New TV series 'Joseon Exorcist' embroiled in controversy over history distortion
YONHAP NEWS AGENCY - All News 13:53 March 25, 2021
SEOUL, March 25 (Yonhap) -- The newly launched historical TV series "Joseon Exorcist" has been under fire for distorting Korean history and using Chinese-style props in a period show portraying actual historical figures.
The 16-episode Monday-Tuesday show, which premiered on SBS this week, is set in the early 15th century during the reign of King Taejong, the third on the throne of the 1392-1910 Joseon Dynasty.
Under the theme of a Korean supernatural historical fantasy, the series follows the royal family's fight against evil spirits, starring Jang Dong-yoon as Crown Prince Chungnyeong and Kam Woo-sung as King Taejong.
But fierce criticism arose after the first episode this Monday for its inclusion of a massacre of the innocent Joseon people by hallucinating King Taejong and Chinese-style interiors and props in a building located in the Joseon territory.
In particular, people point out that Joseon's crown prince, who later becomes King Sejong, meets with a Western exorcist at a tavern in a northern border area, drinking Chinese liquor and eating Chinese food, such as dumplings, mooncakes and century eggs.
Producers of "Joseon Exorcist" issued a statement right after the first episode, saying it did not have any intention to distort history.
They said the Chinese interiors and props in the northern tap house were used to show that the characters are far away from the capital city of Hanyang.
But the strong backlash showed no signs of easing as a petition was posted on an online bulletin of the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae, calling for the termination of the TV production.
They also blamed Park Gye-ok, the screenwriter of "Joseon Exorcist," who has been in the center of similar historical controversies in her previous hit series "Mr. Queen," a Korean adaptation of the Chinese web drama "Go Princess Go."
Some even claim that Chinese companies financing the project behind the scenes stepped into the production of the Korean history drama.
Moreover, the heated up criticism has caused some companies to withdraw sponsorship and advertisement deals with the TV series, including Cozyma, a local massage chair brand.
Its viewership was also affected, as the first episode posted 8.9 percent on Monday, but it dropped to 6.9 percent the next day.
On Wednesday, consequently, the show's producers apologized for causing discomfort over historical issues and promised to remove the controversial scenes and put the project on hold for a week to realign the storyline.
But debates criticizing the show have been continuing across online communities.
Experts noted that the TV series has downplayed the important point that Korean people have been angry about recent Chinese claims that some of Korean culture like kimchi, a Korean side dish made with fermented cabbage, are of Chinese origin.
"Sensitive public reactions are expected from such controversial scenes amid China's growing claims to Korean culture," said Seo Kyung-duk, a professor at Sungshin Women's University in Seoul. "The producers should have paid more attention to making the historical TV series."
Korean drama 'Joseon Exorcist' cancelled following viewers' backlash
NEW STRAITS TIMES By Dennis Chua - March 26, 2021 @ 4:41am
KUALA LUMPUR: After only two episodes aired, Korean drama series Joseon Exorcist got axed.
The reason, its "historical distortions" which appeared "too Chinese" and "villified historical figures" made many South Korean viewers see red.
Entertainment portal Koreaboo reported today that the semi-historical drama which aired on South Korean television network SBS last Monday, faced a massive backlash from viewers.
As a result, SBS pulled the plug on the 16-episode horror series early today.
Joseon Exorcist, set in 15th century Korea during the reign of King Taejong of the Joseon kingdom (1392-1910), stars Jang Dong-Yoon, Park Sung-Hoon and Kam Woo-Sung, and tells the story of princes who fought evil spirits.
Viewers were incensed when they realised that the king played by Kam was portrayed as a cruel dictator after being possessed.
In addition, his son Prince Chungnyung played by Jang was depicted as a playboy eating Chinese food and drinking Chinese wine in a tavern.
Viewers also complained that the props of the royal palace and tavern looked very Chinese, and filed complaints with the Korea Communications Standards Commission.
More than 160,000 people signed a petition addressed to South Korean President Moon Jae-In, calling for the show to be cancelled.
