Drama Casting & News
Sandglass/Legend/Faith producer ends life
by | July 23, 2013 | 179 Comments

Sad news is currently ruling the headlines, after famed (legendary, perhaps) drama producer and director Kim Jong-hak was discovered dead in a gositel (a sort of extended stay motel), having taken his own life. He died in the morning of July 23.

Kim Jong-hak was a major figure in the Korean entertainment industry, and his credits include dramas that weren’t just popular, but seminal. He helped shaped the television landscape into what it is today, notably with his 1990s dramas Eyes of Dawn and Sandglass, and Daemang in 2002. His more recent dramas include 2007’s Legend and last year’s Faith.

It’s that last drama that’s a sticking point, as Faith has been mired in financial problems almost from start to finish. Make that after-finish, because its woes have continued long after the drama wrapped, news of which has cropped up every so often in headlines. Faith has still been unable to pay many of its actors, and PD Kim has been the subject of an embezzling investigation.

Kim was discovered lying on the hotel bed, with remnants of burnt charcoal briquettes found in the bathroom. All doorway and window cracks had been sealed off with tape and he left behind a suicide note saying that he was sorry to his family.

But it’s not just one drama that sent Kim Jong-hak over the edge; we have to look farther back to see where the trouble began, stemming back to the enormous production costs of historical-fantasy-epic series Legend and the flaws of the outside production system. The 2007 drama was a project four years in the making, which had one of the largest production budgets ever, and constructed its own large-scale sets. The drama was fairly successful, but the production company had sunk huge expenses into it, and according to the CEO of the construction company that build the sets, 265 million won of the building costs had not been paid.

PD Kim had been ordered by the courts in September 2008 and June 2011 to pay up, but hadn’t. He was sued in April 2012 for charges of fraud and evading compulsory execution. To be fair, it isn’t a case of one man taking all the money and screwing the rest so much as it’s a case of a company literally having zero funds to pay.

And therein lies one of the biggest problems with drama production moving almost entirely to outside production companies. Back in ye good ole days, broadcasters developed projects in-house and put up their own products. These days they strike deals with outside producers, who are often operating on razor-thin margins where one bad drama can sink everything. Then you lay off your past debt by taking on future debt, hoping the next drama will recoup your losses, and this turns into a dangerous cycle of gambling.

So then there was Faith, which we know suffered its own litany of woes prior to airing. It lost multiple lead men, got its budget slashed, and was pushed back again and again. Finally Lee Min-ho signed on and the drama as we now know it got rolling. Yet as of May this year the cast and crew of that drama had not been paid, and PD Kim became the subject of a police investigation for embezzlement and breach of trust.

Kim was sued in February for those unpaid acting, editing, and producing salaries, which amounted to 1.7 billion won, under the charge that he had misappropriated 2 billion for personal use. Kim was summoned twice last month by police for ongoing investigation, amidst trips to China to plan what would have been his next project.

Furthermore, PD Kim was accused of double-contracting OST rights (to two separate companies) last fall for the drama Faith, which led to more fraud claims.

There’s a similar backstory to the January suicide of another producer, Jo Hyun-gil, who produced IRIS and Athena and was the former CEO of Taewon Entertainment (IRIS’s production company) and H Communications. Then in June, former CEO of Yedang Entertainment Byun Doo-sub also took his own life. All three had been struggling with production and investment failures immediately prior to their suicides.

It’s a sad story all around, and makes you think that something’s gotta change in the industry before everybody is driven off the edge. Surely there are more sustainable ways of producing entertainment? Surely?

Via Seoul Shinmun, Seoul Economy, E News 24, TV Report, Joongang Ilbo, Review Star


179 Comments from the Beanut Gallery
  1. Orion

    So many deaths, but they have changed nothing. People get used to them and to those who are happy with cashing in from the current system, they are just a few cracked eggs.

    This industry is corrupt to the core, dirty, dark and depressing. While they have talented people working on what is often good entertainment, the things that go on backstage and the sacrifices made for that outcome chill me to the bone.

    Viewers don’t care or forget. Their entertainment means more to them than a stranger’s life. The industry forgets. Everyone does. Few things can stop a system that benefits those in power.

    • 1.1 blkasian

      I disagree with your comment that viewers don’t care. I don’t think any of the viewers are uncaring when a human life is involved. I’d like to think most of us would prefer life rather than choosing death as a way out of a financial bind. Where as we the viewers might not be in a position to help financially we most certainly can voice support for those persons that are sharing their creativity with us. I find the death of this gentleman very sad and my prayers go out to his family.

      • 1.1.1 Orion

        I am not talking about an individual viewer. I am talking about the masses. When Han Ye Seul walked out, how many netizens supported her or really spoke up about the problems? How many from within the industry? There were some. Most just saw a diva and conveniently pushed conversation of the actual problems aside. Where are they now?

        Where are they each time someone has an accident or uses IV drips where “Oh please do be careful” comes out of their mouth (or fingers) at one moment and they are back to complaining about not seeing enough of the actor they like the next?

        The system is to blame, yes. The higher ups and corruption are to blame, of course. Actors, PDs etc themselves are to blame too. So many contribute to these problems. But netizens in Korea have power and a voice. A voice that can move the industry, which clearly jumps when is told to, in order to please them. When fans, both domestic and foreign get so used to these deaths that they become “just something that happens” and prefer the denial of their own responsibility to discussing the problems then yes, they show that, as a mass, they do not care.

        I’ve talked about this in more detail in pieces I wrote before, but we all carry some responsibility in that sense. For not speaking up more, not pointing fingers more, not having more understanding as long as our drama fix is given or beloved actor is on the screen. You see more netizen buzz over some guy going to the hookers and more obsession over a picture of an idol and her husband walking than you do sensible dialogue about these big problems.

        There are wonderful netizens too, of course. But how many really do anything more than just swimming along with whatever the industry throws at them?

        Where are they when a famous writer said she won’t do pre-produced shows, which can help these issues tremendously, because she is afraid she won’t keep up with trends? They are excited and waiting for her new show without even having chastised her for her inconsiderate comments, that’s where.

        As The Joker said, when “it’s all part of the plan”, we do absolutely nothing. I just think the level of desensitization about these things has reached inhumane heights by now. And I do think netizens focus on everything but the real problems, when we see them as a group.

    • 1.2 sisterlulu

      Personally I agree with you Orion. I think this is sad, but is it going to make me stop watching dramas? No. Is it going to make anyone in Korea stop watching dramas? No. So if the money keeps rolling in, why would they ever want to stop? This could go on forever, and more people are going to die. I’d say they should strike, but then you gotta get paid. :/

  2. Quiet Thought

    I’ve said it before . . . Korean has such a high quality entertainment product, one that is doing it so much good in the international market, and it is a national disgrace that it is compromising that product with these hack, amateurish business models.

    • 2.1 neersayer

      May he rest in peace. But you touched on a valid point. Korean Entertainment System seems to function on backwards and archaic laws that only benefit a few. Not only is the drama world plagued with horrible schedules and poor profit margins, but their music industry is just as dark and nightmarish. With young, naive kids being thrown into one sided contracts in a studio system that was abolished at least 70 years ago in most countries.

      South Korea has grown rapidly as an economic powerhouse, but their laws, business models and social mores (South Korea’s gender gap is one of the largest in the world) leaves a lot to be desired.

    • 2.2 pogo

      I agree. This is heartbreaking, and something needs to change, even though it’s sadly unlikely that it will.

      • 2.2.1 Betsy Hp

        I think it will change. It must change otherwise it’ll collapse in on itself. Hollywood and the US music industry was just as ruthless and corrupt back in the day (different days for each industry), but it eventually changed. Just going by human nature — Korea’s entertainment system will have to change as well.

        The when is the big (and heartbreaking) question, for me.

  3. Hugepuffball

    Gosh, this is terrible… i can’t even begin to know what kind of pressure he must have been under in his last days/weeks.

  4. Quiet Thought

    It is all a matter of capitalization. The American industry is so wealthy even a basic cable channel does not have to accept a production that cannot pay its bills. The British have a great export TV industry and a business model that seems to work dependably. That this sort of thing should happen to a major network or network series is simply corrupt.

    • 4.1 sisterlulu

      Aren’t American shows done in-house tho? Well, I know HBO foots the bill for Game of Thrones. But then, Mad Men is done by Lionsgate yet aired on AMC so idk.

  5. Kiara

    So sad to hear. I enjoyed almost all of his work except Faith. It felt like someone else was directing it. It wasn’t what I expected from him and Song Ji Na.
    Eyes of Dawn, Sandglass and The Legend are some of my favorites.

    Condolences to his family. I will remember him as the great director who’s work got me hooked in Kdrama.

