version better.:)

PPasun if many people disagree... that just means they disagree. :) Just think of how many people loved Heirs.:)

ps:Which in my humble opinion was still way better than DS.

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Just to caution you (because here's where I think people have misapplied the word makjang), just having certain plot elements doesn't make a show makjang. By that line of thinking, Secret Love Affair would be a quintessential makjang.

Even in this post I see the word makjang being slung as a synonym for "bad drama," which it shouldn't be. I agree Dr. Stranger is weird, and it's a total mishmash of genres and elements, but tonally, it isn't the kind of drama you'd call makjang. (Dramas that are very makjang and feel like it: Baker King Kim Tak-gu, Bachelor's Vegetable Store, You're My Destiny.)

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I only watched SLA until ep 8 but I would never call it makjang. Why? It's just a love affair. :)

Among those 3, I watched Baker King and yes it was makjang, I think I know what you mean by having a different tone, it feels like a soap opera and it's consistent which I have to say DS doesn't seem to be. :)

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So, Baker King IS makjang! Actually that was the first drama that popped in my mind whenever the word makjang came up, but I wasn't really sure I got the concept right.

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will shows that makjang works after all wasnt Baker King Jim like the highest rated drama ever? in korea, though i never seen it or want to myself I have alway wondered why it got such a huge veiwer rating in korea. Do weekend drama normally get bigger viewer rating than the weekend ones, it seem so to me or is it that weekend drama are normally more 'makjang' than thier weekday counterparts.. thus when a weekday drama is struggling they seem to hope the 'fix' is throw in some makjang

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It's not necessarily makjang, though one could just as easily use the same elements which you have presented, and coincidentally that Dr. Stranger have, and turn it into 'makjang'.

As I understood it, and as JB and GF has been saying (love your book btw), makjang is something that is more of a product of tone rather than a set of elements incorporated (often cliched, or an established trope) into a drama to illicit the same 'extreme reactions' from the viewers.

Here's my take with Dr. Stranger--it's not makjang, the same way that IRIS is an action-melo, that though it does involve a lot of leaps of logic and highly stylized and often pushes the boundary of realism, ultimately the intended tone is not to illicit 'extreme reactions' from the audience, but rather to exhilarate them and at parts sympathize with the hero.

Dr. Stranger is a medical drama, and to that point, the kidney transfer was tonally consistent-- that it's not something which you would 'not expect' for the drama to do (just as Big Man's heart-swapping is not something regular sane people would do)--as it's to show us how being a doctor can be 'action packed profession' too. Nor is being chased by NK agents and getting shot at, which are all 'normal' and staples to many 'action thrillers', such as the above mentioned IRIS. It's is tonally consistent, since Dr. Stranger is an action/spy-thriller drama too. To that point, now people would get why many are off-put by Dr. Stranger's weird tonal shifts, because it incorporates many genres into one.

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Initially I was completely confused, and I asked myself why would two dramas, both having extreme situations (like kidnapping, near-death experiences, switched identities etc.), not both be makjang... and then I had an idea!
Could it be that makjang dramas are more like folk tales, in that every extreme plot twist is like an expected motif and the story isn't as fleshed out as in non-makjang dramas (still with extreme plot twists), because the story doesn't really matter in itself but only in so far as it allows the succession of these motifs?
Yes, I am currently reading folk tales, and yes, I am probably overthinking this ^^;

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They're doing something right at SBS. My favorite dramas of the last 2 years have been from SBS. More power to them.

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I love Makjang!!!

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Sorry, but I LOLed at your comment. I just loved how you said it.

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Yes!!!! Me too!!!! Temptation of Wife was like crack for me!!!!

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Great writing! Another drama immediately came to mind that looks like a typical makjang on paper (first love, cousins, adultery, terminal illness) but is elevated by its quality writing, directing, and acting, is "90 Days, Time to Love". I highly recommend this drama, please watch!

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This is like the 3rd or 4th time I see this drama being recommended in one day...

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Off topic, sorry, but I am curious if anyone has taken language lessons at Italki and if so, are they going to do the 25 hours of training in 2 months challenge?

I sort of love a challenge.

#italkichallenge http://promos.italki.com/2014-italki-world-cup-language-challenge/#.U3VHwfldWSo

I've never taken italki lessons. I heard they cost $10/lesson so it is $250 and you have to get 25 lessons done between June & July or forfeit your $20 deposit. But it is like a new year's resolution that you bet with your friend ... it is something to motivate you to really do it.

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I love SBS. Enough said. :P

On a more realistic note, I do hope that their upcoming "makjang-free" dramas do sufficiently well for them to internally justify this decision. Perhaps other stations will follow suit and we can have awesome tear-inducing melodramas and whatnot with plots that actually make sense!

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Last year SBS promoted their daily drama Ugly Alert as makjang free, it came in second in the ratings race behind the heavily makjang Princess Aurora.

It's possible that Ugly Alert made SBS more comfortable taking their new position.

Ugly Alert was very watchable, here is a link to a fan's review of the series: http://koreandramareviews.com/year-end-review-2013-part-deux-best-family-drama-for-2013/

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I loved Ugly Alert so so much. Such a fun and good-feel watch. Highly recommend it to everyone~~^^

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Thank you for recommending that drama. *Another drama that goes on my list of dramas to eventually watch*

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OooOooohh.

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Bs. Makjang is such an important part of the drama system. As someone raised watching novelas, I would know.

