Korean TV Show Tackles Taboo Subject of Mental Illness

Oct. 16, 2014 / By

New America Media, News Report, YeoJin Kim, Posted: Oct 15, 2014

Pictured above: Hyo-jin Gong plays a psychiatrist on the recently aired South Korean TV drama, “It’s OK, That’s Love.”

SAN FRANCISCO – South Korea is notorious for having one of the world’s highest suicide rates. For years now, it has ranked consistently near the bottom in global happiness indices. Yet despite these glaring statistics, few if any South Koreans talk openly about mental health.

That may be changing now, though, thanks to a recent television drama that takes place in the mental health ward of a hospital.

The TV show, titled “It’s OK, That’s Love,” stars Gong Hyo-jin, who plays Ji Hae-soo, a psychiatrist working in a hospital in Seoul. She meets a successful novelist struggling with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and schizophrenia. What begins as a series of comedic encounters soon transforms into a budding romantic relationship between two individuals coming to grips with their own inner turmoil.

In Korea’s media saturated society, the program is already beginning to lift the veil – if only slightly – on long-held taboos around mental health.

Yoon Hong-gyun, a practicing psychiatrist in Seoul, says he’s seen an uptick in the number of visitors to his office seeking treatment since the show aired this summer on Korean channel SBS. “Many of them want to know whether they suffer from OCD, like the main character in the show,” he explained. Yoon added most of these new patients are young people.

The show’s impact can also be seen in online chat forums such as Naver, where one Seoul resident posted the following anonymous comment: “Before I watched this drama, I thought seeking help for things like depression was bad.” The user goes on to explain that he lost his job because of depression and asks for suggestions of hospitals that offer counseling.

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