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`Ajumma` actress attracts attention

Posted March. 19, 2001 18:17,   


``I woke up one day to find that I had entered the frontier of ajumma (married Korean woman with children living an ordinary life),`` said Won Mi-Kyung, who plays the title character on the MBC TV drama ``Ajumma.`` ``However, unlike my character Oh Sam-Sook, I oppose divorce and, for the sake of my children, believe that I have to be patient (in living with my husband).``

Won, 40, said she was surprised and uneasy at the enthusiastic response of housewives to the drama, which ends on Mar. 20. She said the fact that some were in favor Oh divorcing her husband, while others thought the couple should be given a chance to reunite, made her feel as if Korean women had many regrets about their own married lives.

Overpowered by KBS 2 TV`s ``Autumn Fairy Tales,`` ``Ajumma`s`` ratings once dropped as low as 12.8 percent (meaning that just over a tenth of the viewers in its time slot were tuned to the drama). But the show began to attract more viewers after Oh`s husband Chang Jin-Koo had an extramarital affair, and its ratings soared to 33.3 percent at the time of their divorce, according to TNS Media Korea. In the most recent episode on Tuesday, Chang failed to be reappointed as a professor because he was found to have plagiarized his Master`s degree thesis. He was reduced to tutoring middle school students in his private study.

Originally, the producer and writer of ``Ajumma`` had planned to end the show with Oh building a stronger position in her husband`s family but not divorcing him. But the strong feelings of viewers forced the writer to change the story such that Oh and Chang went their separate ways. The stubborn opinions of ``ajummas`` who were opposed to reconciliation ended up partially dictating the outcome of a series about one of their own.

Won repeatedly voiced displeasure with her acting in the show. ``I can never give a mature performance,`` she said. ``I am not given the least time to think about the character of Oh Sam-Sook and so I have nothing to say about her.`` Won refused to give interviews even after the drama gained popularity, instead criticizing the climate in which Korean dramas are shot.

``I almost never receive a complete script. I get most of my lines in the morning, have to memorize them and then have to do the scenes the same day. It seems there is no performance but only words,`` she said.

Asked, however, if she enjoyed the fact that the show was so popular, she said, ``Ratings are why they make the dramas this way. But the these types of methods must change.`` She may deny the similarities, but like her character on ``Ajumma,`` Won doesn`t hold back from speaking her mind.

Kang Soo-Jin sjkang@donga.com