Seoul : The charming heroine in '' Extraordinary Attorney Woo '' starts a discussion.

When Yoon Wn-ho, a visiting professor at Inha University in South Korea, saw ''Extraordinary Attorney Woo'' for the first time, he turned the television off.

The popular Korean drama's portrayal of a young autistic lawyer bothered Mr. Yoon, who has autism himself.

He thought the character seemed less like a full-fledged person than a collection of traits associated with autism. One example, he said, was a strict diet of kimbap, the seaweed-wrapped rice rolls served in slices, which she finds comforting because all the ingredients are visible.

''People who see the drama might think that all people with autism only eat kimbap like Woo-Young-woo,'' Professor Yoon said.

Some other South Koreans who know autism well have similar reservations about ''Extraordinary Attorney Woo,'' a feel-good show that spent several weeks this summer as Netflix's most watched non-English language program.

But they applaud it for promoting the discussion of autism in South Korea, where for many people, developmental disabilities are a taboo subject.

At one point, according to Nielsen Korea, an information and market analysis firm, nearly one-fifth of all television sets in the country were tuned to the show, which was carried on a Korean cable network as well as on Netflix.

The show, and autism itself, have been topics of discussion online, and autism service centers have gotten attention from local news outlets.

''No one I know has autism, so I didn't really know what it was,'' said Min Huh, a 26-year-old Seoul resident. He said the program showed him ''what people with autism can do.''

Officially, 34,000 people are known to have autism spectrum disorder in South Korea, a country of over 51 million people, according to the most recent figures from the Ministry of Health and Welfare.

But that is probably far below the true number because of the stigma that persists around autism and other disabilities, which discourages people from obtaining or reporting an autism diagnosis., said Son Da-eun, the director of Autism Partnership Korea.

[In the United States, about 1 in 44 children aged 8 were identified as having autism spectrum disorder in 2018, according to an estimate from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.]

''South Koreans typically associate autism disabilities with shame,'' said Ms. Son, whose center provides care and treatment for young children with autism. Several parents whose children attend the center conceal the diagnosis from friends and relatives, and some blame themselves for it, she added

Professor Yoon, who uses an unconventional romanization of his given name, Wn-ho, is believed to be the first South Korean diagnosed with autism to have gotten a Ph.D.

Professor Yoon, though still no fan of the show, thinks, ''Without the drama, people might not have ever paid attention to autism,'' he said.

But he also wants them to see that people with autism are not that different from everything else. ''I want people to stop thinking of us as incompetent and unable to communicate,'' he said.

''We can do it all, too.''

The World Students Society thanks author Jin Yu Young.


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