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Farewell Joseon Exorcist, we hardly knew thee

I thought 2021 would be the Year of the Sageuk, but the year is not shaping up the way I thought it would. In what may be a new record, the recently premiered Joseon Exorcist has officially been cancelled after airing just two episodes.

From the first episode, viewer reactions in Korea were negative regarding two issues: the depictions of important historical figures, and the use of Chinese-style props, costuming, and food in several scenes. In reaction to the domestic backlash, every single one of the show’s sponsors and advertisers pulled their funding (a total of roughly twenty companies). SBS had released an official apology yesterday and promised to edit out problematic scenes in future episodes but that wasn’t enough to bring back any funding. PD Shin Kyung-soo was said to have notified the cast members individually about the cancellation a few hours before the news was officially announced.

At first this might seem like a tempest in a teapot, as this is a fictionalized drama we’re talking about, with a script and actors playing a role. It’s not necessarily that Korean viewers are unaccepting of fictional portrayals of former kings and queens (after all, countless movies and dramas from way back have been huge hits). Though there’s always some viewer criticism around portrayals are seen as inaccurate or derogatory (Mr. Queen is one example), Joseon Exorcist’s decision to use foundational figures of Korean history as antagonists was always going to be a tough sell.

Showing King Taejong as someone who’s bewitched by evil spirits and slaughters civilians by the swordful didn’t go over well. Showing Sejong the Great, the king behind hangul and Confucianism becoming the country’s social norm, as someone who is enthralled by a Western priest went down even more poorly. (Trivia time: the Western priest was played by Darcey Pacquet who translated the English subtitles for Parasite.)

The zombie sageuk Kingdom went a different direction and opted to create characters that were not based on real people. They also stayed very vague about which century the story was set in, and it worked beautifully, with no upset about any favorite historical kings being evil. And if you go the fictional route, you don’t have to worry about descendants of said kings releasing a negative statement about your show. Exhibit A: The head of the Jeonju Yi clan, whose members are descended from the kings depicted in the drama, released a statement demanding Joseon Exorcist be taken off air.

Another major complication is the rising tension between Korea and China, which has led to heightened sensitivities around Chinese influences. It’s part of the reason why viewers in Korea sometimes chafe at the presence of Chinese PPL in dramas (as seen in True Beauty and Vincenzo).

The ongoing Kimchi Wars certainly don’t help. There’s a distinct and growing wariness against potential cultural appropriation or hegemony, hence the strong reaction to Chinese-style props and costuming in a sageuk.

All of this is much bigger than any one drama, and the current situation makes it unfeasible for Joseon Exorcist to secure any new sponsors. Sadly for us, that means we won’t see the story unfold or any scenes of Jang Dong-yoon and Park Sung-hoon together as brothers (fingers crossed they reunite in the future). I’m about to bust out some talismans for the other 2021 sageuks—no more bad news, please!

Via Ilgan Sports, Hankuk Kyungje, SBS Entertainment

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Apparently this is only the start. Snowdrop is next on the hit list and SHS is being dropped from all her endorsements. Mr Queen will be barred from any award nominations.

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(+) SBS might be losing its license for violating broadcasting standards.

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Who is SHS?

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Shin Hye Sun, the Mr Queen main lead.

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She already lost one endorsement deal because of the series.

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This is insane

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(+) The actors for JE are under fire for not apologizing. Knetz are planning to blacklist all of them unless they post formal apologies. KWS is especially under fire for making his IG private and JDY is being heavily criticized.

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Sounds very much like the totalitarian insane cancel culture in the US...where it will backfire in due course. Mr. Queen was a wonderful drama...just entertainment at it's funnest. We live in the era of The Perpetually Offended going full throttle.

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I could not agree more. And many people agree with you- like Bill Maher who has spoken out and describes us Americans as having become utterly silly.

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Wondering what this will cost the production company? That's a lot of actors, etc. who were signed up for this time period...in the US, the lawsuits would be astronomical.

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I think SBS said that they would cover the costs of the production company, but that the broadcaster would suffer the consequences (financially).

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Their earnings for Penthouse 1 and 2 will help them wade through this.

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I totally agree! Plus Mr Queen had quite good ratings. So after enjoying the stake, they spit on its plate and say that the stake was burnt. That's so wrong on so many levels.

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First it was the school violence allegations. Now it is the historial inaccuracies. The thing is, with the school violence it only fall on one person, but with the historical inaccuracies it falls on the whole production/staff/writer/actors/broadcaster. It is a huge mess...

I just fail to see why this writer did not learn after his mistake in Mr. Queen. Mr. Queen was in cable tv, but Joseon Exorcist is on the public tv, which has different magnitudes. Korean people are sensitive (and they have good reasons to be that way), then why did he write such a show? He played with fire, and burned...

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I'm now pretty worried for Park Hyung-Sik's comeback drama (based off chinese web-novel the Golden Hairpin, which is also awaiting a c-drama adaptation with Kris Wu from Exo as the ML) :O :O

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That's not going to go ahead most likely. That and the drama with Jung Yumi on JTBC are on the hit list too. Both are based on Chinese novels.

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Simply insane. On a certain level I can understand going after the producers and maybe even the writer (though still sounds like bullying to me), but why go after the people who just had jobs to do?

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I think it's great that the people have voices but they need to be kept in check to protect the other party too.
K-netizens have too much power because there is no middle man to keep things fair.

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Oh no, why Shin Hye Sun? She was awesome in Mr. Queen.

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SHS has become one of my favorite Korean actresses, very talented. This is such a shame. She was so good in MQ.

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Wow. I can understand anger at the writer and PD but the actors were just doing their jobs. Losing endorsement deals and being blacklisted if they don't apologize seems crazy to me.

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K-pop has it worse this is not surprising.

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Still Snowdrop i had the impresion is set in modern time with no fictional names so why going after them....Or is suffering from the Mob mentality and are all added together now...

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Snowdrop is under fire because of the synopsis, where it says that a student was really a spy (during the authoritarian regime in SK, the officials used this excuse "the spy thing" to kill the protesters).

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Snowdrop already started to lose sponsors.

