The long-running original webtoon released on Naver by Soonkki in 2010 is a romantic thriller featuring a love story between college students Hong Seol, a smart and hardworking young woman struggling with paying tuition and finding a job, and Yoo Jung, a handsome man from a wealthy family, an ”ideal” beau. What may appear to be a romance drama is categorized as a romantic thriller due to the darkness lurking beneath Yoo’s “Mr. Perfect” veneer.
|Promotional image of tvN‘s drama series “Cheese in the Trap” (tvN)|
The webtoon has held tightly to its position as one of the top webtoons on Naver, enjoying a loyal following over the past five years with its elaborate plot lines and detailed psychological descriptions of each character.
At first, the huge fandom of the original work all but seemed to guarantee the drama’s success. The first episode, which aired on Jan. 4, recorded a viewership rating of 3.6 percent, according to AGB Nielsen Media Research.
|Park Hae-jin (Yoo Jung) and Kim Go-eun (Hong Seol) star in tvN‘s drama series “Cheese in the Trap.” (tvN)|
Despite the excessive meddling from fans during the casting process, which earned them the disparaging nickname “chieomeoni” -- a compound word created from “Cheese in the Trap” and “sieomeoni,” “mother-in-law” in Korean -- the drama series got off to a fine start with actor Park Hae-jin playing the male protagonist Yoo.
With the drama initially staying true to the original work, the viewership rating gradually increased to a record 7.1 percent for the ninth episode.
Great expectations, great disappointment
Midway through the series, another main character Baek In-ho (played by Seo Kang-joon), who has a crush on Hong (played by Kim Go-eun), began to take the spotlight, triggering criticism from viewers.
|Seo Kang-joon plays Baek In-ho in tvN’s drama series “Cheese in the Trap.” (tvN)|
The criticisms were directed mainly towards the insufficient and even distorted description of Yoo, while drawing viewers’ empathy towards Baek. All signs were that the story was developing into a corny love triangle.
It is never the case with TV dramas that everyone is satisfied, but most viewers expected Yoo to be more prominently in the spotlight, as he is a central character, and a complicated one at that. Without sufficient description of his past experiences and emotions, it is easy to misunderstand Yoo, as he rarely expresses himself.
The criticisms snowballed as parts of the script were leaked, showing that many important scenes with Yoo were omitted from the drama.
Adding to the drama’s woes was the near disappearance of Park from the screen midway through the series, which irked Chinese fans as well.
|Seo Kang-joon (Baek In-ho) and Kim Go-eun (Hong Seol) star in tvN‘s drama series “Cheese in the Trap.” (tvN)|
Chinese website Youku and Tudou have signed on to release the drama on their websites this summer, and Park’s popularity in China likely played an important role in the deals.
The drama’s popularity among Chinese viewers has been proven, as pirated episodes have topped the Weibo TV drama chart with 1.9 billion viewers even before its official release.
Chinese fans are complaining about Park’s diminished role in the drama, with some even demanding a re-edit of the series before its official release in China.
Meanwhile, Park is scheduled to attend Youku’s promotional event of “Cheese in the Trap” in Beijing on March 10.
Park revealed his discomfort on the official Facebook page of WM Company, the actor’s agency. His post said, “The drama set is a second home for actors. A drama cannot be for just one particular person.”
|Park Hae-jin plays male lead Yoo Jung in tvN’s drama series “Cheese in the Trap.” (tvN)|
Amid the growing controversy over the unexpected rearrangement of the original plot lines and mounting criticisms from fans, original webtoon artist Soonkki announced her position on her blog on Feb. 24.
Soonkki tried to draw a line between the TV drama and webtoon, explaining that she “did not decide nor discuss the story line or the ending, except that she asked not to use the original ending” to keep the ending confidential until the webtoon, which is in its final season, ends. She added that both praise and criticism of the drama have nothing to do with the original work.
Soonkki added that despite her requests for different plot lines that would be more appropriate for the TV drama format, the production team insisted on staying true to the original work. The production company has not contacted her or shared scripts with her since after the sixth episode, despite her requests, Soonkki added.
The last episode of the drama series aired Tuesday, with an ending that was rushed and left many viewers baffled.
The production team Monday issued an apology to Soonkki on Facebook, but emphasized that the last episode of the series had been edited before Soonkki’s announcement.
By Jung Eun-jin (firstname.lastname@example.org)