Snowdrop , the first Korean Disney + series , will debut in Italy this summer.
Throughout the airing, the show kept the ratings constant between 2 ~ 3%, on the South Korean pay network JTBC (Joongang Tongyang Broadcasting Company).
The 16-episode drama is set in the midst of the 1987 pro-democracy movement, and chronicles the forbidden love between a young couple played by Jung Hae-In (Tune in for Love, While You Were Sleeping) and BLACKPINK’s Jisoo .
Snowdrop was in the top 5 most viewed titles in most APAC markets on Disney + for the first five consecutive weeks after its premiere. Despite the series’ slight increase in ratings, many South Korean viewers find the show an insult to the people who took part in the preparations for the country’s first democratic elections.
The last two episodes aired back to back on January 30 , according to Nielsen Korea , the average ratings were 2.8% (episode 15) and 3.4% (episode 16).
The series premiered on February 9 with all episodes on Disney + (USA).
When a man covered in blood (Jung Hae-In) breaks into the dormitory of a women’s university in Seoul, Korea, Eun Yeong-ro (Jisoo) will go against her principles and risk being expelled to hide the man from his attackers and heal their wounds. Unbeknownst to Yeong-ro, the man has a shocking secret that threatens to endanger the safety of his friends and family, and the two young lovers must fight together to overcome obstacles.
Even before its launch in mid-December on JTBC and Disney Plus in the Asia-Pacific region, the show has come under criticism for distorting the facts: according to what has been leaked, the series tells the love story between a North Korean spy and a member of the South Korean pro-democracy movement in the 1980s.
Critics pointed out that the North Koreans had no influence on the pro-democracy movement and demanded that the drama be canceled. Broadcaster JTBC denied that the series glorifies North Korean spies, releasing this statement:
“The current controversies stem from the combination of fragmentary information from an incomplete synopsis and character introductions that have leaked online. Suspicion has been added to fragmented information, making false information seem real ”.
According to the broadcaster, Snowdrop is a romantic drama set during the 1987 presidential election, a pivotal moment in South Korean history. He added that the drama is not centered on the pro-democracy movement and the main characters do not participate in it.
There has also been controversy over the name of Jisoo’s character, Eun Young-cho , similar to that of a prominent pro-democracy activist, Chun Young-cho . The JTBC made it clear that the fictional character is not based on the activist and that the name would be changed, (and so it did, ed).
At the end of March, an online petition was launched to stop production, which immediately collected more than 140,000 signatures. In addition, citizens drove a truck with protest signs to the JTBC building in Seoul on March 30 .
During the broadcast
In the first two episodes, Su-ho, who believed himself to be a Korean-German graduate student, turns out to be a spy sent from North Korea. However Young-ro and the other students mistake him for an activist in the pro-democracy movement.
The fact that the drama revolves around the story about a spy protected by university students, considered the backbones of the democratic movement, was deemed the central problem.
After the first episode aired on December 18, an online petition was opened on the Cheong Wa Dae website calling for the drama to be suspended, claiming that the show disparages South Korea’s pro-democracy movement. collected 270,000 signatures in one day.
The petitioner wrote:
“In the drama, the female lead mistakes the spy for an activist and saves him. Despite the fact that the victims of the activist group were tortured and killed during the democratization movement for being falsely accused as spies, creating a drama based on this story clearly undermines the value of the pro-democracy movement ”.
In response to viewers’ criticism, Ssarijai (a brand of rice cakes) and Teazen (a brand of tea) apologized for sponsoring the historical drama and withdrew their brands from the Snowdrop site.
Meanwhile, critics have said that Snowdrop’s content cannot be clearly defined as a historical distortion, but considering the period in which the drama was set, they explained that it could be misleading. For this reason a more cautious approach was needed.
The race for cover
The first episode had a 3.0% rating, the second one 3.9%. JTBC ran for cover by announcing the early airing of the next 3 episodes, to try to calm the waters: the third episode recorded an audience rating of 1,853%, while the fourth of 1,689%.
Director Jo Hyun Tak explained:
“It is true that the story is set in 1987 Seoul, but outside the influence of the controversial political elections of the time, all the other characters and relationships within the drama are fictional.”
On December 30, JTBC issued an official warning in response to criticism surrounding the Snowdrop drama :
“JTBC is currently suffering severe damage from the spread of false and malicious comments on the Snowdrop drama.
In order to protect the image of the broadcaster, as well as the image of the creators of the drama and the rights of the creative content, we intend to proceed with strict legal action from now on. JTBC considers the freedom and independence of creativity a key component of successful content creation, just as we respect the rights of consumers to freely criticize or form opinions about content in a healthy way.
However, against the comments and rumors that openly terrorize the people involved in the making of this drama and that have nothing to do with the actual content of the story, the JTBC will take legal action. ”
The intervention of the teachers
Last month, more than 30 prominent Korean professors and scholars gathered to present a formal petition to the president of Disney Plus Asia-Pacific regarding two important elements of the Snowdrop series:
디즈니플러스 아시아태평양 지역 총괄대표 루크 강에게 보내는 공개 서한입니다. 학자 총 26명이 서명한 이 서한은, 드라마 <설강화>가 디즈니플러스 플랫폼에 방영되는 것에 대한 재고를 부탁하고 있습니다.https://t.co/b6a1CfiJiP
— K. Y. Bae 배경윤 (@kbae38) January 10, 2022
The first concern of the signatories concerns the reference to the historical figure Cheon Young Cho as the model of the protagonist, of which we have already spoken. The petition also discussed potential references to Cheon Young Cho ‘s husband , Jeong Mun Hwa , another activist from the democratic movement.
The second concern concerns the character of Eun Chang Su (played by Heo Jun Ho), father of the female lead Eun Young Ro (played by BLACKPINK’s Jisoo ). The petitioners pointed out that the Eun Chang Su character may have been modeled after another historical figure,
“Military officer Park Jun-byeong, who commanded the 20th Infantry Division in Gwangju in May 1980, and led them to commit one of the worst civilian massacres in modern Korean history.”
The cast includes: Kim Jisoo (Eun Young-ro); Jung Shin Hye (Go Hye-ryung); the late Kim Mi-soo (Yeo Jung-min) who died in early January, aged 29, of unknown causes.
Choi Hee Jin (Yoon Seol-hee), Yoo In Na, Jang Seung Jo, Yoon Se Ah, Kim Hye Yoon and Jung Yoo Jin close the cast .
The series is a new collaboration from screenwriter Yoo Hyun-mi and director Cho Hyun-tak .