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Wait is 100% confirmed that she won't be submitted for Mr. Queen (or any of the cast?) B/c I could see the show up for Best Drama, Best Actress (SHS would win based on reviews/ratings), Best Actor, Best New Star, Best Supporting Actress, Best Screenplay, and Best Director. Damn, that's way harsh. It's like the 60s with McCarthyism w/ anyone who was involved in Park Gye-ok's works (the guy who wrote Mr. Queen and Joseon Exorcist).

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Personally I think dramas should refrain from making references to actual historical figures and just set their shows in an alt reality, especially if the historical context does not matter. While those historical figures in reality might be very different from how they are projected in history that no longer matters as that is insignificant in comparison to what these people have becomes symbols for.
Also honestly while I am extremely sad about this show just getting straight up cancelled, key historical figures being villainized will not pass in many countries including mine.
As for the sentiments against the Chinese influence is not something I feel like many of us will understand but I think wanting to protect their own heritage is not entirely wrong, anyway as I said earlier if they wanted to go with this style of production then actual history should have been avoided or it should have been set up in a fictional country or something.

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Not making any drama about any historical figure, even by reference, would probably kill half the extant sageuk industry though.
(I mean, do I think they SHOULD make more historical fantasies not based on certain specifics, and certainly more based on non royalty? Yeah. Do I think it's gonna happen? Probably not.)

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This comment was made when I just saw the post and I just felt like an entire production was wasted, so I just felt like I would prefer for these productions to take place and be able to have liberties than being embroiled in controversies and maybe even dealt with constant interference that results in a product different from what was envisioned but yeah I agree with you for the most part. Also a big yes for a period drama with some distance from the royal family.

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Ahh thanks for clarifying. For this drama in particular I do agree they probably should've gone for the alt reality.

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I have always equated sageuk dramas as Korea's version of American westerns in that they represent a nostalgic look back at critical times in a nation's history. In US westerns, it was about the principles and values that expanded and kept the country together: hard work, independence, adventure and justice. It is interesting to note that US westerns have been out of vogue for a long time as the traditional American culture has changed.

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If it's a fictional fantasy sageuk then it's best not to use historical figures, especially with writers who are unconcerned with historical consciousness like this particular writer. 
I think this writer went way over his head with the success of his last drama and totally ignored the current political/historical issues in his own country.

If they decide to use well known historical figures then they need to be more responsible on how they are portrayed in their drama.
Making changes for a tv show is inevitable but do so sensibly like most  sageuks in the past. Jeong Hyun-min and Jung Ha-yeon are the best at making changes to historical characters so viewers can see the human being and not much about the hero or villain in the history books.
Sadly, time has changed and less people care about those types of sageuks any more. Now it's called outdated and boring.

This is the fantasy fusion era. They might as well go all out fiction with the characters like the supernatural "Joseon X-files" etc. 
"Princess' Man" "Chuno" "Tree With Deep Root" and more has proven that they can make successful fusion sageuks  with regards to historical figures.  

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You can look forward to those saeguks coming back. KBS will be releasing a traditional 32 episode saeguk at the end of the year.

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Sweet! Looking forward to it.

I miss those epic sageuks during the Chuseok and Christmas holidays. SFD was the last one that I can remember.

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MBC has a saguek coming up too! The Red Sleeve Cuff/Otsomae Beulgeun Kkeuddong, it's based on a novel series with the same title (옷소매 붉은 끝동). The possible main leads are Lee Se Young and Lee Jun Ho 😆.

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Meanwhile my country would give a damn as we have Dracula who is actually a patriotic figure made into a vampire worlwide among others...Yet again the majority cares less as they see it as fictional from get go so no ofense for them...
Fell bad for the actors and all the people involved...
The koreans clearly are sensitive and not able in a sort of way separate fictional productions from the reality so best is to use fictional names from here...

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How to draw the line, @kiara & @miky88? I think both of you has made some good point, but this is a question I really want to ask—Even William Shakespeare, some of his plays based on historical event (and some are among greatest in our theatrical history) is being censored from time to time because of some political incorrectness of the time (Think Coriolanus, which was praised by both American Revolutionaries as well Nazis)

I watch some other countries' dramas as well, but changing real historical figure/organization in a negative way may sometimes not get negative result. One of my most loved dramas, the Norwegian Occupied (It can be watched on North American and some European Netflix platforms) demonized European Union, and in some extend, the United States (and turned out it was prophetic, since they portrayed USA has left NATO in 2015, and guess who's throwing that exact idea around in 2017), but only Russia officially filed a complaint to Norwegian Government during its Season 1 was aired (3 seasons in total, the last season was aired January last year). It gets good praise among critics (and I personally think you really should watch it, if you can). But there are countries have citizens with thin skin that they don't tolerate any historical inaccuracy. Take a look at Japan: their Taiga Drama (equivalent to South Korea's Sageuks) accuracy to the history to a point, almost everything happened in the drama are so predictable, I guess you should read history book instead. So does US movie Gods and Generals in 2003, it was a huge failure (both critically and commerically) despite its accuracy--certainly its neo-Confederate "Lost Cause" message is another reason of such failure.

Therefore, I think, the message is the utmost important, although turning a great king into some Satan will probably going too far.

I believe both screenwriter Park Gye-ok as well South Korean netizens are crossing the line on Fantasy Sageuks. For Mr. Park, although in Mr. Queen's case, it is good that he is changing a bad king into a good one with an uplifting message, but demonizing King Taejong (even under control of evil spirit) is totally another issue (and we don't know what message Mr. Park is conveying, since we only get a chance to see two episodes). On the other hand, South Korean netizens' oversensitive would only suffocate creativity, as well limiting creators to utter his/her message through a drama (like changing history, which for Mr. Queen is a success; but not so much, probably, for Joseon Exocist)

I would like to give another example: When Mr. Sunshine began its run in 2018, netizens also partitioned to stop airing it because of certain pro-Japanese characters (to be specific, Goo Dong-mae). Turn out audience love that drama and sent its rating into the third highest at the time. However, to satisfy those complainers, almost every Japanese character is so evil they are...

