Let’s take a look at 5 Korean dramas which caused controversies in 2021.
1. Joseon Exorcist
Joseon Exorcist starring Jang Dong Yoon, Lee Yoo Bi, Park Sung Hoon was permanently canceled after 2 episodes. This Joseon-era exorcism film was highly anticipated before its broadcast, but was embroiled in the controversy of distorting Korean history through details related to King Taejong or Prince Chung Nyung. In addition, the drama angered Korean viewers by using various props, costumes and food related to Chinese culture.
Joseon Exorcist had to stop airing even after completing 80% of the filming. The use of Chinese-style props angered the audience and sparked a wave of boycott. Regarding this issue, SBS released an apology statement and announced that the drama would be delayed in order to edit the content.
However, this could not appease Korean public opinion as 156,000 people were said to have signed a petition to cancel the film permanently. On March 6, Joseon Exorcist was finally taken down from all broadcasting platforms.
Snowdrop starring Jung Hae In and Jisoo will air in December this year. But even before filming, the drama caused a lot of controversies as it is set against the backdrop of the 1987 Democracy Movement.
Im Soo Ho, an undercover agent who was unfortunately injured while participating in a protest, was rescued by Eun Young Ro, a student of a prestigious university. She hid him in the school dormitory, secretly treated his injury and their love story blossomed from there.
Earlier this year, when the film’s synopsis was leaked, many viewers demanded that the film should stop filming because it interfered too deeply in Korean history. They claimed that the production crew is trying to beautify historical events with a beautiful love of the male and female leads.
Since this is a sensitive topic regarding Korean history, more than 100,000 citizens have filed a petition to cancel Snowdrop. Later, jTBC issued a statement and explained that Snowdrop does not distort history and that it is a humour noir film. Interwoven with the satirical plot is a passionate love of young people who are always trying to fight and sacrifice for true love.
3. River Where The Moon Rises
In October last year, Kim So Hyun and Ji Soo worked together in the historical drama – River Where The Moon Rises. The drama depicts the romance between Princess Pyeong Gang and General On Dal. Pyeong Gang is a strong princess with the ambition to become the first Empress of Goguryeo. She is willing to use her husband to achieve her goal. On Dal, who has feelings for Pyeong Gang, accepts to be taken advantage of to help the woman he loves.
After completing 95% of the filming and broadcasting to episode 7, the male lead Ji Soo got involved in allegations of bullying his former classmates. The actor was also accused of rude behavior towards female friends. The severe controversy caused Ji Soo and the drama’s production crew to face heavy pressure from the public.
In order to continue broadcasting, the crew of River Where The Moon Rises had to urgently replace the male lead by casting actor Na In Woo and accept significant losses to re-shoot all the scenes with Ji Soo. Despite difficulties at the beginning of the broadcast, fortunately River Where The Moon Rises still received support from the audience in later episodes. The series earned good ratings until the final episode.
Vincenzo is a black comedy drama about a lawyer and Mafia consigliere – Vincenzo Cassano (Song Joong Ki) who returns to Korea to carry out a plan to gain access to a gold vault. During his return to his home country, Vinccenzo meets an overbearing lawyer Hong Cha Young (Jeon Yeo Bin). The two soon develop feelings for each other. They then team up to overthrow the construction company Babel.
Vincenzo got into an unnecessary controversy in the 8th episode, when Korean viewers noticed the male and female lead eating instant bibimbap from a Chinese brand. The placement of a Chinese product angered many Korean netizens, fearing that viewers would confuse their traditional dishes with Chinese origin.
The fierce controversy prompted the crew to remove the scene from streaming platforms. Song Joong Ki also shared his apology for this unnecessary incident. He said, “As an actor with the leading role, I think it is right to apologize to those who are disappointed with our drama.”
5. Penthouse 3
The third season of the hit series The Penthouse: War In Life is probably the most controversial season when it continuously faced criticism from the audience for its character’s styling and the usage of material.
The first controversy of Penthouse 3 erupted after the appearance of the character Alex Lee (Logan Lee’s brother), who is dressed up with a tattooed face, gold teeth, reggae hair, and speaks English with an African American accent.
The portrayal of this character made foreign viewers feel uncomfortable and criticized Penthouse 3 for being racist. The production crew of the drama then resolved this controversy by changing Alex’s appearance. Actor Park Eun Suk, who played Alex Lee, also issued an apology on his Instagram.
The second controversy was regarding the use of real footage of a disaster in Pohang in 2017 and the Gwangju building collapse in 2021 for a scene in the final episode of the drama. This enraged many viewers because they thought that the crew of Penthouse 3 was evoking the pain of the victims’ families and disrespecting them.
SBS admitted to using the footage in an inappropriate way and sincerely apologized to the victims and family members of the tragic events. The scenes were also immediately removed from the streaming services. However, similar to Vincenzo, despite the controversies, Penthouse 3 still wrapped up with high ratings and was the most famous drama this year.