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Iranians hooked on Korean TV drama

Family time in Iran has turned into Korean TV drama time.

A man and his daughter leave university after Friday prayers in Tehran June 5, 2009. (Morteza Nikoubazl/Reuters)

Visiting family members as often as possible is a well-established tradition in Iranian society. Usually nights are spent sipping freshly brewed tea and eating fresh fruits and salted nuts. This goes on for long hours into the night, especially in summertime when children and college students are free from school schedules.

Things have changed, however, since state TV started broadcasting a Korean TV drama called “Jumong.”

Now, in many homes after dinner, whole families race to huddle around the TV. Photos of the main characters grace everything from stationary to serving trays. Fans have set up blogs and forums to exchange news and discuss episodes.

"Jumong" is produced by MBC Korea. The series follows the life of the hero Jumong from childhood, when king Gumua takes on his guardianship, after thinking that his father He Mu So had been killed by the Han Dynasty. The series ends with Jumong’s biggest achievement: building a nation called Goguryeo and marrying his second wife, Susano.

Many viewers embraced the series because of the human side of the story — Jumung’s love for Susano. “I kept on watching religiously because I wanted to find out if in the end Jumong and Susano would reunite in their love or not,” said Mina Moradi, 12, who has bought notebooks for school emblazoned with photos of Jumong and Susano.

The Iranian press has published numerous stories about the antics of fans. One told of a young man from Zanjan, a city in southwest Iran, who had fallen deeply in love with the series’ heroine, Susano. He asked his father several times to sell their goats and sheep and finance a trip for him to South Korea so he could ask Susano’s hand in marriage. His father refused, and one day the family found the son hanging from the ceiling of his bedroom.

Another story said that a toddler had died after her parents, picnicking out of town, packed hurriedly to get home in time to watch "Jumong" and forgot to take their child with them.

While many such reports are unsubstantiated, it is clear that many in the Islamic Republic have become enamored with Korean dramas.

The love affair started before "Jumong," with the broadcast of another Korean drama called “Jewel in the Palace.” It’s the story of a woman chef-turned-physician in the Korean royal court. 

“The story of the struggles the heroine endures, is what made the connection between the audience and the movie,” said Yuni Cho, of the Korea Society in New York. “The human elements and emotion present in a lot of Korean TV dramas, has made them very popular.”