Kingdom is a South Korean period drama - with zombies

Television still from the South Korean period drama Kingdom.
Television still from the South Korean period drama Kingdom.PHOTO: NETFLIX

SINGAPORE - The undead can be useful after all. Zombies are a good way to make a South Korean period drama such as Kingdom more accessible to international audiences, says lead actor Ju Ji-hoon.

Speaking to The Straits Times and other regional media in Korean via an interpreter, the 36-year-old heart-throb says: "Korean audiences are very familiar with Korean period dramas, but this may not be so for other audiences.

"As we know, zombie stories are very much loved across the world. Kingdom is a universal zombie story with Korean flavour."

Kingdom, a six-episode series which premieres on Netflix on Friday (Jan 25), is a zombie horror story set in Korea's Joseon Dynasty (1392-1897). Even before the show premieres, Netflix has renewed it for a second season.

In it, Ju plays the crown prince, who is accused of betraying his king father. When a mysterious outbreak occurs in the kingdom, turning people into zombie-like creatures, he sets out to try to stop it.

Ju was in Singapore last November to promote the show alongside his co-star Ryu Seung-ryong, who plays a corrupt politician.

They were fielding interviews at Netflix's See What's Next: Asia event at Marina Bay Sands, where the American streaming service giant was promoting a slate of their upcoming titles to more than 300 journalists.

Ju says: "I did not feel any pressure while shooting this series, but I'm starting to feel a bit of pressure now that I'm in Singapore and seeing how much interest there is.

"Hopefully, the show, which showcases beautiful Korean costumes and traditional Korean culture, will push international audiences to watch more Korean shows."

Ryu, 48, a veteran actor of hit films such as Miracle In Cell No. 7 (2013) and Masquerade (2012), adds: "We got to fly here on business class and we're staying in fancy suites here. I'm starting to feel like this show will be a big deal."

As with most zombie films and television shows, Kingdom features quite a bit of gore and some scares - elements that neither actor is a fan of.

Ju says: "I can't watch horror shows - I get scared and I can't sleep."

But the scariest thing on set had nothing to do with the undead. He says: "It's the filming schedule."

Ryu adds with a chuckle: "It's when we have finished filming an entire scene but the director wants a retake. I think that is the scariest moment."

Kingdom premieres on Netflix on Friday (Jan 25).