    • 5.1 KDaddict

      I heard that his problems started with Legend, when half of the production costs was spent on constructing the huge set and on shooting several large battle scenes with hundreds of extras running amid stars on horseback. Chaos and accidents ensued. Bae Yong Joon fell off a horse 2 or 3 times. His career was cut short. There wasn’t enough money for the rest of filming; bills couldn’t be paid at the end. That was in 2007.

      One can only imagine the pressure and anguish he had been in for the last 6 years, esp. after the failure of Faith.

      Artists aren’t necessarily the best businessmen. It is dangerous that they have to be in charge of the production as well as the budget. Perhaps that’s why the Hollywood model has a bean counter to reign in their directors.

      May he rest in pace! And thank you for Sandglass, which is a true masterpiece.

    • 5.2 KDaddict

      Wait a minute:
      Will his debts end with his life, or is it that in S Korea, one’s debts get passed on to one’s next of kin?
      Scary thought. Hope not.

      • 5.2.1 Kiara

        I believe he divorced his wife so his family can be spared? I’m not sure how it works in Korea.

      • 5.2.2 Windsun33

        Despite what you might see in K-dramas about debt collectors hounding babies for money that their dead cousin owed, the laws are actually much like the US and other countries. The estate of the person still owes the money, but in this case it looks like he WAS the estate. And it looks like the estate – which includes any personal property – is pretty much broke.

  6. midwestmz

    Wherever one happens to be, or whomever they happen to be, the taking of a life is always a sad circumstance. That the human heart and mind are so overwhelmed that this is the only answer that they can resolve the situation with. Let us all remember this gentleman, and others that face this type of a decision daily. Should you know someone in danger, please help in any way you can, even if it is in prayer. You may not agree with them, or like them, but all life is so valuable and irreplaceable.

    • 6.1 Onion2240

      Well said.

  7. PPasun

    People who download shows illegally and do not pay a cent for their entertainment, including those overseas viewers, must bear some responsibility too.

    • 7.1 Mystisith

      WTF? I don’t have a legal offer where I live (Europe). I keep begging for one but nothing comes. Guess what I have to do to see my dramas?
      And by the way, if you think that the subscription money given to legal sites (I know who you are thinking of) goes straight into the pockets of the SK citizens who should earn it, you’re quite naive.

      • 7.1.1 PPasun

        I don’t know exactly how you “begged” for a legal offer. But simply because nobody is setting up a legal K-drama site in Europe, are you saying you can resort to stealing?

        Even if the production companies are getting no money from subscription sites, still they have given them the license. It’s a very different situation from people downloading shows illegally on their own.

        The problems the Korean entertainment business faces must be multi-fold: poor business model, broadcasting companies’ greed and what not. But copyright infringement and piracy of Korean dramas and movies going on on a vast scale must bear some blame too when it comes to the bottom line. I don’t know how I’m naive in saying that.

        • Tina

          Korean dramas are made for the domestic audience. International fans have no impact on the ratings which determine the success of a drama and the amount of income they can receive from commercials.

          Those that are sold internationally often find success online before they are sold to networks that air those shows in those countries.

          Piracy within Korea can affect the ratings but not outside the country.

        • Mystisith

          I left a comment at DF years ago saying they should come where I live. (I’ve changed my mind though, seeing how they behave). More recently, I left a notice on my FB page with the sum I’m willing to pay for a decent streaming site and I keep repeating it everywhere I comment (also on twitter).
          You’re naive because if money is the problem here and obviously it is, then the profit made with the sales of K dramas to foreign countries is minimal: It’s the SK market first, the Japanese one next and all the rest counts for a few percents. The licenses are not sold for millions like people might think and the money goes to the shareholders of certain companies, like always.
          K dramas could have more value and be a big part of the hallyu in Western countries but the decision makers have still yet to understand this.

          • KDaddict

            Theirs is obviously a seriously cracked business model.

            I’ve always thought that if they value the international audience at all, in terms of the money that can be made from them, the channels should hire subbing teams to do prompt quality subbing, and charge us “pay per view” or a monthly or annual subscription fee. It’s a large world of lovers of Kdrama out there. Subbing is so cheap. And if sth like Solive can sell subscriptions, it is difficult to understand why the channels can’t, unless their CEOs are as cracked in their heads as their business model.

            Everything is wrong there. Production companies are cash poor. Live shooting is crazy. Stars are worked so hard they get no sleep, their managers can’t stay awake to drive them home, they get into auto accidents, they get hurt on site, successful stars avoid dramas altogether…. And still they do nothing to fix their model!

            S Koreans have a history of labor movements in the 70s and 80s. Why don’t the entertainment workers make a (concerted) demand for change, except for Han Ye Seul’s feeble attempt at running away while filming Myung Wol the Spy?

          • Kandiboo

            I second KDaddict. Honestly speaking I used to download music (yes, I did) but now with iTunes expanding their KPop/international music I buy to support the artists whom I love. Unfortunately less popular music may not be always available for purchase for the international audience.

            The same goes with K-dramas. I am sure some/most of us internationally (I am not in US, can’t do DF) would gladly pay up for “officially” subbed K-dramas thru the broadcasters for an annual fee. I don’t mind waiting a few days for the show – I have to wait overnight for the subbed version now anyway.

            In fact I did get Reply 1997 app to watch the final 2 episodes – except without subs I probably got less than 20% of the dialogue, and I don’t know whether it could have counted for the ratings anyway.

            Just wanted to let people in SK know that we want to support the K-drama, K-pop/music industry – but sometimes we don’t have the official means to do so.

      • 7.1.2 Windsun33

        Have you ever wondered why so much music, video, and software is NOT available in the Euro zones? All you have to do is look to the total mess that the politicians of a dozen or so countries have managed to make of the European Union and it should be obvious. As Pogo said 50 years ago – “we have found the enemy, and he is us”.

        The Euro zone is an economic and legal mess – for example Microsoft is still in court there for some “issues” with the 2002 release of Windows there. It can take years to get licensing agreements.

        One German music publisher noted that it was easier to legally download German songs in the US than in the countries surrounding Germany, such as France.

    • 7.2 kiko

      Dramafever, is that you?

      • 7.2.1 ChanChan


      • 7.2.2 OMG


      • 7.2.3 Kiara


        • tamagoxyaki


        • tamagoxyaki

          This is the 4th Kor-ent related suicide this year,right?*sigh*
          Even though I haven’t watched any of his work,R.I.P to this man and condolences to his family.

      • 7.2.4 True2U

        LOL!!! The comment of the night!!!! Thx that was well done. +5

      • 7.2.5 pearl3101

        +6 one up!

        • Rach^^



      • 7.2.6 Windsun33

        Despite all the +’s that comment makes no sense.

    • 7.3 Orion

      When affordable entertainment is brought to where they live, I’m sure they’ll be good and ready to bear that responsibility.

    • 7.4 Betty

      Oh wow!!! I think that you are completly barking up the wrong tree!

    • 7.5 KimYoonmi

      Ignorance about how licenses work… and I say this as someone who is an artist.

      Did you ever sub or help with a drama on Viki? You get a basic run down on that, unless your head is in the sand…

      Even so, your suggestion–it doesn’t work that way. The profits from the advertising goes mostly not to the production costs, but to the people who license it, which are the broadcast stations and it’s a fraction in post. Most licenses are also bought at a flat fee rather than a percentage/royalty rate.

      King of Dramas can also teach you about how it works with advertising, etc. (though it never goes into foreign licensing, which pays crap towards actual production, which is the problem in this case.)

      • 7.5.1 PPasun

        You are so knowledgeable about how K-drama licenses work because you are “an artist”? Have you had one of your dramas produced by a K-drama production company and aired on KBS, SBS or MBC to be so familiar with all the intricacies of how that works? Or did you just pick it up from watching King of Dramas?

        How can you be so sure that nothing from foreign licensing can go toward the drama production across the board? So PD Kim owed 265 million to 1.7 billion won. While that may sound like a lot of money (and it is to most people), that is about $250K to $1.5M in U.S. dollars. I’m kind of surprised that a legendary director/producer like him didn’t have even that kind of money. The truth is these so-called production companies, run by even someone like the late PD Kim, have no capital, cash-strapped. And most of the blame may lie with themselves for not coming up with ways to tap the international audience like someone above suggests, with the Korean government for weak copyright protection. But can you honestly say illegal downloaders are blameless because even if they had paid, none of it would have gone to the production companies anyway? Recently, the Korean Ministry of Culture cracked down on some popular illegal torrent sites and found 715M illegal downloads, that is worth $867M in US dollars. What if just a fraction of that money had gone to PD Kim so he could pay off $250K to $1.5M?

        I just have a problem with people sitting on their high horses finding this and that with the K drama industry corrupt and dirty (not saying they are not and also agree that they need to change), but at the slightest hint that they may also be doing something wrong and thus need to change, they get all offended.

        By the way, I have volunteered with Viki plenty of times and I know very well how that free subbing works. And it is pretty much the only site I stick to because I know at least it is not illegal.

