In breaking free from the mold of previous historical soap operas, Damo has done away with showing the factious power game between corrupted bureaucrats, or the manipulative court women"s jealousies. Rather, the show is like a Hollywood blockbuster, the Korean version of Matrix as some jokingly referred to, with its flashy high-wire action and fast rock music background.
Not wanting to become another Hollywood action-packed look-alike, the plot makes a strong social commentary on class distinctions and the corrupted bureaucracy of Choson Dynasty, a rare occurrence among TV soap operas. A rate of 90 percent preproduction for the show, in a genre where many soap opera scripts are finished thirty minutes before the shooting, has also helped elevate the quality of the show.
Damo started off with a modest launch (the first episode"s ratings were a disappointing 14 percent). Netizens predicted the show"s future success even when the broadcasting officials couldn"t. It started out with a few viewers posting opinions on the show"s official homepage message board (www.imbc.com). As the episodes unveiled, more and more people visited the website, until eventually the number of posted messages grew so big that it led to the crash of the main Internet server.
The soap opera"s dedicated Internet fans soon created an online group who humorously called themselves "Damo Pyein." "Pyein" means a crock or a basket case who spends hours in front of a computer writing comments on the Internet and chatting online with other viewers, to a extent of not being able to lead a normal life. The use of old Korean language, as used by the actors in the show, became so popular that it gained a name of its own: Damo Language.
The producers and staff members also collaborated with the netizens. The fact that the average age of the staff was around 20 and 30 helped them bond more closely with the young netizens. They put up a special message board on the net where staffs and actors could write in their comments, so the producers can better "read" the viewers" reactions. The publicity campaign included online events like the "Damo Cartoon Contest," in response to netizens" interest.
Damo has proved that the power of netizens has reached a new phenomenal level. Netizens have grown from mere consumers or users of existing online content, to active producers and distributors. The pyeins have produced a number of Internet-based programs such as the?"Damo Pyein Show" and?"Damo Ilbo." Moreover, the show"s success has shown that online popularity can lead to actual revenue. It was estimated that the MBC broadcasting company earned about 10 million won a day through Internet residual fees.
No doubt, it was the strength of the plot and the effort of the producers that made Damo so mesmerizing. But we cannot discount the power of the netizens that helped create this so-called "Damo Fever." It is only appropriate that a caption concluding the last episode shown reads "We would like to thank the Damo Pyeins."