Hong Kong School Switches on to Korean Soap Opera

A Hong Kong school is using the heroine of a Korean soap opera set in the 19th century to teach its pupils life skills, a teacher said Tuesday.

Yau Ma Tei Catholic School has adopted the hit show “Jewel in the Palace” as a model for a series of classes in which pupils recreate real-life situations and work out how the lead character would tackle them.

“Dae Jang Geum embodies the sort of qualities and values that we would like our children to have,” said Patsy Leung, the school’s head of civic education.

In the period drama, set in Korea’s 19th-century Joseon Dynasty, Dae Jang Geum is a servant girl who rises up to become the only female doctor in the emperor’s court.

The character’s determination and indomitable spirit made her an instant heroine among Asian TV viewers, garnering the show record audiences last year.

It was a major part of the so-called “Korean Wave” of popular culture that swept briefly across Asia in recent years and made stars of Korean actors and pop singers such as Rain.

“Dae Jang Geum is a strong character who never gives up, no matter how tough the problem,” said Leung. “She is also a good role model to girls, because she fought against the male-dominated hierarchy and sexism of her time.”

In some of the classes, pupils role play situations as the TV heroine, even dressing in her trademark traditional white Korean gowns.

The Korean television channel that made the show granted the school permission to use five minutes of footage in classes.

“Our pupils play the parts of the characters in problem-solving situations interspersed with real footage,” said Leung.

“It allows us to use it as teaching material and is part of our movie-making class too. We hope the pupils will also be able to take it home and pass on the teachings and values of Dae Jang Geum to their family.”

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