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Expensive Korean drama bows

'Gods' nabs 20% of country's ratings

SEOUL — Local mega-drama “The Four Guardian Gods of the King,” featuring Korean Wave star Bae Yong-joon, had an auspicious start Tuesday night with more than 20% of viewers tuning in.

With a budget of $46 million, the long-delayed series (Korean title: “Taewangsasingi”) is the most expensive Korean TV drama ever by far.

Apart from Bae, who became a regionwide phenomenon in his previous TV drama “Winter Sonata” (2002), the series stars actress Moon So-ri (“Oasis”), Choi Min-soo (“Sword in the Moon”), Lee Ji-ah and Park Sang-won.

The drama, which took 18 months to produce, contains elaborate CG effects that viewers have compared to those in “The Lord of the Rings” or local hit “D-War.” Series is produced by Kim Jong-hak and penned by scriptwriter Song Ji-na.

The drama has been pre-sold by Kim Jong-hak Prods. to 70 territories and will begin a run on Japan’s NHK in mid-October. Meanwhile, the drama’s 290,000-square-foot set on Jeju Island, built at a cost of $23.7 million, has been turned into a theme attraction that has already drawn close to 20,000 local and international visitors.

Pubcaster MBC aired a special introduction to the drama Monday, with highlights and interviews with cast and crew. It will air the first three episodes of the 24-part series this week, before moving into a Wednesday-Thursday timeslot for the rest of its run.

According to TNS Media Korea, the 20.4% rating actually ranked second in the prime 10 p.m. timeslot, with “The King and I,” from SBS, taking 21%. Observers note, however, that the high level of interest in the first episode of “Four Guardian Gods” bodes well for its future performance.

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