Drama Casting & News
Chuno fends off continued criticism
by | January 31, 2010 | 149 Comments

The bigger they are, the louder the criticism. That’s why I’d take the following with a teeny grain of salt, although it cannot be denied that KBS’s blockbuster hit drama Chuno is garnering a lot of criticism, much of it directed toward its lead star Lee Da-hae.

When the drama first aired, there was a little talk of Lee Da-hae looking “too pretty” — note that she plays a slave, and then a runaway, all while maintaining a pristine appearance even when the men around her are shown in their grimy, masculine glory. But that first wave of commentary faded after a few days, even if most fans seemed to feel she ought to have looked a little dirtier.

Then came the much-maligned cleavage shots when her character was attacked and her outer top removed, showing off her bustline. Some viewers thought it was gratuitous, but again, those comments mostly trailed off after a few more days. The controversy probably would have died down if the drama didn’t follow with more scenes of that ilk, and now it’s like every other article about Chuno is one pointing out the growing criticism.

The producers probably overreacted by trying to pre-empt complaints; anticipating the public’s reaction, they blurred out Lee’s bustline for a following broadcast. (In that episode, Oh Ji-ho’s character treats Lee’s character for an injury and removes her top.) Of course, this was even worse because viewers complained that the effect was unnecessary, and the obvious blurring actually made the scene seem more suggestive that it would have been.

After that wave of criticism, producers announced that they would not blur out any more scenes. They defended their use thus far, saying, “This isn’t a movie but a public television network, so the blurring was unavoidable. We wanted to preserve the quality of the drama, but we had to make this choice. Please be understanding.” They added, “In order to preserve the drama’s level of quality, we will not use the blurring anymore. We will be mindful of the public broadcast guidelines, and not do anything to impede the visual quality.” As a prime-time broadcast series, Chuno bears a 15-and-up age label, meaning that there’s some latitude for mature content, but there’s still an expectation that producers will curb excessive violence, language, or sexual suggestiveness.

And yet, that’s not the end of things. Lee Da-hae’s face makeup is another source of dissatisfaction; fans complain that it takes away from the believability of the storyline to have her perfectly made up. And then, there’s her manicure — surely out of place in Joseon Korea — which the actress defended as a necessity to keep her nails from weakening. Lee expressed her frustration at the comments on the January 30 episode of Entertainment Weekly, where she said that an actress’s life is a difficult one.

One article points out, “Of course, criticism is another expression of interest. However, why is Chuno singled out for such constant criticism?”

For one, viewers tend to have certain expectations when dealing with historical pieces, and this isn’t the first time this issue has been raised; actresses have in the past been accused of putting vanity before accuracy. This reminds me of Gu Hye-sun being singled out while shooting King and I for wearing circle lenses (cosmetic contact lenses designed to make the iris look larger, giving them an anime-like quality).

In the drama’s defense, it’s not a conventional sageuk but more of a fusion piece that takes liberties with reality. The drama places more of a premium on visual flair and filming style than it does on sticking with historical convention.

I agree with aspects on both sides of the argument, because the biggest reason for all this attention may just be because of Chuno‘s popularity, and popular targets always attract heated responses. On the other hand, Chuno has stirred a lot more criticism than similarly big dramas like Seon-deok or IRIS. And although these issues didn’t bother me too much while watching the drama, I did think, “Gee, Lee Da-hae looks really pretty, but her cleanliness takes me out of the drama.”

As for the matter of the cleavage shots, the first time I heard about it, I laughed because it seemed like such a petty complaint. I think the producers would have been better off not bothering to blur out the subsequent scenes, because that called attention to it and made it look a lot worse. One article points out the inconsistency of the public’s response, because after an episode aired with blurring, there were complaints. The next day, the episode contained unblurred scenes, and yet viewers complained more.

However, I’ll argue that it may not be that viewers are just being inconsistent; they’re just tired of seeing the same shot over and over. Lee has by now been seen baring her cleavage on numerous occasions — near-rape, injury, undressing — which has viewers weary of the excess. (For instance, I joke that the male shower scene is fanservice I can live with and not annoyingly gratuitous, but if you gave me a shower scene in every episode, you bet I’d find it pointless.) As a result, some viewers have called Lee’s character weak and inactive, and “only good for baring skin.”

On the whole, these seem like minor quibbles, but perhaps they’re indicative of more than just a matter of makeup or prettiness. I don’t see why they couldn’t dirty Lee up a little; the dirt certainly doesn’t make her male co-stars look any less attractive (and in fact may add to their appeal). I can understand viewers who are dissatisfied to see her looking pristine, wearing lipgloss and modern makeup, and showing off a modern manicure; it has nothing to do with disliking Lee herself, and is more about the drama putting vanity ahead of credibility. It feels a little self-indulgent.

