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“Distortion of History vs. Comedy” Conflicting Views on tvN’s ‘Mr. Queen’

Credit: tvN

tvN’s new weekend drama Mr. Queen landed at the center of both cheers and controversy from the very first episode. 

Mr. Queen is about the soul of Jang Bong Hwan, a man who lives in present-day Korea, getting trapped in the body of the queen in the Joseon era. Although the drama drew much attention when it garnered 8.8% viewer ratings in just two episodes, some scenes sparked up a controversy of distorting history. The production team immediately issued an apology, but viewers are still debating over the drama.

Although Mr. Queen features real figures from history, such as King Cheoljong and Queen Shinjung, it drew much concern when it distorted history, for example, describing Queen Shinjung as a superstition-believer. It’s also criticized for disparaging cultural heritage with lines like “The Annals of the Joseon Dynasty are nothing but tabloids” or “How long are you gonna make me dance to royal ancestral rites music.”

Credit: tvN

On Dec 16, the production team officially issued an apology, saying, “We didn’t mean to negatively express historical figures and events. But we have heavily accepted the fact that some of the expressions were inappropriate, and hence deleted the problematic scenes.” But still, the aftermath is intense. According to the Korea Communications Standards Commission, 2,248 complaints were filed as of the 16th at 1 p.m. KST, and Queen Shinjung’s descendant Pungyang Cho family also heralded a strong response. 

With K-dramas’ immense popularity, there are also concerns that the repercussions will grow. Complaints are growing over the “anti-Korean sentiment” shown in the original novel and drama Go Princess Go, and some even started campaigning for “boycotting” the show, claiming that they will not take part in spreading wrong history.

Despite the chaotic atmosphere, however, expectations are still high. Along with the drama’s comical charm, Shin Hye Sun’s prowess is enough to solely digest the “one-man show” is gaining positive reviews.  Thanks to favorable reviews, the ratings have exceeded 8 percent at once, and it has been on the steady rise, premiering with the 2nd-highest ratings of any tvN weekend drama.

Credit: tvN

However, as the production team has expressed their willingness to improve, there is a growing opinion that we should wait and see. The production crew clearly stated that they “were not aware that there were negative comments made about Korea” when purchasing the remake televising rights and fully expressed their desire to create a whole new project. 

Some are also saying that the characteristics of the genre of comic fantasy should be taken into account. Ha Jae Geun, a critic of pop culture, explained, “The fact that the real figure from history was used will have caught the viewers’ eyes. In some aspects, historical facts were excessively included in a fantasy drama based on imagination.”

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