South Korean megadrama hits TV

'Guardian Gods' averages 20% household rating

SEOUL — South Korean megadrama “The Four Guardian Gods of the King” featuring Korean Wave star Bae Yong-joon had an auspicious opening last week with a 20%+ household rating.

With a budget of $46 million, the long-delayed series, also referred to by its Korean title “Taewangsasingi,” is far and away the most expensive Korean TV drama ever.

But the production company has recouped some costs by turning its 250,000 sq-ft set on Jeju Island, built at a cost of $23.7 million, into a theme attraction that has already drawn close to 20,000 visitors.

Apart from Bae Yong-joon, who became a regionwide phenomenon in TV drama “Winter Sonata” (2002), “The Four Guardian Gods” stars acclaimed 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 “The Lord of the Rings” or local hit “D-War.” Series is produced by Kim Jong-hak and penned by Song Ji-na.

Complex plot covers multiple periods in ancient Korean history, including the founding of the Gojoseon Kingdom in 2,333 B.C. and the reign of King Gwanggaeto of the Goguryeo Kingdom (391-413 A.D.). The Goguryeo era has emerged as a point of contention in recent years, with Chinese scholars claiming it should be considered part of Chinese history.

Korean web MBC aired a special introduction to the drama Sept. 10, with highlights and interviews with cast and crew. The first three episodes of the 24-part series followed last week, and will move 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 to “The King and I” from SBS, which took 21%.

However, observers note that the high level of interest in the first episode of “Four Guardian Gods” bodes well for its future performance.

The drama has been pre-sold by Kim Jong-hak Prods. to 70 territories, and will start broadcasting on Japan’s pubcaster NHK from mid-October.

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