'Kingdom: Ashin of the North' starring Jun Ji-hyun raises anticipation as release date approaches

연합뉴스 / 2021-07-20 16:15:51
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▲ This photo provided by Netflix shows actress Jun Ji-hyun. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap) 


▲ This photo provided by Netflix shows screenwriter Kim Eun-hee (right) and director Kim Seong-hun (left). (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)


▲ This photo provided by Netflix shows the cast members for the upcoming special episode "Kingdom: Ashin of the North." (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)



SEOUL, July 20 (Yonhap) -- With the release date for "Kingdom: Ashin of the North," a 'sidequel' of Netflix's popular original Korean series "Kingdom," just three days away, actress Jun Ji-hyun (39), who plays the leading role, expressed her confidence in the work at an online press conference held on Tuesday.

"I was so excited to be cast as a leading character who plays a significant role in starting the whole story of "Kingdom," Jun said. "However, it did feel suffocating when I realized I had to lead the whole story of Ashin from start to finish. I felt a lot of pressure, but I tried my best to save and deliver the importance of my character."

The special episode and prequel of star screenweriter Kim Eun-hee's zombie historical drama "Kingdom " depicts the backstory of "saengsacho," a Korean word for the resurrection plant, which started the mysterious plague that overturned the Joseon Dynasty, and Ashin. The 92-minute episode is expected to serve as a stepping stone for the next season of "Kingdom."

Ashin, played by Jun, is a character who seeks vengence after losing her tribe and family, but also the one person closest to knowing the secret of the 'saengsacho.' 

Asked about the idea that inspired the special episode, writer Kim Eun-hee, said, "While researching different documents for the show, I came across a record of an abandoned land. After finding out that people were prevented to enter this land for about 100 years, I wondered what it would be like if the 'saengsacho' was discovered there."

"When the script for 'Kingdom: Ashin of the North' was completed, it felt good to finally see what the 'Kingdom' series should be centered around and where it should lead to in the future episodes," Kim added. "I also thought about the possible interesting stories that could emerge when the crown prince Lee Chang (actor Ju Ji-hoon), who wants to stop the plague, encounters people of the North, who only wants death and destruction."

Director Kim Seong-hun, who has previously directed the first season of the "Kingdom" series, said, "'Kingdom: Ashin of the North' is a stepping stone that can stretch onto the next season. It is a rather short work completed with a total of 1,218 cuts in 92 minutes, so I made sure each scene was perfectly directed."

Writer Kim, who revealed that she was a fan of actress Jun Ji-hyun, said, "I portrayed Ashin as a warrior-like figure who has kept her past pain close to her heart, and I wrote the script with actress Jun Ji-hyun in mind."

In response, Jun Ji-hyun said, "There was no reason to hesitate about joining in this episode because this work was written by Kim Eun-hee," adding, "I was a fan myself of the 'Kingdom' series, so I was willing to appear as an zombie just to be on the show. I think 'Kingdom' is a work that becomes a genre itself."

"Kim's stories seem to always become more meaningful and enrich in content," said director Kim, who is working with Kim Eun-hee for the third time. "In particular, I mentioned that 'Kingdom: Ashin of the North' is the most perfect screenplay written by Kim. I couldn't have found a more perfect writer to work with. There are no words to describe Kim's work."

"It is always a pleasure to work with director Kim Seong-hun. He always makes me nervous and a motivation for me to work harder," writer Kim said.

Park Byung-eun (44), who plays Min Chi-rok, a loyal military officer who guards the northern border, said, "How Min Chi-rok develops a relationship with Ashin and the events that follow are showcased in this special episode," adding, "The story itself is short, but very intense."

"I was cast after going through a fierce competition. When I finally heard I was accepted for the role I was so happy I wanted to cry," said actress Kim Shi-A (13), who plays the child role of Jun Ji-hyun's character. "It is an honor to play the younger role of actress Jeon Ji-hyun."

Kim Roi-ha (56), who plays Ashin's father said, "Unlike the other roles I've acted so far, my character is someone who experiences violence and disrespect in order to protect someone. It will be fun to compare my previous role as a detective in 'Memories of Murder' and my current role as Ashin's father."

"I didn't feel much burden on the reveal of this special episode," said Koo Kyo-hwan (29), who plays Aida Gan, an icon of cruelty in the episode. "I'm more excited and full of anticipation."

The production companies for the upcoming special episode are Baram Pictures, B.A. Entertainment and Studio Dragon.

"Kingdom: Ashin of the North" will be released at 4 p.m. on July 23.



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