About 20 companies withdrew their advertisements in the drama including Samsung and LG Household due to the backlash.
Koreans are sensitive about China especially over claims that the Korean dish kimchi and Korean national costume hanbok originated in China.
In a statement today, SBS said that "in recognition of the seriousness of the situation, we have decided to terminate the contract to purchase the broadcasting rights for Joseon Exorcist and cancel the airing."
The production company behind the drama series had completed filming 80 per cent of the series.
SBS ‘Joseon Exorcist’ writer, cast apologize for historical controversy
THE KOREA HERALD By Song Seung-hyunPublished : Mar 28, 2021 - 14:52 Updated : Mar 28, 2021 - 14:59
The writer and cast of SBS ‘Joseon Exorcist’ on Saturday released apology statements for taking part in the show that depicts Korean history inaccurately.
“I sincerely apologize for the trouble my inconsiderate script has caused to viewers over the past few days,” writer Park Kye-ok said in a statement. “I should have learned from my past mistakes and presented a better story as a writer, I made viewers angry with my lack of judgment.”
The apology statement came out after the broadcaster on Friday announced it decided to cancel the drama after its first two episodes took a beating over perceived historical inaccuracies and distortions.
Many viewers pointed out that the show disparages King Taejong (played by Kam Woo-sung), the third king of Joseon who ruled from 1400 to 1418, by showing him cruelly slaughtering innocent people because he was hallucinating, for which there is no historical basis.
Chinese-style costumes and props in the TV drama set in the Joseon era also received criticism for inappropriate usage, especially at a time of intensifying controversy between Korea and China over spurious Chinese claims to kimchi and hanbok.
Last year, Park also received similar criticism for misrepresentation of history in her previous tvN drama “Mr. Queen” for featuring scenes like the Veritable Records of the Joseon Dynasty being equated to a tabloid.
The show received “administrative guidance” for controversial scenes from the subcommittee of the Korea Communications Standards Commission.
The main cast of “Joseon Exorcist” also took responsibility for taking part in the show on Saturday.
“As a cast member of ‘Joseon Exorcist’ I apologize for causing concerns to the public,” Kam said in his statement. He added that he apologizes for not being more considerate about the historic accuracy in the show as an actor who has a great influence on the public.
“I was ignorant and naive about the matter, I have no excuse, I apologize,” the show’s actor Jang Dong-yoon said.
Castmates Park Sung-hoon and Lee Yu-bi released similar statements of apology as well.
Meanwhile, CJ’s streaming platform Tving recently suspended providing service of the writer’s previous tvN drama series “Mr. Queen.” Short clips of the show on platforms Naver TV and YouTube also were removed.
...and I'll also post a well-written passage from a post that I came across on some random person's blog while Googling around.
Joseon Exorcist Cancelled... why oh why? (A Thread) - March 26, 2021
...The context of this debacle is several months of hot cultural conflict between China and Korea that builds on decades (or maybe I should say centuries) of tensions between the countries.
Fact is, in recent months, Chinese nationalists on social media have claimed various elements of Korean culture (Hanbok, Kimchi) as originally Chinese. Worse, the Chinese government has claimed various traditional Korean arts as "Chinese ethnic minority culture". Given these ongoing tensions (that the media report about quite frequently too) it is simply baffling that a Korean drama production uses Chinese swords, clothes, and food when portraying early Korean history. So, it's not about historical inaccuracies per se but about these specific inaccuracies that seem to validate the Chinese nationalist position. In addition, and that is where the "foreign viewers will get the wrong impression" comes in, the show portrays the Joseon dynasty's founder as a murderous demon. That's just like showing a finger to a sensitive country's national pride, isn't it?
There are reports that at least one historical consultant voiced concerns to the production team but was ignored. Whoever made the decision to do go ahead with this either completely misjudged the situation or simply didn't care. How is that possible, we may ask, wasn't it obvious this would cause a massive backlash?
Yeah this definitely gives some important context to it. Here's an article I found that adds more info:
China Refers To South Korea As “Thief Country” After Claiming That Kimchi And Hanbok Were Stolen From Them Will this ever end?
