Posted : 2014-01-10 16:26
Updated : 2014-01-10 16:26

Epic dramas to rule small screen in 2014

KBS will air "Inspiring Generation" on Jan. 15, starring K-pop heartthrob Kim Hyun-joong, a member of boy band SS501. / Courtesy of KBS

By Chung Ah-young

MBC is planning to produce the sequel to "The Jewel in the Palace" starting this fall.

"The Jewel in the Palace," also known as "Daejanggeum," a television period drama series, was a catalyst for prompting the hallyu or Korean wave outside the country a decade ago. Set in the Joseon Kingdom (1392-1910), the series created possibilities for Korean historical content gaining global appeal.

Chiharu Izumi, a Japanese professor at Seokyeong University in Seoul, argued in a recent paper that hallyu has been best promoted to the world through epic dramas, which presented refined and positive cultural images of Korea to the global audience.

Following The Jewel's far-flung sensation worldwide, a slew of epic dramas such as "Jumong" and "The Legend" (Taewangsasingi) followed suit, grabbing international attention.

Reflecting the continuing popularity of period dramas both at home and abroad, much-hyped historic television series are currently being aired or will be this year.
KBS, the state-run broadcaster which is home to popular epic dramas such as the 1996 "Tears of the Dragon" over the past years, is recently launching its ambitious 60-episode series "Jeong Do-jeon."

The broadcaster boasts of its "authenticity" holding historical integrity based more on facts rather than fiction like other epic dramas. The drama focuses on the life of Jeong Do-jeon, a political figure (1342-1398), who was a close supporter of King Taejo, the founder of the Joseon Kingdom. The series puts more emphasis on Jeong's political faith which influenced Joseon's politics and laws.

"Jeong Do-jeon" focuses on the life of Jeong Do-jeon, a political figure (1342-1398), who was a close supporter of King Taejo, the founder of the Joseon Kingdom. / Courtesy of KBS

"The drama deals with Jeong's crucial role in the planning and founding of Joseon and the obstacles he faced in the process," said Kang Byung-taek, the director of the drama.

The series casts some actors who starred in "Tears of the Dragon" such as Yoo Dong-geun and Ahn Jae-mo. Movie star Cho Jae-hyun appears as the main character of Jeong Do-jeon.

Jeong clashed with his political archrival Yi Bang-won, the fifth son of King Taejo over the successor of Taejo. In 1398, Yi led a coup killing his political rivals including his two half-brothers and Jeong, eventually becoming the third king of Joseon.

Last year, KBS struggled with less than a 10 percent rating of its representative epic drama series, "Dream of the Great King." To redeem its past glory, the broadcaster has prepared the production of the drama for two years. "Our drama doesn't distort history but follows facts," Kang said.

"It's not a fantasy drama which shows the bloody wars exaggerated with action scenes. Our drama will be a signal for restoring the authenticity of historical dramas," Yoo said.

Their remarks target MBC's epic drama "Empress Ki" which stirred the controversy over its historical inaccuracy despite a high viewer's rating of 17 percent.
KBS will also launch "Inspiring Generation" on Jan. 15, starring K-pop heartthrob Kim Hyun-joong, a member of boy band SS501.

The drama is set in the 1930s in Shanghai, China. With the production cost of 15 billion won, the drama is a fantasy-tinged noir which deals with struggles between love and friendship, patriotism and desires among young expats in China. Kim plays the role of Shin Jung-tae, a central figure who is involved in a brutal ring and street fights in this turbulent period.

The series has been shot in various locations in foreign countries. It will be the first drama for Kim to appear on the small screen since 2010's "Playful Kiss." Kim has widened a global fan base from hallyu sensation "Boys Over Flowers." In this new drama, he is expected to display masculine images through dynamic action scenes.

Again, ‘The Jewel in the Palace'

MBC is planning to produce the sequel to The Jewel in the Palace starting from this fall. As the new season of the global hit drama is set to be made, the production of "Emperor Pa Chun," which was scheduled to be released early this year after Empress Ki, has been indefinitely postponed.

MBC said that it is hard to produce both a sequel to The Jewel and Emperor Pa Chun at a time as Kim Young-hyun who wrote The Jewel in 2003 is the main scriptwriter of Emperor Pa Chun. Also, it's unavoidable for Emperor Pa Chun to be pushed back because its period background in the Joseon era overlaps with KBS' Jeong Do Jeon now hitting the airwaves.

The company has yet to decide its cast, but it's drawing much attention both at home and abroad on how it will develop the story.

Starring top actress Lee Young-ae, the series portrays Jang-geum, an orphaned kitchen help who becomes the first female court physician for the king.

Winning a viewer rating of 45.8 percent, the 2003 drama has been broadcast in 87 countries worldwide in Asia, the Middle East, Europe and Africa.

Last year MBC celebrated the 10th anniversary of launching the drama, making a documentary on how the drama was produced and how big its worldwide popularity was.

However, it is not still clear that it is possible to produce the sequel this year because last year the company planned it but soon withdrew it due to conflicted interests of scriptwriters, producers and actors. But Kim Jong-guk, president of MBC, has strongly pushed the sequel from last year to boost the company's dramas.

The format remains undecided too. MBC has yet to devise the storyline ― whether it will remake the 2003 version or make a new follow-up story from the original. Above all, whether Lee Young-ae will appear in the sequel or not is still in question.

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