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... However, to satisfy those complainers, almost every Japanese character is so evil they are hard to be loved (and mind you, the drama do have some historical characters, and one of those was killed way earlier then he actually did—Kim Eui-sung's Lee Wan-ik, whose character base on a real-life person, signed that treaty annexing Joseon into Japan in 1910 in real life), and I believe the message of the drama is weakened because of such change: it is way too one-sided, the evil characters are way too plain, and the story is way too predictable.

Certainly, Nationalism is another problem here. Surrounded by strong countries (China, Russia, Japan, and North Korea), as well Communist Chinese’s overconfident (or should I say, way too low self-esteem) to distastefully claim everything Korean as “actually coming from China”, I truly understand what South Koreans think when certain countries is being portrayed in their dramas (I am a Canadian, but I was born in Hongkong, a city seized and now being suppressed and culturally purged by that same Communist Chinese Government, so I do know how it feel). I am not saying Screenwriter Park is right—actually he really needs to know where the line should be drawn—but I guess it will be better if South Korean netizens can give the production team some chance, and let them present 2-4 episodes, before they make the judgement. Afterall, calling screenwriter Park as “from China” or “from North Korea” simply because you watched something you dislike in one of his dramas maybe a little too far-fledged (let alone blaming an excellent actress like Shin Hye-sin simply because she was in his another drama—this is unfair to her, and Mr. Queen doesn’t have flaw as fatal as in Joseon Exocists).

So I hope Ms. Shin can go through this. This is not her fault, and she is a great actress we can’t afford to lose.
(The end)

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And by the way, using Chinese props as Korean is fatal, and lazy as well, although it is not something new: I found some Korean productions are pretty lazy. I found that, for example, the aforementioned Mr. Sunshine using a Globe with Simplified Chinese on it pretty disturbing. It is shown in both President Theodore Roosevelt, and later, Eugene Choi's office. It is not about political correctness: Simplified Chinese is not used during 1900's Korea, let alone United States.

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U make a point but i still consider that this whole issue was blown out of proportions mainly because this drama never was meant to be a serious sageuk to follow the history per ex were i could very well understand the bloodlust and their mob mentality but it's a fantasy were we have zombies,exorcism and blue blood per ex but they shout for history accurecy...I may be too simple minded but can't see crossing this two points to make a logic(because we all know per ex. Lincon in his spare time was a vampire slayer)...Also don't take me on the every present disclamer at every start of each drama were they say it in major letters everything is fictional and etc...Even the props don't bother me that much,why,it's a fictive world were they could very well say they border Antartica or be invaded by Martians and be fine because in that writer's world it's like that....I think that the production was just used for their own vendetta against China and became what we see,blown out of proportions...
If so,they might create in their so democratic country a censonship for TV like their hated China does in their comunist country and review each and every script before letting it be produced or all together bann for using historical figures, remake or buy rights of chinese novels etc...

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@imperialtitus

I can't write an essay on my thoughts coherently in English so I'll keep it short.

To us outsiders we watch K-dramas mostly for entertainment but to Koreans it's more than just entertainment.
Some or most of these dramas are a reflection of their daily life, present and past. Most of the past is very painful and hard to heal or forget so our reaction and theirs are going to be very different.

I watch mostly dramas that have to do with their history and I'm fascinated by it.  Writers and PDs in the late 1990s to early 2000s were influential in helping them heal and forcing the government to do what's right for the people.
If you have seen "Eyes of Dawn" and "Sandglass" and think it's just another drama or it's boring then you need to do some research. 

Anyway, that's my 2 cents without going into too much detail.

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That's okay, @kiara, English is not my mother tongue, too, so as long as we understand you, it will be fine, and I hope I won't scare you off.

"To Koreans it's more than just entertainment." I agree that. But the balance between tempering audiences' feeling and uttering the drama's message is something we must discuss. One of fine art (especially theatre, and TV drama which developed from it)'s function is to provoke discussion, and at the same time inherit message from generation to generation. Keeping historical accuracy is about the latter, but we shouldn't omit the former. This is why I am asking that question.

In fact, one of the reasons I doesn't like C-drama (Mandarin is another language not my mother tongue, but I do understand that more than Korean, because it and Cantonese share the same written language) is because it care too much about audiences' feeling (and when I say Audience here, I am not talking about the general public). The original reason of President Park Jung-hee first developed TV networks in the 1960's is more about shaping the core message of South Korea's national identity, which maybe one of remote causes this Joseon Exorcist mess is about, so I get that, but we shouldn't let it become a power tool to limit freedom of speech.

And by the way, @miky88, I agree the audience may have "blown out of proportions" in terms of reaction to this drama (and I totally agree with you on that). But we are not South Koreans, and someone's feast may have been another's poison. So I guess we have to understand their feeling--but that doesn't mean I agree with their feeling.

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Address a typo: it's President Park Chung-hee (President and dictator of South Korea between 1962-79)

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Sigh. I gather that for several years now kdrama productions have been pretty cash-strapped and appealing to the Chinese market has been a common strategy. If they can't do that anymore it might become a big problem for future kdrama financing.

If only that was the worst thing about rising tensions in that part of the world.

I've heard that one of the things people complained about was a Chinese-style sword... Most Korean swords of the period looked a lot like Chinese swords so I can't get excited about that except for one out-of-place sword that looked like a replica Han jian. That's from the wrong time period and possibly a made-up imaginary style anyway, but they had that style in Faith (also long afer the Han Dynasty) without any controversy. It seems you can't get away now with things that were no problem a few years ago.

But you will always be able to get away with swords that cut through armor like it wasn't there, make ominous scraping sounds when you draw them, etc, etc.

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To be fair there is a lot in most countries that wouldn't be questioned in 2012 but would be under fire now, for better or worse people are now a lot more sensitive about the content they are receiving and creative liberties like the cutting through armor are very different from liberties taken with a certain culture.
People right now may have become too sensitive about content which has led to situations like these but I still feel most of us here lack the context and even the sentiment Koreans have for these historical figures and China and thus will never truly understand such situations.

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I agree. As mentioned in the article, complaints about stuff being "Chinese-style" might partly be an escalation of the row involving some Chinese saying that hanbok, kimchi etc are "stolen from China". Which is a terrible mess.

