Human Rights for Nonhumans

Baek Ma-ri (Seolhyun of AOA), Jung Jae-min (Yeo Jin-goo), Han Shi-hoo (Lee Jong-hyun), Jo Ah-ra (Gil Eun-hye) and their band playing in front of a fountain in 2015 Korean drama Orange Marmalade

Vampire mania has gripped mainstream media since the commercial success of The Twilight Saga film series. Over in South Korea, the trend showed no sign of dying in 2015, which saw three dramas revolving around vampire romances. Among them, however, Orange Marmalade, like the HBO series True Blood and BBC drama Being Human before it, went beyond the lust and gore factors to highlight a connection between the idea of vampires in hiding and diversity issues:

“When we eat oranges, we usually throw away the peels. However, when we make orange marmalade, we chop the peels into fine pieces and add them to the dish. This gives it crunch and tanginess. Even orange peels originally destined for the trash bin become indispensable in the preparation of orange marmalade. […] It’d be great if our band could come together to produce music like marmalade—not ostracizing people simply because they are different, but instead making room for those who are deemed useless.”

Baek Ma-ri’s speech in Orange Marmalade

In the world of the drama, vampires have made a peace treaty with humans, promising to abstain from the consumption of human blood in return for protection of their lives. They live incognito, reining in their superhuman abilities, concealing their synthetic blood diets and changing towns each time people discover who they are. Ironically, as one critic noted, this constant fearfulness makes them human. There are obvious parallels here with real-life struggles of gifted individuals, whose unusual behaviors provoke fear and misunderstanding, and those with mental disorders, to whom stigma is attached even when the conditions are kept under control.

Orange Marmalade does not stop there. Even as vampires’ rights are being championed, its male protagonist poses a sharp question: should vampires be conferred human rights when they are not human?  Continue reading


Back to Heaven

Baek Ma-ri (Kim Seolhyun) in 2015 Korean Drama Orange Marmalade 오렌지 마말레이드

Thoughts drift on and on, in Orange Marmalade‘s 18-year-old male lead‘s mind, to a fresh-faced and slender transfer student who slows down time every so often when she enters his vision, as night segues into day and the guitar ballad crooning about love through the passing seasons in the background segues into a classroom recitation of the last stanza of Cheon Sang-byeong (1930-1993)’s well-loved poem:

귀천 (歸天)

나 하늘로 돌아가리라.
새벽빛 와 닿으면 스러지는
이슬 더불어 손에 손을 잡고,

나 하늘로 돌아가리라.
노을빛 함께 단 둘이서
기슭에서 놀다가 구름 손짓하면은,

나 하늘로 돌아가리라.
아름다운 이 세상 소풍 끝내는 날,
가서, 아름다웠더라고 말하리라…..

Back to Heaven

I will go back to heaven.
Hand in hand with the dew
that vanishes at the touch of dawn light,

I will go back to heaven.
Together with the dusk light and nothing more
should the clouds beckon me while I play on the slopes,

Continue reading