By Chung Ah-young
Broadcaster reach deep into history this year. From left, portrait of Tangun, Korea's mythical founding father, portrait of King Chongjo (1777-1800) and portrait of King Sejong (1418-1450), who will be depicted in epic dramas at three major networks.
The boom in Korean epic dramas that captured viewers' hearts last year is not likely to let up.
Major broadcasters have casted big-name stars, including hallyu star Bae Yong-joon
, known in Japan as Yonsama, Kim Hee-sun
and film actress Moon So-ri
The new epic dramas explore more diverse themes than in the past and are set in a variety of eras, ranging from Kojoson (2333 B.C. - 108 B.C.) to the Koguryo Kingdom (37 B.C. - A.D. 668) and the Choson Kingdom (1392-1910).
KBS is expected to air its flagship epic drama, "The Great King Sejong
", in July. The story is written by Yoon Seon-joo
, who also wrote "Hwang Jin-i", the recent hit epic drama about "kisaeng", courtesans often likened to Japanese geisha.
The drama will shed new light on King Sejong, who devised the Korean writing system, hangul, and ruled Choson from 1418 to1450 as its fourth king.
The drama will portray the king as a man who struggles, through self-reflection and soul-searching, to become a leader, rather than the born-to-be sage figure portrayed in history textbooks.
"Sejong put more emphasis on science and culture than political power struggles. We'll show the agonies of Sejong, who struggled to make a powerful and proud kingdom by developing science and culture", said Kim Hyun-jun, a senior official at the KBS drama bureau.
Kim said that the drama might help viewers think about what makes a good leader ahead of the presidential election later this year.
"Taewangsasingi" ("The Legend"
, The Four Guardian Gods of the King), expected to air on MBC in May, has already attracted attention for its co-stars, Bae Yong-joon
and Moon So-ri
The fantasy epic drama revolves around the life of King Kwanggaeto, the 19th king of the Koguryo Kingdom.
The drama is expected to air on Japanese broadcaster NHK because of Yonsama's strong fan base in Japan.
Also, epic drama veteran producer Lee Byeong-hoon
, who produced "Dae Jang Geum
" (Jewel in the Palace) and "Heo Jun"
, will come back to MBC with the new epic "Yi San
The 50-episode soap opera to be aired in September will focus on the life of the Choson Kingdom's 22nd king, Chongjo (1777-1800), who contributed to the kingdom's renaissance.
The title includes his real name, Lee San, and the drama will portray his childhood. Lee said the drama would also emphasize the king's political, economic and social achievements.
"I was strongly motivated by his engagement policy, tangpyongchaek", Lee said. The policy was intended to give people equal footing in politics.
King Chongjo was the eldest son of Crown Prince Sado, who was locked in a chest and killed by King Yongjo, his father, during factional struggles.
SBS plans to launch a new 100-episode epic drama called "Tangun", set in the Kojoson era, later this year.
Tangun is the country's mythological founding father. He reportedly became king in 2333 B.C.
The drama is the first to deal the first Korean kingdom and Korea's mythological founder.
MBC's new drama, "Haeohwa", starring actress Kim Hee-sun
and singer-turned-actress Park Ji-yoon
, is expected to ride the popularity of kisaeng-themed dramas.
The drama tells the story of four women from childhood to becoming top kisaeng.