        • colors

          “Recently, the Korean Ministry of Culture cracked down on some popular illegal torrent sites and found 715M illegal downloads, that is worth $867M in US dollars.”

          That’s the whole point! Do you kow how hard it is to export a culture to another country, especially if their cultures are really different? It’s about the difference of language, but also the culture itself.

          Do you think American culture would have been exported if it wasn’t for the US winning WWII? In France, just to give you this example because I know it best, the US agreed to clear the debt and even gave money so that France would keep buying American products, including cultural products like movies (called the Blum-Byrnes Agreements).
          If it wasn’t for those agreements, I’m not sure American TV shows would now be broadcast prime time on the main channels, nor NCIS and The Experts (or whatever their real names are in English) would be among the most popular TV shows right now. And now, it’s fairly recent, you can choose between dubbing or English with subtitles.
          Most people I know, even including my age, don’t bother with switching to subtitles, they like the dubbing best for obvious reasons.

          My point? To export Asian culture, you need a fan base somewhere. Let it be a community of Asian emmigrants for obvious reasons or people just interested by it, for some reason, like because they discovered it on the Internet one day and they’ve stuck to the enternainment since.

          But then you still have a problem of the language, not that many people speak Japanase or Korean in Europe.
          Thanks to mangas and Jpop, it’s easier to try and learn Japanase in France now (and maybe all of Western Europe) but you still need to make a huge effort to succeed. And then, what?
          You can barely buy mangas in Japanse nor watch j-drama nor buy J-music. (And again, we’re lucky because Japan is in the same DVD protection zone as Europe, so you may buy extremely expensive DVDs with subtitles if you’re lucky… but in English).

          Another point, if you’ve come to like K-drama or J-drama (however illegal it may have been) or whaveter, you need the Internet and to know English. Some people communities have been trying to sub too in languages other than English, and because of that I understand how poeple say they feel about dramafever. On streaming website offers k-drama for French people and I just hate their subtitles (although they’re not awful, I juts feel the same way for some mangas in French I hate (and thus buy on Amazon in English) because they try to keep the politeness and all and when you read it in French it just is annoying and unrealistic), but I thought, what the hell, let’s buy one of the 4 shows they have on DVD!(Not that it’s not limited…) Well, it’s really expensive and I’d like the English subtitles to be included.

          Hence another problem: money when you buy. And let’s included the date of release in a supposedly global world.
          I’m not sure you noticed, but the Internet kind of creates buzz and makes things popular and unpopular and it changes how business works. Some American TV shows have been broadcast in France because they were sure it’d work among young people who already watched those shows, except illegally and with subtitles rather than dubs.

          Except that TV entertainment in general doesn’t really buy into that and nothing is done.
          I illegally watch some American TV shows on the Internet as they’re being broadcast and then wait for the DVDs to be released in France to watch them again (still in English though) because, guess what? When you go online and the broadcasting of a TV show at home is one season (sometimes two….) behind, it’s hard to avoid spoilers. Or sometimes it’s the right season with months of delay, meaning the Christmas episode arrives just before summer.
          But for instance the BBC tried really hard with Doctor Who to have it released in the UK first, then shortly after in the US and Australia, a few months later in France (with awful dubbing, cheers to the English version available on TV now…). But then you could argue that the BBC has always done its best to keep up with the demand.

          So I think the problem with demand for entertainment now is that it’s not just local anymore. It’s international. I’ve read the comments here about the producing industry being better in the US than in Korea. But they have about the same problems concerning international distribution and copyrights infrigements.
          It’s not that people are all bad and corrupt, I just think things are changing (and they have been changing fast because of the Internet) and no one’s following with the right laws or international cooperations.

          Anyways, I think enternainment is not about to die anytime soon.
          It’s just a pity it’s so hard to produce and distribute entertainment and I wish things would change so that in South Korea actors and crews would stop getting injured because of the system and would always get paid and producers would stop killing themselves because of financial problems. It’s very sad and alarming.

          • alua

            So I think the problem with demand for entertainment now is that it’s not just local anymore. It’s international.

            You hit the point on the head here.

            And the funny (or rather the sad) thing is, it’s been like this for a decade or more, but very little is happening. I recently watched a documentary, Alex Winter’sDownloaded, which is on the rise and fall of Napster, but more generally precisely on this gap between consumers and the industry. The technology for an international distribution model has been there for more than a decade, but the industry was first clueless (no understanding of what is possible with technology and what possibilities the internet offers), then in defensive denial, in which it remains. It needs to seriously think about how to make EVERYTHING accessible, legally, to everyone at any moment in time, not with months/years in between and at a reasonable cost too.

        • Windsun33

          I wonder how many of the people here lamenting about the money problems that caused this also whined about the demise of unlicensed sites like My Soju and DramaCrazy?

          • KenyanKorean

            I watch from DramaCrazy when I’m home in Africa because that’s the only site that works in Kenya. When I’m in the US I watch through Viki.
            If anyone can tell me what other legal sites works in Africa, I’d gladly switch. I don’t want people dying because I’m watching free shows they produced at the cost of their lives. Or tell me how to petition viki availability in Kenya.

    • 7.6 aenea

      You do have a point, but the thing is, there are no legal sites to watch/download it from, from where I live and from most other countries. And if you’re talking about The One Site that Tries to Rule Them All (I’m looking at you, DF), their s****y translations are not worth my hard-earned money.

      BUT, if they give out quality translations and a quick turn-around time airing them like the free sites do, then I will not hesitate to part with my hard-earned money just to feed my Kdrama addiction.

      • 7.6.1 ck1Oz

        To all those who say they have no access?Europeans are at least bilingual right?Access to Viki can be via helping sub?

        I too live outside Korea and the US- but that’s how I get access by helping in Viki.

        But yeah that’s why I buy my OSTs and don’t go to streaming sites.Fast subs are only from Viki and DF- any other streaming sites don’t or can’t match the pace.

        I am only a drop in the bucket but at least I try to stay legal.

        RIP. To have to die just because you’re doing what you want or are great at; and the industry itself causes him to end it this way?That is such a needless waste of a life. The people in the industry itself- how will they affect the change for the better?

        • anais

          Hear, hear!!

        • colors

          I’m not sure how Viki works. I know that many times before, I tried to watch videos on the website and an error message -always the same one- would appear about me being in the wrong region, but I tried again today after reading your comment with one random video and it seems alright.

          • BlueStars

            Different shows/movies on Viki have licenses for each region. Initially, Heartstrings could only stream everywhere but the Americas. I Hear Your Voice can only be streamed if you’re from the Americas (not sure if it’s changed since it initially started airing). Those shows that you got an error message probably means that they haven’t gotten the license to stream that show in your region yet.

        • aenea

          But the thing is Viki is not accessible in my country. It used to be until about two years ago. 🙁 Like I said, I’d gladly help any legal Kdrama site, but there simply isn’t any at the moment.

    • 7.7 dramajoo

      seems like this is a sensitive issue since no one wants to be perceived as part of the problem, even if their actions do contribute to the issue…i do wonder what percentage of the people who firmly say that they would pay if they had a legal option would actually do so if the option was available

      • 7.7.1 lenrasoon

        yeah but is this really the right post to discuss about that?

        • PPasun

          Why not? PD Kim himself pointed to weak copyright protection as one of the main reasons why it was so tough to make dramas in Korea and break even.

      • 7.7.2 alua

        I don’t think it is simple as that though.

        Ask a young person. To them streaming or downloading something from online isn’t stealing at all. It’s just something they do, like back in the day when you copied a music tape you had and gave it to your friend (I’m guessing none of us would see that as stealing). Though it’s illegal on paper, there is a whole shift in attitudes and perceptions between generations, and as much as we might dislike it, denying it is not going to help.

        The digital age requires some serious rethinking, but many things in the world are still run by pre-digital models. Copyright is a sensitive issue, but IMO it has be rethought bottom-up and inside out. Just insisting on it the way it is now, with the complications it comes with for international licensing, isn’t helping anyone because it is up against technology. It’s hindering things, stopping fans from watching films/dramas/etc, blocking academic research, earning big companies big money* that the little artists don’t necessarily see much of. (*you even get ridiculous things like ‘Happy Birthday’ still being in copyright)

        You can’t fight technology, you have to use it to your benefit. Which is why we have ended up with musicians that created themselves from nothing via YouTube, artists that know how use the internet to create a buzz for their work, releasing free teasers/singles or making everything accessible to any fan in the world.

    • 7.8 ladyluck

      Please get off your high horse. In my opinion, die hard fans who for whatever reason download from illegal sites do more good for the proliferation of Kdrama than bad.

      The SK industry needs to be a bit more introspective and look at how they support their own.

