The Korea Herald


Seeing family through eyes of daughter-in-law

MBC’s new documentary series depicts daughter-in-law as ‘Woman in Wonderland’

By Im Eun-byel

Published : April 11, 2018 - 15:45

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The word “myeoneuri,” which means daughter-in-law in Korean, denotes much more than just a legal familiar relationship. It is a word loaded with layers of meaning, reflecting the position that a daughter-in-law occupies in the patriarchal Korean society.

In recent years, entertainment contents discussing daughters-in-law have been a hit, such as documentary film “Myeoneuri: My Son’s Crazy Wife” and webtoon “Myeoneuragi.” Both works explore the reality of marriage, portraying what it is like to be a daughter-in-law in Korea.

(Yonhap) (Yonhap)

Korea’s major network MBC is jumping on the bandwagon with a documentary reality show titled “Woman in Wonderland.” The show features three daughters-in-law in different situations -- one is newly married, another is pregnant and the other runs a restaurant with her parents-in-law. 

Cast of “Woman in Wonderland” / MBC Cast of “Woman in Wonderland” / MBC

Despite the differences, the three women are in a similar situation when it comes to dealing with their in-laws. They are all expected, or at least they feel obligated, to take care of domestic chores, “being a good mother and a wife.”

The show, produced by Studio Takeone, won a chance to air its program on MBC in a competition held last year in which 138 works were submitted. MBC selected the show, with the view that daughters-in-law are at the forefront of Korea’s societal problems, such as gender discrimination and excessive emphasis on hierarchy.

Producer Park Ji-ah was inspired by the web cartoon series “Myeoneuragi.” One of her acquaintances, a 26-year-old single woman recommend the cartoon to her. At the time, Park wondered why the person would be interested in the cartoon, as she was single. 

Producer Park Ji-ah (left) and Lee Young-baek speak during a media briefing held Tuesday at MBC headquarters in Digital Media City in western Seoul. / MBC Producer Park Ji-ah (left) and Lee Young-baek speak during a media briefing held Tuesday at MBC headquarters in Digital Media City in western Seoul. / MBC

“But then, I was shocked with the detailed perspective of the cartoon. Even my male friends, who are married, empathized with it, saying that they are stressed by the complex position of their wives,” she said. “I thought, the subject can be of interest to many.”

The producer hopes that viewers‘ fantasies about marriage can be shattered.

“People often fantasize about marriage. They should know what is coming to them. It is important for them to be educated,” she said. “I wish that the show could be used as an educational material for marriage.”

In the first episode of the show, the daughters-in-law are at the in-laws’ houses during the Lunar New Year holidays. It is widely expected of couples to visit men’s houses first during the holidays in Korea.

The daughters-in-law find themselves pressured to take care of family members, cooking and preparing meals and snacks for them. A contrasting scene is pictured, where all the men sit in front of the TV.

While there have been some TV shows that describe conflicts between daughters-in-law and mothers-in-law, the production team argued that “Woman in Wonderland” sets itself apart from others by shedding light on a social problem.

“Many of the shows focused on character confrontations between two women. But this problem is actually a social one, problem of an uneven playing field,” producer Lee Young-baek, who was in charge of the production competition, said.

As the show is a documentary reality show, it doesn’t offer solutions or advice, but rather jus watches the families. Producer Park stressed, careful observation is needed and sometimes can be helpful.

“A spotlight has to be given to daughters-in-law, who have been neglected. It’s my job as a producer to shine light on hidden aspects of life,” Park said.

Three episodes of “Woman in Wonderland” are to air Thursdays at 8:55 p.m. starting this week.

By Im Eun-byel (