Sponsors of Disney Plus “Snowdrop” have reportedly abandoned the show after many viewers accused the series of distorting history and disrespecting South Korea’s pro-democracy movement in the 1980s.
The controversy: “Snowdrop” stars Blackpink’s Jisoo in her first acting role as Eun Young-ro, a women’s university student, alongside South Korean actor Jung Hae-in as Lim Soo-ho, a North Korean spy undercover as a graduate student, Korea Times reported.
- Eun Young-ro mistakes Lim Soo-ho as a pro-democracy protester after he appears in her dorm room with blood on him. After they spend more time together, their relationship slowly turns romantic.
- The show is set during the political unrest in South Korea in the 1980s when citizens were fighting against the authoritarian regime of former president Chun Doo-hwan for democracy, Forbes reported. Protesters of Chun’s regime were reportedly accused of being North Korean spies and subsequently imprisoned, tortured and killed. At least 200 pro-democracy activists were killed.
- Many viewers were enraged that the show features a North Korean spy “potentially involved in or even associated with Korea’s pro-democracy movement.” They also found issue with the usage of a “historically significant” song that was played during a chase between a North Korean spy and an Agency for National Security Planning member, NME reported.
- A petition, posted on Cheong Wa Dae on Sunday, has called on local Korean broadcast network JTBC to cancel “Snowdrop” for distorting the pro-democracy history of South Korea. The petition reportedly received 267,000 signatures in one day.
- “It is a historical fact that protesters in the democracy movement were tortured and killed, being falsely accused as spies. Yet despite this history, the fact that the series has such a plot is distorting the value of the pro-democracy movement,” the petition read. “Korea is a democracy, which is something that has been earned through hard work and through the pain and sacrifice of many innocent people … as the influence of Korean culture has been growing more recently, it is time to reconsider the weight of distorting history in the media.”
- Viewers also accused the show of using names similar to symbolic figures during the movement. Jisoo’s character had to undergo a name change after viewers pointed out the similarities between her character’s original name, Eun Young-cho, and the name of pro-democracy activist Chun Young-cho. Chun was reportedly imprisoned and tortured, and her husband, who was falsely accused of being a North Korean spy, was tortured and killed.
The aftermath: Several brands have reportedly stopped sponsoring the show, including rice cake company Ssarijai and the show’s major sponsor, P&J Group.
- Both Ssarijai and P&J Group said they had asked for their brand names and products to be removed from the show. “Snowdrop” reportedly agreed to remove their names and products from the third episode onward.
Other details: JTBC defended “Snowdrop”’s plot and said it is not trying to distort history. The show’s director, Jo Hyun-tak, claimed during an online press conference held days before the premiere that all aspects of the series are fictional except for the time setting.