The controversy involving the Korean drama “Snowdrop” starring Jung Hae-in and BLACKPINK’s Jisoo continued to grow in South Korea.
“Snowdrop” has been accused by Korean public of distorting Korean history by disparaging the pro-democracy movement in the country and beautifying and glorifying North Korean spies and the former Agency for National Security Planning (ANSP), a government agency which was linked to the torture and killings of activists in the past.
Premiering on JTBC and Disney Plus last Dec. 18, “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.
“Snowdrop” stars Jung Hae-in, who 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-ro, a college student at Hosoo Women’s University.
The two meet during a group blind date after which Eun Young-ro falls in love with him. Six months later, during a mission, a bloodied Im Soo-ho is chased by agents from the ANSP. He climbs into the dormitory room of Eun Young-ro and loses consciousness. She finds him in her room and hides him from authorities.
Lee Kyung-ran, director of the Lee Han-yeol Memorial Museum, likened “Snowdrop” to glorifying the Nazis, who were mainly responsible for the Holocaust, or the killing of about six million Jews in Europe in the 1940s during World War II.
Lee Han-yeol was a student at Yonsei University in the 1980s. In a demonstration on campus on June 9, 1987, Lee Han-yeol was struck in the head by a police tear gas canister. He died on July 5, 1987.
Actor Kang Dong-won portrayed Lee Han-yeol in the 2017 hit Korean film “1987: When the Day Comes” about the June Democratic Struggle in South Korea, or nationwide pro-democracy protests in June 1987.
“It is an insult to martyr Lee Han-yeol, as well as many citizens who devoted their youth at that time,” said Lee Kyung-ran, according to Korean media outlet Sports Kyunghyang.
He said, “First, the pro-democracy movement, including the Gwangju Uprising, is a resistance movement against the dictator’s massacre of citizens and seizing power, and associating it with North Korea in the story itself is a distortion of history and an insult.”
“There is no statute of limitations on the pursuit of Nazi deeds and the punishment of Nazi worship. Likewise, those who distort and insult the Gwangju Uprising and the pro-democracy movement should also be punished. The current controversy is like an act of glorifying the Nazis,” he said.
The Gwangju Uprising refers to the pro-democracy demonstrations in Gwangju, South Korea in May 1980 in which government forces killed hundreds of citizens.
Lee Kyung-ran also scored the production team of “Snowdrop” for their lack of historical awareness, saying, “If a drama like this was made without that level of historical and social awareness, you have to take responsibility for it.”
He added that it is natural for the Korean public to file a petition to stop the airing of the drama and request for the withdrawal of advertisements from it, saying “this coincides with the apology of politicians who made statements in support of Chun Doo-hwan .”
Complaint against writer, director of ‘Snowdrop’
Meanwhile, the “Snowdrop” controversy has escalated into a national security issue.
On Dec. 21, a citizen filed a complaint with Korea’s Anti-Corruption and Civil Rights Commission against “Snowdrop” screenwriter Yoo Hyun-mi and director Jo Hyun-tak for violation of the country’s National Security Act, which aims” to secure the security of the State and the subsistence and freedom of nationals, by regulating any anticipated activities compromising the safety of the State.”
Under Article 7 of the National Security Act, “Any person who praises, incites or propagates the activities of an anti-government organization, a member thereof or of the person who has received an order from it, or who acts in concert with it, or propagates or instigates a rebellion against the State, with the knowledge of the fact that it may endanger the existence and security of the State or democratic fundamental order, shall be punished by imprisonment for not more than seven years.”
The complainant (whose name was withheld) said, “JTBC made a position that a spy who led the democratization movement did not appear, which is absurd.”
He added that depicting a spy living in romance in the background of the democratization movement era in Korea is clearly a beautification of spies.
On Dec. 19, a petition to stop the airing of “Snowdrop” was filed on the website of the office of President Moon Jae-in. As of 9:32 a.m. of Dec. 23, the petition has garnered 340,124 signatures.
Under the rules, if a petition reaches 200,000 signatures within 30 days, government officials and the Blue House are mandated to answer it.