The Jisoo and Jung Hae-in starrer JTBC show, Snowdrop, has thousands of fans eagerly awaiting the next episode. However, the show has an equal, if not larger, number of detractors, with over 200,000 already having signed a petition to cancel the drama.
Ever since Snowdrop’s synopsis was revealed, the drama has been under constant scrutiny, especially by Korean viewers. Set in a particularly tumultuous period in Korean history - the 1980s, which saw the nation undergo a series of movements, including the June Democratic Struggle - the show narrates the love story of a female student and a male spy working undercover in South Korea.
Snowdrop makers were initially accused of distorting historical events, leading to a lot of protest. At that time, JTBC had stated:
"There is no setting in the script for the male and female protagonists to participate or lead the democratization movement."
The pilot episode, which aired on December 18, 2021, though, has not gone down well with several Korean viewers, and appears to have confirmed their worst fears.
The petition was filed after two episodes of Snowdrop aired
According to the Blue House Petition, which has already collected more than 200,000 signatures, the first episode of the much hyped drama showed the female lead, played by BLACKPINK leader Jisoo, allegedly saving a spy who is against the pro-democracy movement.
The petition, which was started on December 19, after the first two episodes were aired, has criticized Snowdrop for distorting fairly recent history.
The petition mentioned a scene where Jung Hae-in’s character, who is a spy, is being chased down by the male sub-lead from the Agency for National Security Planning. What stood out for Korean viewers was the background song - the drama played a historically significant song that used to symbolize the pro-democracy movement:
“a song that emphasizes the pain and victory of those who are carrying out the democratization movement.”
Given that many of the Korean viewers of Snowdrop had parents and grandparents, if not themselves, involved in the 1987 movement, it is no surprise that the depiction has hit a raw nerve. The role of Jung Hae-in’s character as a spy mistaken for a pro-democratic leader has especially been seen as insensitive, since the reality was the other way around.
In the 1980s, the South Korean President at the time had claimed the protests as a “communist movement” and had used it as an excuse to crack down on students and activists, declaring them spies. Several innocent students and protestors were tortured and arrested by the then government, under accusations of being a spy.
The petition says:
"At the time of the democratization movement, there were victims of the movement who were tortured and killed as spies without any basis, and we think that making a drama with such content despite these historical facts would definitely undermine the value of the democratization movement."
Several petitioners were also concerned about International viewers learning about Korean democracy via Snowdrop, which is allegedly an incorrect portrayal.
"We think that it should not be aired any more because it can instill a false view on the history of the democratization movement in many foreigners."
Many brands have pulled out of Snowdrop
In light of the petition, several brands have distanced themselves from the project, stating that they were not shown the script prior to the airing.
Dopyeongyu, a ceramics manufacturer, officially announced:
"We are a small operating company without any political color. We have not received any prior notice of the drama script or plot, and we have not been able to review the sponsorship.”"
The company has reportedly asked JTBC to remove the company logo and return products.
Organic grain brand Ssarijae Village went so far as to state that they were ashamed that their product had been used in Snowdrop. The heads of the company said that they themselves had been part of pro-democracy protests in their youth, and the distortion had come as an unpleasant surprise.
On December 20, P&J Group revoked its sponsorship of Snowdrop, stating:
"We invested without knowing the details of the plot thinking it would have a good advertising effect. I did not think I should investigate further after being reassured by the staff of the drama saying problematic scenes have been edited out to pass the broadcasting standards."
The brand representative continued:
"After learning more about the issue we have now requested to take our sponsorship off and they have confirmed to take our name out from the third episode."
While international fans of Snowdrop have been voicing their support for the show, most Korean viewers expressed their disapproval.
This is not the first time people have protested against a show due to historical distortion.
In March 2021, SBS’ Joseon Exorcist was canceled after only two episodes, due to historical inaccuracies and nationwide protest. Incidentally, the petition against Joseon Exorcist had collected only a few hundred signatures more than Snowdrop has, till now.
Given how the controversy is escalating, things don’t look very good for Jisoo’s debut drama.