      • 7.8.1 dramajoo

        yes, the industry has problems and needs to introspect, just like the domestic (and on for this site, international) fans who quite sadly are unwilling to acknowledge that downloading content illegal is part of the issue for revenue strapped production firms (of course its always easier to sit on your mighty high horse and criticize all actors except yourself since you can do no wrong). If people actually paid money instead of free riding there would be more to go around for the industry as a whole (broadcasters, production companies, and actors)

        • ladyluck

          Completely agree. My point earlier was that the industry it self needing to look at how to innovate to ensure the people, from stars to PDs to production crew, are ALL supported so we see less of these tragedies.

          Instead of putting the blame on fans who download illegally, it would be great to see the big networks and powerhouse agencies get together to make some change. Afterall, they’re the ones who can use their influence to deliver concrete results. I can’ see that any fan groups can influence things quickly.

    • 7.9 Lord Byron

      Please define illegal downloads.

      Dramabeans frequently provides music downloads. I’ve never thought about it until now, but I guess I have no way of knowing if clicking the Dramabeans download links is legal or illegal or none of the above in the US.

      Likewise, does anyone know if watching dramas in the US by way of several websites is legal that offer streaming and/or downloads?

      Do you realize that Korean dramas, too, freely help themselves to copyrighted materials without paying? When Korean drama characters watch a US movie clip or listen to a US hit song, chances are the drama production did not get permission for it. I heard that that is one reason why some Korean dramas cannot come to the US on DVDs.

      Many subcomments herein blame Korean CEOs for not seeking to sell licenses to overseas markets. I happen to know that it is not for lack of trying. Despite the number of fans who visit Dramabeans, the market for Korean dramas or movies in North America or Western Europe is simply too small. But this can change, of course.

      • 7.9.1 PPasun

        What does the nationality have to do with anything? Koreans downloading US copyrighted materials illegally and vice versa all need to think twice before they hit that download button.

    • 7.10 dobabado

      I don’t think pirating affects the SK drama market as hard as it would on American/European TV. For this case, it was probably a combination of the stuff PPasun listed on 7.1.1. Honestly, it kind of boggles my mind how a director in debt would be willing to shell out so much twice. Nonetheless, this was still very sad and the system needs to change if this is what drove him to a corner.

      To the pirates: If you don’t pay, it’s stealing. It’s that simple. Can’t afford? Don’t buy. Out of the country? Too bad. If you’re going to admit to piracy then you don’t get your piece of innocence cake. Stop saying/implying you “deserve” to watch these dramas.

      • 7.10.1 dobabado

        Sorry, meant to close the italics bracket after “twice.” =_=;;

        • PPasun

          “I don’t think pirating affects the SK drama market as hard as it would on American/European TV.”

          You would be surprised, especially in China and some Southeastern Asian countries.

          Also, the labor union for those who work in the entertainment industry offered condolences but also pointed out how the late PD Kim was as much a victim of the K-drama production business model as one of its creators/offenders.

      • 7.10.2 pearl3101

        So simply put you are saying people who cannot access dramas shouldn’t watch them? Sorry. then only korea will get to see korean dramas( Or wherever they are legally available). And that doesn’t ride well with hallyu stars or the “hallyu wave” do they? What I’m saying is people around the world are only still discovering kdramas( you can see that just by clicking the site map.. A good number of people who visit this site come from around the globe.) And I have to admit I like them very much even though I ‘m neither korean nor do I live in Korea. And I find your comment offending.
        And the problem here is not just about these illegal downloads… It is not just him in the the entertainment industry to commit suicide. A lot of actors and actresses do. And I also constantly read reports about the poor working conditions for these people. And I’m saying all these only because I have only grown to care about them.

        • dramajoo

          my point isn’t to point out international k-dramas and say that they are the only problem of the industry…the industry has many problems that it needs address on its own…however international fans should stop rationalizing and make excuses also think about how their own actions may be part of the problem…its often easy to point out problems and mistakes of others, but more difficult to acknowledge that one’s own actions, however insignificant it may seem, have facilitated the problem

          • Mystisith

            Again, the ship is sinking and you talk about the burnt out bulbs. Priorities…
            We Westerners who watch dramas are at best 3% of the market (the problem of not enough money coming back to the right holders is NOT on our shoulders).
            It pains me to say it but if NOW the North American Drama Watching Community disappeared (knocks on wood), it would only bug CJ America. In SK, they would barely notice it & business in Dramaland would keep going as usual. As for Europe, we barely exist on paper.
            Let SK deal with the main issue and then we’ll see what we can do.

        • harukogirl

          To me, I agree that for some fans, the downloads give them access to an entertainment world that they otherwise WOULD’NT have access to, let alone buy from.

          For instance, I buy all my all-time favorite kdramas. Have I bought every kdrama I’ve ever seen? Hell no. But how many korean fans have 6-7 kdrama box sets? Really? Because most of my friends, who were casual kdrama watchers in thier home country (korea) had 2-4 box sets total.

          Also, as a teen I got into japanese manga. At the time, the ONLY manga available in america for girls was sailor moon, marmalade boy an a 1/2 dozen other series. I started reading scanlations because I can’t read japanese! But then, I started learning Japanese. Then I moved to Japan.

          Now I own around 200 Japanese manga, and 50 japanese books -that’s not counting the ones I bought in English once they actually started being released here. My rule was never download a manga I could buy at my local book store or rent from my library.

          I NEVER would have bought a single volume if it wasn’t for scanlations. So…did the scanlation groups steal from the manga industry or add to it? Granted, it depends on your personal value system – I prefer to buy where I can – but at the same time, no americans would have started buying manga without the scanlation groups.

          When I worked at Barnes and Nobles, my store manager went to a book conference and talked personally the guy in charge of obtaining title licenses for Tokyo-pop. He said that they frequently licensed manga based on what did well for the scanlation groups – and that it was because of scanlation groups that they licensed Fruits Basket. Which, I might point out, was the top selling manga in america for several years.

          • dobabado

            Scanlation groups steal. There are also people who support the mangaka by buying the manga.

            There is a distance between the total amount of people who have viewed the product in its entirety and the amount of people who own the product. Therefore, creators are still not getting their max profit. This is where my problem is.

            The manga industry has blown up all around the world. There’s a lot of easy access now but people still choose to not support their series and it’s those people I am condemning.

          • harukogirl

            Technically, you are right. but there is a reason why japanese publishers ONLY push to have licensed manga taken down. They know it feeds the industry, and that they aren’t actually losing money on non-licensed manga (an english speaker may download a scanlation, but won’t buy a japanese manga they can’t read).

            I think that the few scanlation groups that do work on licensed manga suck and should stop. They give other groups a bad name. But why would I care if they scanlate, say, Yu Watase’s old manga that is never gonna get licensed anyways? Fans want to read it, and not everybody can learn every language.

            Some people just want to share something they love, they aren’t trying to “steal” anything. I subbed the movie Kimi ni Todoke just so my little sisters could watch it. I also own the manga and movie in Japanese.

          • dobabado

            In the technical sense, it is very easy to see who is right and who is wrong and this is how I choose to see my moral compass.

            I am human though (believe it or not) and I can sympathize between your points about being unable to know Japanese and having time be a factor of works never resurfacing anymore.

        • dobabado

          Right, the hallyu wave. You see, this is about the only positive thing about pirating: exposure.

          However, let’s view the reality of the situation. If one guy pirates a drama and recommends it to ten people and only five of those people actually buy the product and the other five pirate then the creators are out 50% of potential profit.

          How often do you see someone asking someone else for pirating links instead of official site links to products? Answer: lots.

          How many people do you see watching the drama then deciding to buy it later? Answer: not many.

          I am not seeing how my comment is offensive. I simply want the creators to receive as much profit as they deserve. Stealing is stealing, there isn’t a halfway point.

          • harukogirl

            There are some logic issues here

            1. If the pirating guy doesn’t watch and recommend, then NONE of the 10 people buy. People don’t buy what they don;t know about

            2. If people don’t buy what they’ve already seen….why do american drama box-sets sell? I never buy something I HAVEN’T seen. I also don’t usually buy books I haven’t read, which id why I love the library. BTW, my personal dvd and book collection is HUGE.

            3. People in Korea only buy dramas that they’ve seen….why is it so weird that international fans don;t want to buy sight-unseen either?

            4. How many people buy EVERY drama they’ve ever watched? I’ve seen dozens if not hundreds of American dramas on tv. I own Lois and Clark (which, btw, I had vhs recordings of before I bought. Which I watched in it’s entirety around 8 times), Bones, Castle, and a few others….Why is it weird if out of the 30-40 kdramas I’ve seen, I only own 6-7?

            You should support the system, yes – but don’t exaggerate the effects of streaming/fansubbing…and don;t ignore the fact that there WOULDN’T BE a foreign market without it.

          • harukogirl

            Oh, though I just saw your other response to me. Yes, I agree that you need to at least buy in! So our positions aren’t that far apart, it would seem. It’s why I buy all my american shows, not torrent them. Same with music, etc.

