Drama Casting & News
Strike looms for ten MBC, SBS dramas
by | September 1, 2010 | 63 Comments

As previously mentioned, the three major broadcasting companies (KBS, MBC, SBS) have been faced with a possibility of strike that would put some of their current dramas, all of whom are outsourced to outside production companies, on temporary hiatus. The issue at stake is unpaid wages to employees who are represented by the Korean Broadcasting, Film, and Performing Arts Labor Union.

Until the outstanding sum of more than 4 billion won is repaid, the union has taken the stance that they will refuse to allow their members continued participation in those productions. Representatives from the union gave a press conference on September 1, which was the deadline that the broadcasters were scrambling to meet in order to keep their affected dramas filming.

The union stated at the press conference, “The broadcasting company is at fault when outside production companies cannot adequately pay their actors and crew. The broadcasters can no longer air programs for free.”

The problem pointed out by the union is that there is an imbalance created with the system of using outside production companies. The broadcasters foot some of the production budget and make money off advertisers (and here’s where ratings are important, because the higher the ratings of a drama, the more ads they sell and at higher prices). However, they put undue pressure on the outside production companies when they pay, for example, only 50% to 60% of the actual cost to actually produce a miniseries. The union stated that the broadcast stations need to increase the production budgets they pay.

KBS was the first to settle matters by providing payment guarantees according to the rules stipulated, and therefore their shows will continue as normal. (They barely made it, coming to an agreement just three minutes before the press conference was called to announce the union’s decision.) That means that their heavy hitter, Baker King Kim Tak-gu, can continue to dominate in its Wednesday-Thursday timeslot without interruption. The other KBS shows involved were Monday-Tuesday’s Sungkyunkwan Scandal and the weekend show Marry Me, neither of which should be affected.

On the other hand, MBC and SBS still have ten dramas affected while the stations continue negotiations. MBC has four currently airing dramas on the line: Dong Yi, Gloria, Kim Suro, and Playful Kiss. SBS has six: Giant, Neighbor Enemies, My Girlfriend Is a Gumiho, I Am Legend, I Don’t Know Women, and Life Is Beautiful.

Life Is Beautiful, Playful Kiss

In the case of SBS’s Life Is Beautiful, which is produced by the same company as KBS’s Baker King Kim Tak-gu, the drama has settled its outstanding payment issue through the end of July, but because the broadcaster is different from Tak-gu, they are still at risk while Tak-gu is clear. (It appears that the union is taking an all-or-nothing stance per broadcaster.)

The union’s refusal to participate in filming will end as soon as MBC and SBS are able to negotiate a settlement.

What, ultimately, do they want? Aside from “settling” the outstanding wages, the union wants the broadcasters to provide a way of fundamentally preventing such lapses in the future. That means they’ll have to produce more than an IOU to get off the hook (as well they should).

So what does this mean for the dramas? Effective now and until the issue is solved, the affected productions will be denied union participation in filming. (Note: Filming, not airing. Of course, those two go hand in hand, but the difference means some shows can continue to air for a while.) Dramas that have a few episodes shot in advance will be able to air for a few weeks before falling behind. Example: Playful Kiss has five episodes filmed and doesn’t expect to be much affected. However, it’s likely that some will have to go off the air for a short time until the matter is fully resolved. My Girlfriend Is a Gumiho, for instance, is already filming in live-shoot, which means they’re filming the week’s episodes in the week leading up to broadcast. They have less buffer.

(This is serious business so I don’t mean to diminish it, but ultimately I’m not freaking out about this. I doubt it’ll get to that point and honestly, it seems the broadcasters will be doing everything possible to get in the clear, because wasted airtime is just more wasted money.)

Via Chosun Ilbo, Star News, OSEN


63 Comments from the Beanut Gallery
  1. Angel

    Please do not stop our favourite MGIAG! Mi Ho ah! *wails*

  2. anon

    if MGIaG goes off air will you be recapping PK first?

