Historic, period dramas called Saeguk dramas are much loved in South Korea. But writing screenplay for historic dramas is not only difficult but also can be dangerous. Of late, criticism has led to such dramas not only losing viewership but also being cancelled.
Just like how dramas including Sunkyungwan Scandal starring Song Joong Ki, Moon Embracing the Sun starring Kim Soo Hyun created new records with high ratings, many historic dramas have been criticized for distorting the Korean history. Here are five dramas that have faced the brunt of distortion of Korean history.
1) Joseon Exorcist
The drama Joseon Exorcist starring Jang Dong Yoon is the latest drama that is facing the wrath of the people for distortion of Korean history by using too much of Chinese influence in the drama. The extent of criticism was such that it had to be cancelled after airing two episodes. SBS, production companies and stars have issued apologies on their social media handles for being part of the drama.
People had criticized that the drama had used Chinese-style clothes and food in the drama. It was also slammed for depicting the third king of the Joseon dynasty killing innocent people and showing King Sejong, the creator of the Korean language, receiving a guest in a room with Chinese foods.
2) Mr Queen
Drama Mr Queen starring Shin Hye Sun and Kim Jung Hyun was criticized for mixing modern elements with Joseon era. This drama is about the story of a modern-era chef's soul getting trapped in the body of Queen Chorin of Joseon dynasty. The drama showed the queen singing Kpop songs, using slangs, and behaving in the way queen would never behave.
The drama written by Park Gye Ok [writer of Joseon Exorcist] was aired between Dec. 12, 2020 and Feb. 14, 2021 and was a Korean adaptation of Chinese web series Go Princess Go. Despite controversies, the drama enjoyed good ratings [overall 12.58 percent according to AGB Nielsen]. However, following the cancellation of the drama Joseon Exorcist, the demand to cancel Mr Queen on online platforms grew stronger, resulting in CJENM removing VOD services of Mr Queen. Actress Shin Hye Sun is being threatened with withdrawal of commercial agreements.
3) The King Eternal Monarch
Lee Min Ho and Kim Go Eun starrer The King: Eternal Monarch came under fire for distorting Korean history. The drama is a story of parallel worlds where King Lee Gon from Kingdom of Corea meets detective Jung Tae Eul from republic of Korea. The drama was criticized for using the crown from Silla dynasty while wearing the royal robe of Joseon dynasty.
The drama was also criticized for showing Japanese-style warships as Korean. The director apologized for the mistakes and these mistakes led to the most awaited drama ending with average ratings [7.7 percent according to AGB Nielsen].
4) Mr Sunshine
Mr Sunshine starring Lee Byung Hun and Kim Tae Ri was set in Hanseong (the former name of Seoul) in the early 1900s.The drama is a wartime romance between Korean-born US Marine and a daughter of a noble family-turned rebel, opposing Japanese imperialism.
Critics had said that the drama's portrayal of Americans staying in Korea before the 1871 US expedition was not factual. A scene where a member of the righteous army assassinates an American was also termed as incorrect information. It was said that the independence movement fighters did not harbor hostility toward Americans in that period. However criticism did not affect the ratings of the drama aired between July 7, and Sept. 30, 2018.
Hwarang: The Poet Warrior Youth starred Park Seo Joon, Go A Ra, and Park Hyung Sik, BTS V in lead roles. The drama is about a small group of handsome, well groomed men who are trained to become bodyguards for the crown prince. Though the drama was a termed as a visual treat, it was not received well in South Korea.
The drama was criticized for belittling the brave army [Hwarang]. Bromance in the drama was also criticized as a section of audience found it problematic, in terms of depiction of Korean history. The drama was aired between Dec. 19 2016 and Feb. 21, 2017 and was rated 7.4 percent according to TNm S.