            I do stand by what I said about the fact that there wouldn’t be an (international) industry without fansubs…but that shouldn’t be used as an excuse once there *is* a strong foreign market. For instance, one of the things I really admired about scanlation groups was how 95% of them dropped any manga series as soon as it was licensed in america and removed all chapters from their sites. their stance was “if it’s not available in english, we’ll share it. If it is available, stop whining and buy it”

            that’s my stance too 😉

          • dobabado

            1. If the pirate doesn’t watch, he has no impact on the industry.

            2, 3. It’s natural for people to read the first page of a book before buying the book. I find this is a-ok. With dramas, it can be one episode. That should be enough of a sample of whether or not you will enjoy the drama. If not, there are news sites that will speak about the later events of the drama and you can choose to buy them later.

            4. Americans profit from their dramas airing on TV and being watched. Illegal streaming sites don’t do anything for the creators. You’re still pirating if you support your creators only sometimes.

            Yes there is a foreign market but that market would’ve been bigger right now if everyone supported the series instead of only a few. Then maybe SK would actually make legal means to gain support from the west. Right now, there aren’t that many.

          • dobabado

            Amendment: My comment, illegal streaming sites do give leeway for a chance of exposure.

    • 7.11 Waca

      Hum…my only way I can watch Kdramas is to watch them on ‘illegally’ streaming sites ’cause I live in Europe. And when I love the show, I buy it. I had bought Faith for Christmas. If I were you, I wouldn’t spit on the ‘illegally’ because for overseas viewers, it is the only way we have to discover those dramas. Without those sites, I would never have discovered them and thus, I would never have bought them either.

      • 7.11.1 dramajoo

        im not “spitting” on international viewers…illegal piracy is also a big issue for the domestic market…your reason is just a rationalization for your illegal downloading…yes you may have paid your fair share but what percentage of viewers actually pay for the content they consume?

        • harukogirl

          Well, what percentage of those of us who do buy, would buy if it wasn’t for the illegal downloads/fansubs?

          I spend more money on Japanese/korean entertainment than I do american (and I NEVER download american stuff), but I would not have ever spent a penny on it if it wasn’t for the fansubbers etc.

          For instance – I watched QIHM while it was airing. Now I’m saving up for the $170 box set. Which has NO subtitles. There is no way I would spend $170 on the box set if it wasn’t for the fact I know I can watch it using fansubs. And I certainly wouldn’t spend $170 if I hadn’t seen it first and known it was awesome.

          So, no streaming/ downloading = me spending $0
          Streaming/downloading = the several thousand dollars I’ve spent so far.

          • dobabado

            If you support your dramas then that’s fine. The reality is that a lot of people don’t. Exposure can only get one so far.

          • colors

            “that’s fine”, you’re saying?!

            Ok, so, here’s some maths (and I hope I’m right because otherwise that’s be embarassing). Queen In Hyun’s Man has 16 episodes. She’s buying a DVD boxset for $170, which I’ll asume includes the delivery fees. So it’s more than $10 an episode WITHOUT subtitles.

            Let’s compare with a typical American DVD box set that I’ve been wanting to buy (as I’d like to buy the boxset harugirl’s been saving for, but I need English subtitles at least and something more within my price range): Grey’s Anatomy season 8 with 24 episodes for $46 (price found on Amazon and I chose the price before their discount, and they say shipping is free within the US) with subtitles in French, Spanish, English: about $2 an episode.

            Don’t you think that this kind of maths can actually make people think they’re better off stealing, especially if it’s so damn easy? (No matter how wrong it is to steal.)

            I’d like to provide another example of those unreasonable things that make us (or is it just me?) mad when you’re try to be honest and abide by the law.
            When you buy a DVD in France, usually you have a really annoying message with an annoying 40 sec video clip and an annyoing music (sometimes two!) going like “stealing a car? never! so why would you steal a movie?” THAT YOU CAN’T SKIP no matter how hard you try ( you tube com /watch?v=sODZLSHJm6Q ) and I know it’s not just in France considering the background and the word “dowloading” on the computer… So basically, you BUY a product and you’re bothered by that so some people started illegally downloading the DVDs they already had to get rid off it. Does that make sense?

            And I’m not saying it’s right on a moral basis, but at the end of the day, if I’ve bought the DVDs I wanted, I may have supported the system but I’m broke and I’m stuck with the stupid message telling me not to steal when I didn’t.

            And I’m not saying that just for cultural products, I think people are generally tired of a whole financial system and global problems having an impact on your everyday life, and sometimes political system or social problems, that always makes you pay (taxes, prices going up for even the food). So well, entertainment is just part of life and you can’t blame people to want what is supposed to “distract”/”entertain” you from you everyday (boring/expensive/hard/already fun, etc, take your pick) life to be easy to get a hold of.

          • alua

            “When you buy a DVD in France, usually you have a really annoying message with an annoying 40 sec video clip and an annyoing music (sometimes two!) going like “stealing a car? never! so why would you steal a movie?” ”

            I hate that message! It’s like if you are good and buy the DVD, you get punished for it.

            And even worse, DVD regions!

            I have DVDs I legally purchased (when I lived in another country) that I CANNOT watch because of #$&#$* DVD regions, which exist to protect content and stop pirates. Except that they don’t stop pirates, they stop people who legally purchase DVDs.

          • harukogirl

            Seriously agree with alua! I bought an external dvd drive to play my foreign dvds, because you can only switch regions on a pc so many times….but I’m about to get locked out of it as well from switching between JAp and KOR, so now I have to buy a THIRD thing to watch dvds on – seriously, it SUCKS.

    • 7.12 tayo

      This is the 21st century. No point telling people to stop watching ‘illegally’. Viewers or fans should be encouraged instead to buy the merchandise. OST, DVD even products from sponsors.

      • 7.12.1 Mystisith

        Absolutely: I’ve always said that merchandising was a treasure K dramaland had yet discover (plushies, posters and whatever you could think of). It works for K pop…

      • 7.12.2 alua

        That’s the thing.

        It’s a losing battle, fighting against it, whether on a legal basis (you can’t sue everyone, shut down every site, because new ones will just pop up) or a moral one (people’s attitudes are changing, especially those of young ones who don’t consider downloading as stealing).

        If you wanted to stop downloading, you’d have to shut off the internet. And if you shut off the internet, someone would keep it going or restart it somewhere.

        What needs to happen is a different way of dealing with this, because people are not going to stop downloading. Global licensing, cheap/free access, with revenue from ads or whatever, or merchandise – whatever alternative possibilities there are.

    • 7.13 Windsun33

      While somewhat true, that vastly over simplifies the problem. Of the 160 or so countries in the world, only a handful have any type of licensing agreements with Korean distributors. In short, there often *IS* no legal outlet in many countries. Just look at the bigger importers, such as Drama Fever – one of the biggest, yet they are only licensed in about 10 countries, and the same with Viki.

      International movie distribution is now going through many of the same problems that plagued music and record producers just a few years ago – and even there dozens of countries make it easier to pirate video and music than to do it legally – China is probably the biggest example.

    • 7.14 Carole McDonnell

      We’re in a new era and there is always a new way to make a profit from the new tech, even with free streaming sites. No one has come up with a good profit-making plan for the production companies, the cable companies and the streaming sites..but I know there has to be a way. Necessity and poverty are the mother and father of invention.

      Surely if a drama is achieving fame throughout the world, there has to be a way for those who create the drama to profit.

      The question is: how –and why– do some production companies end up in such financial trouble so often? I don’t understand how the small production companies can not get money or be paid adequately. In the US, musicians and writers can be poor as dirt but the publishing companies –however small or large– end up making money. It’s just odd and sad to me that the finances and the law seem to help only the large cable and TV companies.

      • 7.14.1 Orion

        It’s not odd. The rich help the rich get richer. And the only way the budge is by force. The force people have as consumers and as a voice of the crowd.

        It does not matter if the tech is there, if the plans are there. If they think something will not benefit them and only them, they keep it from happening.

        When someone can convince them that there is better money to be made by getting with the program, then they might consider.

  8. TP

    Good God.. as much as I like dramas, all this trouble and difficulties with the companies behind the dramas sometimes makes me, as a viewer, question if they are eventually worth watching…

    • 8.1 Betty

      My thought exactly 🙁
      Nobody should suffer like that and have so much hardship. Sometimes I really feel like giving up watching dramas when I hear this kind of news…

  9. hannah

    Why don’t broadcast companies produce shows in-house anymore?

    • 9.1 Shukmeister

      In a word, money.

      • 9.1.1 KDaddict

        Let someone else take their own life, instead of the CEO or Head of drama at MBC/SBS/KBS.

    • 9.2 topper

      Risk management. You outsource the risk to the production companies.

  10. 10 Abbie

    This is really sad and upsetting. It really makes you wonder about what really goes on in the entertainment industry. As viewers, we usually just see the finished project of so many peoples hard work. But what really goes on behind the scenes is something that needs to be looked into. If he’s the third person his year who is involved in behind-the-scenes work, who got into money trouble with the law and then took his own life, then something is not right. Either it’s trouble with drama production, or the law. Either way, I feel sorry for this man who had so many hardships while producing such good dramas. My heart goes to his family. I hope people can learn from this tragedy.

