SBS' fantasy period series "Joseon Exorcist" is facing a backlash after causing an uproar among viewers over distorting history by demonizing Taejong (1367-1422), the third king of Joseon, and using Chinese props for Joseon Kingdom settings.
The viewership rating of Tuesday's episode plunged to 6.9 percent from 8.9 percent its first episode garnered on Monday.
The corporate sponsors of the series also responded to the controversy by cutting off ties with the series and halting support.
Massage chair brand, Cozyma, released a statement on its website, Tuesday, notifying that it has withdrawn advertisements placed for the series. "Cozyma is in no way involved with the following series' content," the statement said.
Healthcare brand, Hoguanwon, also announced that it has decided to terminate the sponsorship contract with the network, explaining that it was not aware of the storyline prior to the series' broadcast.
"When we signed the agreement, we did not get scripts or a synopsis (of the production)," the company told local media outlets. "We immediately requested termination after learning about the news."
Companies that purchased spots for commercials during the series ― including KT, LG Household & Health Care, and ACE Bed ― are also canceling their ads.
The controversy sparked instantly after the first episode of the series, set in the 1392-1910 Joseon Kingdom, aired. The supernatural series revolves around King Taejong (Kam Woo-sung) and his son Chungnyeong (Jang Dong-yoon), also known as King Sejong, one of the most honored kings in history, fight against the evil spirits to save their kingdom.
In the first episode, King Taejong was depicted as going on a killing spree after hallucinating his late father. Also, in the scene where Prince Chungnyung visits a "gisaengjip" a house with female entertainers, with a western exorcist priest, the foods were displayed with Chinese-style dumplings, baked goods, and an egg-based culinary dish, which is rarely eaten in Korea.
Many viewers slammed the network for diminishing the actual historical figures. They also pointed out it is inappropriate to use Chinese-style outfits and props in a Korean period series, especially when the cultural feud between Korea and China is intensifying as China claims to be the origin of kimchi and hanbok.
Professor Seo Kyun-duk at Sungshin Womens' University, who is known to be a forefront campaigner over historical issues, criticized the network for "giving another excuse" for the Chinese to claim dominance over Korean culture.
"When we don't even have enough time and resources to spread our country's outstanding culture and history, why are we exposing distorted history to foreign audiences," the professor wrote on his social media, Tuesday. "We need to stand up and protect our own culture and history."
The network released a statement regarding the controversy, explaining that the writer Park Kye-ok was merely using his imagination.
"In our series, the gisaengjip is located near the border of Ming China, so we thought a lot of Chinese people would visit the region. That's why we prepared the (Chinese) props," it said. "We did not have any other intention. We will be more careful in producing our work in the future."
source: The Korea Times & VIKI Global TV