But it’s not stopping viewers from watching, either. Chuno continues with ratings in the low- to mid-30% range.

Via TV Report, My Daily, Joy News, Now News, Consumer News, OSEN, Asia Economy, My Daily, Mediaus, Segye, Newsen


149 Comments from the Beanut Gallery
  1. Sora

    still having watched Chuno, but now i can’t wait to ^_^

  2. tina

    i laughed when i read about those complaints of her bustline, but damn! i didn’t realize it was shown that much (i haven’t watched the show yet). i guess i would be wary of it too. makes me wonder if viewers will complain if they make lee da hae ~dirty~ because she ain’t looking perfect haha.

  3. cuteleedahae

    Actually, I’m dissapointed that LDH apologized to the public bcos of this critictisms, she should ignore it-it is fusion sageuk, if you look at the action scenes, rock music used and many illogical things, u know this is more for entertainment-and I love seeing beautiful things, even in Chinese drama, the heroin alwyas look very2 pretty even in the midlle of fighting.

    I love her acting also-her character needs diff level of acting, and she’s doing just fine..yeah some viewers love the character of second actress, cute and bubbly, but that charcter is soooo common in kdrama, and I WILL never want LDH to act like that in her role.

  4. s

    I do feel bad for her but not bad enough to diagree with criticisms. Fusion or not, things like looking pretty should not take away from the storyline or the sense of reality within the scope of the show. It may just be the director’s fault but it does make her seem a little vain and unwilling to bend for the sake of character integrity.

    ah well..

  5. me

    i seriously think lee da hae’s the problem. she apparently wants to keep her image so she has her crew do her make-up, nails, and squeeze her non-existent boobs together (she always does this for all cleavage bearing dresses, like at award ceremonies and stuff). if it was a more serious. less vain actress, she would not do all that.

    and her character un nyun / hye won seriously is useless and frustrating. she’s always seeking help and causing trouble to the heroes (but i guess the plot calls for the drama). she always makes the stupidest, irresponsible decisions (why go through a wedding if you’re just going to run away?).

    seriously, her scenes are such a bore. the ones with sulhwa are so much more fun and kim ha eun is a better actress.

  6. lsk4020

    I’m slowly coming to terms with trying to ignore minor quibbles with the drama; I’ve seen too many k-dramas to love Chuno for the sake of loving it, yet I realize that it only hurts ME more by disliking it based on minor things like how pristine LDH looks in every single scene. I’d rather just focus on enjoying the good parts.

    However, I’ve also come to realize that as a whole, Chuno seems to have very weak female characters…the only one with (a potential for) depth is that Qing (or was it Ming?) assassin. Besides the slave girl in the side plot about the uprising, she’s the only female in the drama whom I don’t intensely dislike.

    All in all, I agree that because this drama is such a huge blockbuster, the criticism it garners is harsher than it maybe deserves. I say, people should just give it a chance and maybe with less scrutiny it can fully grow into its potential.

  7. Chuck

    I’ve never understood that type of criticism. I’m speaking of the relative cleanliness of LDH’s character. It is a non-essential aspect of a drama, and strikes me as pettiness. It’s not like they made no attempt to show that she was a servant/slave. Her clothes in the begining were in fact ragged, with holes in them. Her shoes were the same.

    How many Korean men in those days looked as physically fit and muscular as the main actors in this drama? Not one, I dare say. No one complains about that, however. How many had perfect teeth? All of them? It would seem so, if this and every other drama is any indication. I’m not at all bothered by the men being muscular and having shiny white teeth, and neither am I bothered by LDH being clean with nice, shiny hair. It’s a lot of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

  8. CrimemasterGogo

    Go complain to the Director and make up people. As long as her acting isn’t being criticised it should be fine. Korean netizens tend to be over the top in their criticsms, or is it that broadcasters take their views far too seriously and give them too much weight?

  9. Angela

    It’s kind of funny how they’re trying to be historically accurate by showing her cleavage and half-dressed state… but can’t seem to be bothered to throw some dirt on her, and chip some nails, lol.

  10. 10 Beatrice

    I’m inclined to agree with a lot of these complaints, especially since her character strikes me as pretty weak to begin with. I wouldn’t mind her magical cleanliness, perpetually manicured nails, and expensive-looking hair so much if only her character were a little bit more interesting. but so far it seems to me like LDH just gets saved a LOT in this drama. She does look beautiful, but that striking image is 95% of what makes up her character. In light of that, I can see why these complaints seem to persist.