  11. 11 Mystisith


    Still. Yes, something’s got to change. A PD which couldn’t pay his staff/subcontractorsfor 2 previous dramas still managed to get a greenlight for a project in China (abroad, how convenient…)? Mindboggling.
    There is a big accountancy problem in the industry. Imo, no drama project should start without 100% of its budget financed and then, the wages of the actors/crew should be secured on escrow accounts. Since live shoot is still the norm, there should also be an insurance system (mandatory) to soften the blow for the creditors, just in case a major problem happens with the drama.
    I’m sure that corruption exists also in chungmuro but globally the system sounds financially healthier.
    I’d like to hear what the broadcasters have to say about all those drama production fails: Surely they are part of the problem and part of the solution.

  12. 12 AnotherFan

    So sad and shocked at the same time. It’s hard to imagine what kind of pressure and distress he must be under to take this route as a solution. I read that SK has the 2nd highest suicide rate in the world. I sincerely hope some actions will be taken to raise public awareness and to help people suffering from depression and mental weakness.

    RIP Kim Jong-hak! Your are absolutely a hall-of-famer in K-drama history book and your talent would always be remembered through the brilliant works you left behind.

    • 12.1 AnotherFan

      The way these productions are run sound flat-out risky – the whole survivability of a production company could hinge on the success of one drama; and you could lose everything, and in these cases people’s lives, by one flop. Gambling indeed, without the cards and the dealers but at a much higher stake. With the string of these high profile suicides, hope there will be some changes and reform on the horizon..

  13. 13 canxi

    Depressing. How sad to hear that someone has to take on more debt to pay their debts.

    That the industry there is such a gamble is sad. It’s unfair to those involved and there seems to be so much pressure and negativity. There really does need to be a change and more focus on the things behind-the-scenes–not just on ratings and star-power.

  14. 14 ilikemangos

    All I hope from this moment on is that this man is remembered and honored the way he should be. He was still a man that worked to the bone to produce some some legendary shows and made sacrifices that few could possibly ever understand.
    Sad that death was the only way out for him, and such a shame that someone with such capabilities left this world.

  15. 15 the50-person

    R.I.P Mr Kim Yonghak. We’ll miss you. 🙁

    • 15.1 the50-person

      Sad that a man whose works propelled the likes of Bae Yong Jun and Yoo seung ho to fame had to end his life like that. Srsly the operating system needs to be changed. It is way too flawed. How can one have debt in 2 dramas and yet still be able to start on another one? This is really like gambling.

  16. 16 Robin

    This is a turn that King of Dramas could easily have taken (except that Anthony was not the kind to give up so precipitously). It makes me question the frequency of epic costume dramas as they are inherently more costly to produce than a contemporary piece – even when you have access to historical villages and prior dramas’ wardrobes. Bigger casts, animals, etc. It all adds up. This financial burden may change the type of productions offered in the future.

    • 16.1 kdramapedia

      I was thinking this; that it was KoD turned real life. I’m realizing just how true to life that drama was. If every producer is one drama episode from the brink, how can they do well? The stress on that alone is huge, let alone casting, getting a script, pleasing investors, good ratings, etc. Unfortunately I don’t see it changing anytime soon, and that’s a shame.

  17. 17 DarknessEyes

    there’s just so much that needs to change 🙁

  18. 18 Shadow-chan

    It’s always sad when someone dies, but since Faith was the first korean drama I’ve ever watched and that introduced me to this wonderful world, this hits me especially hard. 🙁

    It’s so sad to think that everyone who made me really really happy for some time while watching, didn’t even get paid for it (I hope they got by now…?!) and that something I enjoyed so much in the end was more or less the nail in the coffin for someone else…

  19. 19 jubilantia

    Aw man, that’s terrible. I have yet to watch Sandglass or Legend, but they’ve definitely been on my watch list. I’m extremely sad that such a creative producer was the victim of such a crooked system. Hopefully things will change soon.

  20. 20 snow

    terrible news. RIP, Kim Yong-hak.

    i really hope this gives the industry the wake-up call it needs (if previous sad incidents hadn’t, which they should already have, sigh). surely it’s way overdue for the higher-ups to change things up so that something like this doesn’t happen again?

    • 20.1 snow

      my bad, it was Kim Jong-hak. RIP, Mr Kim.

      (very sorry to have misspelt his name in the earlier post – i normally wouldn’t bother with a typo, but in this case i felt bad i didn’t get his name right).

  21. 21 goldeng

    sad sad news… dramas are made for audience to enjoy so we as audience only see the “pretty” of the stories and not what happens behind te scenes.. I hope the industry changes for the good because the way it works now is appaling.. may he rest in peace…

  22. 22 Zamankhan

    Producers, directors always on debt because of gambling mentality, actresses always asked to do shady business first before granted one project.
    and some even dare to ask >50 000 USD per episode, just because this statement “I’m popular, i deserve this value, even though my skill is only making teenagers swooning over me”.
    This is how I look at how they are producing entertainment now.
    True actors never request extremely high salary, they know the pressure in controlling the budget in every production.

    • 22.1 Phi

      with all respect to the late producer, each production has it’s budget before a drama start. They know how much they can afford for casting fee.

      If they can’t afford certain casting prospects asking over the top, production can always say no and find some one else.

      They’re not force to cast so & so if their budget can’t afford it. Why blame it on the actor/actress?

      • 22.1.1 Zamankhan

        In textbook you can think like that, in real behind the scenes they are not. Usually the budget is only on paper, all look affordable, but the cash flow usually determine by netizen responds, product placement, the happiness of sponsors. That’s why I said true actors know about this situation.

        • Tina

          If you can’t afford an actress that demands $50K, then don’t hire her. Those people are paid that because they believe attract a fanbase. Just like Tom Cruise will get $20 million because he’s a bankable star. Everyone should know their worth and that includes actors. Getting paid what you’re worth doesn’t mean you’re not a true actor. Let’s not act like these producers wouldn’t take advantage of the talent if they had the chance. How many times have their unions threatened to stop production because people weren’t being paid?

        • Phi

          “in text book”? it happens every day… can’t afford and blows one’s own budget, whose fault is it to blame?

          Sure to us, the so and so $$ for budget may appears this much on paper but don’t you think the producer himself/herself has a good/better idea how much their budget really is? If he/she doesn’t, there’s obviously something wrong.

          Many productions would take a gamble to spur on the expensive cast in hope to get the sponsors & hefty product placements in return. The failure of production’s investment/gamble is not the actors or acctresses’ fault if the $$ return didn’t come in as expected.

          After months of hardwork, the actors & actresses (as well as those low paying production crew) didn’t get any pay either.

          It’s upseting if you work your ass off for months and at the end your boss said I don’t have money to pay you, your salary is too high, I can’t afford. I’ll sure see him in court tbh.

          It’s sad neither side could come up with a workable solution for this to happen. At the end, one lost his life and the cast, production is still not seeing their paycheck. It’s a loose-loose situation for every one involved *sighs*

          May be the regulators can put a cap or have pay cut accross the board if casting fee is way too high to cause a huge strain on production. But till then, we can’t blame the actors/actresses for what production are willing to shell out…

    • 22.2 Aryast

      Occasional foul language aside, this guy made a simple breakdown of why your blanketed statement is extremely misguided.

      h t t p : / / antikpopfangirl (.) blogspot (.) com /2013 / 07 / dear-kdrama-fans-fuck-your-socialism (.) html

      Remove the spaces and brackets

    • 22.3 Windsun33

      In Korea – like many places – Actors/Actresses make as much or more by being “popular” and getting lots of product endorsements and advertising contracts. I read a while back that Shin Min Ah (of My Girlfriend is a Gumiho) had over 400 different product endorsements.

    • 22.4 Betsy Hp

      I… wow, do I disagree. 🙂

      Seriously, actors and actresses aren’t the ones making the big bucks out of corrupts systems. Sure there are a few (a very, very, very few) able to ask and get a high salary based on the ability to make teenagers swoon. (Which actually does require some talent.) But not enough to make an entire system rotten.

      And any actor worth their salt and with any kind of brain in their head will ask for as high a salary as they can ask for. Hell — it was actors demanding to be paid fairly for the asses they brought to the seats that began to change the corruption in Hollywood.

      If production companies are making promises they can’t keep for amounts that won’t cover their costs… and then not paying anyone (actors included)… that sounds like someone’s making money by taking the too small amount offered by the TV channels than racing off leaving the actual workers (which of course includes the actors) to work for free. A weird sort of con game, frankly. Which sounds like an accounting/legal issue. Not something either directors or actors (or set designers or makeup artists, etc.) can effect with salary cuts.