  3. Rizzy

    I realy hope they will reach a mutual decision soon. ๐Ÿ™

    • 3.1 anon

      same here

      some great dramas going off air
      but workers rights should come first so i understand

  4. Rubysing

    Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear…. I hope they resolve this quickly so we can get our weekly fix of IAL and MGIAG.

    • 4.1 Alexis

      Oh yeah, I hope so! (nods & crossing my fingers)

  5. Jenju

    Hmm this reminds me of the insane writer’s strike we had here in Los Angeles two years.

    It was crazy and I was very heartbroken that some of my favorite shows were shorten and some storyline even had to suffer.

    Hopefully they sort it out much faster than Hollywood did because that one just went one for too long. I’ll start panicking when MGiaG stops.

  6. Ace

    Nooo! Not MGIAG please!

  7. Anne

    i hope they will clear this up fast.. and i mean real fast. I want MGiaG!!!

  8. Obsidian

    I am sincerely hoping that Dong Yi will not be affected. Waiting just one week for the show at the stage it is now kills me. It’s getting so much more interesting with the new arc.

    I hope this all gets resolved fairly. Broadcasting companies need to start taking more responsibility and stop profiting unfairly.

  9. vis

    OMG, NOOOOOOO! SBS better settle things fast to ensure that My Girlfriend Is a Gumiho won’t get affected!

  10. 10 Jobz

    MGiaG T_T. I hope things get settled with SBS soon.

  11. 11 deannadsc

    I hope & pray they settle this dispute the soonest possible time!! Not just because our fave dramas are on the line..but so that the actors, crew & production people get paid what’s due them..but more so that their work’s “quality” isn’t compromised!!!

  12. 12 flo

    I hope the strike will end with a good issue. when u are woring hard you are expecting to be paid.

    thats why actors and actresses prefer to play in movies rather than in dramas like my Won Bin.

    cross fingers for everyone concern in that strike and good luck cos strike means no wages for them so how will they lives?

  13. 13 weissman

    This is one situation where money does talk, iamgine the money lost to the Network if a rising show like MGIG goes off the air for even a week, it losses momentum and hense a lot of sponsorhsip dollars.

  14. 14 Jane

    I knew KBS wouldn’t let Baker King get off the air.

    • 14.1 Crazygurlz

      Oh YEEEAAA!

      SCORE!!!! =) =)

  15. 15 Cassie

    Hm, for reason I’m not that concerned either.

    I just feel like MONEY is such a huge motivator that the companies can’t afford not to make a decision quickly.

    And that means I’ll be able to focus on school knowing that filming has stopped. ^^

  16. 16 Serena

    Lucky! Baker King will air as usual.

    Please not Dong Yi and Playful Kiss.

    • 16.1 Roslie

      I KNOOWWWW! (I feel you, of course!)


      IF you DO — it made us sooo doomed!!!! (sad pouts)

  17. 17 sarah

    the use of the gloomy looking miho intentional? ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • 17.1 rimiheun


      Hope that MGIAG won’t get affected!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  18. 18 jodasg

    As much as i hate to see my shows get interrupted but i guess workers should be pay on time. So i will wait.

  19. 19 Fox Hunter


  20. 20 asianromance

    Getting paid only 50-60% of the wages you earn is not acceptable! I wonder how long this went on before they went enough is enough!

  21. 21 supah

    WTF, SBS?
    Oh well, like everyone else, I just hope this doesn’t actually happen and that everything is resolved in due time.

  22. 22 RujakCingur

    Just look at how fast KBS tend to solved this problem, just coz they have no.1 show in korea in hand, if not i dont think they will settle it as fast as like now,..

  23. 23 Bashful82

    What’s shocking is that people are still unpaid for dramas which aired in 2009…

    I think ยฃยฃ$$ talks and sooner, rather than later, will see MBC and SBS come to an agreement with the union.

