The decision comes less than a week after the series aired its first two episodes on Monday and Tuesday.
The network released a statement, Friday, announcing that it agreed to terminate the broadcast rights contract with the production companies, which stopped filming the series.
SBS had already purchased the rights to most of the episodes, and 80 percent of the series had been filmed. But the network said, "Although it would pose a financial burden and a gap in the TV schedules of both the network and production studios, we have decided to cancel the broadcasting of the series."
SBS added that it is also in the process of terminating the series' overseas license deal. "Overseas streaming services have already been canceled or will be," it said.
Lotte Cultureworks, one of the co-production companies, alongside YG Studio Plex and Crave Works, also announced they are withdrawing investments into the series, which cost 32 billion won ($28.3 million) to make.
"We apologize and feel deeply responsible for stirring up controversy. We will put our best effort into sorting things out promptly," it said.
On the previous day, several media outlets had reported that the series' production would be dropped, saying that director Shin Kyung-soo was making phone calls to the cast members about the possible cancellation.
The fantasy period series, set in the 1392-1910 Joseon Kingdom, is about King Taejong (Kam Woo-sung), the third king of Joseon, and his son, Chungnyeong (Jang Dong-yoon), also known as King Sejong, who fight against evil spirits to save their kingdom.
The series was embroiled in controversy shortly after it aired by showing King Taejong going on a rampage, killing his own people after suffering from hallucinations, and for featuring lines that debase Chungnyeong.
The series also featured Chinese-style outfits, architectural set design, and food props, such as Chinese dumplings, mooncakes, and century eggs, which were rarely seen in Korea during that period.
Viewers pointed out that it is inappropriate to use Chinese-style elements in a Korean period series, as the cultural feud between Korea and China has recently been rekindled, following China's claim to the origins of kimchi and the traditional Korean dress called "hanbok."
The network apologized for causing a "misunderstanding," adding that the series' writer, Park Gye-ok, was using his imagination. It announced that some of the scenes will be removed from reruns and online streaming services.
Despite the apology, criticism continued to mount online, with many viewers calling for the show to be canceled. The series suffered declining viewership ratings and its sponsors withdrew their investments and advertisements.
source: The Korea Times