  11. 11 pabo ceo reom

    It’s like nitpicking just to nitpick. Is this slight backlash from East of Eden thing?

    And hey, apparently besides fangirls, fanboys watch dramas too. 😛 (ok kidding..)

  12. 12 the indian girl

    why does this whole issue just leave me with a big fat bleh…if its a good drama then just watch it and enjoy it for whats it worth…no drama is prefect and all of them come with their own unique set of flaws tht make them more endearing…lets not get into over analyzing everything…its entertainment pure and simple..every1 is entitled to their opinion abt the entertainment industry, but lets not fuss abt it pls…its not joke being in front/behind the camera and putting yourself other….its takes a certain kind of guts to do tht..lets respect tht!

    tht said LDH is this wht u get for taking my Jun Kiiii away from me for even 2 years…damn u woman damn u…now we all know why he was soo into you 🙁 cant compete with tht sigh sigh

  13. 13 hjkomo

    It’s funny and sad that netizens have nothing better to do than hone in on one actress with their criticism. It’s the PD (director) who’s in charge of how a character looks. Un-nyun’s ragged, dry, and chapped hands were clearly shown in the flashback scenes. And as far as I’ve seen, no one is criticizing Kim Ha Eun’s (Seol-hwa) lipgloss, blush, and EYELINER.

  14. 14 cuteleedahae

    and for sure the critictisms come from female viewers-usually men will never complaints on manicure, cleavage and beautiful faces. Well maybe I’m wrong, or men in Korea are different. Howver, based on my survey and what I read in Naver, men are going gaga over her pure white skin, they love her.

  15. 15 Amber

    I’ve never lliked LDH after My Girl. She’s always seemed very stiff to me, like a beautiful porcelain doll – not natural in her acting or screen presence at all. Perhaps viewers are finally getting tired of her and that’s where these complaints are coming from?

  16. 16 ditto

    seriously.. Kim Ha Eun doesnt look the least bit dirty either.
    wat about HER makeup.. GEEZ

  17. 17 midnight

    OMG.. YAAaaA.. Kim Ha Eun is also too clean for her role.. why isnt anyone criticizing HER.
    the knetizens have nothing better to do but nitpick little details that are simply obsurd and ridiculous

  18. 18 selena

    HAHA.. i bet people are just JEALOUS of ldh, thats why they are picking on her

  19. 19 ldhforever

    awww… poor ldh.
    the criticisms are realli misplaced.
    ldh fighting!!!

  20. 20 zzzzzzzz

    ldh is a good actress AND shes simply stunning :]

  21. 21 Beatrice

    Well, like I said, I think the criticism is targeting LDH’s character as opposed to KHE’s because the former has comparatively little in the way of personality to make up for these details. And as details they WOULD be insignificant if only Un-Nyun/Hye Won were likeable enough to make people not care about the technicality of her presentation. But if that’s the most salient aspect of her character then that’s what people are going to hone in on.

    I don’t think this is a problem with the actress so much as with the direction and writing. It just seems like aesthetics and visual presentation is more of a priority in this production that character development, and that’s what bothers me.

  22. 22 mimi

    Kind of funny but I’ll agree with those who thought they showed too much bustline. I mean if you look at her white make-shift bra, it really could have been placed higher to show less cleavage. In the first of the scenes to show her unclothed, a tad lower and we would have seen her nipples. Really. C’mon.

    Park Shin Hye wore the same wrap bra for You’re Beautiful and they did it in good taste.

  23. 23 faridah2201

    People need to stop picking on these little details, if this is the only thing people can find wrong with the show then it most be amazing. I haven’t watched it yet, prefer to marathon sageuk dramas, so now I am even more excited to watch it

  24. 24 Sere

    This is what netizen complain about? Sheesh! I love Chuno, but if I should say something negative about it, and more specifically about Un-nyu, I’d go with how underdeveloped and flat LDH’s character is. True, her pristine clothes don’t help, but they don’t bother me as much as how her character is written.

    Maybe it’s just me, but I love Seol-hwa a lot more than Un-nyu and if I’m more fond of a secondary lead -wait, is she even a secondary lead?- or hell, rooting for her more than the main lead, doesn’t that mean there’s something wrong? That said, I really really love Chuno.

    I’m with lsk4020. I choose to focus on the main picture and just enjoy the parts I like.