    What exactly is going to replace the dramas when they go off-air – reruns presumably or some gameshows? Those are hardly going to bring in the ad revenues are they?

  24. 24 cille

    hmm, the people who worked hard in bringing us all the dramas SHOULD be paid. it’s one think if it was a volunteer work, but these people are probably responsible for a lot of things (food on the table, money for kids education, etc.) so they definitely MUST be paid.

    i feel bad for supporting actors too because apparently a lot of them haven’t been paid from work they’ve done since last year.

    tsk tsk tsk broadcasting networks.

    • 24.1 Cossie

      Oh, aww………..How sad! =/

      That must be tough, oh jeez.

  25. 25 DrFawkes


    I have been a fan of your website since forever. I am from India and love watching Korean dramas, and I watched Que Sera Sera on your recommendation.
    Needless to say this, but it’s great. Except that it haunts me:
    There’s this scene in Episode 17 where Eric is chasing Eun Soo after finally seeing her so many years. What is that background music in that scene? It played before in episode 17 when Eric is running towards Eun Soo near the elevator to tell her ‘let’s run away’.
    It also plays in the opening scene of episode 16 when Eric drops his glass on hearing that Eun Soo is expecting/ or when Joon Hyuk asks Eun Soo whose child she’s carrying.

    Please, please tell me where I can get that music. I’m growing quite desperate for it. ๐Ÿ™

  26. 26 peanut butter

    wow, only 50-60%? i also wonder when they came to the point where they had enough. although they worked so hard, they got so little out of it. MBC and SBS better straighten up quick and settle things with the strikers!

    until then, if MGIAG doesnt air i’ll just sit back and watch reruns!! or actually be productive….

  27. 27 rayanne

    ahh noooo! I need my kdrama fix~ le sigh..specially with the start of the school year!

  28. 28 smars

    I completely understand. I took will go on strike. These people need to get paid before we get our dose of enjoyment. They have families they need to care for too. I really hope this gets settled soon, for the benefit of not us viewers, but for these workers.

  29. 29 rainerust


    That said…MBC AND SBS COUGH UP YOUR DOUGH(S)! I hate not getting paid when I’m doing decent work. Actually, I hate paying for things in advance even when I know I’m going to be reimbursed for it later. It’s just…bad economic karma, seriously. People have cashflow issues too, okay folks?

  30. 30 Qwenli

    Yep, just pay up. People have got families to feed you know?

  31. 31 ESoo

    Oh, no! All my Monday-Tuesday dramas are affected! ๐Ÿ™
    Hopefully, there’s a compromise soon that will satisfy both parties.

  32. 32 Nope

    Misleading. They’re not prohibiting anyone to film, the members of such union (which does involve a lot of actors, but all mostly in bit roles up to supporting ones), if they decide to adhere, will simply refuse to shoot – but if they don’t at least show up to work, that’ll be considered an illegal strike. Same happened last year with MBC’s union and Yi San: MBC played hard ball, and basically the union had to walk back in, tail between its legs. Participation was very low, simply because people don’t want to bite the hand that feeds them. Even if it doesn’t actually feed them all that much.

    One broadcaster has threatened to remove any adherent from the script and shoot with whomever is left (SBS, supposedly), and frankly anyone with a significant role in a high rated drama is never going to join the strike – simply because they will lose more than there is to gain, and they’re not exactly gasping for air. Get on the broadcasters’ bad side, and there will be much more to risk than a few missing payments from last year. Lee Duk Hwa, for instance, is a member of said union. Is he going to get out of Giant simply because a few tens of million from dramas that hardly involved him haven’t been paid back?

    It does look back on the outside, particularly with journalists painting unrealistic worst-case-scenarios, but it is nothing but a behind the scenes powerplay between the union (which wants more rules), the subcontractors (for lack of a better word) and the broadcasters. Worst come worst, a few of those dramas might spend a few weeks limiting themselves to main characters and very little else, or even be forced to skip one or two episodes (and then compensate with specials and the like), but there is too much money to lose on both ends for anything worse to happen. In short, nothing to worry about, it’s just politics.

