Dramatic Legacy Still Goes on Locations Nationwide
A view of Park Southernland, an outdoor set for the drama, ``Taewangsasingi (The Four Guardian Gods of the King)'' on Jeju Island and the main actor Bae Yong-joon. / Korea Times file photos
By Chung Ah-young
Does a mega-hit drama or film leave a tourist attraction behind it? Even after dramas end, their legacy seems to remain through film sets.
Since the set of hit drama ``Winter Sonata'' on Nami Island became a landmark tourist site a few years ago, other dramas have followed suit.
Thanks to the on-going hallyu, Korean Wave in Asian countries, mostly spurred by Korean dramas, various destinations around the country from Nami Island in Gangwon Province to Jeju Island are luring tourists including not only Koreans but also foreigners.
The filming site of ``Taewangsasingi'' (The Four Guardian Gods of the King) in Taean County, South Chungcheong Province, is becoming a fresh spot for many fans of actor Bae Yong-joon, fondly called ``Yonsama,'' in Japan.
This year's blockbuster drama, now airing on MBC, was shot on a 9,744 square-meter set in Taean County.
The drama starring Bae and award-winning actress Moon So-ri is a love story set in the lifetime of King Gwanggaeto of the Goguryeo Kingdom (37 B.C.-A.D. 668).
About two billion won was spent to film battle scenes and other dynamic large-scale scenes for the drama.
The 24-episode drama currently has been filmed on sets in Anmyeon-do, Taean County.
According to the production team, the last scene of the drama will be the largest battle scene in the nation's drama filming history with more than 1,000 extras in the battle led by King Gwanggaeto.
The county, however, is renowned not only for ``Taewangsasingi'' but also for various films such as the martial arts drama, ``Damo'' (2005) and the film, ``Bungee Jumping of Their Own'' (2000).
The reason why the region has been the venue for several films and dramas is attributed to the beautiful scenery and vicinity to Seoul. It takes about two and half hours from Seoul on average.
``The sets should be designed to be used not as a one-time set but to be reused as a tourist site later in the future,'' an official of the county government said.
Jeju Island is famous for the shooting of the hit drama, ``All In'' starring Song Hye-kyo and Lee Byung-hun.
Afterwards the set was used as a tourist attraction until it was destroyed by Typhoon Maemi in 2003. The county government spent three billion won to restore the ``All In'' house there.
Also, ``Daejanggeum'' (Jewel in the Palace) was filmed at the Jeju Folk Village Museum. On the Odolgae, or sea cliff, the court lady with the surname Han died. In addition, the magnificent Mount Songak, and the island's well-preserved historical sites created fantastic scenes for other TV series.
The commercially unsuccessful movie ``Lee Jae-Soo's Rebellion'' (1999), based on a historical story, was mostly filmed on the island.
But the southern resort island is inviting fresh attention as new dramas have shot scenes there.
``Taewangsasingi'' and ``Sad Love,'' an upcoming drama to be broadcast on KBS starting from Dec. 3, filmed scenes on the island.
The island was the second location for the film ``Destiny'' starring hallyu heartthrobs Kwon Sang-woo and Song Seung-heon.
The film was shot in Soisoggak Valley in Sogwipo on the island, which had been almost unknown to the public. But after filming in the valley, Japanese fans began flocking to the spot last summer.
Also, Park Southernland, the location where ``Taewangsasingi'' was filmed in Myosanbong, was opened to the public in September. The sets re-create Guknaeseong, the old capital of Goguryeo Kingdom.
More than 20,000 visitors flocked to the spot in the first 10 days after the opening.
Entrance fees cost 8,000 won for adults, 6,000 won for students and 4,000 won for children and the elderly.
Home to more than 300 species of trees, Nami Island has been home to many Japanese tourists to feel the same moods evinced by ``Winter Sonata'' stars Bae Yong-joon and Choi Ji-woo.
The island still attracts tourists on weekdays as well as weekends.
Only a 10-minute ferry ride from Gapyeong in Gyeonggi Province, the island features bronze sculptures of Bae and Choi waiting in the lake at the main gate. The sculptures were created for about 20 million won, along with Bae's character Jun-sang's house.
In a tranquil environment rich in biodiversity, the island has many tree-lined paths that all lead to the central square's restaurants and shops.
The birch tree lined path is better known among drama lovers as the one where Bae and Choi rode a bicycle on their date.
Miryang, South Gyeongsang Province, used to be a relatively lesser-known place, but is emerging as a new tourist destination after the award-winning film ``Secret Sunshine'' was shot there.
Following actress Jeon Do-yeon winning the Best Actress prize at this year's Cannes International Film Festival for the film directed by Lee Chang-dong, the city arouses curiosity from foreigners and Koreans because of its title, ``Secret Sunshine,'' which means the name of the city, Miryang.
``Miryang is an ordinary place. It has a lovely name, though, which means ``Secret Sunshine.'' I have always wondered why such a dull town had such a poetic name. The idea behind that choice of title being that even in an altogether ordinary life, there can be a metaphysical quest,'' Lee said at a press conference held for the in-competition presentation of the film at the festival.
In the film, Sin-ae (Jeon) moves with her son, Jun, to Miryang, the town where her dead husband was born. As she tries to come to grips with herself and set out on new foundations, the film revolves around another tragic event that overturns her life.
To make the best use of the growing interest in the city, the city plans to rebuild ``Jun Piano,'' a private piano lesson institute, in which Sin-ae and her son live, with 100 million won.
Also, not only the Miryang Station where Sin-ae and Jong-chan (Song Gang-ho) sang hymns during church services, and main roads on which the main characters featured are being promoted as tourist attractions.
Yangju in Gyeonggi Province
One of the most successful hallyu dramas might be ``Daejanggeum'' (Jewel in the Palace).
Its popularity still lives on through the outdoor set which was renovated into a theme park offering the existing facilities, a variety of events and programs for visitors to see, enjoy and experience.
The theme park spans 6,600 square meters within the Yangju Culture Valley located in Mansong-dong, Yangju City, Gyeonggi Province, consisting of 23 independent facilities.
In each set, small properties and costumes actually used for the shooting, are exhibited, and some of the drama scenes have been reconstructed exactly the same way they were at the time of filming the drama.
In addition, visitors can watch a collection of drama highlights, a PD's history class, stories of royal food and recipes by Han Bok-ryeo, the royal food specialist who provided advice on food for the drama in those sets.
The set is called MBC's Yangju Culture Valley. Two of MBC's best hit epic dramas such as ``Sang Do'' (Business Ethics) and ``Huh Joon'' was also shot there, and was also the main location for dramas like ``Wangcho'' and ``Duk-hee.''
There are also many exciting events such as riding a ``gama'' (Korean palanquin), trying on traditional Korean costumes, playing ``tuho,'' or a traditional game of throwing arrows into a large jar, experiencing ``gonjang'' penalty (a type of corporal punishment during Joseon Kingdom of flogging a criminal), playing archery games and more.