  25. 25 haikuwarrior

    I’ve watched only a few episodes of Chuno so far. I want to wait until most of the drama is over because I know I’ll snarf the whole drama in one or two days once I start again.

    I agree with Chuck in his statement. Chuno, if anything, seeks to portray a stylized version of each part of its story. Chiseled heroes a la “The 300”, pristine heroine, rock music action, gorgeous environment. That is part of the reason why it is able to be a blockbuster and that is the reason why it brings it 30% ratings.

    If overzealous netizens want more realism from their television they can watch the Discovery Channel.

  26. 26 mak

    Differences btw LDH and KSE-well the forrmer is most popular and most beautiful one-of course subjected to critictisms from those lonely soul of cyberworld.

    Is being weak and helpless and saved so many time by the HERO is and offence to some people? I like her characterer in here, make OJH looks so powerful, if director wants LDH to act like Zang Yiyi in CTHD, OJH character won’t look interesting.

  27. 27 dealsw

    See i thought I was the only one noticing her cleanliness and looking like a princess rather than a slave…and true her character is boring and weak not intersting at all and her acting also Im not feeling it..

    I wish that the director should have done her role as a princess rather than a slave its more fitting.I guess its not why its popular thats why theres alot of criticism if your doing the job perfectly you will be getting a little pick but not alot of complain……

    And yes Lee da is not that pretty so maybe she is afraid to look dirty maybe she terrified to look ugly onscreen…….Ive seen Jung Je yeon looking messy and dirty in Blood and she still looks beautiful maybe thats why she looks clean all the time and have a perfect make up shes not confident on how she looks……

  28. 28 Marie

    OMG the things people pick on… Please just leave LDH alone I think she is doing a great job. I personally think narrow minded people will complain about anything.

    I like this quote; ” Love looks through a telescope envy through a microscope”

  29. 29 Snikki

    I actually know of women who don’t get dirty even after a full day of toiling under the sun. So it’s not like it’s impossible. LDH happens to be one of those (lucky!) — on and off-screen.

  30. 30 g-face

    yeah she is wayyy to clean. I mean look at her hanbok for goodness sakes! Somehow after all that running, sleeping on the dirt, etc, it miraculously doesn’t seem to get dirty. pretty unrealistic right there…


    I look at diff perspective on comments abt LDH-with all this stupid and silly things like this, I can see LDH can gather intelligent fans rather than sick souls. Well, most of them have saw Chuno till eps 8 and look at their discussion in Soompi, brilliant and informative, they are not in the level..well u can guess from some of the comments above.

  32. 32 samsooki

    If THAT is the extent of the criticism… if THAT is the best criticism that these netizens in Korea can muster, that LDH boob-line is exposed and she’s not dirty enough, then either:

    1. Chuno is really a near-perfect drama otherwise, or

    2. This is just another example of bullpoo criticism that really gives a much more accurate picture of the criticizers than it does the drama.

    And, Chuno is not perfect. There are historical incongruities, a bit of acting lapses occasionally, stilted direction and lazy writing. But overall, I think Chuno rocks. It is incredibly difficult to put together a drama with the kind of sweeping cinematography and direction that they are trying to accomplish, all the while keeping the minutiae all in a row.

    I think that people who watch Chuno will continue to be more than entertained. I’m hope that the Chuno production will not be affected by mindless criticism.

    (btw, if there is criticism to be had for Chuno, I would start and end with the writing and direction – breathe some fire into Un-Nyun’s character, give greater meaning to Eop Bok’s existence, expand the conspiracy, and figure out what to do with the Seol-Hwa character before she’s just becomes The Orabeoni Whisperer (a new KBS2 spin-off series due to air in the fall of 2010)).

  33. 33 gia

    what a big deal, it was ok
    fighting ldh

  34. 34 Acalle

    I have the same comments/complaints that LDH looks too clean compared to the men. Running a way for days and still maintaining a flawless make-up and spotless white hanbook while her companion looks like a rag. The appearance of the two is too extreme. This is probably the director’s fault, not exactly hers. But would the actor have his/her own opinion? Her acting is alright and her look is undeniable pretty.

  35. 35 qwerty_u

    a friend of mine long time ago told me about that trick using the cleavage bandage or tape to make bosom more out there! i never tried it coz i’m not into those things…i guess it works like magic! hahaha!

  36. 36 huh

    I’m surprised people here are so offended by this article when it is repeating lots of the comments I see here in the Chuno recap posts. Is it okay when you say it but not when someone else does? I’m confused.

  37. 37 Gems

    Some comments here are just plain spiteful. I’m not going to waste my time arguing with haters who clearly cannot differentiate what aspects of a drama production that an actress has control over.

