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[Herald Interview] 'Gyeongseong Creature' focuses on human stories of 1945, not monsters

By Lee Yoon-seo

Published : Jan. 10, 2024 - 14:40

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"Gyeongseong Creature" (Netflix)

With a whopping total production cost of 70 billion won ($53 million), the first season of "Gyeongseong Creature," touted as one of Netflix Korea's most anticipated original dramas of the second half of 2023, aired its last episode on Friday.

"Gyeongseong Creature" tells the story of Yoon Chae-ok (Han So-hee) and Jang Tae-sung (Park Seo-joon), who set out on a journey for survival in 1945, during the Japanese colonial period in Korea.

Since its release, the drama series has become a global hit, with the title ranking third on Netflix's global top 10 list in the TV (Non-English) sector for three consecutive weeks, from Dec. 18 through Sunday.

The show is helmed by Jung Dong-yoon, the star director of multiple hit Korean dramas such as the 2019 mega-hit Korean TV drama, “Hot Stove League," and tvN's romance drama, "It's Okay to Not Be Okay," and its screen script was written by renowned screenwriter Kang Eun-kyung, who was responsible numerous hit Korean drama series including SBS' "Dr. Romantic" trilogy and MBC's "Gu Family Book."

According to Kang, it was difficult to find a producer to create "Gyeongseong Creature."

"I have been wanting to tell (the story of 'Gyeongseong Creature') for a long time. However, there were situational constraints. There were no actors willing to take on such roles, and, with the onset of the Korean wave in Japan, (the demand for) dramas depicting the Japanese colonial era disappeared," said Kang Eun-kyung, during an interview with reporters in Seoul on Wednesday.

"Other reasons included the high production costs and the need for actors (suitable for the roles). It became difficult to decide (how to create such a drama) when a big trend like Hallyu has emerged," she said.

According to her, the decision to create "Gyeongseong Creature" was realized when she met director Jung Dong-yoon.

"I had the privilege of encountering a young director who was interested in historical dramas. I became curious as to how (the drama), portrayed through the eyes of this young director, would turn out," she said.

"It seemed inadequate to simply argue that the Japanese colonial period era was sad and gloomy. So, I discussed with the director the question, 'What can symbolize this era?' The answer was monsters. We then decided to incorporate the stories of human experiments we had accumulated (into the series)," she said.

Regarding reviews that point out the infrequent appearance of monsters despite the drama's title "Gyeongseong Creatures," and comments that the series did not function well as a monster horror series, Kang said that the main goal of the series was to portray the lives of various people who lived through the Japanese colonial period.

"Looking at the responses, it seems that people had more genre-specific expectations because of the title 'Gyeongseong Creature.' I think I may have overlooked that," said Kang.

"While writing, I focused more on the historical aspects. I didn't want to write (the drama series) in a tone that complained about the (hardships of Koreans during the era). I wanted to write the stories of those who endured (the hardships of the Japanese colonial era)," she said.

Director Jung added that he tried to portray the monster in a more subdued manner, compared to typical monsters one might see on-screen.

"I tried to stay true to the essence without deviating too much. The year 1945 held great significance for Korea, and I wanted to tell the stories of Koreans living through the period to a global audience. It seems that I may not have met the expectations of the viewers in that regard, (portraying the monsters like that)," he said.

In regard to season two of "Gyeongseong Creature," which is scheduled to be released later this year, director Jung said the new season will introduce more creatures while focusing more on the relationship between Yoon Chae-ok and Jang Tae-sung.

"I focused on human greed (and) the nature of humans to create season one. For the second season, I wanted to tell the story of Chae-ok and Tae-sang meeting again, and portray the remnants (of stories of the first season). I aim to create a modern drama with seven episodes (for the second season), and depict what has changed and what hasn't in 2024 with a fast-paced narrative," said Jung.

The director pledged to include more creatures in the second season. "However, these creatures will not be the typical creatures that we are familiar with," he added.