From Penthouse to Sky Castle – the nature of Korean makjang dramas, the deliciously satisfying and cringe moments and the reason for their popularity

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Indians are no strangers to exaggerated plots, dramatic acting, thunderous music, and wickedly weird plot twists when it comes to watching a daily soap or a drama. South Koreans, too, have found a liking for such dramas. These overly-dramatic dramas are called as ‘Makjang’ dramas. South Korean media has been producing makjang dramas since decades. These dramas have been loved by the audience despite the ridiculous plotlines and unwanted melodrama. As time went by, the nature of makjang dramas evolved from simple romance plots like rich boy falling for a poor girl to rich families, revenge dramas and more.

From Penthouse to Sky Castle – the nature of Korean makjang dramas, the deliciously satisfying and cringe moments and the reason for their popularity

Makjang dramas give a taste of something dramatic and something unrealistic. Despite the clichés being repeated in the makjang dramas, they serve to be a constant source of entertainment for the audience. A rich woman throwing water at her son’s girlfriend, a jealous ex creating misunderstandings which often lead to life-or-death situations, scheming individuals who will go to any lengths to satisfy their greed, and so on form the basis of any makjang drama.

From Penthouse to Sky Castle – the nature of Korean makjang dramas, the deliciously satisfying and cringe moments and the reason for their popularity

In the past few years, dramas like Penthouse: War In Life, and Sky Castle have created a phenomenon all over the world. These dramas, regardless of the exaggerated plot twists do hold a mirror to people’s true face and the society’s assumptions. In 2018, Sky Castle created a storm in the K-Drama world. The drama became immensely popular that even Forbes magazine covered it! Sky Castle follows women from the rich and effluent families who aim to get their kids admitted to Seoul National University. The drama gives the audience a look into the lives of students who are forced to pursue a certain academic course whether they want it or not. The education system in South Korea is quite cut-throat with immense pressure on the students to do exceptionally well. There is no room for failure. This pressure leads to several mental health issues like depression, anxiety, which sometimes also leads to the students taking their own lives.

Parental love is one more aspect that is explored in this drama. Parents in the drama have disguised their ambitions for their children under the label of love. Their actions stem out of selfish reasons, but are announced as ‘for the sake of the child’. The notion of love is severely misunderstood by the parents. Sky Castle was a hard-hitting drama, despite being a makjang drama. The characters are fleshed out to fit the plot, and as close to the reality as possible. A chain of events soon begins that leads to quarrelling, high tension, dense acting, and high-octane drama in the lives of Sky Castle characters.

Next, we’ll talk about the drama that has come to a fiery conclusion this week – Penthouse! True to its name, the drama talks about the lives of elite living in penthouse. The drama is filled all sorts of melodrama and plot twists that will make you wonder – do such things really happen? You have not truly enjoyed Penthouse if it hasn’t made you cringe in parts; made you want to hit an onscreen character; made you pull your hair out of frustration or all of the above.

Penthouse is a crazy mix of people coming back from the dad, dramatic slap scenes, conspiracy theories, and even people killing each other for monetary gains. The drama has been a staggering hit all across the globe, so much so that the makers brought in 3 seasons of the show! Penthouse is a modern example of a classic makjang drama which frustrates you but makes you want to keep coming back to it. The drama also gives an insight into the lives of those living in high rise apartments and in possession of tremendous wealth. Despite having everything, the people are missing with basic human emotions of love and empathy. Money and power have blinded them and it has led them on immoral paths.

We have a few more makjang dramas like The World of Married, Everybody Say Kimchi, Love in Sadness, Woman of Dignity, to name a few that have been popular amongst the audience. The makjang dramas usually revolve around the themes of filial piety, marital relationships, romance between individuals and societal status. These dramas have given an escape to the general audience into a world of plotlines which seem highly unrealistic, but at the same time hold an ounce of truth. Some dramas present the differences between families, old versus modern thoughts, power battles and aim to restore the good values amidst all the trials and tribulations. While these dramas are deemed as crazy and messed up, one cannot deny that the allure of adrenaline rush one gets after watching makjang dramas. It won’t be wrong to say that the love that audience holds for makjang dramas is as messy and unpredictable as the drama stories!

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