How does it feel to be a single mother since the age of 25? This issue is one of the big issues brought up in the K-Drama When The Camellia Blooms (2019). Not easy and challenging, that’s for sure. Moreover, Dongbaek (main character) is a single motherwithout marital status. That is, she is not a widow. She is a woman who chooses to raise her child without a father role from when she gave birth until her son (Pil-Gu) is 8 years old, due to a difficult situation. If she confessed her pregnancy to her lover at the time, she would have been ordered to abort—meanwhile, for Dongbaek, who since the age of 7 has had to live alone in an orphanage without a family, having a family is a dream he wants to pursue. He wanted to keep his son. An unusual story in Korean drama right?
When The Camellia Blooms (2019) aired last September-November 2019. A total of 40 episodes with a duration of approximately 1 hour per episode, this drama airs on the KBS2 channel in its home country, South Korea. But not only in South Korea, When The Camellia Blooms (2019) also airs on Netflix, with the highest rating for dramas in 2019 because the story is so attractive to the audience.
The story telling about Dongbaek in this drama is packed with describing a lot of reality for single mothers . As a single mother,Dongbaek is described as often trapped in a difficult position. She is often stigmatized by women, other mothers, with the label ‘poor without a husband’—in addition to their insecurity towards Dongbaek who is still beautiful, young and attractive to their husbands, which makes them often rude and marginalize Dongbaek. He is also stigmatized by some fathers as a woman who can be played with, moreover Dongbaek chose to open a bar business, even though the bar really only provides drinks without any plus-plus services. The status of an unmarried woman with one child opened the bar—double stigma, of course. Not infrequently, Dongbaek receives disrespectful treatment and sexual harassment from his customers, especially verbally.
As a single mother, Dongbaek is also faced with the serious risk of getting married again, especially with men who have never been married. Apart from having to think about the thoughts and feelings of his only child, Dongbaek also gets strong opposition from his lover’s mother. Because of this, his relationship with Yong-Shik often goes up and down—in fact, at times, Dongbaek chooses to give up. However, it is a reality that society still thinks that single mothers should not marry men who have never been married and have no children.
However, in the midst of all the challenges of single mother status,At that point, Dongbaek didn’t give up. Often he sheds tears, is depressed, and chooses to be more silent and just relents at first. Uniquely, throughout the increasing number of episodes, Dongbaek’s self-development also seems to be stronger and more dynamic. She slowly shows the strength she has kept, as a strong woman who can stand up for herself, even though she already has a lover. In the drama, Dongbaek’s power is depicted in the symbolism of a hippopotamus. Which is often relaxed, silent, but actually strong and scary when in conditions of having to fight and defend himself. One of the scenes that left the audience gaping, was how Dongbaek apparently recorded both the mistreatment and harassment he had received so far from his customers—the notes he took to the police station as evidence.
Interestingly, Dongbaek is not the only single mother female character in this drama. Several other female figures also contributed to strengthening the single mother issue which was raised with their respective stories. There is Jeong-Suk, Dongbaek’s mother, who has been a single mother since running away from her husband who committed domestic violence until he injured Dongbaek who was still a baby. There is also Kwak Deok-Sun, the mother of Yong-Shik (Dongbaek’s lover later), who became a single mother to her three children because her husband died in a fire tragedy. Their three stories are neatly woven to illustrate how hard and great the struggle of single mother women is .In the midst of the harshness of life which is often unfriendly to the status of those without a husband.
Just imagine how Kwak Deok-Sun has to take care of his two young children alone, with the youngest child still heavily pregnant—at the same time, he has to make a living by opening a small restaurant. We are also faced with other dilemmas, as in the story of Jeong-Suk, who once chose to leave Dongbaek in an orphanage due to economic difficulties, thinking that at least Dongbaek could live a better life and study well if he was in an orphanage. I still can’t understand how strong single mother women are who have to bear the burden of earning a living and taking care of their children alone and at the same time—especially single mothers from the lower middle economic class, who have more limited choices than women.single mother from an established economy class. For example, for the option of leaving the child in daycare or using the services of a babysitter.
It must be admitted that the bond between women as mothers and children is indeed very strong. In fact, when compared to the male bond as father, to son, though certainly not in all cases. Of course, it is also influenced by the reproductive roles and functions that are borne by women (mothers), in a not-so-short period of time. Seeing the child as part of the self, the human being conceived and born from the womb of a woman. When The Camellia Blooms (2019) also tells in a slick storyline that this is one of the foundations of defense, for single mother women , not to give up trying. Love and responsibility, as a mother who is attached to a child, becomes very important.
In the end, more than just a romantic love story, When The Camellia Blooms (2019) successfully tells the winding story of single mother women— especially Dongbaek, as the main character. A series of stories about how they endure-and-fight, for the sake of deep love for their child(s). This drama is clearly successful in sharing the unyielding fighting spirit of single mother women . That women are capable, even on their own. A drama that speaks for the single mother issue that may have been overlooked so far.