Many East Asian cultures do have links to and even some roots in China, so similarities are only to be expected. Those accusations of cultural theft smack of ignorance and chauvinism - don't they understand how culture works, how it absorbs from a variety of sources? So I feel that the fuss made by Koreans over Joseon Exorcist, The King Eternal Monarch, etc, though perhaps just as ignorant and chauvinistic, is also an understandable response to a form of bullying.

However, that leaves Korea's own media, the primary purveyor of their culture, in a very tricky position. You have to appeal to China audiences, but then you might not only be criticised by local audiences for pandering to China but accused by Chinese audiences of “stealing from China”. And even if you were willing to avoid all reference to Chinese culture, you would thereby be deprived of some of the most distinctively Korean things that just happen to be related to China in some way.

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"And even if you were willing to avoid all reference to Chinese culture"- I state this more of a fact than anything else, because I know obviously there are distinct differences between the two cultures, and I appreciate them, but also taking the Han China (specifically) out of East and South East Asia would be like trying to take the Greek and the Rome out of Europe and the Mediterranean; it would be stupid and also nigh on impossible. You would have to edit over 2000 years of influence.
For one thing, Korea would have to invent a whole bunch of new names and words for things, since, despite being a completely different language and from a completely different language family, their lexicon is rife with loan words of Sino origin.

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For me, I just think that the timing for this show is just wrong. Like, this thing wouldn't have been this heavily criticized perhaps if it hadn't been aired right now when there are controversies surrounding many issues between the two countries.

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@mmmm
Quite probably, yes.

Kinda as a disclaimer to my last comment because this is such a sensitive topic I feel like someone will read me wrong: I am really not trying claim really anything... I am not supporting the CCP trying to claim anything about Korea, nor am I saying certain things aren’t distinctly Korean, and only Korean; I'm just trying to point out that China has been the dominant power in EA and SEA for pretty much its entire existence as a civilisation, and therefore its influence on certain areas of Korean culture is unavoidable, so I think removing things entirely is not the answer to fighting more specific battles.

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Chairs. Chairs are Chinese.
Just to give you an example.

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@eazal Oh boy we could make a very, very, VERY long list, of things invented by the Chinese...

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In the U.S. the aggrieved are TOUCHY, not sensitive, as shown by their disregard for anyone else's POV.

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I wonder if shows like the one with Park Hyung Sik "The Golden Hairpin" will be canceled. I heard it is a Chinese web-novel...

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In an article in the Korea Times, in regards to the Chinese style outfits and props, the writer was quoted as saying, "the gisaengjip is located near the border of Ming China, so we thought a lot of Chinese people would visit the region. That's why we prepared the (Chinese) props". That and what you said about Korean swords of the period looking a lot like Chinese ones...

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Okay, so the problem happened because some Korean historian 'claims' Joseon under King Taejong never shared boundary with Ming China. It's partly true, because Joseon shared borders with the Nurgan RMC (which ethnically is dominated by the Jurchens/ Manchus/ the people who set up the following Qing dynasty eventually... and are culturally very different from the Han Chinese people of the Ming Empire)...
RMC's weren't really under direct rule/ administration of the Ming (another example being the Tibet Region back then).
Now about mooncakes, dumplings and century eggs.... did the Jurchens eat them traditionally in the 1400's? I'm sure historians from both sides have some very interesting facts to debate on. If they did, then the styling department of JE isn't wrong. If they didn't, then the public outcry is just.
Once again, we will never know.

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I wonder if we'll have netizens comb over the last 30 years of korean sageuks for offenses and get them removed.

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At this point they should stop making dramas/movies all together as more than sure will find with everything something off,bet no script will ever pass they judge if it was possible from how i see it...

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Chinese money (investors)  played a role in the booming K-drama industry before the 2017 ban of Hallyu related activities in China.
I think they already have problems financing dramas. The Monday drama slot was left open by KBS and MBC for a while.

If this wasn't about China they wouldn't care about these props.
If they are going to pick on historical inaccuracies then the foreign missionaries' appearance in early Joseon should have been part of the headline.
The ones that were out of place in this sageuk were the foreign missionaries. There is no way King Taejong would ask for help from a Christian leader all the way to the Vatican.

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Agree about him not asking for help from the Vatican, and there might also be an issue with travel time.

At first I thought the mere presence of Catholic missionaries in Korea in the early 1400s was questionable, but Wikipedia seems to think the first missionaries showed up in China in 1253, so having some wander over to Korea is a pretty small leap by kdrama standards.

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That is certainly not true. Wikipedia is not reliable sometimes. The missionaries started their religious missions after the Age of Discovery/Exploration began (Exploration outside the Mediterranean started with the Portuguese in the 15th century). I am Portuguese by the way, and I am an Archaeologist/Historian myself.

I don't know where Wikipedia gets that date. Kinda weird. Around that date, there was many territorial wars in Europe. BTW, I am not sure who were the first western foreigners showing up in China (that's not around my field of research), but I'm sure the first missionaries did not arrive in China in 1253.

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There was a LOT of overland contact between Mongols/China & Europe during the Mongol heyday, although it seems to have died down a lot as the Mongols declined. It wasn't just Marco Polo on the Silk Road.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pax_Mongolica

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christianity_among_the_Mongols

These are consistent with my recollections from college classes about 50 years ago (BA & MA in Asian Studies). I specifically remember the 3-faith debate and the Nestorians having been a big deal. I don't know of any Europeans getting to Korea during the Mongol era, but they would have been less unlikely than zombies.

Show could have made the missionaries/emissaries more believable -- and saved themselves some other grief -- if they had set everything in the late 1200s or early 1300s.

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@lordcobol You are certainly right about the overland contact. But foreign merchants are not exactly the same as missionaries.

Around 1200s, the Catholic faith-Christian faith- as we know today was very different back then (even the customs were different), moreover, Portugal (and southern Europe) fought against the Muslim and Islamic faith that conquered the area around the Mediterranean.

With the Age of Discovery, the Catholic Church became more established, and it started numerous missions, including to Asia with the Jesuits mainly.

