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Catching love with claw machines

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Updated : January 10 2017

Viewers of TV dramas “Doctors,” “Legend of the Blue Sea” and “Guardian” will have noticed by now the frequency of claw machines appearing in trending Korean shows.

In the ongoing SBS show, “Legend of the Blue Sea,” a claw machine serves as the symbol of a love not yet realized between the male and female lead.

Early in the show, the male lead Heo Jun-jae (Lee Min-ho) fears that Shim Cheong (Jun Ji-hyun)’s determination to win his love is waning.

Heo takes Shim to a claw machine and tells her that, whatever she does she cannot give up on the goals she has set her heart on. While outwardly he is talking about the dolls inside the game machine, he is actually alluding to Shim to never give up on him.

Throughout the rest of the show, Shim continues to return to the claw machine to fetch the stuffed octopus that just won’t get caught.

image
(SBS)
In another ongoing show, “Guardian,” the stars of the show, Kim Shin (Gong Yoo) and Ji Eun-tak (Kim Go-eun), randomly stop by at a claw machine, where Ji prods the demigod Kim to show his omnipotence.

The smug Kim confidently takes the handles but fails to get his catch every time. Ji ends up having to pry the desperately determined Kim off the claw machine.

image
(tvN)
In culminated drama “Doctors” (2016), perhaps in a bit of an exaggeration, the male lead Hong Ji-hong (Kim Rae-won) keeps a claw machine inside his luxurious house. The female lead Yoo Hye-jeong (Park Shin-hye) often comes over to Hong’s place to play the game. The couple kiss at one point with Yoo sitting atop the machine and Hong leaning over.

The increasing appearance of claw machines in popular dramas is reflective of the game’s growing presence in younger generation’s entertainment and dating culture here.

According to Yonhap News Agency, Tuesday, the number of claw machine shops have grown 24-fold over the last two years.

image
(SBS)
These are spaces crammed with just claw machines, sprouting up in major commercial districts. Some shops have each giant machine filled with one specific type of doll.

Cultural critics have credited the worsening economy as a trigger behind people’s newfound interest to win at a game as a compensation.

The spread of social media, where the few triumphant people tout their prizes, is also seen as a factor that eggs on more people to try the game.

By Lim Jeong-yeo (kaylalim@heraldcorp.com)

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