Grueling schedule prompted series shut down
With the participation of two of the nation's top actors, "Spy MyeongWol" was one of the most anticipated new drama series in recent memory when it first aired early last month.
But yesterday it was the real-life drama that made headlines after Han failed to appear on set and then left Korea, leaving the fate of the series hanging in the balance.
According to KBS, Han had an argument with the producer on Sunday and didn't show up on set for two days in a row, citing a hectic schedule and problems with staff members. Han finally left Korea early yesterday morning for Los Angeles, where her family lives.
She was caught by one sports daily yesterday at Los Angeles International Airport, which quoted her as saying she could no longer put up with the grueling production process.
Upon learning of Han's departure, KBS called an urgent press conference yesterday and denounced the actress.
"We see Han's departure from the series as irresponsible", Go Young-tak, team leader at the KBS drama department, told reporters. "None of the staff have reported having any trouble with Han".
"And compared to other dramas, the schedule wasn't that hectic and there were no fragmentary scripts".
The use of so-called fragmentary scripts has become widespread among drama series producers. Instead of whole scripts, actors are given just a couple of pages of a script at a time on the day of a shoot, which often makes it difficult for actors to see the full arc of the story and character.
Go, meanwhile, accused Han of being demanding but said the network tried to pamper the actress by modifying the scripts as she requested.
Following the actress' departure, KBS announced yesterday that it will hire a replacement for Han and resume production as soon as possible.
Before press time, however, Han's agency Sidus HQ reported that she had agreed to return to Korea, and the series, though no details were available at the time.
Even if she does return to the show, KBS and the "Spy MyeongWol" production company are likely to sue Han and Sidus HQ, which is one of the country's major entertainment agencies.
Sidus HQ and Han were not available for comment.
Han is the most recent in a line of celebrities who have lodged complaints about the rigorous production schedules of television dramas in recent months.
Kong Hyo-jin, the lead actress on "The Greatest Love", the popular MBC series that came to an end in June, has said in numerous interviews that she resorted to using sleeping pills during the two-month production period because the shooting schedule was so intense.
"We shot six days a week [for two episodes] and were allowed only one or two hours of sleep", Kong said during an interview with online entertainment news portal Newsen in June. "I felt a lot of pressure to fall asleep in 10 minutes so I was prescribed sleeping pills". Kong also told the media that none of her staff had time to sleep or take a shower.
For many drama series, the grueling schedule even has actors shooting on the day of broadcast, a common practice in Korea.
"We have a couple of months for preproduction but most production teams focus on shooting the first two episodes to impress viewers and gain a high audience share", said one producer on the condition of anonymity.
When asked about fragmentary scripts, the producer said that "Sadly but truly, it has become a common practice. Depending on audience reactions and audience share, screenwriters change the story and arrange for product placements".
By Sung So-young
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2015 51st PaekSang Arts Awards