K-drama King Of Tears, Lee Bang-won taken off air over animal abuse outcry

The controversy arose over a scene where a horse was pulled to the ground by a rope tied around its legs. PHOTOS: SCREENGRABS FROM KAWA.HQ/INSTAGRAM

SEOUL - Historical drama series The King Of Tears, Lee Bang-won has been taken off the air for two weeks, amid an outcry over animal abuse.

"Due to the ongoing controversy, the two episodes scheduled to air this Saturday and Sunday will be cancelled," an official of South Korean broadcaster KBS said last Friday (Jan 21). Special episodes of the drama for the upcoming Korean New Year holiday in February will not be aired either, The Korea Herald reported.

The controversy arose over a scene in the seventh episode aired on Jan 1, which depicted Yi Seong-gye, the founder of the Joseon Kingdom, accidentally falling from a horse. In order to film the scene, the horse was pulled to the ground by a rope tied around its legs.

In a video released last Wednesday by the Korean Animal Welfare Association, the horse was seen falling hard to the ground and struggling to get up. The video, which went viral in South Korea, led to a public outcry over animal cruelty.

Last Thursday, KBS apologised for the accident and said that it found out about a week after the filming of the scene that the horse had died.

"We feel deeply responsible and apologise for the accident that occurred during filming," the broadcaster was quoted as saying by the Korea Herald. "During filming, the actor fell far from the horse and the horse's upper body hit the ground hard."

The apology failed to dampen public outrage over the incident.

Two online petitions were posted last week on the website of Cheong Wa Dae, the South Korean presidential office, calling for a stop to the series and for measures on animal safety in film and broadcast productions. The petitions gathered more than 63,000 and 137,000 signatures as of Monday morning respectively.

"I cannot believe that the public broadcaster KBS, run by viewers' licence fees, did not have specific measures or policies for the safety of the animals," said one of the petitions, adding that animals being used as props was an issue that had been raised previously.

South Korean celebrities have also expressed shock and anger over the incident.

Taeyeon from girl group Girls' Generation wrote on her Instagram account: "The video was extremely painful to watch and brought tears to my eyes. It makes me angry. How can they film like that in this day and age."

The episode of the series containing the scene was no longer available on the series' official website, The Herald reported. While the episode is still available via streaming platform Wavve, the scene in question has been deleted.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.