What kind of drama do you like? Action? Thriller? Comic? If you are a drama maniac, you may have seen historical dramas. Historical dramas have been televised for a long time and have gained viewer’s affection. It is a visual instructive media different from history books and textbooks. Through this, people can indirectly experience history and the past, which we cannot experience in the present. In the period of authoritarianism when political suppression absolutely governed Korea, a historical drama was a way of getting rid of stress as it presented Korean social problems in a roundabout way. Like other dramas, historical dramas have changed and developed as historical perceptions changed. In the process of changing and developing, there have also been some problems.
The origin of historical dramas
When political speaking was restricted, the historical drama was all about Korean dynasties. Especially, a king and those around him, such as a queen and her retainers were often the subject matter of the historical dramas. It represented many historical incidents on the basis of historical materials (records or documents). Representative dramas include: ‘The Truth of the Joseon Dynasty 500’ and ‘Tears of the Dragon’. Both of them dealt with the incidents from the Joseon Dynasty. Since then, not only the Joseon Dynasty but also the Goryeo and the period of the Three Kingdom’s have been subject matter for historical dramas.
In the latter half of the 1990s and 2000s
The previous historical dramas focused on Korean dynasties, but the ‘common historical drama’ focuses on the life of ordinary people, has been the subject matter from the latter half of the 1990s. ‘Hur Jun’ televised in 1999 made a big sensation. At an audience rating survey, it recorded as many as 65.6% as a representative ‘common historical drama’. Due to this, people became interested in Oriental medicine and it was the beginning of escaping from historical dramas about dynasties.
‘Dae Jang Guem’ produced in 2004 was a popular drama creating a trend called the ‘Dae Jang Guem Syndrome’. It was exported from all parts of Asia to the Middle East. The historical dramas evolved into dramas that even captured the attention of foreigners as the framework of dramas become various and peculiar.
The advent of fusion historical dramas and controversy
One of the reasons that ‘Dae Jang Guem’ could become successful was because of its harmonious combinations of historical facts and writer’s imagination. This is one of the big changes the historical dramas experienced. Through the change, a new genre of drama called ‘Fusion historical drama’ came into being. It is made by inspiring writer’s imaginations based on simple historical facts rather than thorough historical facts. Not only making many new stories but also adding brilliant scenes and modern background music make viewers feel both the past and present at the same time.
However, there is a saying that too much is as bad as too little. Writer’s excessive imaginations can make historical controversy. Recently, ‘The Painter of Wind’ televised on SBS caused some controversial problems. It is a kind of fusion drama that focused on Shin Yoon-bok and Kim Hong-do, popular painters in the Joseon era.
The controversial thing in this drama is that it is an actress, who took on the role of a main character, Shin Yoon-bok. Although the actress took this part in the drama attired as a man, it can be a historical problem, considering that Shin was really a man on the basis of historical materials. Some historians claimed that it completely distorted Korean history and debased a great name in history. As historical dramas are changing and pursuing more artistry than historical facts, the controversial problem on historical facts becomes serious.
In an interview with a CAH reporter, Lee Won-bok, an expert on Shin’s works claimed, “Because the drama is made from a writer’s imagination and is also an historical drama, viewers have a responsibility to understand the writer’s imagination.” However, children can accept the scenes differently from actual historical facts. To prevent such things happening, he stated that adults should correct historical errors and teach children the truth. If there is no such precondition, historical dramas with a writer’s imagination based on historical facts is necessary.
We can experience a new world through historical dramas as they have captured people’s affections. Their affection can be continuous because of a writer’s steady effort to evolve the genre. The controversial problems may be a kind of stage to take a leap to a more developed drama. < 저작권자 © 중앙헤럴드 무단전재 및 재배포금지 >
Drama is no more than a drama. Historical drama is also no more than a historical drama. If it is finished under a condition where the truth disappears and is distorted, our ancestors will be somewhat depressed. Thus, our efforts to understand the truth about history are necessary.