By Park Si-soo
A series of car crashes, explosions and the ensuing exchange of gunfire between heavily armed North Korean spies and their South Korean counterparts shattered the normally tranquil morning of central Seoul, Sunday.
Braving chilly weather and unpredicted rainfall, the bloody fight continued into the evening and then the location was turned back to normal as if nothing had ever happened.
The mayhem was simply the result of the shooting for an episode of the TV drama "IRIS"
- a blockbuster thriller featuring popular Korean actors and actresses, including Lee Byung-hun
, Kim Tae-hee
, Jung Joon-ho
and Kim So-yeon
, which is aired every Wednesday and Thursday on KBS2.
The episode centered on South Korean agents trying to stop North Korean spies, who had infiltrated Seoul, from exploding a nuclear bomb in the metropolitan city with more than 10 million residents.
For the large-scale battle scene, Seoul city made the unprecedented decision to block all lanes of a thoroughfare, which stretches past government, business buildings and the U.S. embassy, and leads toward Cheong Wa Dae, in the morning and then gradually open it to the public in the afternoon.
The blockade caused severe traffic congestion in central Seoul.
In a statement, the city said it made the decision to promote the capital to overseas viewers through the drama, which is to air in Japan as early as next year.
Other Asian and European countries are in talks over television rights with its production company, Taewon Entertainment, the city added.
Unlike Western countries such as America that willingly allow the use of central parts of cities for filming, Korea has been reluctant to do so judging that private use of public facilities, even at the cost of public inconvenience, was unacceptable.
But permission was given in line with Seoul mayor Oh Se-hoon's aggressive efforts to promote the capital to foreign countries and eventually to make it one of the world's best tourist attractions.
"The main venue for the shooting, Gwanghwamun, is the very center of the city and represents 600 years of history", a city official said. "We expect the shooting to increase Seoul's international exposure". The city is also considering developing new tourist routes along the program's shooting locations, the official said.