February 12th, 2021
In a segment aired on SBS News, it has been revealed that China has now officially started to refer to South Korea as “Thief Country.” The reason behind this nickname is due to their claims that South Korea is “stealing” the rights to their “culture.” The Chinese public insists that numerous Korean traditions like kimchi, hanbok, and “Arirang” are really a part of their own cultural identity.
When Chinese netizens search the phrase “thief country” on Weibo (China’s popular social media platform), phrases referring to South Korea pop up right away.
The audacity of this ‘thief country’ who used to be dependent on China.
— Weibo search of “thief country”/SBS News
Here is another example.
Only the impression remains. Let’s begin to refer to South Korea as ‘thief country.’
— Weibo search of “thief country”/SBS News
Along with these absurd Weibo searches, the most recent and bizarre case regarding the South Korean decorative knot, maedeup was brought up as well. This traditional South Korean cultural artifact is also being claimed by the Chinese public. Chinese netizens took to a Korean culture Instagram page and filled the comment section with malicious comments, attacking South Korea for “stealing” maedeup from them. While both South Korea and China have their own versions of decorative knots, there are subtle differences between the two. Regardless of these differences, however, the Chinese public has been relentlessly claiming South Korea’s maedeup as their own.
After months of these claims made by China, SBS News decided to tackle the difficult question, “Why is China doing this?” In response to this question, SBS News shared the reason they believe China has been targeting South Korea.
Before, the mascot for all things related to Asian culture was China. China’s culture was the only one. In recent times, however, due to K-Pop, Korean dramas and Korean movies, a shift has been made. The center of Asian culture has been gradually changing from China to South Korea. Due to this, we can only assume that China has been feeling threatened.
— SBS News
One of the biggest items that the Chinese public has been claiming ownership of is the well-known South Korean dish, kimchi. China has made several public proclamations stating that the fermented cabbage dish originated in China and not South Korea. SBS News revealed that due to the influx of these claims, Korean kimchi factories have taken the issue into their own hands.
China has made unfair claims about kimchi. Due to this, a Korean kimchi factory took out a massive ad in ‘The New York Times.’
SBS News further shares what they believe the Korean public can do to fight against such claims.
Every time China does something like this, I believe the best way to retaliate is to garner the public’s attention by aggressively promoting our Korean culture.
And just one more - this one is excellent, summarizes the big picture very well.
'Joseon Exorcist' reignites Korea-China cultural feud
KOREA JOONGANG DAILY in association with the New York Times
by Haley Yang - Thursday March 25, 2021
Controversy surrounding SBS historical fantasy series “Joseon Exorcist” (2021) rages on amid the Korean public’s anti-Chinese sentiment, which has been accumulating due to a recent spate of cultural feuds.
In Monday’s first episode of “Joseon Exorcist,” a young King Sejong the Great (1397-1450) of the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) treats a Catholic priest to a feast.
A European priest in medieval Korea is not the only fantasy element here: King Sejong and the priest feast on Chinese mooncakes, Chinese-style dumplings, and century eggs (a Chinese dish of preserved eggs.)
The series’ screenwriter Park Gye-ok was accused of misrepresenting history and Korean food culture. Park previously faced backlash for a scene in his previous tvN series “Mr. Queen” (2020-2021), in which the protagonist calls the Unesco-listed “Veritable Records of the Joseon Dynasty” a “tabloid.”
The screenwriter’s track record, and the fact that he is under a contract with a Hangzhou-based production company, led some Koreans to suggest that he is intentionally writing such misleading scenes.
SBS officially apologized on Wednesday and clarified that “Joseon Exorcist” is not funded by any Chinese firm. SBS also postponed the show for a week to “reorganize the script.” But, the damage had been done.
Public outcry led more than a dozen Korean companies to withdraw their advertisements and sponsorships. The Korea Communications Standards Commission received more than 3,900 complaints as of Wednesday morning, and some petitions posted on the Blue House website are demanding that the show be suspended.
