Edited by Kim Won Hee
Translated by Kim Hoyeun
JTBC’s Snowdrop continues to be a hot potato ever since its first synopsis was leaked. In response to this, the production team made a bold decision to release three episodes in the second week, but it seems like it wasn’t at all effective in winning back the viewers’ hearts.
The first thing that comes as an obstacle in watching the series is the story where historical distortion is suspected, as many have pointed out. Lim Su Ho (Jung Hae In), a North Korean spy who disguised himself as an international student studying in Berlin, reminds people of the Dongbaekrim Incident (aka East Berlin Incident), where international students and Koreans living in Germany were branded as spies. Eun Young Roo (Jisoo) is the daughter of the director of the ANSP (Agency for National Security Planning) who hides Lim Soo Ho, thinking that he’s a member of the democratic movement. And her original name was Eun Young Cho. When criticisms arose that it was named after Cheon Young Cho, the female patriotic martyr of the movement and the heroine of the book “Sister Young Cho,” the drama changed the character’s name. Still, it leaves an unpleasant taste behind. In fact, Cheon Young Cho’s husband Jung Moon Hwa was framed for being a North Korean spy and died young after being tortured.
The more problematic character is Gye Boon Ok (Kim Hye Yoon). Her name resembles Suzy Kim, aka Kim Ok Boon, the victim of an attempted abduction case. In real history, Kim Ok Boon was killed by her husband in 1987. Soon after, her husband and the ANSP fabricated evidence to brand her as a spy, which led to persecution against her family. In the drama, Gye Boon Ok’s sister is targeted by the ANSP as a spy, further reminding us of the Suzy Kim case. And yet, she’s only drawn as someone who believes every word the ANSP agents say about trying to catch the spies and even actively reports anyone suspicious for money. Moreover, Gye Boon Ok appears as someone jealous of other students just because of the fact that she can’t live the life she wants and even steals their expensive belongings to look “stylish.” This overall setting goes beyond the bitterness and even feels malice.
The description of the ANSP agents is also appalling. The ANSP has been criticized for various human rights violations against innocent citizens, and the victims of their crimes still exist. You can easily get a glimpse of their cruelty and crimes in works that received rave reviews for correctly portraying the 80s of Korea, including the movies 1987: When The Day Comes and May 18 and the drama Youth of May. Yet, in Snowdrop, they are portrayed exactly the opposite as shown in other media. Lee Kang Moo (Jang Seung Jo), the “upright” ANSP agent, chases after the real spy because he’s “tired” of all the manipulations that are going on in the organization. So he observes due process even when investigating the dormitories and tries to protect innocent people and students. He makes it look like there were actually “decent people” in ANSP. Even worse, Eun Chang Soo (Heo Joon Ho), the director of the ANSP, is described with words like docile and mild. He even says the following line to his subordinates: “Don’t you know that we have to protect the lives of the people rather than the lives of our colleagues?” Just with the fact that the drama constantly shows the exact of what history tells, it can’t escape from the criticisms of trying to glorify the ANSP.
Even putting aside the controversial settings, Snowdrop still lacks charm overall. Each episode lasts about 85 minutes, which is quite long. And because of that, the story feels draggy. In particular, the Hosoo Women’s University dormitory is portrayed like a fantasy space like Hogwarts, and every trivial thing that happens there is shown unnecessarily detailedly. Even when Lim Soo Ho and Eun Young Ro have to get out of the dormitory in a hurry to avoid the eyes of the ANSP agents, they stop by at so many different places of the building and show scenes that feel like a “fan service,” reducing the tension. Also, the scenes added for laughter don’t go well with the overall flow of the play, only acting as a hindrance. On top of that, the awkward acting and pronunciation compared to other actors halve the drama’s charm.
Snowdrop has already aired half of its episodes. But it’s still no way near winning back the hearts of viewers they’ve already lost before the premiere. Even its background setting is full of topics that people take issues with. So it’ll be impossible for the show to escape the criticisms unless they scrub the original setting and make it new. Will the remaining episodes be able to resolve people’s “misunderstandings,” as the network asserted? I’m worried that only the results that’ll hurt everybody will remain in the end.
Verdict: A fiction that reimagined a painful era in the worst form (0/10)
Edited by Kim Won Hee: I am a person who needs more than 24 hours in a day because there are so many things I love. I am amassing various genres in the jewelry box in my heart.
Translator Kim Hoyeun: If you are a fan of K-drama, K-movie, and K-pop, I am your guy. I will continue to provide you with up-to-date K-entertainment news.