Cancel culture has come to South Korean dramas not just on the behavior of actors and actresses in real life but on scenes, props, and narratives in the show itself. SBS premiered highly publicized zombie sageuk Joseon Exorcist this Monday and immediately the drama descended into controversy. I haven’t watched the show yet, planning to binge this weekend, but when I heard the so-called netizen rage issue I thought it was much ado about nothing. I was wrong as it’s completely blown up – King Taejong was seen brutally killing his own citizens and in episode 1 the Prince travels to the border of Joseon to a town close to China to bring back a Priest to help with the spreading disease and during the meal the food served included what looks like moon cakes and thousand year eggs, both Chinese food items. Netizens were furious at the distortion in history both with the King’s actions vis-a-vis historical records and that Chinese foods would be served in a Joseon table, despite the fact the production said they were taking creative liberties since this drama had fantasy elements.
Netizens have yeeted this drama to the dogpile after rejecting that explanation, demanding it be taken off air, pressuring advertisers to stop advertising on this drama, telling the screenwriter to quit the industry, etc. Within 2 days every single advertiser (over a dozen) have dropped its advertising and Joseon Exorcist is the first K-drama to be without a single advertiser. It’s only aired 2 episodes, people. The production has issued a HUGE apology, will not air new episodes next week in order to comb through the remaining drama and edit out any problematic elements or even re-film as needed, and will edit out the scenes in episode 1 for VOD streaming. Dang, the Mon-Tues sageuks are all in controversy hell though River Where the Moon Rises got through it and came out smelling like fresh roses. Ratings for JE in the first two episodes were 5.7%, 8.9% and 4.5%, 6.9%.