“Be Strong, Geum-Soon” is the K-drama that started it all for us. I found it through a random search of our library’s card catalog, and decided to give it a try since we’d been enjoying Korean movies. With 164 roughly 30-minute episodes, it consumed our evenings for the next couple of months.
While we enjoyed the series so much we’ve watched much of it a second time, one reason I recommend this series to adoptive families is because it illuminates the feelings Korean society has about single mothers. Looking at the situation from an American perspective, it’s hard to imagine the hardships that single mothers face in Korea.
A widowed single mother for most of the series, Geum-Soon was raised by her grandmother after her parents died, or so she believes. So viewers see the prejudices that exist toward orphans, as well as the difficulties Geum-Soon faces as a single mother trying to find work to support her son. Through other characters, you see the attitudes toward divorce, accepting a child that isn’t biologically yours, and the lengths an unwed mother will go to give her child a “legitimate” bloodline.
So many of the themes that run through this series get to the heart of why lots of Korean babies are placed for adoption. It gives an understanding that is hard to obtain in 21st century America.
Geum-Soon, played by Han, Hye-Jin, is a spunky, go-getter who refuses to give up. That spunk eventually allows her to truimph. But when you think of an unwed single mother, whose child has no father to claim in a paternally-focused society, one can certainly see why a mother would think of parenting her child to be an almost impossible task.
Of course, it’s a television series and many things may have been overdone for the sake of drama. Still, the themes are rooted in attitudes that Korean’s relate to. We were enlightened and entertained by this series and it remains one of our favorites. Be prepared to be drawn in.