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Chinese Mainland in Thrall to 'Daejanggeum'
The vast Chinese mainland is mesmerized by the Korean historical soap "Daejanggeum, (A Jewel in the Palace)." Hunan TV, which started airing the program on Sept. 1 from 10 p.m. to midnight, is keeping up the advertising pressure, inviting Lee Young-ae, who plays the heroine, to China early next month, and designating the show's theme song as compulsory repertoire for the five contestants remaining on "Super Girl," a Chinese version of "American Idol."
"Daejanggeum" topped the ratings chart with 14 percent in 31 cities across China as of Sept. 19 and is generating a Korean boom in economic, social and cultural fields.
CDs and books related to the show sell like hot cakes in Beijing, with the book accompanying the series taking sixth place in the fiction bestseller list last week.
Wedding photographers offer the heroine Janggeum's bridal dresses at 7,000 yuan (W910,000), and many mothers are buying Korean traditional dress for their soon-to-be-wedded daughters. In Shanghai and Hunan, plastic surgery clinics are reportedly packed with women who want to look more like Lee Young-ae.
Not even the top ranks of the Communist Party are spared. Chinese President Hu Jintao told Moon Hee-sang, the leader of the ruling Uri Party, last week it was a shame his busy schedule keeps him from watching every episode. Top Chinese legislator Wu Bangguo, No.2 in the party hierarchy, said in a private conversation that he enjoys watching "Daejanggeum" because his wife loves Korean TV soap operas. Chinese media last week reported a housewife threw herself in the river because her husband did not let her watch the show.
The Chinese media evaluates the trend favorably. The newsletter of the Culture Ministry said the series "is in the forefront of promoting Korean culture to the world by showing Korea's history, culinary and fashion culture and the spirit of national pride.
The China Youth Daily said "all Chinese people" love "Daejanggeum"; romantics are indulged in the love story, the ambitious are inspired by the strong will of Janggeum, and gourmets are absorbed in the food. The people of China rediscover lost dreams and social values in the soap, the paper said.