I think you are mistaking with the Northern Crusades. But while the Northern Crusades also use the term "Christian Colonization", it had a more military approach. Both are distinguishable.

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Age of Discovery has nothing to do with what I'm talking about. Catholics and other Christians in the Mongol era are well documented.

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@kiara,
I found it absurd to have in Joseon at that time that Catholic priest (who was not a missionary) speaking Latin and his annoying interpreter in episode one. I had granted to Writer-nim that it was not beyond all realm of possibility that a Catholic missionary might have made it to Korea by the 1400s. A papal mission? No way. I am not Korean but know a little bit of Catholic history in Korea which is one of persecution and martyrdom.
Anyway, if what I read in this link is true, the plot of JOSEON EXORCIST in the use of Catholicism was gonzo:
https://www.allkpop.com/article/2021/03/netizens-accuse-the-writer-of-sbss-joseon-exorcist-of-intentionally-writing-a-fictional-story-meant-to-mock-the-founding-of-the-joseon-dynasty
I lasted an episode and a half.
I feel terrible for the cast and crew.
I reiterate something I wrote over in the Premier Watch post:

It begs the question however.
Just what was the Executive Producer doing to be unaware of potential pitfalls in the script?

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@marcusnyc20, bong-soo
Thank you for sharing!

If this writer was planning on going this far then he should not have used historical figures.
I didn't understand what the big deal was until I watched it.

MY COUNTRY and SIX FLYING DRAGONS were both fusion sageuks. They made changes to most of the historical figures to accommodate the fictional part of their story but they were sensible and thought provoking.
We learned a lot about their characters from different perspectives.

I don't think anyone would be offended if these spirits were of the dead people that Taejong killed. It would make sense if they come back to haunt him especially Jeong Mong-ju, Choi Young and even Jeong Do-jeon.

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I agree with you. Hopefully this whole thing will go down as a stupendous failure on the part of the producers not doing pre-production due diligence and not anything to do with those in front of the camera.
O/T. Living in the US I still can’t find a legal streaming site for all of SFD which I would love to tackle. YouTube seems to have most but not all episodes available subbed.

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@marcusnyc20 bong-soo.

Yes it's unfortunate for the actors and crew.
I was looking forward to it and I've come to love SBS sageuks and had my trust in PD Shin. He should have known better after working with someone of Jeong Hyun-min's talents and reputation.
Another reason was Kam Woo-sung who is always excellent in sageuks and beautiful Lee Yoo-bi who grew on me since NICE GUY.

Anyway, "Jeong Do-jeon" is the historical version of this era. SFD is the fusion version. Both are 50 episodes.
After Taejong killed Jeong Do-jeon he erased his name from the history records but both dramas highlight his achievements so that was great to see on screen.
Let me know when you start. I may join you. I'd rather re-watch old and memorable then start new ones that I'm mildly interested in.

I watched SFD live so I hope that SBS will do a rerun or post it on their YouTube channel.

So what is next on our sageuk list beside Jung II Woo and his new pornstache?

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@kiara,
Back in 2018 before I developed pangs of conscience, I would occasionally watch dramas on what I rereferred to as an 'alternate' site.
It is there that I watched CONSPIRACY IN THE COURT (2007) and started JEONG DO JEON ( 2014). I watched 41 of 50 episodes and stopped. It is excellent. I am hoping it becomes available on a legal site so i can finish it.
Lol, from the poster and trailers I have seen I think Jung Il-woo looks fine with facial hair in BOSSAM. The trailers I have seen have emphasized the comic so we will see what kind of 'show' we are getting. I will be watching.
This might be a good time for SBS to release SFD to Kocowa.

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@kiara,
Here is my totally unofficial list of possible, maybe, rumor has it, upcoming sageuks:
1. MBN's BOSSAM--STEALING FATE (Jung Il-woo)
(May 1- July 4, 2021) (20 ep.)
2. KBS's AFFECTION (Rowoon) (Aug. 4- Sept 23, 2021) (16ep.)
3. MBC's RED CUFF OF THE SLEEVE (Junho?) (Sept. 1-Oct. 21, 2021) (16 ep.)
4. SBS's RED SKY/HONG CHUN GI (Ahn Hyo-seop) (Sept. 2021?) (16 ep.)
5. tvN's TALE OF THE SECRET ROYAL INSPECTOR AND JO YI (Taecyeon?) (2nd half of 2021) (16 ep.)
6. KBS2’s WHEN FLOWERS BLOOM, I THINK OF THE MOON (Yoo Seung-ho) (2nd half of 2021) (16 ep.)
7. Hong Sister's tvN's RETURN (airing?)
8. Netflix's KINGDOM: ASHIN OF THE NORTH (Jun Ji-hyun) (airing?) (Special episode.)

(Thank you MDL for dates etc.)

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Thank you so much for keeping track of all the upcoming sageuks.
I’ll check out BOSSAM. It reminds me Jung II woo’s “Return of Ilgimae.”

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I like these actors, but wasn't interested in this production, because of the occult component.
Interesting they didn't cancel it for that, but for those depiction of real historical characters??? As a western Christian girl, this is very interesting for me, because I still see a religious reason behind the cancellation. 🙄
Anyway... these actors have talent, I am sure they will find a better show to work in.
Park Sung hoon particularly... I loved him in memorials...
I want to see him again doing rom com. 😊

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Omg the title of this post made me laugh but n a serious note, I feel very bad for the actors and the staff. They must have put in a lot of time and energy. this reminds me of how similar Indians and Koreans can be because we have had similar backlash against historical movies ( in one of the protest a bus was burnt). Its really sad that the drama didn't get a chance.

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You read my mind, sister! A fellow Indian here! 'That historical movie' would have been much better if not for the edited out sections because of the senseless backlash. I thought such backlashes against movies usually happens in India, but I guess it's an international issue. I just do not understand these people. I mean it is just a movie and people are acting. Why are there so much hate??

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Since you're a fellow Indian, I'd highly recommend you study Korea history especially around and beyond WW2 in order to identify with the Korean sentiment. You won't find the current reaction completely unreasonable, in retrospect.
Trust me, the issues between China-Japan-Korea are way more complex than Pakistan and India competing over which country invented Paneer Paratha.