      In other words, it’s not the cost of the production, it’s the handling of the contracts that seems to be an issue. Someone is dirty dealing somewhere on the pipeline (the tv channels themselves with their outsourcing, maybe?) and that’s what needs fixing. Workers not getting paid, or getting paid peanuts is the problem, not the fix.

  23. 23 Noelle

    This is very sad news. I feel sorry for this man who felt he had no options.

  24. 24 kdramapedia

    This is such sad news. May he rest in peace.

  25. 25 KimYoonmi

    Condolences to his family.

    This shows problems with this industry as well as problems with handling depression all around in Korea as well. I know this is a long shot in the dark, but I wish there was a clean up in both regards.

    I’m a little confused though, why it’s solely on him and not on his production company as a whole. In the US you’d get your debts cleared by declaring bankruptcy… and then the most he’d get is jail time maybe and then a new life, granted maybe not in this industry…

    • 25.1 peeps

      Oh the shame.

      And it’s usually the shame that drive Koreans off the brink. The one thing that I’ve been finding disturbing with Korea is their obsession with image. Everything can go to hell but their image must still be bright and clean.

      • 25.1.1 Mystisith

        Yes, pride and shame, image & true self. What people think of you when you’re alive and once you’re gone… Paradoxes.
        I can’t remember which drama it was where the girl said “pride doesn’t feed us.”

    • 25.2 ladyluck

      To me this news story highlights some deeply ingrained cultural issues with SKorea. On ockoala’s blog she mentioned that SKorea has the 2nd highest suicide rate in the world. As a nation it’s about time they start some govt led initiatives to address this.

  26. 26 bd


    The system needs to change b/c one failed project can ruin a producer/production company, tho over-the-top projects with huge salaries for the stars probably wasn’t the safest investment either.

  27. 27 KDrama Fan

    ‘It’s a sad story all around, and makes you think that something’s gotta change in the industry before everybody is driven off the edge. Surely there are more sustainable ways of producing entertainment? Surely?’

    Sobering news JB. I feel we are part of this as viewers. I hope there are some laws put into place soon. If it was a smaller business I would suggest crowd-funding for what fan wouldn’t mind putting up a little if it meant an opportunity to see their favorite actors on screen.

  28. 28 Gene

    Suicide is a cowardice. What that man is doing is leaving his mess to his family instead of handling with dignity. Go to jail if he has to, bear the consequences and live dignified. Shame on him.

    • 28.1 tamagoxyaki

      I’m honestly tired of people spewing this whole “suicide is cowardly” BS..please educate yourself on mental illness.You think depression is easy to get over just because you have a family?If you can’t have the decency to give your condolences to this man who suffered so much in his life,then please don’t leave a comment at all.

    • 28.2 Orion

      Not all suicides are planned ahead, like entertainment sometimes shows them. Most are due to extreme depression and clouded judgement. Have you ever had anxiety attacks and felt like the world was collapsing around you, only to later bounce back up and feel like yourself again? Well, some people make bad decisions during that downtime, especially if intense and prolonged. You literally feel like everything is hopeless and life will never ever be bearable, even if you would normally never think such things.

      Yes, it’s cowardice and a stupid thing to do, but rational thought that can see things as they are is not what leads to such a decision in the first place.

      It’s human instinct to survive. I don’t see how someone being so unstable their brain stopped working is their fault. Yes, I cannot imagine the pain of his family and yes, he did harm them by doing this, but assuming he had a mind clear enough to think about this and willingly cause this pain to so many is going a bit too far, considering we can never know the state the man was in.

    • 28.3 Nheony

      That is easier said than done. Depression can take a toll on someone and without proper support people suffering from this can really go over the edge. I don’t think we are in any place to judge his choice because we do not know the extent of his sufferings.

    • 28.4 Tina

      Some people might be mad at this comment but there’s some truth to this. I don’t know if his loved ones will have to shoulder the debt or what’s going to happen but the truth is there are still actors waiting to be paid for work they did last year. They played their part and haven’t been compensated. I don’t know if there’s any truth to the accusations of embezzlement and whatnot, but killing himself doesn’t solve the problem at all. Those people also deserve to get paid so they can feed their families.

      I just hope it doesn’t get passed on to his family.

      I will end by saying that dying so that he doesn’t have to deal with all these problems sounds cowardly. But I also don’t know what goes through the mind of someone who decides to end it either so I can’t judge.

    • 28.5 Mar

      While we all all want to be suck it up and deal with it types that is not real life. While I understand that cultural and industry forces may play a part in this particular case I am the kind of person that also feels that a business person like this director got himself into his own financial mess- and continued on a destructive path by choice. But in reality I have no true knowledge about this person. None of us do. We do not know what we would do facing his life. Please educate yourself before making blanket statements about suicide. Whether it is cowardly or self indulgent or misguided or pathetic or needless in an outsiders viewpoint, someone who commits suicide sees it a viable and logical solution. Just as you made your list of viable solutions-jail, bear consequences, live dignified- a person that committed suicide has unfortunately come to the conclusion that it is a logical solution to add suicide to that list.

      • 28.5.1 Thursdaynexxt

        Thanks for expressing my feelings so eloquently, speaking as someone with some personal experience with depression.

        I agree, it’s like making a blanket statement about a wife who’s being abused by her husband – “why doesn’t she just leave him?” No-one knows exactly what goes on in their marriage except the couple.

        It’s the same for depression. No-one’s living his life except him. You’re not living it, I’m not living it. Only him. And people all have different capacities for suffering.

        When you reach the end of the road, you’re already beyond thinking about things like dignity, etc. You don’t think, “it’s going to hurt if I slit my wrists”. Rational people think like that, but Mr Kim was not well.

        I feel for his family, but I hope that there is an industry change, and if foreign viewers (and foreign funding) can make a change, I hope to be able to participate in that.

    • 28.6 KDaddict

      Wow! That is a really insensitive and unkind comment. To be judgemental is one thing, but to judge someone who feels so distraught that he has to kill himself? I hope to not run into sb like you.

    • 28.7 pearl3101

      As much as I critiscie this comment I also agree with some part of it. Ofcourse I’m not in a position to say this as I have not felt what he has nor have I gone through what he has(atleast not to such an extent). But that just doesnot justify suicide. We all make bad decisions even such ones as dragging us to utter doom. But that gives all the more reasons to pick ourselves up and do our best to redeem ourselves. Who knows if he were alive he might have produced even another “Sandglass”. Ofcourse there are other factors. What with the poor working conditions, the intense competition and poor business model. Besides suicide in itself requires a lot of courage. I can only imagine how much he feared the world to do what he did. 🙁

    • 28.8 KDaddict

      Re: “Suicide is cowardice”–
      American Indian Proverb:

      Never judge a man until you’ve walked a mile in his moccasins.

      • 28.8.1 Thursdaynexxt


    • 28.9 eigthy eight

      Your comment may sounds rude, but I agree with you. Many people in my country feel depressed with their own problems, some worse than Mr.Kim, some just as light as cottons yet most of us can endure it because of faith. Heard SK is at the 2nd place of the highest rating of suicide, there’s something wrong with the culture. I appreciate Mr. Kim for his works, but not for his decision… a decision that even GOD hates it.

      • 28.9.1 Windsun33

        Despite the huge economic progress that South Korea has made, socially it seems to have tons of issues. SK as you said is near the top of all countries for suicide, in the top 10 for abortion rate, top ten for those who would like to move to another country, top 5 for those who want their children to be born in the US (for citizenship), top 20 for income disparity, etc. etc.

        In SK suicide is the #1 cause of death for ages 10 to 40.

        • Gidget

          Interesting stats. Where do they come from?

          Odd stats too. SK would be on my short-list of countries to move to if I ever decided to live outside the US.

          • Windsun33

            Various places – try searching for: South Korea social problems – that will bring up quite a few sites with various (some oddball) stats.

            As far as living in SK – in many ways it is similar to Japan in that in quite a few ways living there as a foreigner is less stressful than actually being K or J – if nothing else you always have the ultimate out of going back to home country. (I lived in Japan for about 16 years, and a few other Asian countries for a few months to 2 years).

            There are also several Korean news sources online in English, which are often sources of some odd information and stats. Chosun Ibo is probably the main one, but there are others. Pay special attention to the editorial and opinion sections.

            But what is striking to me is the difference between Korea and Japan, even though both have similar aspects of culture. Just one example is that a much smaller percentage of Japanese would like to move to the US than Korean, but both countries show a pretty large gender gap in that.

        • eigthy eight

          In SK suicide is no.1cause of death while in my country poverty is the cause so even people can’t effort their hospital fee to get some medicine so they can continue their life. So sad to know in another country life is taken so easy by comitting suicide while others fight for it. It is not in our culture because we believe even if we die but with such a way, God even dislike us. I really can’t appreciate those who commit suicide. They have to change their mind set of the promising life after the death.