    • 32.1 Nope

      that should be “should look bad.”

    • 32.2 javabeans

      I’m not sure what’s so misleading about it. The members of the union are refusing to participate, and many if not most participants belong to the union. Ergo, you can’t film a drama when your cast/crew isn’t allowed to film. You can try to hire scabs, but not with cast.

      • 32.2.1 Nope

        “So what does this mean for the dramas? Effective now and until the issue is solved, the affected productions will be prevented from filming. (Note: Filming, not airing. Of course, those two go hand in hand, but the difference means some shows can continue to air for a while.) ”

        This, for instance. The union has no authority other than over their own members, nobody is preventing anyone from filming anything, and neither can they. But then again, nothing states all union members should or will participate in the strike, and as I stated, these strikes’ participation rates are always pretty low in the grand scheme of things (so you might get hundreds of participants, but only a few dozen of them will have roles significant enough to upset a production). To make a quick comparison, Maeng Sang-Hoon was one of the most vocal representatives of last year’s MBC union strike. And I trust most people will barely recognize his face.

        The union can’t even force their own members, so even your reply is misleading. Mister Kim acting for three seconds on SBS Daily Morning Drama 1 might be affected since he’s not getting his 500,000 won per episode, but a Lee Moon Shik or a Kim Kap Soo (just to throw out names) would lose more than they’d gain by joining the strike.

        The union wants leverage, they have none. The members of the union aren’t refusing anything, it’s basically their top brass wrestling for more power. Now they can join the strike and make some noise, or mostly ignore it and make the strike fail before it even starts. It’s not a matter of numbers, but of name value-to-participation ratio (the union has over 2,000 actors, but only a few hundreds have name value).

        • javabeans

          The publicity is pretty valuable leverage, I would think.

          You missed the part where I said this is not likely going to have much of an effect on the productions, and I’m pretty sure the stations will settle rather quickly to get off the shit list — if not for real stakes then for their image.

          • Nope

            You still are missing the point. It’s not going to affect them because many shows have a buffer of footage to rest on, and this whole fiasco is certainly not to drag on for much longer than a few days to a week, certainly. Broadcasters don’t want to be painted as the bad guy, obviously.

            What is missing the point is the assumption on your part that the union could realistically impede a production in any realistic way, as stated in the quote I gave you. They don’t have any authority to do that whatsoever. Broadcasters would either write it off and focus on less characters, cutting participants in the strike out of the script (like a broadcaster threatened), or make last-minute detours to cover up the problem. The union has no authority over shoot proceedings, they can only state that “my member, if he decides to participate in our strike, will no longer agree to be filmed.” That’s it, nothing more. Are the producers of, say, Dong Yi, going to feel threatened if Court Lady No. 324 doesn’t show up for work and they have to use an assistant makeup artist to cover up for her? They took off that peculiar looking court lady because she created buzz on the net for her facial expression, think they’d blink even once if they had to replace a few actors?

            Publicity is leverage only among the minority that would get to read about this. The average housewife doesn’t know or care about this in the slightest. It’s just a political power play, period. If you’re interested, that’s good, but it will hardly affect you in any way.

          • javabeans

            Seriously, I think you’re missing my point. Who said this is going to affect the average housewife or viewer? I’m simply putting up information and people can take it as they wish. I stand by the facts stated here. (Since they pretty much come directly translated from the Korean source articles.)

