Scholars pen open letter to Disney+ over K-drama ‘Snowdrop’

"We believe that platforms should make an informed decision"

A group of scholars from South Korean have come together to pen and publish an open letter over the controversial JTBC and Disney+ K-drama series Snowdrop.

Snowdrop has been embroiled in controversy over its alleged distortion of history even before it premiered, and has aired its first two episodes on December 18 and 19. Notably, the show is set in 1987, a pivotal year for South Korea’s pro-democracy movement, and stars Jung Hae-in and BLACKPINK’s Jisoo.

The open letter – posted by Bae Keung-yoon, an assistant professor of Korean studies at the Georgia Institute of Technology, and others – was addressed to Walt Disney’s Asia-Pacific president Luke Kang. The letter was penned by Bae and 25 other professors, assistant professors and PhD candidates in Korean and East Asian studies.

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The letter requested for Kang to consult experts in Korean history and “carefully examine the historical references made in the show, and consider for yourselves the way those historical references are used”.

“We make this request because we do not believe that Disney+ as a global platform is aware of the historical and socio-political context in which this show exists,” the letter continued. “And we believe that platforms should make an informed decision when globally broadcasting a show set in recent, still-relevant Korean history.”

The letter went on to cite issues with the drama’s alleged use of real-life historical figures as the basis for characters in Snowdrop. The scholars cited the issue of the female lead’s initial name, Eun Young-cho, and its similarity to prominent pro-democracy activist Cheon Yeong-cho.

“The drama production subsequently decided to change the name [of the main character],” the letter continues. “Even with the name change, the fact remains that people were arrested, tortured and even killed as suspected communists or spies.”

The letter also scrutinized a number of the series’ other characters, including Im Soo-ho (played by Jung Hae-in) and the female lead’s father Eun Chang-su. The letter outlined the character’s numerous similarities with a controversial military officer from the ’80s named Park Jun-byeong.

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“We hope that, with this immense access and reach, the company also takes note of the responsibility it has as a platform, and reflects on the kind of media content it makes available around the world”, the letter concluded. “We, as academics of Korea, stand behind this letter and the points argued within.”

Previously, JTBC had responded to public uproar over Snowdrop, describing the alleged distortions of history as “misunderstandings”. It added that the drama includes “the production team’s intent of hoping for no repetition of an abnormal era in which individual freedom and happiness are oppressed by unjust power”.

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