A still from K-drama 'Snowdrop' Photograph:( Twitter )
'Snowdrop' remained in news right from the beginning- even before it was aired in South Korea- for its controversial story which many alleged was insensitive to Korean history.
Korean drama 'Snowdrop' is all set to premiere in India on OTT platform Disney+Hotstar on February 9. The show has been in the news ever since the first trailer came out. The show has just wrapped up in the South Korean network JTBC and received modest ratings and reviews. But 'Snowdrop' remained in news right from the beginning- even before it was aired in South Korea- for its controversial story which many alleged was insensitive to Korean history.
The show stars popular Korean actor Jung Hae-in and marks the acting debut of BLACKPINK singer Jisoo.
What is the plot of 'Snowdrop'?
The story is set in 1987 - an important time in South Korean history, as it was the year that citizens protested and called for an end to the authoritarian government.
The series is primarily a love story of Im Soo-ho(Jung Hae-in), a North Korean spy and Young-ro (Jisoo), a college student. Jung plays a spy, who is discovered in a bloodied condition by Jisoo, and she hides him in her dormitory room as she presumes him to be as a pro-democracy activist. With the help of her friends, she hides him from the government, who are actually looking for the North Korean spy.
What is the controversy?
Months before the show aired in South Korea, in March 2021, the show landed in trouble when the synopsis of the show leaked online giving an impression that it was distorting history.
Based on the synopsis, people believed that the male lead is a spy, who has infiltrated the activist movement, while another lead character is a team leader at the Agency For National Security.
The network on which the show was to air, JTBC, provided clarification on the plot soon after but the opposition on the show remained. Most found the show insulting as it depicted a North Korean spy's involved with the pro-democracy movement.
The socio-political context has been deeply emotional for most in the country. The protestors for the regime in the 1980s were falsely accused of being North Korean spies. The pro-democracy protesters were imprisoned, tortured and killed by the government to suppress voices.
The uproar continued after the release of the first two episodes in December 2021. Fans took to social media to discuss the problems with the show- and claimed that the team was 'insensitive' to people who had struggled and fought for democracy in the country.
Jisoo’s name in the show further angered sentiments, with many saying that her character’s initial name was also the name of a real-life protestor, whose husband was killed after he was falsely accused of being a North Korean spy. People also had problems with the way Central government intelligence was depicted on the show- who were typically tasked to arrest North Korean spies.
They alleged that the show was glorifying a lead character from the Agency For National Security Planning (NSP), which was part of the authoritarian regime at the time. The use of a symbolic song for the democracy movement in the show was also criticised.
A petition demanding the cancellation of the show was posted on the website of the Blue House (the executive office and official residence of South Korea’s head of state) soon after the show premiered. The petition had over 300, 000 signatures and alleged that the show “defames the value and reputation of the democratisation movement”.
Following the backlash, JTBC issued a statement explaining the background and motif of including important incidents from History in the show.
"With this background, it contains a fictional story of the party in power colluding with the North Korean government in order to maintain authority. 'Snowdrop' is a creative work that shows the personal stories of individuals who were used and victimized by those in power,” the statement read.
The statement also stated that no spy in 'Snowdrop' leads the democratization movement.
The makers insisted that most of the misunderstandings and concerns over “history distortion” and “disparaging the democratization movement” would be answered as the drama progresses. JTBC stood firm on their story, though some advertisers were quick to opt-out.
The outrage continues
While the show has ended in South Korea, it still continues to be in news. On January 30 this year, in an open letter Korean professors and scholars asked the president of Disney+, Asia Pacific, to find experts and evaluated the historical facts in the drama. The letter was addressed to Walt Disney’s Asia Pacific president Luke Kang.
'Snowdrop' premiers on Disney+Hotstar on February 9.