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A suddenly relevant take on a zombie apocalypse set in Korea’s medieval Joseon Dynasty, “Kingdom” centers around an illegitimate crown prince who must protect his throne as a fast-spreading mysterious plague starts bringing dead people to life. The series has sparked conversations across South Korea focused on how politicians, whether in the fictional world in the 1600s or in reality during our current times, seem to look for an opportunity to use an epidemic to advance their own interests. Elsewhere around the world, global fans have noted the similarity between “Kingdom” with South Korea’s rigorous fight against COVID-19.
Packed with horror, action and gore, not to mention a deeper exploration of political games, many have called “Kingdom” a cross between “The Walking Dead” and “Game of Thrones.” With the long-awaited Season 2 finally premiering in March, the storyline’s focus on the power struggles and social system glitches amid an epidemic have made it more timely than ever in today’s global crisis.
With picturesque cinematography and a setting that takes viewers back to ancient times, “Kingdom” has been praised for its authentic collection of historical Korean architecture, costumes and weapons amid a saturated zombie film market, where the majority are based in modern times that inevitably include guns as the main choice of weapon. Korean viewers have marveled at the movie-like filming technique and relaxed actor tones compared to the usual historical Korean TV series, while foreign fans have applauded at attempts in the story to break zombie movie clichés.
History buffs curious about the Joseon Dynasty, the last kingdom of Korea, which lasted for around 500 years. Anyone who wants to see more of “Game of Thrones” or “The Walking Dead.” Those who are curious about the Korean film world, and those who want to see super-fast running zombies. Fans have joked that even zombies in South Korea are part of the “pali pali” or “quickly quickly” culture.
Ranked the best Netflix show in Korea in 2019, “Kingdom” takes a look at the rigid hierarchy of Joseon times, where formalities and laws apply to one class but not the other – which does not look that different from the modern society we Koreans live in today.
What has been surprising for Korean fans is the great amount of global spotlight that hats from the series have been getting. Worn by different classes of the kingdom, pictures have gone viral spotlighting the uniqueness of the hats or “gat” in Korean, which has delighted viewers and given insights into Korean history.
“Kingdom” also features top Korean actors like Ju Ji-hoon (the crown prince) and internationally famous Bae Doona (who plays a physician determined to curb the spread of the epidemic).
Korean fans have especially welcomed this series as it follows in the footsteps of the internationally-acclaimed Korean zombie movie “Train to Busan,” which explored new ways to deal with zombies without the use of guns.