S. Korean drama Joseon Exorcist axed over historical controversy

SEOUL • South Korean broadcaster SBS axed a fantasy historical drama yesterday after controversy over scenes showing Chinese cultural influences and claims of gross "historical distortions" in just two episodes.

The move came after more than 20 companies had pulled commercials from the drama Joseon Exorcist and more than 163,890 people had signed a petition to the presidential Blue House, asking for the show to be axed since the petition was launched on Wednesday.

The drama, which began airing on Monday, is set in ancient Korea with historical figures as characters, but is a "fantasy" depicting exorcism, according to a statement by SBS and the drama's production companies.

It had kicked off with a high viewership rating of 8.9 per cent, but it would not be able to air further now.

The TV series became the centre of controversy immediately after it depicted the third king of the Joseon dynasty (1392 to 1897) killing innocent people and the fourth, King Sejong, creator of the Korean language, as a prince receiving a guest in a room with Chinese food such as mooncakes.

Viewers claimed this was a "gross historical inaccuracy" and "inaccurate depiction of Chinese influence", according to the petition and posts about the drama on South Korea's dominant search portal Naver.

Mr Seo Kyoung-duk, professor at Sungshin Women's University, noted in a social media post on Wednesday that the drama exacerbated Korean ire over recent Chinese claims that some aspects of Korean culture such as kimchi, a Korean side dish made with fermented cabbage, are of Chinese origin.

Companies such as telecommunications group KT and top soju-maker HiteJinro were among the 24 firms to have pulled commercials, while regional governments involved with the drama's filming have cancelled agreements, newspaper Kookmin Ilbo reported.

"Korean dramas have already become global and many around the world are watching... We shouldn't show distorted history to overseas viewers," Mr Seo wrote.

Joseon Exorcist's production companies also released a statement yesterday, saying production has been cancelled and that the series will be taken down the same day on all available platforms.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 27, 2021, with the headline 'S. Korean drama Joseon Exorcist axed over historical controversy'. Subscribe