New K-drama Snowdrop has drawn critical reactions from many viewers in South Korea for allegedly distorting historical facts about the country’s pro-democracy movement.
The ongoing television series, broadcast by JTBC, is set in 1987 – the year of presidential elections in South Korea – and is centred around the forbidden love story of a young university student (Jisoo) and the North Korean spy she mistakes for a pro-democracy activist (Hae-in).
The first two episodes of the historical drama series were aired on Saturday (18 December) and Sunday (19 December), and have triggered widespread backlash online.
A petition to stop broadcasting Snowdrop with immediate effect has garnered over 200,000 signatures since it was first posted on the bulletin board of the Blue House on Sunday.
The petitioner highlighted two scenes from Snowdrop in particular that allegedly undermine “the value of the democratisation movement”.
The first scene was part of the show’s pilot episode, when Jisoo’s character mistakes the male lead (Hae-in) for a pro-democracy activist and saves his life.
Citing reasons for why this scene is controversial, the petitioner argued: “During the pro-democracy movement, there were clearly victims, such as activists, who were tortured and killed for being spies.”
The petitioner also took umbrage at the show’s use of a popular song that came to symbolise the student’s movement, “which was a part of the country’s democratisation movement”.
The song “Sola Blue Sola” plays in the background during a chase scene between the North Korean spy and a member of the Agency for National Security Planning (NSP) in Korea.
Responding to the growing backlash against the series, some sponsors have asked to terminate their deals with the production company.
These include major sponsor P&J Group and rice cake company Ssarijai.
On Thursday (16 December), Hyun-tak distanced the show from “politics or ideology” and said Snowdrop is a “story of individuals” at an online press conference, according to a report by The Korea Herald.
However, he added that criticism against his show is “unlikely to cease” any time soon because the most minute details are being “scrutinised and attacked”.
The show first faced criticism in March after parts of its synopsis and character descriptions were released online.
Responding to an earlier petition to suspend the show’s filming, JTBC said: “Snowdrop is not a drama that disparages the pro-democracy movement or glamourises being a spy or working for the NSP.”
“Snowdrop is a black comedy that satirises the presidential elections taking place in the 1980s under a military regime during the North-South tension on the Korean peninsula,” the statement read.
“It is also a melodrama about the young men and women who were victims of that situation.”
Snowdrop is available for streaming on Disney+ Hotstar in select regions.