Korean drama series Joseon Exorcist debuted to high ratings this week but the excitement quickly fizzled out due to a controversy. Just four days after its launch, broadcaster SBS confirmed that the show will be cancelled after airing two of its 16 planned episodes.
Joseon Exorcist is set in the early 15th century during the reign of King Taejong, the third monarch of the Joseon Kingdom. The king and his sons, Prince Chungnyung and Prince Yangnyeong, try to protect the kingdom from zombie-like evil spirits.
Although it’s a fictional story, some viewers took offense at the distorted portrayal of King Taejong as a tyrant. In the show, he slaughters innocent civilians due to a hallucination in the first episode.
Secondly, the show also portrayed Prince Chungnyung (who becomes King Sejong, Korea’s most revered historical figure in real life) getting entertained by gisaeng, the Korean equivalent of Japan’s geishas.
Another controversial scene was when the characters were served Chinese food such as century eggs and mooncakes. The set in the scene also featured Chinese design elements. Although the production assistant explained that the scene was set near the historical border between Korea and Ming dynasty China, the angry netizens refused to accept it.
Due to the controversy, there were petitions to cancel the show and the show had lost most of its major sponsors by Wednesday. At first, SBS promised that the episodes would be modified and the show would take a one-week break to address the concerns raised by viewers.
However, the damage was done and SBS decided to pull the plug on the highly anticipated show instead.