Like someone pointed above: SBS is 'bout to learn a lesson.

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Here is a somewhat different definition: "Then what makes a drama makjang? When it comes to dramas, when plot devices involving extreme, absurd, or outrageous instances of life (cases that make you go, hmm, what’s the likelihood of that happening in an average person’s lifetime) are dealt with in an illogical or twisted manner to arouse or hook the viewers, or conveniently inserted for that exact purpose, they are described as makjang."

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MBC really can learn something from SBS. Kudos to SBS for the announcement!

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I think I'm getting the definition of makjang as being similar to the classic American definition of "Soap Opera," in which the drama is provided by constant manipulation of emotionally dramatic events that exist, not because they're inherent to the plot and characters, but for the sake of manipulation.

For instance, in Pride and Prejudice, the intricate game of courtship tied to social position and income is inherent to the characters and Jane Austin ends the novel when the personal stories of the primary characters in that cultural context is worked out.

In constrast, a typical American soap opera plot has a dozen or so generic middle-class Americans in their 20s, 30s, and 40s, going through disease, divorce, romance, business issues, love affairs, pregnancies, child birth, etc., and once a sub-plot loses its dramatic punch, another generic sub-plot is added. Over the years, a character might get married and divorced a half-dozen times. There isn't something inherent in the character's personality or social status that makes that happen. The Soap Opera/Makjang elements are added in to create drama, not because the drama setting requires them.

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I used the terms makjang and sageuk in a recent discussion about Korean dramas with my language exchange partner. I thought he would be impressed that I knew such terms, but he wasn't. haha Well, I'm still proud of myself for learning some Korean terms.

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Hmmm, I still don't get it. About makjang, I mean. Well, I thought I did. But then with more and more explanations coming in, I only became more and more confused with which dramas are makjangy an which are not. I guess I should watch Princess Aurora or other dramas that Javabeans mentioned as makjangy above to really grasp the meaning. Oh, and one question, can Bride of the Century be categorized as makjang? Imho it had almost all (or maybe all?) drama cliches there is but still made me sit in front of my laptop till the end.

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I would like to read an answer to that too. Anyone?
I watched BotC and this crossed my mind a few times. It had a lot of cliches and crazy elements but maybe it wasn't as complicated or have as many twists and turns to count as makjang? :)

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I think I am with you guys on what dramas are makjang-y and which ones are not (still a little confused), and it doesn't help that I have not watched any of the dramas JB mentioned. And I didn't watch BoC either. Maybe if I do one day (watch the dramas mentioned), I might get it.

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I will have to say, this has been a very interesting thread.

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Thanks to EP Kim Young-sub
SBS will make no soap.

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I think "makjang" applies to the outrageousness of the drama in question: outrageous plot, over-the-top characters, extreme situations, all combined to wring bile fascination from the audience. Dramas with unrealistic plot elements like Bride of the Century, Doctor Stranger, etc., are not makjang simply because they're not OTT enough. One could argue that Empress Ki went all makjang in the later episodes though.

I don't normally watch makjang dramas (the screaming makes my head hurt) but the bits I've seen are VERY OTT. There's the terrible Wife's Temptation (which ruined the whole genre for me). On the other hand, the critically acclaimed Flames of Ambition elevated its makjang-ness to an art form, proving that "makjang" can be good in the hands of an excellent production team.

Still, kudos to SBS for making a commitment not to write endless pain and suffering (and screeching) just to get ratings.

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I find this policy ridiculous... When it's good, it's good... whatever the genre, makjang, rom-com etc... I'm not a fan but I don't see why there shouldn't be room for that kind of dramas, along with feel good shows. As long as the quality is there.

Instead, they should make a couple of rules compulsery :
-Ending that makes sense & doesn't ruin the whole experience
-Kisses that look like kisses (already implemented on cable...)

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I think the rule was made to curb writers' excesses. It's pretty easy to start doling out the crazy when you're desperate for ratings. Besides, it takes a true master to make a good makjang. The rest are pretty much terrible at it so... *shrugs* Besides they probably won't get rid of melodramas.

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just watched 4 eps of this drama, and it's quite nice... actually it's a heartwarming drama with concentrate on family relationship.. i love love family focus drama, that's why i'm enjoying this..
but still not sure about the makjang-free thing.. so far,the possibility it's going to be makjang is there, and heck it has 50 eps..
dailies Ugly Alert has 100+ eps but it manage to be makjang-free.. so yeah, let's see about this..

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Speaking of "not making sense" and "over the top crazy"; I'd rather they announced No More Blood and Gore Medical Dramas. Ever. Please, SBS!

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lol and here i thought makjang has something to do with their chili sauce or bean paste or something related to kimchi and in turn what has it to do with dramas?!!

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that would be gochujang (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gochujang) :D

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IS GOLDEN CROSS A MAKJANG???

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I have love hate relationship with makjang. I have been watching dramas for almost 2 decades, so I think I have experienced most of drama's genres.

Makjang element is not necessarily bad thing for drama, and with good executions, it indeed makes you addicted to the drama.
My most favourite makjang dramas are Miss Mermaid (which is not good in quality but you just can't stop watching it) and Flames of Ambition (the example of best makjang, good story, good acting, good directing).

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Oh. Way to go SBS! :)
I hope they get rid of the live-shoot system next. ;)

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Amen to that!

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After reading all these comments, I've come to realize that in the US for us old enough to remember, Watergate was makjang!

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