Japanese fan Hiromi graciously shared with me the Japanese transcript of PD Lee Sang Yeob’s (PD LSY) interview which appeared in the Japanese magazine “Korean TV Dramas” (No. 66). This is the same issue of the magazine where Jo Hyun Jae‘s interview also appeared.
PD LSY’s interview is quite long, so I asked Ms. Hiromi to share with me only those which she thinks will be of interest to JHJ fans because I do not want to overwork her, and also because translation work is really difficult. My English translation is not verbatim.
START OF INTERVIEW
PD Lee Sang Yoeb
In an exceptional sense of balance, I created a new type of costume drama.
“King’s Daughter, Soo Baek Hyang” (KDSBH) depicts the life of Soo Baek Hyang (SBH), the daughter of King Muryeong, the 25th King of Baekje. Initially, we didn’t have many viewers because the audience are not that familiar with the main protagonist of this drama. There is also still a lot of mystery surrounding the history of this princess.
However, the drama became quite popular among viewers for 2 reasons: (1) because of its movie-like quality in an authentic period drama setting, and (2) because of the humor and romance in the story.
The strategy of PD Lee Sang Yeob.
PD LSY has less than 2 years experience as production director (PD). However, he took advantage of nearly 10 years of rich experience and know-how gained while working with other PDs. Let us listen to his 5-month lonely struggle as he strove hard to produce a good drama with a very limited budget.
Difficulties with casting actors, grateful to the 2 main actors (Jo Hyun Jae and Seo Hyun Jin)
QUESTION 1 (Q1): How did you plan this work?
Lee Sang Yeob (LSY): Originally, I was not part of the planning of this drama. Writer Hwang Jin Young initially planned this drama to depict the life of King Muryeong of Baekje. When she finished planning, that was when I decided to join the production.
The time slot given to us was: weekdays, 5 days a week, night drama. It is rare for period dramas to air on this time slot.
For this time slot, the main audience are women. So I thought it would be better if we make a female the center of the story. As a result, we had to look for a queen to become our main protagonist. There are very few heroic female figures from this era, and their stories have been depicted in a drama already. A woman whose saga is like that of a king. Someone who is willing to work hard to achieve something, someone who resists fate, someone who also experiences love and separation. It was while I was looking for that kind of story from this era that I learned of the existence of Soo Baek Hyang (SBH).
Q2: Up to what extent of the documented history on SBH have you researched?
LSY: Actually, in Korea, there is very little documentation on SBH that exists up to this day. But there are some in Japan. It is my hypothesis that Princess Teshiroka of Japan (てしらかのひめみこ) and SBH of Baekje might be the same person. However, this hypothesis has its pros and cons. Because it is only a hypothesis not a dogma, I felt that to focus on this hypothesis might be a little dangerous. But, still writer Hwang Jin Young is attracted to the dramatic angle of SBH’s story, so she said that she wants to write about her. SBH just seemed to be a very interesting character.
Q3: Of the historical documentation in Japan on SBH, how much exists up to this day?
LSY: I, myself, do not know exactly how much. There is a story that Emperor Keitai received the backing of King Muryeong, that is how he was able to ascend to the throne in Japan. (Editor: There is one sentence which I cannot translate.)
There is also a story that SBH is a relative of King Muryeong, whom he sent to Japan to spy on Emperor Keitai by establishing a close relationship him. It is said that Emperor Keitai fell in love with SBH without knowing that she is a spy. There are those stories, but they are not historically proven.
Q4: There is certainly an impact in those stories
LSY: I know, right? SBH seems such a rich source of dramatic material, that is why the writer was drawn to the character. However, we are creating a drama that can be watched by anyone since the drama will air in a terrestial broadcasting channel. We don’t have precise data on which to base our story, so I thought the audience might find those stories implausible. And then later, if the drama is aired in Japan, Japanese viewers might think the story to be implausible too.
Q5: I heard that aside from problems during the planning, you also struggled completing your cast.
LSY: Yes, completing our cast was terribly hard. KDSBH is a period drama that aired 5 days a week in the evening. The filming schedule for such a drama is incredibly tight. I was told that even newbie actors didn’t want to join our production. There were many twists and turns during casting, but first we must decide on the actor to play the SBH role.
Seo Hyun Jin, Writer Hwang Jin Young and I worked together before in the short drama “The Edge.” We offered the role to her, but when she read the proposal, she cried. At first she didn’t want to do it, but when she heard that I would be directing, she decided to accept the offer. I was really thankful.
The male protagonist has not been decided at this stage. We considered newbie actors because which established actor in his right mind would think of joining our production? So finding the male protagonist was our next struggle.
Then one day, I received a phone call from PD Kim Sang Ho (“When A Man Loves”, 2013, MBC). He asked me, “Are you still having difficulty getting a male lead? How about Jo Hyun Jae?”
Honestly, when I heard that, my first thought was “Will JHJ really do it?” Even though I was skeptical that JHJ will accept the role, I readily agreed to meet with him.
Our first impression of each other is really very good.
TO BE CONTINUED
Photos of JHJ and PD LSY taken when Korean fans from DC/JHJ visited the set of KDSBH on January 17, 2014.
Credit: Japanese transcript from Hiromi @ club.brokore.com/sodonyo; All photos from DC/JHJ. Thanks!