          • Nope

            Except they’re not facts. They’re assumptions drawn from poor party-line articles that show little insight to begin with (noticed that most of them have similar structure? I hope you’re familiar with the concept of ์–ธํ”Œ). One needs to interpret what he reads and think about the credibility such pieces have before he throws claims out there, otherwise there’s no point. All those hit-friendly ์ดฌ์˜๊ฑฐ๋ถ€ articles pontificate on worst-case-scenarios that have very little chance of happening, and all the big charade that’s been going on involves saving face more than any last-minute emergency to save a shoot – here’s the big secret: there is none. Anyone familiar with the industry should know that the broadcasters are the master and commander here, they have all the leverage, and legally they could just use the “impeding business proceedings” card against them, since the issue are the companies not paying the actors, not the broadcasters (of course it’s more complicated and the initial blame lies on their shallow choices, but that’s besides the point).

            You made assumptions that the union has the power to STOP a production or severely affect it, when they clearly don’t, so I merely pointed you that it could mislead your readers into thinking their beloved dramas could truly be affected. They won’t. The worst you’ll get is skipping an episode and getting a special, and that’s hardly a huge tragedy.

          • javabeans

            I’m familiar with ์–ธ๋ก  ํ”Œ๋ ˆ์ด, thanks. I think it’s pretty clear they’re worst-case scenarios, and that there is always a chance those won’t come into play. And I said as much. I feel it’s worth mentioning, however, even as a worst-case scenario.

            The union has the power to affect a production. You’re arguing nuance of how MUCH effect. I don’t deny that there’s a range involved.

          • Nope

            “Effective now and until the issue is solved, the affected productions will be PREVENTED FROM FILMING. ”

            Emphasis mine. Just objected to that. That’s not fact, it’s science fiction and faulty interpretation. ์ดฌ์˜๊ฑฐ๋ถ€๋Š” denial TO shoot์ด์ง€, prevention FROM shooting๊ฐ€ ์•„๋‹™๋‹ˆ๋‹ค. No union can ever prevent any broadcaster or outsourced production company from filming.

            But yeah, we’re arguing semantics, so I rest my case.

          • javabeans

            Okay, I edited that sentence. Weโ€™re done now, right? Phew! Iโ€™ve got shows to watch and recap!

        • trixicopper

          There is absolutely no excuse for these people not being paid. These people are doing their jobs. They deserve to be compensated in a timely manner.

          Just because this union represents the little guys doesn’t mean that they should be looked down upon. In the real world most of the work is done by the little guys.

          I say that the union should use all the leverage that it can muster. Because what is a union anyway? It’s a bunch of working people who have banded together to improve their condition. It’s not a bunch of fat cat “top brass” smoking cigars in a backroom somewhere coming up with ways to screw the big companies.

          The odds are this will all be settled soon. It’s a big financial hit to everyone involved if it isn’t. Lets hope so anyway.

          • staples

            agreed! there’s no excuse for not paying those people. Despite my desire for a drama fix, I’m glad they’re going with a strike and I’m sure they’ll desire it soon. I’m no expert, but somehow I feel that the TV industry in Korea is like the movie industry in India or the manga industry in Japan. Big stuff that won’t let a strike ruin the industry.

            Am I right in that?

  33. 33 Cam

    No no no nooo, It’s NOT for “Playful Kiss” and “My Girlfriend Gumiho”, pleeaaasseee! (holding my hands)

    Oh aigoo, I never thought this is becoming so worse and worse — it’s very horrible, how bummed. =/

    ** Oh, thank goodness for my top best drama “Baker King” is on airing, that’s goood, good! =) **

  34. 34 Cam

    NOOOO!!! (shook my head) No No No, please don’t do that for “My Girlfriend Gumiho”, no way, that can’t be!
    (holding my hands)

    Oh, aigoo! THIS is becoming so worse & bad! How bummed. =/

    (Ah, thank goodness for my top best drama “Baker King” keep airing — Good Good!) =)

  35. 35 Annie

    I hope this will get solve soon but I AM SO HAPPY THAT SCANDAL IS NOT AFFECTED! I am totally addicted to this new drama ^^

  36. 36 elisa

    i hope dong yi’s not affected since its ratings have been falling recently… as for the rest of the dramas, even if they halt i think they’ll have enough momentum to keep their ratings at least the same.

