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Sponsors pull out of K-drama ‘Snowdrop’ as it risks cancellation due to allegations of historical revisionism

By Hannah Mallorca Published Dec 20, 2021 8:02 pm

Snowdrop starring BLACKPINK’s Jisoo and Jung Haein has come under intense scrutiny for alleged distortions of history after just two episodes. 

The K-drama takes place during the 1987 Democracy Movement—an important period in South Korea’s history that marked the beginning of its present government system. University student Im Suho (Jung Haein) crosses paths with Eun Youngro (Jisoo) after he appears at a women’s university in a bloody state.

Following Snowdrop’s premiere, an e-petition calling for its cancelation was posted on the Blue House’s (South Korea’s Malacañang) website on Sunday night, Dec. 19. In South Korea, if a petition got the backing of over 200,000 signatures within 30 days, high-level government officials would issue a statement. 

Screengrab from Blue House's website

Screengrab from Blue House's website

Screengrab from Blue House's website

Screengrab from Blue House's website

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According to the petition, a scene in which Youngro saves a North Korean spy after mistaking him as a pro-democracy activist is “inappropriate.”

“Activists were tortured and died after being falsely accused of being North Korean spies. I believe the content of the drama defames the value and reputation of the democratization movement,” the petition said.

The petition reached over 270,000 signatures, as of this writing. 

Snowdrop also included the “historically significant” song Dear Pine, Dear Pine, as per Hype, that’s used for the pro-democracy movement in a scene where the spy was seen escaping from a member of the Agency for National Security Planning (NSP). The NSP has a decades-long history of taking down pro-democracy activists and political opponents.

The report also noted that some viewers expressed their “discomfort” over the use of the song.

Pre-release backlash

To recall, Snowdrop faced backlash after the synopsis and characters were leaked in March 2021. The leaked information accused one of the characters of being part of the NSP and for “glamorizing” South Korea’s democratic movement, as per The Korea Times

However, JTBC, the network where the series is airing, clarified that Snowdrop is a “black comedy-drama satirizing the political situation between the two Koreas under the authoritarian government back in the 1980s.”

Chungnam National University professor and drama critic Yun Sukjin said it’s “too premature” to judge the series as such in an interview with The Korea Times. The critic, however, noted that writers and directors should be “more responsible” in referring to historical events in their work.

Withdrawal of sponsors

Several companies already withdrew their sponsorships from Snowdrop following the controversy, according to a report by Newsen. These include retail brand Ganisong, tea company Teazen, Seoul Milk, and Heungil Furniture, among others. 

In a statement posted on Twitter, Teazen said it took “appropriate measures to stop advertising our products” in the K-drama.

“We sincerely bow our heads in apology for causing concern due to the recent sponsorship issue,” the statement read.

‘All it gave me was exasperation’

Netizens took to social media to express their two cents on Snowdrop’s controversy. 

According to a Twitter thread by @koreanforeigner, the series gave him “exasperation.” “I had to switch it off. That was absolute trash. Didn't even have time to get into the controversial aspect of the show's setting. The show itself was just trash.”

 

Meanwhile, @milejoestar said fans should “enjoy the drama” and not “interact with haters” instead.

Twitter user @gatamchun criticized Snowdrop’s storyline, revealing her mother participated in the 1987 Democratic Movement. “My mother doesn’t speak of her memories of the 70s-80s too much bc it’s trauma. Full trauma.”

 

@_La_K_Vilanova_ said they “feel bad” to those who are trying hard to “find something wrong.” 

On the other hand, one of the families of the victims of the 1987 Democracy Movement expressed their dissent against the series in an exclusive report from Newsen. “Relating the 1987 democratization movement with North Korean spies is another persecution against the victims at the time,” their statement read.