While this controversy seems to be the biggest to date regarding K-dramas with Chinese elements, it is certainly not the first.
The currently airing tvN series “Vincenzo” (2021) depicts protagonists eating a bowl of ready-to-eat bibimbap — a Korean rice dish mixed with vegetables and meat. While it sounds like any ordinary Korean mealtime, many Korean viewers found the scene unnatural because the bibimbap’s packaging was mostly written in Chinese due to a product placement deal with Chinese brand Zihaiguo.
“Koreans are not the only ones who watch K-dramas. Other countries, including Chinese-speaking countries, watch them too. So when a Chinese product appears on a K-drama, it’s an effective advertisement for markets such as China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong,” said pop culture critic Jeong Deok-hyun.
In fact, the ready-to-eat bibimbap is not sold in Korea, which is why the scene came across as unrealistic to Koreans. But some found the scene not only unnatural but also problematic.
“The Mandarin on the packaging may give foreign viewers the wrong impression that bibimbap is a Chinese dish [and not a traditional Korean dish]” wrote Seo Kyoung-duk, a general education professor at Sungshin Women's University and an expert in promoting Korea overseas, on his Facebook.
“Most Chinese product placements are simply unrelatable for most Koreans, but the Chinese-brand bibimbap in ‘Vincenzo’ is actually a serious problem. The Korean public is reacting sensitively because these scenes may be used as pretexts for China’s Northeast Project,’” Jeong said.
The Northeast Project, short for the Serial Research Project on the History and Current State of the Northeast Borderland, was the Chinese Academy of Social Science’s historical research project funded by the Chinese government. Historians who worked on the project claim that ancient Manchurian and Korean kingdoms were regional governments of the ancient Chinese empire, aiming to incorporate parts of Korean history into China’s own.
The project took place between 2002 to 2007, but the dispute has continued and evolved into a “cultural Northeast Project” with predominantly young Chinese netizens claiming that traditional Korean culture originated in China.
The feud escalated in November 2020 when Chinese game developer Paper Games launched a Korean version of its dress-up mobile game Shining Nikki. To celebrate the launch, the game released items inspired by hanbok, or traditional Korean clothing. Chinese netizens condemned Paper Games for including hanbok as a special Korean item, claiming that the clothing originated from China. The company eventually yielded to Chinese netizens and shut down its Korean server altogether.
The same month, the global industry standards body International Organization for Standardization (ISO) announced new regulations for the manufacturing of pao cai, Chinese salted fermented vegetables. Although the ISO clarified that “this document does not apply to kimchi,” Chinese media including the state-run Global Times called it “an international standard for the kimchi industry led by China.” The dispute prompted the Korean agricultural ministry to state that kimchi and pao cai are two different dishes.
But the kimchi-related controversy didn't end there. Earlier this year, Chinese YouTuber Li Ziqi sparked an online feud between Korean and Chinese netizens when she uploaded a video of her making kimchi, with the hashtags “Chinese cuisine” and “Chinese food.”
“Chinese media has been spreading false information that hanbok, kimchi, and even some famous Korean people are of Chinese origin. This ‘cultural Northeast Project’ has been building animosity against China among the Korean public,” Jeong said.
Due to such hostility toward China, not only Chinese products but also elements of Chinese culture in K-dramas are poorly received by Korean viewers, as seen in the “Joseon Exorcist” scandal.
“Of course, actual Chinese historians are not going to use K-drama scenes to support their Northeast Project claims,” said Park Kyung-suk, a history professor at Yonsei University who specializes in modern Chinese history.
“However, in a broader sense of the project, Chinese netizens may use the scenes to claim that bibimbap is Chinese food, or that Korean history is part of Chinese history, and so on. Especially young Chinese netizens may circulate the scenes on the internet and social media to spread their Northeast Project views.”
“Until now, the K-drama industry thought there was no reason to decline Chinese product placement offers because they are financially beneficial,” Jeong said. “Screenwriters may have also thought that adding in Chinese cultural elements was creative. But after this controversy, they will have to be more careful and consider the ramifications of their decisions. This issue should not be taken lightly.”