And it's not just K-dramas that are facing a backlash from their own citizens. Two C-dramas have a similar problem. One is awaiting release (god knows when) because it has heavy Japanese-stylistic elements. The other had a few on-set photos leaked, and the costumes looked like they had Joseon influence, hence again, the public outrage. The director had to issue clarification statements.
People in these 3 countries are not quite forgiving regarding these matters because of their complicated history.... it's a sensitive topic afterall.

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Thank you so much for the insight. I'll look into these dynamics, they sound interesting

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Quite interesting.... I'm also sure you'll find a renewed appreciation towards Crash Landing on You, if you have watched it...
Because of the shared commonalities between NK-SK and Indo-Pak. Can't believe I shed a few tears reading actual historical accounts T_T

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Re: the two C-dramas you mention. That is just... incredibly ironic...

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Classic 'chicken-and-egg' issue. Did the Hanbok influence the Hanfu, or was it the other way around? Guess, we'll never know!

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@chibi8535 Also, if one believes that Korean (and presumably Japanese) culture is entirely derived from Chinese culture, then those C-dramas are strictly speaking 100% Chinese.

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I didn't think of it that way... ^^
I wish they directed national pride and fierce patriotism towards more constructive endeavors instead of trying fight and claim cultural-territories...

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Thank you for the information. I will read up the incidents you mentioned. I guess countries who have similar cultural essences are bound to have tensions among them.

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I went away from dramaland for 2 days and hell breaks loose.

WTH?!! I have been anticipating this drama. Why the korean netizens are too sensitive about a drama? It's just a drama after all.

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On the other hand, can't Netflix pick it up instead? I am sure Netflix is immune to these sort of stupidities from korean netizens

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Overseas sales for the drama has been banned by netizens and the production said they would comply to it. Viki and Wetv both had to take down the drama.

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Wow, so netizens have the final say?

I am speechless

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SBS is publicly owned and paid for by tax money. They do have the final say for that reason. If this was on TVN then things would have been different.

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It always comes down to money. Really, the sponsors have all the say. To think that 20 sponsors were moved this far by netizens, though ...

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The production already got cancelled and sent everyone home.

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I see a few other posts here that kinda seem to share the same sentiment as me. As someone from the west it's not possible for me to ever fully understand the mindset Koreans have (no matter how much I study the culture, history, etc). Whenever I hear about a sageuk having a controversy because of historical inaccuracies, I'm always a little confused. Like Mr. Queen, it's a time slip drama (not including the body swapping). That right there shows the drama is taking liberties. Same thing with Joseon Exorcist. The basis for the whole drama seems to show that it's not going to be historically accurate. At the moment, the only comparison to a western example is the movie Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter. No one got offended at that. These problems are probably more nuanced than just simply being about the way history is depicted.

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The West is too scared to be offended because they don't want to be called racists but the East is very conservative and countries like SK has no race or cultural diversity. Homogeneous societies are very protective of their cultures, history and identity. They thrive on Nationalism and the community comes before the individual.

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Not sure how not saying you’re offended by “Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter” or that it’s disrepectful is because we are afraid of being called racist. I realize it’s a ridiculous fantasy merged with historical characters. If I find it offensive, I don’t go see it. But....the writers should know how their specific society reacts, and just make the characters fictional. Seems like lazy writing if everything historical HAS to be based on real figures.

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Koreans are totally fine with fantasy and some degrees of historically inaccuracies. What set them off is that they think the writer is purposely degrading their national hero/history to butter up China. Mr Queen and Joseon Exorcists are from the same writer and both shows have similar issues.

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How did Mr. Queen "butter up China"? I'm no fan of CCP, to put it mildly, but I didn't notice...probably because I watched it purely for entertainment.

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I think the perception is that saying anything disparaging or unflattering about korean history, figures, or artifacts is handing ammunition to the CCP on a silver platter. I can see the cause for concern, but really you can take anything out of context and use as ammunition, not just a kdrama character acting silly.

Her character -Bong Hwan offhandedly said the The Annals of the Joseon Dynasty (real life national treasure) was all gossip so the few but loud koreans offended by this believed that the Chinese would believe something depicted in a drama to be the absolute truth. Her character - which was a real life historical queen- was also acting in all sort of undignified ways. They're afraid that China would look at Bong-hwan doing something crazy and be like "this is a biographical take on Queen Cheorin. She twerked in the rain."

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Simply ridiculous.

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The fact that they even think that a totally fictional character into a fantasy drama(from a chinese novel) take it as real fact says a lot about their IQ and actually says they are looking at chinese as if they are dumb to even consider this stuff..Lowkey see them suffering of victim mentality when no one makes an issue,they create it out of thin air with all respect i can muster...

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Also Mr. Queen is a remake from a chinese novel and drama...
When one has the mindset they will notice every little stuff even when the idea behind isin't to harm and the way the knet are now it looks just like that...U didn't notice anything because you didn't look for fault or bias...They are set on China now so they were the unlucky ones caught...

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Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter is such a useful comparison to make. It shows how small the difference is between something mildly silly & entertaining and something deeply offensive.

Just imagine that instead of Vampire Hunter, the writer had decided that they were going to have Abraham Lincoln be possessed by a demon (which is what JE did). Immediately this becomes hugely problematic! Even if the drama wasn't explicitly saying that Abraham Lincoln ended slavery because he was possessed...

So even if on the surface the two story lines wouldn't be that different, the implication and the fall-out would be miles apart,

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Thank you for pointing this out! The distinction is indeed very important. I remember watching The Night Scholar and wandering how Koreanviewers would relate to the idea of Joseon being founded with the help of a cruel and bloodthirsty vampire... From my perspective, it was a very bold and controversial idea.

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Also this is why I probably have a slightly different opinion on the issue than others since I can see the domestic POV. I wasn't interested in watching this drama because I found the show's premise about Korea needing Catholic intervention to save it moderately offensive and I am a) not Korean and b) have plenty to say about Confucianism as a system generally. Kingdom managed to be a fusion sageuk with a strong Western influence while maintaining a core of Confucianism. But, yeah, how about we portray Abraham Lincoln as possessed by a demon that needed the intervention of the Catholic Church to save both him and the modern United States and see how quickly sponsors pull out from that.

