More than 237,000 Koreans sign petition to stop airing of K-drama ‘Snowdrop’

More than 237,000 Koreans have signed a national petition to stop the continued airing of the Korean drama “Snowdrop,” starring Jung Hae-in and BLACKPINK’s Jisoo, which had its first two episodes on Dec. 18 and 19.

“Snowdrop” premiered on Dec. 18 and on the following day, a petition was filed on the National Petition board on the website of the office of Korean President Moon Jae-in.

Jung Hae-in (left) and BLACKPINK's Jisoo in episode 2 of "Snowdrop" (JTBC Studios, Drama House)

The campaign to stop “Snowdrop” has snowballed. As of 7 a.m. (Philippine time) on Dec. 20, the petition, with the title “Petition to stop the broadcast of ‘Snowdrop,’” garnered 237,183 signatures or endorsements and it continued to gather more supporters.

In just one day, the petition reached 211,856 signatures as of midnight of Dec. 19. Under the National Petition rules, if a petition reaches 200,000 signatures in 30 days, government and Blue House (presidential office) officials are mandated to reply. The “Snowdrop” petition will end on Jan. 18.

The petition accused “Snowdrop,” a work of fiction, of distorting Korean history on the democratization movement in South Korea especially during 1987, the year the drama is set, despite reassurances from JTBC, the Korean channel that airs the drama, and the production team.

During the press conference for the drama last Dec. 16, “Snowdrop” director Jo Hyun-tak said, "The drama is set in the year 1987, but, except for situations like the country being under the reign of a military regime and electing a president at that time, all other things, like its characters and institutions, are fictitious," reported Yonhap News.

“Snowdrop” was under public scrutiny in South Korea in March when a synopsis of the drama and character introduction were leaked. A petition was filed on March 26 to stop the airing of the drama, garnering more than 200,000 signatures.

In a statement released on March 30, JTBC said it is “reiterating our position to resolve the misunderstanding from speculation and criticism that still continues after the announcement of our position about ‘Snowdrop.’”

It said the current controversy stemmed from a piece of information consisting of a combination of unfinished synopsis and character introduction. JTBC said suspicions were added to the leaked information and non-factual information is being presented as true.

“Of course, this is the responsibility of the production team for failing to thoroughly manage unrefined data. ‘Snowdrop’ is not a drama that deals with democratic movements. The setting in which male and female protagonists participate in or lead democratic movements does not exist anywhere in the script. Rather, a character who was unfairly oppressed and accused as a spy under the military regime in the 1980s appears,” said JTBC.

The drama is Jisoo’s acting debut and Jung Hae-in’s next drama after Netflix’s “D.P.,” which premiered last August.

“Snowdrop” tells the story about political conspiracy and espionage against the backdrop of the 1987 Korean presidential election and a romance that blooms amid it.

Jung Hae-in plays the role of Im Soo-ho, a 27-year-old graduate student who is a North Korean spy sent to South Korea to do a mission. Jisoo is 20-year-old Eun Young-cho, a college student at Hoosoo Women’s University.

The two meet during a group blind date after which Jisoo falls in love with him. Six months later, during a mission, a bloodied Im Soo-ho is chased by agents from the government’s Agency for National Security Planning (ANSP), which, in reality, was linked to torture and killings. The ANSP is now the current National Intelligence Service (NIS).

He climbs into the dormitory room of Eun Young-cho and loses consciousness. She finds him and hides him from authorities.

The first episode also shows the South Korean military regime and ANSP conspiring with North Korea to maintain power.

According to the Dec. 19 petition, “Snowdrop” has “already caused a lot of controversy by disparaging the democratization movement through the release of a synopsis before its airing and more than 200,000 people have agreed to the petition to cancel the airing of the drama.”

1987 was a historic year for South Korea as thousand of students and citizens joined nationwide protests to condemn the killing and torture of a student activist and to pressure the government to hold a direct presidential election.

The new petition said the drama’s production team previously said there was nowhere in the script for the male and female leads to participate in or lead the democratization movement.

However, it said, in the first episode, “the female protagonist misunderstood the spy, the male protagonist , as an activist and saved him.”

It said at the time of the democratization movement, there were activists who were tortured and killed because they were accused of being spies without any basis. It added that making a drama with such content despite the historical facts undermines the value of the democratization movement.

The petition also protested the use of the Korean protest song "Pine Tree, Green Pine Tree" during a scene when Im Soo-ho is being chased by ANSP agents. It said the song emphasizes the pain and victory of those who participated in the democratization movement

It said it is unacceptable to use such a song as the background music for a person who plays as an agent of the ANSP and for a person who plays as a spy.

“Snowdrop” is also aired on the OTT platform Disney Plus and according to the petition, the drama can be viewed in many countries. It said the drama should not be aired anymore as it can instill a false view of the democratization movement in Korea among foreigners.

“Korea is a democratic country, and this democracy was not achieved without effort, but through the pain and sacrifice of the innocent majority. Only about 30 years have passed since this and the airing of dramas that undermine the value of the democratization movement should be stopped, and at this point in time when the influence of Korean culture is gradually growing, the broadcasting industry should also think about the seriousness of historical distortion,” according to the petition.

In March, Korean TV channel SBS cancelled the airing of the Korean drama "Joseon Exorcist" after two episodes after viewers complained of history distortion and use of Chinese props.

More than 200,000 Koreans signed a petition to stop its airing and about 5,000 complaints were filed against the drama before the Korea Communications Standards Commission (KCSC), the government agency in-charge of regulating broadcast and internet content.