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A plague’s origin story

AFTER two successful seasons telling the story of a community affected by a mysterious plague, the Korean drama series Kingdom of Joseon returns with a 92-minute special episode of the origin of the resurrection plant that led to the tragic events surrounding the plague.

Adapted from the webcomic series The Kingdom of the Gods, Kingdom of Joseon is a fictional story set during Korea’s Joseon Dynasty,  and follows a Crown Prince who investigates the source of a mysterious plague that resurrects the dead.

The special episode, Kingdom: Ashin of the North takes place before the spread of the plague. It tells of the tension between different groups in the northern region near the Amnok River. It is a tale of vengeance, tragedy, and betrayal focusing on the heir of the Northern Yeojin tribe village, Ashin.

“I was curious about abandoned outposts in the north and thought about how the resurrection plant could have grown somewhere like that,” series writer Kim Eun-hee said in a statement.

During an online press conference with Asian media on July 20 via Zoom, Ms. Kim talked about the complexity of the show’s main character Ashin, and the background of the special episode.

“When you look at the story behind Ashin, it is a very long and complex story…,” Ms. Kim said in Korean which was translated into English.

“I felt that rather than to incorporate her story into the third season, it would be more audience-friendly, and also something that would be conducive to higher quality content if we were to provide it in a special episode,” Ms. Kim said.

Gianna Jun plays the brave and strong archer Ashin who was introduced in the final episode of Kingdom season 2. She talked about her experience with the Korean concept of “han” or anguish.

“I tried to focus mostly on how to interpret the personal anguish and hurt which we in Korea referred to as ‘han,’ how to interpret that emotion into wanting to avenge the whole land of Joseon,” Ms. Jun said.

Another actor reprising his role is Park Byung-eun who plays the leader of the Royal Commandery Min Chi-rok.

“In this special episode I try to focus more on the relationship between him and Ashin and also the relationship with the resurrection plant, and how all of that ends up unfolding into this outbreak of zombies of this disease,” Mr. Park said.

“When you compare it to similar works in the genre, the Kingdom story in the series incorporates human history, the hunger, the greed for power as well as the concept of ‘han’ or anguish or sadness,” director Kim Seong-hun said. “I believe that it truly creates a wonderful harmony that leads to a type of unique chemical reaction that I think was the key to why it was loved by so many fans around the world.”

Kingdom: Ashin of the North premieres on Netflix (netflix.com/KingdomAshinOfT) on July 23, 3 p.m. (Philippine time). — Michelle Anne P. Soliman