The Korea Herald


More TV dramas accused of plagiarism

By Korea Herald

Published : Dec. 24, 2013 - 19:42

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Still cuts from SBS’ new drama “My Love from the Star” starring Kim Soo-hyun (left) and Gianna Jun. (SBS) Still cuts from SBS’ new drama “My Love from the Star” starring Kim Soo-hyun (left) and Gianna Jun. (SBS)

After only its second episode, the newly aired SBS drama “My Love from the Star” starring popular stars Kim Soo-hyun and Jun Ji-hyun (Gianna Jun) has found itself wrapped up in a heated plagiarism controversy with an ongoing Korean comic book series titled “Seol Hee,” which is based on a similar concept to the drama.

“My Love from the Star” is based on the historical “Gwanghae Journal” from the Joseon era that referenced mysterious UFO sightings. The TV drama adapted the tale into a show that tells the story of “alien” in the appearance of a human named Do Min-joon ― played by Kim ― who doesn’t age and has been living in Korea for the past 400 years. The drama follows the life of Do, who is now living in present-day Korea, as he falls in love with famous, yet snobby actress Cheon Song-ee ― played by Jun.

The SBS drama has been accused of ripping off the concept from the “Seol Hee” comic book series by cartoonist and writer Kang Kyung-ok. After the airing of the drama, Kang publicly claimed the theft of her storyline on her blog.
“While the ‘Gwanghae Journal’ is something anyone can write about, the adaptation of the storyline of ‘a 400-year-old man who doesn’t age and lives in the present’ and a ‘story of lovers’ is what I wrote in ‘Seol Hee,’” she wrote.

Kang went on to claim that she found at least eight points of similarity between the drama and her comic book ― a series that the writer claimed to have been developing for seven years ― including the use of a famous person, eternal youth, an alien, rebirth and others.

“Although the atmosphere, the male and female characters and the order in which events took place are different, the core of the story is far too similar,” she explained.

Despite public outcry by the author, a spokesperson from HB Entertainment ― the production company for “My Love from the Star” ― released a public statement claiming that the accusations are completely baseless and denied any knowledge of the “Seol Hee” comic books during the drama’s production process.

“We did not know of the comic ‘Seol Hee’ and it was certainly not something that we referenced for our production,” said the HB Entertainment official in news reports.

Although no legal action has been taken by either party, the issue of plagiarism has been a long-standing hot-button issue in the Korean entertainment industry, by both the accusers and the accused. Although many people take it upon personal instinct whether to judge an idea or concept as having been the victim of intellectual theft, the harsh reality is that it’s almost impossible to define, let alone prove, plagiarism.

In the past, many popular Korean dramas have come under fire of plagiarism accusations such as “Secret Garden,” “Five Fingers,” “Greatest Love,” “Queen Sun Deok” and even the megahit 2009 spy drama “Iris,” starring Lee Byung-hun and Kim Tae-hee. 

 A scene from the KBS TV series “Iris” (KBS)  A scene from the KBS TV series “Iris” (KBS)

In 2009, novelist Park Chul-joo first filed a suit against Taewon Entertainment ― the production company of KBS TV drama “Iris” ― claiming the plot of the drama had copied scenes from his novel. However, after deliberation, the Seoul Central District Court sided with Taewon Entertainment, claiming that although some of the scenes were similar, it was not “similar enough” to be considered plagiarism.

A year later, another writer ― referred to only as Mr. Lee ― filed another lawsuit against the drama’s producers, claiming that some of the storyline had been plagiarized from one of his novels, infringing on the text’s copyright. However, after years of fighting, the courts eventually dismissed that lawsuit in August, stating that the scenes the producers of “Iris” were accused of plagiarizing were in fact “abstract ideas,” which are not afforded protection of copyright laws.

“When it comes to plagiarism in a legal sense, there are just too many blurred lines,” said pop culture critic Jung Duk-hyun. “There is so much cultural content being put out into the public nowadays, the overlapping of ideas is just inevitable.

“These genres all have a certain formula, like the storyline about a man falling in love with a woman … we’ve all seen it so much we’ve gone numb,” he continued.

In the case of “My Love from the Star,” the critic claimed that the fact that the storyline is based on the historic findings surrounding the “Gwanghae Journal” just makes it all that more difficult to definitively state that the TV drama indeed plagiarized Kang’s comic book series.

By Julie Jackson (