Q&A: The Creators of Kingdom S2 on How Korean Culture Conquered the World

Kingdom

Fantasy, Horror, Thriller
Netflix
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We're just days away from the premiere of the second season of the much-awaited Korean Netflix Original series, Kingdom. The hit Korean series made its debut on the streaming platform in early 2019 which instantly received global liking. The series is set during the Joseon Dynasty of Korea and takes the popular zombie genre, giving it a unique historic twist. 

Watch the full trailer:

At a video press conference, we had the chance to speak with the creators of Kingdom S2 — writer Kim Eun-hee and directors Kim Seong-hun and Park Inje. The series creators talked about the impact as a creative of being able to create a show for Netflix, the zombies' change of nature, where Kingdom fits in with the recent wave of globalization of Korean pop culture and so much more. Read the full interview below:

Question: How did you prepare your team and actors for season two filming?

Kim Seong-hun: Most of the cast members were there during the first two seasons so there was a shared experience that we shared of the actual shooting of the second season, as well as enjoying and seeing the reaction to the first season. Rather than me preparing them for something new, it was all based on the shared experience that we had. And as for the newcomers to the second season, although we didn’t have the shared experience of shooting the first season, we indeed shared the experience of drinking together.

[L-R] Director Kim Seong-hun, Writer Kim Eun-hee and Director Park Inje
Photo courtesy of Netflix

Question: What’s it like returning to write a Season 2 for a Netflix original series? Was there a different process in writing a script for a Netflix series compared to writing a script for Korean TV? What was the impact of being able to do this kind of work on you as a creative?

Kim Eun-hee: I think I want to answer the second part of the question because I think it's going to be along similar lines. First of all, when it comes to working with Korean terrestrial broadcasters, we are never free from the pressure of ratings. And there's also the factor of having instant and very immediate feedback from the viewers, which sometimes results in having to make revisions to the script and whatnot. There's of course, the freedom of expression. So things like decapitation, for example, that will never be able to be something that will be shown on TV in Korea. 

Question: How does it feel to join Kingdom and what do you bring to season two? What are you currently doing differently from this season and what would you like to keep the same? 

Park Inje: My feelings of joining the team with season two is a very new challenge for me because the genre itself is unlike anythingI’ve done in the past. 

What I tried to keep or maintain within season two is the universe that has been created during the first season. So I wanted to maintain the universe surrounding the zombies and also the palace. In other words, the Kingdom has been created. At the same time, because the story ends with a generation or dynasty coming to an end, I tried to capture that well and to maximize the essence of the zombies.

Photo courtesy of Netflix

Question: What’s the idea to change the nature of the people who contracted the virus in season two and why did you do that change?

Kim Seong-hun: That was actually a part of the master plan that has been created by writer Kim Eun-hee from about two years prior.

Just like the universe was created first with the sun and the planets, this was all the master plan of the great writer Kim Eun-hee -- how they reacted in different temperatures and how they have different mechanics in season two, and hopefully she will continue to surprise you with these shocking points all the way until season 10.

Question: Between K-pop enjoying a global reception and the recent Parasite win, where do you think Kingdom fits in with the recent wave of globalization of Korean pop culture and media?

Park Inje: That’s a very difficult question. First of all, of course, the positivity that comes from working with Netflix and then there’s the universal factor of the genre being a zombie genre, much like how BTS was able to travel or they were able to really connect with other people because of the universality of dance or upbeat music. And that’s something that’s there for Kingdom.

Lastly, the Joseon Dynasty that sits in the long history of Korea that is very unique to the story. That’s something that is not often seen anywhere else in the world so there’s a sense of creativity that comes from that. Of course, the curiosity regarding the culture, art and the wardrobe of the dynasty is a great plus for content. 

Question: What was the scene that was a priority to shoot for season two? What were the biggest challenges when mounting season two?

Kim Seong-hun: Because we ended on such a suspense-filled note with season one, the biggest priority that I faced was to how to open the new season -- which is the very first scene to really carry out the expectation that we had built. 

And to really exceed anything that was built during season one, I really went on shooting the battleground scene with an Olympian mind -- to go faster, higher and further.

Photo courtesy of Netflix

Question: Did the reaction to season one, in any way, impacted the direction of season two? Also, what was the decision to break the show into two seasons?

Kim Eun-hee: Before season one was launched, I had actually finished a significant part of season two so even if I wanted to make revisions to that, it was a little bit too late. 

Working on something that is divided into two seasons, I don’t think that brings any kind of difference to the script themselves, because at the end of the day, it’s all about carrying a continuum of an entertaining story. And if you really look at it across the two seasons, it’s only twelve episodes so I think it was actually more fun for me to work on.

Question: How do you think Kingdom compares from other zombie shows and movies?

Park Inje: Of course you’ve seen all our zombies during the first season. As you can see, the biggest difference is that they’re extremely fast and also the fact that they react differently to different temperatures is unique. And how they became zombies, it is a story that they have and the sense of them being creations of the historical background in the Joseon Dynasty is what makes our zombies unique. 

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Kingdom Season 2 launches on Netflix on March 13, 2020. Stream the first season here.

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Kim Seong-hun
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Netflix

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