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Coupang Play denies apologizing to ‘Anna’ director

Coupang Play‘s original series “Anna” (Coupang Play)
Coupang Play‘s original series “Anna” (Coupang Play)

Local OTT platform operator Coupang Play on Monday denied apologizing to “Anna” director Lee Joo-young for editing her eight-episode drama series into a six-part series without her consent.

“On Aug. 21, Song Young-hoon, a lawyer at Siwoo, the legal representative of Lee, released press material saying ‘Coupang Play apologized for the controversy in the editing process.’ This is not true. When we approached the lawyers about this, Jo Gwang-hee, another legal representative of director Lee, admitted the falsehood, saying, ‘At the time, I was not able to accurately understand the content of the agreement due to drinking,’” Coupang Play said in a statement.

K-drama series “Anna,” starring Korean heartthrob Bae Suzy, played a crucial part in Coupang Play recording its fourth-largest monthly active users in June, at 3.73 million. Coupang Play is a relatively new player in the streaming market, having launched in December 2020.

According to Coupang Play, it has promised to delete the names of the director and six staff members from the series as requested during a private meeting on Aug. 19, only because the director admitted that Coupang Play did not unilaterally re-edit the drama and also knew that Lee‘s original version will be separately released later on.

At the end of the statement, Coupang Play said it would take legal actions against Siwoo’s two lawyers and director Lee.

However, lawyers Song and Jo told The Korea Herald on Monday that it is Coupang who is lying and damaging their reputation.

“We have the entire recording. In the file, you can hear the head of Coupang Play, Kim Sung-han, apologize,” Song said. “Maybe they thought that the apology would be confidential, but we did not agree to that. There are no written contracts about that.”

Song also stated that the director did not agree that Coupang Play was not at fault for re-editing the drama without consent.

Jo also said he was unaware that the apology was supposed to be confidential and has denied Coupang‘s claim that he did not understand the meeting due to drinking. 

“After our press release on Sunday, the Coupang Play team seemed very worried about it being released, so I tried to reassure them,” Jo told The Korea Herald.

The issue came to light in early August when Lee released a statement through the law firm Siwoo, claiming that Coupang Play had re-edited her drama without her consent. She claimed that the re-editing damaged her initial intention as well as the function of the characters.

The director asked Coupang Play to remove her name from the currently released “Anna” series, release the original eight-part version of the drama, apologize and clearly state that it will not re-edit any directors’ work without consent in the future.

In a statement, Coupang Play responded that the re-editing was done in accordance with the contract. Coupang Play also added that it had to make changes to the director‘s work because it was edited in a way that differed from what they had initially agreed on when they started the project.

The conflict between the two sides is expected to be drawn out as Lee said she was willing to take legal action against the OTT platform operator, soon after Coupang Play released its statement.

Many film industry insiders have shown support for Lee.

Six staff members who worked on “Anna” -- Lee Eui-tae, Jung Hee-Sung, Lee Jae-wook, Paek Bum-joon, Kim Jung-hoon and Park Ju-gang -- also released a statement supporting Lee. They asked Coupang Play to remove their names from the six-episode series’ along with that of the director.

The Directors Guild of Korea, on Aug. 11, also urged Coupang Play to apologize to Lee for violating the director‘s rights.

The director’s original eight-episode version of “Anna” was made available on Coupang Play on Aug. 12.

By Song Seung-hyun (