  29. 29 Perrie

    Even though this is the third time I’m reading about this news, it gets sadder and sadder each time.
    May his soul rest his peace and condolences to his family.

    I don’t mean this out of disrespect to him or to make this a joking matter but it makes me think, if we go back to the world of King Of Dramas, and there was an alternative ending to it where Kyungsong Morning(forgot the name of the drama within a drama) didn’t get the high ratings in that world, I’m sure Anseony would have had the same fate as this PD 🙁

    Once again, may he rest in peace

  30. 30 Livvy

    Terrible news.

    I am concerned though because since i started watching Korean dramas in 2006 and have become more attuned to the the way things work in Korea, I am still yet to understand the suicide thing.

    I know depression is a real thing and that many people all over the world commit suicide but it seems to me that in Korea its on a whole other level. I get the whole “honor” thing as it relates to family, but this is kind of a lot.

    As an African, I also answer to my family regardless of where I am or what age I am, I still answer to my parents. I understand the need to not do anything that would harm their image or shame them but this level of public responsibility? To the level where you feel the need to end your life because of a mistake?

    A part of me wants to blame these individuals for thinking their lives insignificant enough to just snuff out like that. A part of me wants to mock them for not being able to stand up in spite of their “mistakes” and work to regain the honor they lost.

    But a bigger part of me thinks that this won’t end until this idea of “public perception” is changed.

    I get feeling responsible, but not to the extent of killing yourself. That’s just wrong.

  31. 31 hellochloe

    gee thanks, commenter no.28, now i have to mourn the loss of a life AND my faith in humanity

    • 31.1 Gene

      Well, you are not just mourning for one live. Who knows how many lives this person had destroyed gambling on his decision.

      I sympathized with his family regarding the aftermath they have to clean up but I do not emphathize his decision – depression or not.

      • 31.1.1 ladyluck

        I don’t think you get it. The debts owed to cast and crew were not the sole responsibilities of this one individual. Yet things obviously got so bad for him he felt suicide was his only option.

        Yes he left a mess for his family to deal with, but do you really think they would appreciate you bad mouthing him now? I doubt it.

      • 31.1.2 KDaddict

        He might have made some poor directorial decisions, in terms of apportioning the production budget for various outlays, but in no way does he, a good artist, deserve this outcome.

        I sympathize with him, what he put into his life, and how it all didn’t work out.

  32. 32 hiba omairi

    How sad ! But this business is really for hard core people and after watching King if drama I got that idea straight thdy are like animals when it comes to tearing each other apart ! Sad sad sad

  33. 33 Bengbeng

    oh this is sad. They make us happy, but I didn’t know how complicated the productions are. I help in my own my by recommending the dramas in TV networks in my country. but then again, I only recommend those I’ve seen/watched and heard here in Dramabeans.

  34. 34 mina

    wow, such sad news! Rest in Peace. It can be tough to overcome such troubles but suicide is not the answer. In my country people will just run away and move to another country or just declare bankruptcy. It’s alarming how suicide have become such an epidemic in Korean society…

  35. 35 lenrasoon

    Sad news, RIP PD Kim, i hope his family gets all support they need right now.

    I won’t stay long in this post since i’m already seeing some insensitive comments here and there, but what’s wrong with some people?

  36. 36 Shiku

    R.I.P. Sad day to loose a man of incredible talents.

  37. 37 pearl3101

    R.I.P producer-nim. I’m not familiar with his works. But I have heard of the phenomenon that was “Sandglass”. Its my first time here hearing of such sad news and I find now that there have been a lot of these suicides for quite a while. Something needs to be done and ASAP. It is hard to imagine that the tons of dramas we enjoy everyday are produced under such circumstances. It is also unbelievable that korea has a leading number of suicides. once again proving that Money doesnot = happiness.

    It will be much better if people facing such serious issues come clean with their problems telling what exactly drove them to such a sad end. If you are dead then there is nobody to tell your story and we have to admit as much as we feel bad we do move on ( considering the number of suicides that have happened and “nothing” has actually changed.) Same in the case of the Bof girl. who commited suicide after serious physical and sexual abuse. It must be like “If I don’t do this then there is tons of others who might replace me.” leading inadvertently to a breaking point and finally suicide. Alas I can only imagine how competetive the Korean entertainment industry must be for people to endure such dire conditions. And clearly its not worth it. 🙁 🙁 🙁

  38. 38 joe

    Final thoughts:

    The act of committing suicide is not recommended and approved by God. There will be no guarantee that your spirit and soul will reach heaven. Suicide is final. It is the easy road for some, but it means tears and pain for others . . . you left behind (family and friends).

    – RIP –
    Mr. Drama producer and Director
    Kim Jong-hak

  39. 39 lili

    R.I.P Kim Jong Hak
    May he rest in peace.

  40. 40 Maris

    Anyone reduced to taking one’s life is extremely sad. May God give his loved ones strength to bear the loss.

  41. 41 merry

    May Mr. Kim rest in peace. I sooo enjoyed one of his works, Legend of Four Gods. Did not know about its troubles. I hope real lessons can be learned by the entertainment industry in SKorea. Indeed, it makes me want to rest my viewing kdramas for a while.

  42. 42 Dramafed1782

    For a man who was so dedicated to his craft and bore all the difficulties and mental torture underneath the cool exterior, it really is so sad to hear that he had to take out suicide as the last resort. I wish there was some other way he could have repaid all those debts and SBS could have helped him out for those two dramas. After all he was producing and directing dramas mostly working for that station.
    God bless his soul but I hope his family does not bear all the trials and tribulations because of this 🙁

  43. 43 John

    Sad news.

    On the topic of licensing, how much does Viki or DramaFever usually pay for a show?

    Does a drama featuring XYZ Oppa & ABC Noona go for more than a 100 episode family drama with lesser known actors?

    Do the networks shop the dramas? Is it a set fee? Do DF & Viki have to bid on the license?

    Is there a premium to have “exclusive” rights or is there such a thing? I notice sometimes a show is on both websites, other times one or the other. Then again, even if it’s only on one channel, Hulu might have it.

    Is Hulu a separate deal or do they have to bid on shows along with DF & Viki?

    As far as paying for shows, I do subscribe to DF. Has anyone taking the survey at Viki? They ask if you’re willing to pay. I would be willing if the price is right. I would like to see more Japanese and Chinese programming on both channels.

    I’ve noticed both DF & Viki have increased the Spanish language content. They’re going where the market demand is.

    • 43.1 pearl3101

      Hulu gets its shows from DF and MBC…

      • 43.1.1 John

        They must get some from Viki as well, as Goddess Of Fire is on Viki & Hulu but not DF.

        In this case is Viki being paid by Hulu because they did the subs?

    • 43.2 pearl3101

      Hulu gets its shows from DF and MBC…

    • 43.3 BlueStars

      Not sure how much they pay, but I read that Korean drama licenses are much cheaper than J-dramas at least. Apparently, they cost on average close to $1000 per episode according to an article on ehow but idk.

      I can use the licensing fees to simulcast animes (basically what Viki and DF doing, but with dramas) to compare.

      “And so, licensors have asked those companies to put their money where their mouth is. Now, each anime costs a licensing fee (or “Minimum Guarantee”) of $1-2,000 per episode for simulcast internet streaming rights.”

      Sometimes, one site will get a show. Don’t know if it’s because they got exclusive rights or if the other site will also get to stream the drama eventually. I do know that DF definitely did get exclusive rights to stream Level 7 Civil Servant.

      Hulu has a partnership with both Viki and DF. Don’t know how they choose which subs to use when both sites have the drama.

      Also, I wouldn’t pay to watch dramas on Viki. It’s supposed to be fan-driven, not profit-driven. Also, it’d be ridiculous for them to demand money from viewers. As far as I know, they don’t pay the people who actually sub, edit, etc. the videos. Fans voluntarily do it.

  44. 44 Waca

    I am so sad to hear those news. Even if it had a lot of flaws, I loved Faith a lot and bought it for Christmas. My heart feels for the family. I really hope things will change in the industry.

  45. 45 namcha

    There needs to be a rule that production companies must have enough cash for their projects and cost overruns. Otherwise, don’t give license for production. Also, they need to unionize. I’m talking about all the people involved in production, actors and people behind the scenes, just like Hollywood.

  46. 46 ~Feather~

    May he rest in peace. He was a legendary man, but the dark side of dramaland took its toll on him.

  47. 47 Ethalina

    It;s so sad that such a successful and talented artist with a whole host of ‘boastable’ products had to choose this way out.
    I’d never knew that such big projects have equally huge debts. I thought it pays itself… somehow, through advertisements and… well, somehow.

  48. 48 redfox

    that is so, so, so horrible! and three deaths already! thats just unbelievable.

  49. 49 Katrina

    Oh no! one of my all time favorite director! So sad……..he is a legend. May he rest in peace.

  50. 50 Carole McDonnell

    so heartbreaking.

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