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I am posting a few thread that explains the Koreans stand point, you might not agree but I think it is important to listen to the other perspective as well.

For Joseon Exorcist: https://twitter.com/gatamchun/status/1375172156129181702

For Snowdrop: https://twitter.com/gatamchun/status/1375074348608937986

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Just read the news on Snowdrop... thanks for sharing!! WHY would producers think such problematic premise and characters are going to make an amazing story, is beyond me.
Classic foot-in-mouth.

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They still have another 3 months so hopefully they would be able to make the changes.

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Same. Snowdrop sounds like a disaster in making. I hope they are able to rectify their mistakes in time

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Nope, the premise is problematic from the get-go. The female lead is a much-loved youth icon of 'freedom-fighter' stature and is reduced to a damsel in distress. Similarly, one of the ML roles is on the side of the abusive police organization.
Can you imagine a Holocaust drama with Anne Frank as a damsel in distress, the Second ML glorified as an SS-guard, and the first ML being an actual double-agent Polish spy working for the Nazis, when so many of his fellow countrymen were being rounded up in Conc. camps? The entire EU would boycott this.
You can't clean this up, sadly. T_T

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Wow, I thought the plot element sounded yikes already but after reading this it managed to sound even more yikes. I was hoping they managed to change the spy aspect of hae in's character and well make jisoo a more inspiring character, honestly jisoo's casting makes me super nervous, I know bp and they have this rich and luxurious image that I have a very hard time associating with a student protester risking her life. I hope I am proven wrong and this drama does justice to those who took such risks.

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Good point! I can see how that’s problematic seeing the tensions between North and South are still so high

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There are love stories about girls falling in love with a nazi in an occupied country and there isn't censure from Europeans. Personally, I really liked the movie Suite Française for example.

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The storyline of say a person who didn't care about the protests but eventually does and makes sacrifices for it sounds good but both main characters have names that reference actual people who most likely had strong motivations to take such risks, if they want to continue this storyline at the very least these real people shouldn't be referenced especially when the stories of these times have barely been told in dramaland. Not that I think you are entirely wrong, if the story is told with care and thought about how the male leads evolve and eventually fight for democracy so even if I think the odds are low, I will try and make my own opinion when the drama airs.

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Snowdrop was a disaster since the synopsis came out even before they started casting. Since then netizens having asking to have it cancelled but they still went ahead with it. Who will you blame for that? This is greed to trample over public opinion.

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What's your opinion on Youth of May? It's a predecessor-drama of sorts to Snowdrop...
Asking because I'm way to invested in Do-Hyun's projects!

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It doesn't have any hype or big stars so it could fly under the radar unless they explicitly mention the riots. On the other hand anything that can go wrong will go wrong. Hope for the best I guess.

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It's set quite centrally around the Gwangju Uprisings, so ofcourse they'll mention the riots explicitly, maybe even show the actors taking part. But then again, problematic depiction of a lead character is unlikely in this, or so I hope. Fingers crossed T_T

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@chibi8535 The 2FL could pose a problem. She was in JE and actors from that drama all have targets on their back until they apologize. GMS also had a controversy recently about her past actions. KBS can't afford anymore dramas to re shoot.

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A pity this movement didn't come along soon enough to keep 'Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter' from being made. Or possibly 'Inglorious Bastards', which portrays American soldiers of my father's generation as scalp-hunting sociopaths.

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Chinese PPL in True Beauty? I don't remember any but maybe I wasn't paying attention.

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I read an article recently that k-netizens are unhappy with the increase in any and all foreign PPL in their dramas. Foreign companies are trying to capitalize on the global streaming popularity of k-dramas. But Subway has been a staple for such a long time, the criticism is surfacing because of Chinese and other Asian brands attempting to take Korean market share of certain products.

The irony is that many Korean stars popularity from global publicity are models for foreign brands and their fans are extremely excited about it. For example, recently Son Ye Jin because a spokes model for Valentino fashion brand and a Chinese beauty company. In addition, the Korean film council's Actor 200 project is trying to sell Korean actors to foreign film production companies. It seems Korea wants to export its culture but not import others.

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The double standard...

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I feel obliged to share my thoughts here, as I did in Twitter. I do not agree to comments that say "Oh foreigners should not criticise as this is their culture and history and they have all right to complain." This is agreeable only if the complaints are valid. I can take the criticism of depicting Taejong here as a king who mass murdered because he was hallucinating, was a bad decision even though disclaimers were made. Had the writer just made everything fictitious I believe this brouhaha wouldn't have happened. I remember reading somewhere that before modern times Taejong wasn't so well-revered because he killed his brothers to become king, but the sentiments changed because he also killed one of Joseon's founding official Jeon Do-jeon, whom nationalists thought should be something celebrated because Jeon strongly revered neo-Confucianism, which yes, Chinese.

What I cannot accept is the anti-China sentiments because as some commenters here had mentioned as well, there were a lot of cultural exchanges going on then, not to mention Joseon was a tributary state to China. Had Show been aired a few years ago this brouhaha wouldn't have happened too. The biggest inaccuracy Show had, if I would insist, is the inclusion of Catholicism. The religion did not enter the peninsula until late 16th century. Having such "historical inaccuracies" should suggest this drama is taking A LOT of creative liberty and this IS in the alternate universe aka fusion-fantasy genre. Gathering these observations I can only conclude there are some serious double standards going on.

I am not defending the Chinese, as I thought their accusations of the costumes in River Where the Moon Rises were ridiculous because again, cultural exchange. All sageuks featuring the Three Kingdoms era had costumes heavily influenced by Chinese costumes but people made no noise then. Nationalistic trolls on both sides should just be gone.

Just to reiterate, speaking against the Koreans for this issue is NOT being disrespectful to their culture. What the Knetz are doing is bullying the production team, something which they witch-hunted artistes for. There are a lot of other better ways to demand changes to a production that's supposedly 80% done instead of demanding a complete cancellation.

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Question is, even if there wasn't a witch-hunt from the k-netz.... COULD they have continued the shooting if all investors pulled out? :O I don't think so.

