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Netflix’s new Korean original ‘Kingdom’ brings zombie to Joseon Dynasty

  • Published : Jan 21, 2019 - 17:04
  • Updated : Jan 21, 2019 - 17:04

Netflix’s new Korean-language original series “Kingdom,” a zombie horror drama set in Korea’s medieval Joseon Dynasty, delves into theme of “hunger” and “greed,” according to its director on Monday.

“It is a story about a crown prince, who is alienated from power, fighting against a plague that is created as a result of human’s greed and extreme hunger,” said director Kim Seong-hun, known for films “Tunnel” and “A Hard Day,” during the press conference held in Seoul.

“Ultimately, I wanted to tell a story about hunger,” writer Kim Eun-hee said. “I wanted to portray people who were mistreated by those in power struggling with starvation and poverty through the monster.”

Writer Kim, dubbed the hit crime-thriller maker for her success with penning “Sign” and “Signal,” said she began developing the concept back in 2011. “I love zombie films and as well as history. If I can bring zombies’ sadness and hunger into Joseon era, I thought I could express the period’s agony and what I wanted to say.”

Kim said Netflix platform gave her the “freedom of expression” for the production, as opposed to public broadcasters where it could be difficult to air zombie genre.

From left: Cast members of "Kingdom" Ryu Seung-yong, Bae Doona and Ju Ji-hoon (Yonhap)

Korean A-listers join the much-anticipated series. Actor Ju Ji-hoon, best known for “Dark Figure of Crime” and “”Along with the Gods: The Last 49 Days,” plays the crown prince Lee Chang, who is kicked out of palace when framed as a traitor by Cho hak-ju, played by Ryu Seung-yong (“Miracle in Cell No. 7”), who is chief state councilor of Joseon and the de facto ruler. Lee, in a bid to save his kingdom, goes on a suicide mission to unravel a mysterious zombie plague that’s sweeping the country.

“‘Kingdom’ combines the great saga with western theme, where many people can relate,” said Ryu. “I hope this drama will give a chance to spread Korea’s unique beauty to global audiences.”

“Cloud Atlas” and “Jupiter Ascending” star Bae Doona, who also starred in Netflix series “Sense8,” plays the role of a nurse named Seo-bi in the series, who tries to find a cure to the plague and helps the prince.

“I don’t think there was a difference between targeting local audiences and global audiences when acting,” said Bae. “I really like Netflix . It’s nice to act without having to worry about breaking (broadcasting) regulations. I acted like making a Korean film. And it’s exciting to unveil to the global audience simultaneously.”

Director Kim Seong-hun and writer Kim Eun-hee of Netflix original series "Kingdom"

The six-episode series is part of global streaming giant’s plan to aggressively push into Asian market as it seeks for new subscribers in the region. Netflix, which boasts more than 130 million customers globally, has confirmed 17 original productions on the pipeline from Japan, Taiwan, Thailand, India and South Korea.

Netflix has injected about 20 billion won ($17.73 million) into the production of “Kingdom,” with its second season already ordered. The shooting of the second season is slated to begin in February.

Adpated from the webcomic series “Land of the Gods” by writer Kim, the “Kingdom” will release on Friday at 5 p.m. via Netflix over 190 countries.

By Ahn Sung-mi (sahn@heraldcorp.com)