After a series of dating and wedding "reality" shows mushrooming and fading over the recent years, the theme of death has been freshly tapped for local TV shows.
Korea's rapidly aging society has built a social sentiment that is more open to the topic these days. Fake funeral services, where participants write their own eulogies and spend some time meditating inside a coffin, have become a popular event these days. An increasing number of books on how to prepare for one's death are also selling well.
In this context, local entertainment shows have broken the unwritten rule that their content should be light enough to make viewers laugh. They are rather focusing on "well-dying" after "well-being."
Scenes from a tvN show "My Last 48 Hours" / Courtesy of CJ E&M
"My Last 48 Hours", premiered on tvN, Nov. 30, where celebrity guests receive wrist watches that count down 48 hours as if they are the last hours of their lives.
"What struck me first was sadness. I questioned whether I'd led a good life. I was in deep sorrow," said actress Lee Mi-sook, 56, in a trembling voice on the show. Then she came to her normal life and fed her dogs and wrote notes detailing the traits of her dogs for a future caretaker.
The show features the behavioral and psychological changes of the guests as they become part of this interesting experiment that makes them think about "well-dying."
Singer-entertainer Tak Jae-hoon, 48, shot a home video for his son, while actress Park So-dam visited a friend and had a conversation.
MBC's "Future Diary," which wrapped up its first season last week and is preparing for a second season, has more visually shown what aging means.
Celebrities are turned into time travelers and made to live a day in their future. Hiring a special effects team for aging make-up, the show features guests fumble for their wrinkled face and feel the track of time more instantly and intensely.
Actress Kang Sung-yun travels to 2052 with her husband, pianist Kim Ga-on, to their 40th wedding anniversary. As an old couple, they visit their first house and favorite restaurants and cafes to take a walk down memory lane.
It is very unusual for entertainment shows to deal with aging and death, but they have deeply touched the emotions of audiences. Watching the shows, audiences are made to reflect on their own later life and death.
"I am an optimistic person, but I often wondered why the theme of death isn't dealt with (on TV)," said Jun Sung-ho, producer of "My Last 48 Hours." "Death is a subject that prompts people to actively think of what kind of life they should live and who they really are."