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Investors wouldn't have pulled out if there wasn't a witch hunt, though

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I thought that, but they already had Chinese investors. Why should they continue to pump in money when their whole country is receiving anti-sentiments?... I have a feeling they'd have long pulled out before a public-outcry for taking the drama down....

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The production claimed they never received any Chinese investment for this drama (read from soompi)

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A national petition to the Blue House with over 200K signatures can hardly be called witch hunting. If you call that witch hunting then the protests in Thailand and Myanmar will be called witch hunting by their respective leaders. Don't use the term lightly.

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Ok, but maybe the goal is a little different here??
I would not compare the 2 cases so lightly either ><

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Like, the big numbers don't make the complaint legitimate by default 👀

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The goal isn't the point interpretation is the problem. How you explain things is what matters. Dramas like Vincenzo recently made several points about that. I'm not saying you compared it lightly but when that many number of people protest you have to take it seriously and not call it witch hunting. 200K is not a small number we need to respect it as public opinion.

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In a democracy it does. It's the basis of democratic elections and movements.

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We can accept the result but also question it at the same time (see elections as you mentioned)

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It reminds me of when Tablo had netizens on his head b/c they doubted he graduated from Stanford. It came across a time when many academia people were lying about graduating from Ivy-leagues when they didn't. Tablo had 200,000 people who were on his 'hate' club/doubters. Like seriously, yikes folks. As for this show, it's a shame truly. SBS didn't stand by their artists/talents, and has now opened up a Pandora's box for art to be taken down if there's something they don't like about it. Dangerous, censorship shouldn't be applied to art if its b/c of an issue that could be easily be remedied which is what Joseon Exorcist could've done if given the chance by SBS to do so. The witch-hunt calling for 20 of their advertisers to be dropped is also scary as well. What a sad/awful situation for everyone involved.

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Great point about the Three Kingdoms period. Because of this blow-up, I wonder if this will discourage drama writers and production companies from taking on dramas set before Joseon for fear of the outfits share similarities with Chinese costumes. Guess to be safe, they'd have to make sure the time period is about 100 years into the Joseon period.

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Well, Joseon is always accused for borrowing influences from the Ming Dynasty... so Joseon ain't safe either. Every time a Joseon hanbok comes onscreen, there is a parallel narrative how China has let other cultures borrow aesthetic elements from them...
It's never-ending istg!

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Don't worry,they find faults in any drama if u let them...

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Finally some sensible viewpoints I see on the net. Are people really so daft to not know that most East Asian cultures have roots in China? I feel like a lot of people somehow only associate China with Qing and cheongsams but their history goes back thousands of years. Heck, the biggest East Asian festivals like mid-Autumn and Chinese New Year are of Chinese origins. You cannot deny it. I feel like even if people are antagonistic towards a country which is regarded as autocratic and have complete disrespect for human rights, you can't just deny history. Both sides need to grow up and acknowledge that though their culture might have diverged but they have the same origins, instead of trying to claim everything as their own.

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This is sad, and I’m terribly sorry for the staff and crew, and I hope they get payed. Actors and PD will find another project for sure.

I could only make it into 15 minutes in the drama. This is not my gender and I didn’t like what I saw.

Anyway, even if I know there’s much more that just being offended by how royalty is portrayed, I can distinguish fantasy from
History abs when I see a zombie in the first scene I realise accuracy is not the goal.

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I finished the first episode, but decided not to continue as well. I also of course echo your other sentiments.

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In Korea, the production company and actors only get paid for TV episodes after they air on television. The sunk time and resources spent to start the series is a loss.

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It truly is. Sigh, and to think I was going to watch this show after the first 2 episodes aired, and then it got pulled.

First of the cast was amazing (from top to bottom), and the PD did Nokdu Flower and Six Flying Dragons (Which all got big love/praise), and the writer (Doctor Prisoner/Mr.Queen). And a huge budget (28-30 million dollars), and went up to 19 rating which showed that SBS was willing to make this their next Kingdom. Sighs.

I also feel like they f'd up by not listening to the historian who was on set either. Truly could've been sufficed had they previewed the 10 episodes filmed thus far, and made sure to edit/take away content that had any political/social issues. I'm truly bummed for an amazing show that could've been, and on a shallow note, for Park Sung Hoon to finally get his due too :((

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It looks more like a witch hunt than a real concern.

I'm sad for the actors and the production who worked hard for it.

It's sad people can't make the difference between a fiction and history anymore. Did they feel so unconfident that they feel they have to protect their History so strongly?

Koreans criticized the Chineses but they're using the same censure in this case. I don't think it's the good way to protect your heritage.

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I already read this news on Koala's blog. This is getting ridiculous!!! K-Netz are like the censor police now...they are going after Shin Hye Sun just b/c she said that she was glad to be in Mr. Queen (in an interview). Like what??!!! She's a hard working actress and it took her many years playing supporting roles until she was recognized. She has every right to be proud of her work in Mr. Queen. It's like a witch hunt now, those netizens are going after anyone related to Mr. Queen and Joseon Exorist. None of these actors deserve to be treated this way.
Going forward, this will be a hard lesson for future sagueks. Just make every story with fictional characters ala Kingdom route and your drama will be safe (for now hopefully).

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Best to skip saeguk for the time being when tensions are high between SK and China. Or just create saeguk based on alternative universe not referencing any real kings

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The saeguks for this year should postpone to next year.

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Or tell a story about repelling an invasion from China...

Do some searches for
"Battle of Salsu" or "Goguryeo-Sui War"
And see if any competent writer couldn't make a dramatic tale out of that. If you are worried about seeming to glorify North Korea then move on to "Silla-Tang War". If you are afraid of offending China at all, then there's always "Imjin War" or something about Baekje or Silla.
Most of these have been done before, but since when have kdramas been afraid of doing the same thing over and over?

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The Imjin War has to some extent been done with movies about Admiral Yi- who was the one who really triumphed over the Japanese. On land the Samurai almost always won and the Korean had the help of Ming China as well.

So the Silla-Tang War would work much better, except it would not sell well in China and neither would the Goguryeo-Sui war for that mat