By Han Sang-hee
The Winter Olympic Games are over, but that doesn't mean the excitement of television is over as well. MBC and KBS are preparing big budget dramas featuring heroes for this weekend, ushering viewers to another competitive race between top stars and strong scripts.
Hero 1: Tough and God-Like
MBC is airing "A Man Called God
" (working title), starring Song Il-gook
as fearless spy Choi Kang-ta who seeks revenge on his parents' killers.
Based on the popular namesake comic by the late cartoonist Park Bong-seong, "A Man Called God
" aims to bring some real action to the small screen, with a budget of 10 billion won. Local viewers have seen a lot of cartoon-remakes, but none match this one, both in scale and expectations.
Because the original comic book was for readers aged 18 and over, the director Lee Hyeong-seon
had to turn the content down a notch to widen the potential pool of audience.
"I couldn't make a television drama with the original storyline, so we turned toward fantasy. We worked on making a cool and fresh drama for people who are in need of a hero", Lee said during a press conference last month at a hotel in northern Seoul.
Song, who made headlines when photos of him showing off his chiseled body were released, prepared for a year to transform into the muscular and charismatic Choi.
"I have been a vegetarian for 15 years, but I had to eat chicken breast and eggs to build my muscles. I have been waiting for this moment for over a year now and I think everybody, including myself, is more than ready", Song said.
Action scenes may seem easy for the 38-year-old star, who has already played heroic roles in dramas such as "Jumong
" and "Land of wind
", but there were some dangerous moments that even rattled Song a bit.
"I had to learn to ride a motorcycle, and I practically lived at the action school. During a fencing scene, I was hit right between my eyes. If the sword hit me a bit closer to my eyes, I would have gone blind", he said.
The character Choi may be ruthless, but like all superheroes, he has a soft spot when it comes to the love of his life. Choi seeks revenge while enjoying time with a fair number of lovely ladies, but it is reporter Jin Bo-bae who catches his attention.
Played by the so-called "Barbie doll actress" Han Chae-young
, Jin stumbles upon Choi by coincidence, leaving other fellow ladies, including Vivian Castle, played by Han Go-eun
, and Jang Mi, played by Yoo In-young
, in dismay.
"Every man longs to become someone like Kang-ta. You can't find him in real life, but it's that someone everyone dreams of. That's what drove me to prepare for so long", Song said.
"A Man Called God
" airs March 6 at 9:45 p.m.
Hero 2: Historical and Philanthropic
Meanwhile, stay tuned for KBS' "Merchant Kim Man Deok
' for a more historical tale featuring a charismatic and passionate heroine played by actress Lee Mi-yeon
The drama is the second of KBS' drama project under the "noblesse oblige" theme. The first soap, "The Reputable Family
", starring Cha In-pyo
and featuring the history of the Choi family, failed to attract many viewers, but was recognized as a well-made drama among critics. KBS is betting on "Merchant Kim Man Deok
' taking the noble project to the next level with a headstrong female philanthropist.
This is the first time in eight years that the 38-year-old Lee has appeared in a period drama ― her last being "The Last Empress"― and anticipation is high over whether she will effectively deliver on her role as the gisaeng-turned-merchant who saved millions from poverty.
"I have been given various roles over the years, but I couldn't find anyone charismatic enough. But I was mesmerized by Kim Man-deok who was born with nothing, but managed to work her way to success. She was the Joseon Kingdom's first female CEO", Lee said during a press conference last weekend on Jeju Island.
The heroic deeds of Kim Man-deok (1739-1812) were documented in "Jeongjo Sillok", the Annals of King Jeongjo, in 1796, and was even featured as a folk tale called "Mandeok-jeon". The drama will feature Kim's life and achievements, along with the ongoing rivalry between fellow merchants during the Joseon Kingdom.
Kim was born on Jeju Island and became a gisaeng ― a Korean traditional entertainer ― living without hope or money. However, after discovering a talent in business and commerce, she became one of the most successful female merchants on the island. When Jeju was struck by a deadly famine in 1974, it was Kim who donated almost all of her money to save millions of lives. Kim was later praised by numerous scholars and philosophers, given her background as a gisaeng and the fact that she saved the people of Jeju Island, a place that was considered a place of exile at the time.
"I was told that the money she donated at the time was approximately 70 billion won if we converted it today. I'm not sure I could have done that if I had that much money. I think I will be able to learn so much more about her and what she did as we continue filming", Lee said.
Actress Go Doo-shim
, who was born and raised on Jeju and also holds the post as president of the Kim Man-deok Commemorative Service Association, expressed her personal expectations for the drama.
"If it wasn't for her, I wouldn't be here because my ancestors living in Jeju would have all died from the famine. It is indeed meaningful for me to play a part in a drama featuring my ancestors", said Ko, who will play Kim Man-deok's mentor.
"Merchant Kim Man Deok
' airs this Saturday at 9:40 p.m.