  37. 37 SadieStarr

    ugh i h8 stirkes…but its okz..they are for a good thing ..right?
    but missng out on show…nooo…but oh well..hopefulli everything will be resolved by than ๐Ÿ˜€

  38. 38 maureen


  39. 39 sophia

    @”Nope”: wow…no comment…if you don’t like the way JB writes her articles, then don’t read them…

    and damn. -__-” i mean i know they’re going to resolve this because shit, korean public’ll go nuts if they carry on with this…but that’s just going to make everything harder for the actors later on when they’ll have to films for hours on in to make up for missed time ๐Ÿ™ especially the super competitive ones like dongyi and giant. :.sigh.:

    but i’m glad takgoo didn’t get affected lol that’s the only happy part in this whole story…

  40. 40 regina

    I know most of us [maybe not all of us] including myself will be sad if our favourites dramas are not broadcasted as promised, but I hope everyone please stay clam and be patience and be more sensitive to the issue right now.

    I’m sure nobody want this to happen but sometimes things just dont go as planned. Neither do the broadcasting stations nor the union would want to disappoint us but sometimes it cannot be avoided.

    So let us pray and be patience and be understanding by doing them a favour.

    MY favourite drama is Gumiho… very refreshing, comical in their own way and of course the young “couple ” played by Seung gi and shin mina.

  41. 41 Aya

    JB, I wanted to thank you for putting up this news in the first place since we (as in the non-korean interwebz world) get almost none background info on the economics and machinations of the entertainment industry in korea… which is REALLY strange because people are going nuts over The Hallyu Wave.01 & 02 for many years now but almost no one wants to know how it works, the who’s who of the “Big Brass” there or the business aspects and effects in making so much noise all over asia. And none of the popular english speaking sites dealing with korean entertainment products put out any info/research in this respect regularly.

    It’s fascinating that people seem to love and follow the trends and shows the korean market delivers and imo a lot of them want to be just entertained, thankyouverymuch, nothing more and def. not anything which could take away from the allure and charm of their favorite drama/band/idol.

    I’d love to read more about these topics in the future, so even if it seems to be a hassle to sift through news which might not appeal to the mass of your readers or you yourself are not well-versed in/have little experience with, please don’t disregard them.

    Again, thank you for posting info about the strike and trying to find out the gist of it for us.

    @Nope, I think your comment is quite informative since it implies that korean broadcasters are already too powerful for unions or people who’d like to get justice by getting compensated for work they did, which IS STILL their right according to working laws all over the world. How else did they come up with the $ ~3,7 mil.?
    But the tone of your comment was kinda harsh and accusing especially considering the nature of this site.
    If you know about the infrastructure of the korean entertainment industry, and inform yourself via news, I’m pretty sure there are quite a number of international readers who’d like to read/hear/discuss about such topics. But I wouldn’t know where exactly you could publish those kind of news/articles… you might ask around other high traffic sites like allkpop, omona, soompi, etc.

    • 41.1 Aya

      where’s the edit button, so many mistakes, sorry /flail

  42. 42 Mel_Mel

    I’m having flash backs to the writer’s strike in the US. That was disastrous if you weren’t an established reality tv show, or a soap opera (which films at least 3 months in advance).

    This sounds like if it got that far it could be even worse since this seems like general everyone is in the same union. I hope it doesn’t come to that though.

    On a shallow note though, I’m glad Sungkyunkwan Scandal won’t be affected. It’s my new crack. ^_^

  43. 43 Pamela

    I hope this gets resolved quickly. I only just recently discovered how much I enjoy these shows. For that reason I can honor and respect the decision of those in need to do what is necessary to get the funds owed them for their honest labor. Without the funds necessary to pay the artists who have invested their time, talent, and imagination to creating these shows we love so much then they would all come to a screeching halt.

  44. 44 liki

    thank you for explaining the situation ๐Ÿ™‚

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