While most people think that majority of K-Dramas are the same, innocent plot, you'd be surprised at the amount of controversial shows that are in the industry! Here are some of the controversial ones that you might or might not have heard of before.
1. Joseon Exorcist
SBS axed a fantasy historical drama after controversy over scenes showing Chinese cultural influences in just two episodes of the show. More than 163,890 people signed a petition to the presidential Blue House asking for the show to be cancelled. Joseon Exorcist is set in ancient Korea with historical figures as characters but is a “fantasy” depicting exorcism. This TV series became the centre of controversy immediately after it depicted the third king of the Joseon dynasty killing innocent people and the fourth, King Sejong 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”.
2. Mr Sunshine
This Korean romance drama evoked a variety of responses from the Korean audience. Set in the post-Japanese colonial era, it portrays the resistance of the Joseon people struggling against Japan’s efforts to control Korea by utilising their political and military power. Despite its patriotic message, Mr Sunshine has been put under the spotlight due to several controversies regarding its historical inaccuracies. This particular aspect of the drama engenders patriotism in the hearts of many Koreans, for such blood-shed of their ancestors shown is what allowed them to live in an independent and democratic country.
These depictions also evoke a sense of antagonism toward Japan and pro-Japanese Koreans. In fact, due to such hatred roused against Japan, many dedicated watchers of Mr Sunshine have not only canceled their trips to Japan but also exposed the profiles of chin-il predecessors and the unjustified properties they have inherited from their ancestors.
This drama is a classic and is known by many! It is loved by many across the oceans but there are a couple of things that made critics and fans call it out. One was the overt product placement – from the characters detailing out their Subway sandwich to eating fried chicken from a place almost every day and for many, it became too distracting. Second, was the very obvious age gap between the leads. The story demanded a high school student to fall for a 900+ year old Goblin who easily looked in his 30s.
TV critic Hwang Jin Mi reviewed it by saying, “The system of fantasy blocks any guilt and allows viewers to accept, without being repulsed, the romance between a minor and an older man.” He even added that ‘the image of a young girl hanging onto a rich older guy still lingers’ in the memory of the viewers.
4. Backstreet Rookies
Probably one of the biggest controversial dramas out of the ones on the list! Approximately 6000 complaints were filed after its first episode on Korea Communication Standards Commission. This drama is based on the webtoon by the same name that was already known for being sexually explicit. The audience was apprehensive before the show was even released and voiced out their concerns, only for the producers to promise a ‘family rom com’ instead. The story revolves around a part-time underage girl and a grown up manager falling in love.
Audience found red flags in the first episode itself whereby it showed an underage girl flirting and kissing a grown man, while another scene showed prostitution (which is illegal in Korea). It even showed the underage, young lead asking a stranger to buy her cigarettes. To top all of this, another thing that irked the viewers was the female lead’s extremely short skirt and the majority of her scenes being shot in low angle.
5. My Mister
IU’s My Mister is another drama that landed up in the age gap controversy but it was prior to the show’s release. The many promotional activities led audiences and IU’s fans to believe that this was going to be another love story between the leads which wouldn’t have sparked controversies generally. But, it was revealed that the story revolves around a man in his 40s and a young woman in her 20s who go through hardships and heal each other.
It faced flak from many people saying and hoping that there wouldn’t be any romantic scenes or a love connection between them. IU then clarified on VLive that it wasn’t about a love story but a human story. Another time it faced flak was during a scene where she gets badly beaten up by a loan shark.
6. The King : The Eternal Monarch
The drama received criticism for appearing to have used images of buildings that are similar to Japanese temples while depicting the fictional Korean Empire. Some viewers also saw similarities between the Imperial Seal for the fictional Korean Empire and the real Imperial Seal of Japan. Another controversy erupted over episode 6, which contained a naval battle scene between the Korean Empire and Japan. It was pointed out that the Japanese warships with Japanese flags were similar in design to current Korean warships.
This controversy can be better understood in the context of the long history of conflict between Korea and Japan. Modern-day negative sentiments about the country are often tied to Japan making Korea its imperial colony in 1910, which led to further issues such as Japan’s use of Koreans as forced labourers and “comfort women” (sexual slaves) during World War II. A recent trade dispute between the two countries has also heightened animosity between the nations. Apparent depictions of even a fictional Korean history that appears to have been influenced by Japanese tradition has therefore become a controversy.
Have you watched any of these dramas mentioned above? If so, what is your opinion on them? Since we're on the topic of K-Dramas, check out our blog about 6 Phrases Every K-Drama Fan Should Know and Top 3 K-Dramas And K-Movies To Look Out For In 2021!