    And major eye roll at this comment: “And yes Lee da is not that pretty so maybe she is afraid to look dirty maybe she terrified to look ugly onscreen…” In case you’re wondering, it is the latter part of the comment that makes me ill. I can’t stand character assassination.

  38. 38 xiahkixiri

    Oh God, why. I agree with the grime adding to the male leads’ appeal, heh. As for Lee Da Hae, well her character is also prim and pristine. IDK, the female slave who likes the slave good with rifles, her face is a bit over-dirtied, that doesn’t look realistic to me either. And yep, Seolhwa is also too pristine and pretty and made up. A flaw of the drama in general I guess. The main thing that tends to take me out of the drama is the music during the fight scenes, too PotC and overdone, but other than that I’m mostly good, and Chuno has a LOT going for it, good far outweighs the bad, not a dull moment. The later caps, that IS a lot of boobage but the drama’s giving full visual impact, including gratuitous scenes for both males and females and yno, let’s roll with it. It would be good if she had more to do, though.

  39. 39 Sonam

    But her cleavage is so beautiful! Why not? The guys are baring their chest away to glory. I have never liked manicured nails especially on guys. Ewwww. Give me clean a little rough around the edges nails and I am impressed. …..This person has character and better things to do!!!

  40. 40 nora

    Is that all, to me soo little complaints, I thought peole complaining about her ACTING, but her physical build and her manicure-I’m rolling in my bed now LOL.

    I remembered reading JB recaps on ep1 and 2 before-LDH IS WONDERFUL AS EXPECTED, so in which eps she is lacking or not wonderful anymore?

  41. 41 moochi

    people make a big fuss over nothing

    seriously netizens in korea have nothing to do, go study or improve yourself before you criticize others, and like some other commenters have noted, a lot of the negative comments are childish and senseless

    ok the cleaniness, fingernails and all those, how is this going to affect the drama as a whole? i think u can criticise a drama based on the actors’ abilities and as well as the directing/plot/storyline, not on something like minor visuals.

    if we really need to compare, r we going to talk about how iris can’t spell, in you’re beautiful they aren’t actually playing the instruments and in pasta the kitchen always looks so clean when ppl keep dropping food all ove rthe floor…
    like seriously, why make such a big deal over nothing, it’s just a blur on the boobs.

  42. 42 Chuck


    I like this quote; ” Love looks through a telescope envy through a microscope”

    Exactly. People are looking for feet of clay in heroes, or celebrities, as the case may be..

  43. 43 ALYN

    Why is it that the producers behind this drama can’t just stick to their vision and stop allowing themselves to be led by the fickle audience?
    You will never please everyone so stop trying and just do what you think is best, for god’s sake.

  44. 44 Z

    Haha!! You gotta admit, that is a whole lot of flesh being peddled! It kind of stinks for her because she’s a really good actress (I haven’t watched Chuno but I’ve liked her other work) and could probably very easily carry the character without the accouterments, and it’s really not her fault. But, WOW, that’s a lot of skin… porcelain, unblemished skin at that… I think I would have trouble getting past that too.

  45. 45 Sere


    Do you even need a reply to which one of your scenario is more likely?

    BTW, I agree with everything you said. And this? “The Orabeoni Whisperer (a new KBS2 spin-off series due to air in the fall of 2010))” I love you for this. I’m waiting and hoping for some character growth for her cos I really, really like her character, much more than Un-nyu so far.

  46. 46 Quidam

    LOL @ the people who think LDH has a say when it comes to the make-up & wardrobe. Quit looking for an excuse to spew hatred, haters.

    Geez……all of this is nonsense. LDH should not have to worry/apologize over this.

  47. 47 Anonymous

    Did she get a boob job? I don’t remember seeing her boobs that big in My Girl. Sorry..but she comes across as a vain person in real life.

  48. 48 Qwenli

    I agree that if you want to show the boobs, than don’t blur it. They should have wrap the white cloth higher to cover the cleavage, her boobs and skin are delicious looking but maybe abit too much for public tv broadcast.

  49. 49 Jill4675

    (For instance, I joke that the male shower scene is fanservice I can live with and not annoyingly gratuitous, but if you gave me a shower scene in every episode, you bet I’d find it pointless.)

    Pointless???! Gee, I don’t think it would be! 😆 😉

  50. 50 lilly

    I agree maybe LDH was too scared to look dirty makes her flawless skin ugly you know her she has a reputation to question the directors if she doesnt like something thats why she quit East of Eden before bec. she always wants to be the center of perfection……

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