These days, the term “돌싱” or “dolsing,” a Korean slang term for divorced singles, has taken over the reality dating show industry.
Reality dating shows—from Netflix’s Single’s Inferno to Channel A’s Heart Signal—are highly popular in Korea and worldwide. Among the many types of dating shows with different concepts (that have created couples who are still dating), the most popular types these days are the ones featuring divorced singles.
Currently, the ENA and SBS PLUS program I Am Solo is the talk of the town. I Am Solo is currently in its 16th season featuring 12 single participants who have gone through divorces. Each participant is given a pseudonym, and they can reveal their real name to the person they picked at the end of their four-night, five-day stay.
On the recent broadcast on September 13, the show recorded an average combined viewership rating of 6.541%, according to Nielsen Korea. Regarding being a hot topic, I Am Solo ranked second in the topic value category of the TV-OTT non-drama shows in the first week of September. It has increased 15.2% points compared to the previous week, marking three consecutive weeks of rapid growth, challenging Mnet’s Street Woman Fighter 2, which is at number one.
I Am Solo has a different theme each season, such as seasons featuring participants who have never dated before or participants in their 40s. The current “divorced singles” season of I Am Solo gained more popularity because of the drama among participants on and off-screen.
Another reality dating show currently doing very well in Korea is Love After Divorce 4. Aired on MBN, Love After Divorce is in its fourth season, called Love After Divorce: In USA, featuring participants who are all divorced singles who have lived abroad. Ten participants from Seattle, Los Angeles, Orange County, Las Vegas, Vancouver, and San Francisco stay together for six nights and seven days to find their matches.
Love After Divorce 4 is currently in its final stage before choosing a partner to live with. It introduces a new approach to viewers by featuring Korean-Americans and being set in the United States. Perhaps because of this new approach, the show achieved its highest season rating of 3.8% (according to Nielsen Korea). In addition, according to Good Data Corporation’s TV search reaction rankings for the first week of September, Love After Divorce 4 ranked third in the non-drama TV category.
Jung Deok Hyun, a pop culture critic, addressed the sudden popularity of dating shows featuring divorced singles. He stated that the standards of reality dating shows have increased, and these two shows became popular because of the various controversies and issues that arose from the show and its characters.
The standards of reality dating shows dealing with real-life relationships are gradually increasing. Both programs openly delve into the participants’ private lives. In the case of I Am Solo, controversies about the show or stories about the participants’ personalities blowing up on the news made it a hot topic.
— Jung Deok Hyun, pop culture critic
He also said that audiences often look with fascination at the participants’ rawness in expressing themselves, which makes audiences somewhat uncomfortable but also refreshed.
We find ourselves looking at the participants with a gaze that asks, ‘Is it okay to be so candid about your own desires and instincts?’ We feel uncomfortable yet refreshed at the same time due to the dual nature of the characters.
— Jung Deok Hyun, pop culture critic
I Am Solo 16 and Love After Divorce 4 are still releasing weekly episodes, leaving viewers curious and excited to see what happens next to the singles looking for love.