Black Knight, Gyeongseong Creature, Kill Boksoon lead Netflix Korea’s upcoming slate

Nathalie M. Tomada - The Philippine Star
Black Knight, Gyeongseong Creature, Kill Boksoon lead Netflix Koreaâs upcoming slate
Black Knight (Kim Woo Bin, Esom) is about delivery men with battle-ready skills while navigating a post-apocalyptic world.

SEOUL — Netflix Korea has a proven track record of producing and releasing titles with global appeal and success like Squid Game, All of Us Are Dead and Extraordinary Attorney Woo. But when greenlighting content for the world, Netflix Korea said that it has to be locally relevant first.

During an interview at the Netflix Korea headquarters in Seoul, Netflix vice-president for content (Korea) Don Kang told the press from the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region and other countries, “What I genuinely believe is that the story has to be locally relevant first. Because I spend most of my time in Korea, the people I work with here inside Netflix and outside Netflix, these are Koreans, so we know our stories and we know what works with our members.

“If you try to create a show, imagining your audiences on the other side and other countries, it’s very unlikely you’ll get it right. It’s very unlikely it will be very authentic to yours, not to that specific country, but to your genuine creativity. So our primary focus is always local. If it travels and it does travel, it’s proof that we share something universal,” he said.

This 2023, Netflix is releasing a total of 23 new titles. But it goes without saying that other streaming platforms are also having a bite of the Korean content pie. Kang was asked how Netflix has stayed on course as a leader rather than a follower of trends.

The female-led action film Kill Boksoon stars Jeon Do Yeon in the title role.

He said, “It’s like fashion, you know, like if you want to be like a very fashionable person… you can’t really be like following what everyone else is doing. But that happens naturally when you’re focusing on great creatives that are original, that are exciting.”

“So, (this 2023) we did try to offer and create a more balanced slate in terms of the tone that we tell. I think in our previous years, a lot of our series especially, leans towards edgier and more sci-fi, more horror-thriller (content),” he said.

“But if you had a really difficult day, you probably don’t want to sit down and start watching, you know, a blood-tearing work of art. So depending on the time of the day and what type of person you are, what are your tastes, there are different types of shows that you could, you would want to watch. And we want to cover that entire emotion spectrum and basically give you the choice of selecting what you want to watch within the Korean content spectrum.”

Leading the “more balanced in tone” slate are the post-apocalyptic drama Black Knight (Kim Woo Bin, Esom) about delivery men with battle-ready skills; period creature thriller Gyeongseong Creature (Park Seo Joon, Han So Hee) and female-led actioner Kill Boksoon (Jeon Do Yeon).

According to Kang, Black Knight is a very ambitious project. “It deals with a dystopian society in the near future and we’re really using a lot of the leading VFX technologies to bring that to the screen,” he said.

As for Gyeongseong Creature, he said the story is set in 1945 Korea, which is “a very turbulent time but it was also a somewhat very romantic time.”

“But it’s a creature show so there’s a twist. We’re working with the best local crews to bring that vision to screen also.

“(Its writer Kang Eun K) is probably one of the very symbolic and renowned figures in the linear TV space, but she just has so much story to tell and great visions to expand it.

Period creature thriller Gyeongseong Creature brings Park Seo Joon and Han So Hee together on screen for the first time.

Kang continued, “We are also showcasing the best of what Korean cinema can offer. I’m especially excited with Kill Boksoon, which will launch in March. It’s just got a distinct cinematic grammar to it, so smart and brilliant in many ways.”

Earlier this year, Netflix Korea also dropped a number of non-fiction content such as Physical: 100, a survival entertainment show designed to find the strongest and best contender, physique-wise.

Kang noted that the show is “traveling and people around the world are watching it and this hasn’t happened to Korean non-fiction shows for the longest time.”

Another survival show is The Devil’s Plan, which is similar to Physical: 100 “but you have to use your brain to survive.”

Another “unique” reality show is the 19/20, which follows Gen Z people on their last week of being 19 years old before turning 20. The show is hosted by Super Junior’s Kyuhyun, actress Kim Ji Eun and AKMU’s Lee Suhyun.

“In Korea, there’s a lot that you can’t do when you’re 19, there’s a lot you can do when you’re 20, so this should be interesting,” Kang said.

Fan-favorites are also returning soon, including the Song Hye Kyo thriller, The Glory Part 2, this March and according to the Netflix executive, “Moon Dong Eun revenge has just started and it’s brutal.”

Sweet Home, Korea’s first creature show on TV space, is returning this year with “original cast, more creatures and an expanded worldview.”

Physical: 100, a survival entertainment show, is proving to be a hit among overseas audiences.

The military-themed drama D.P. is also coming back with the original cast and “heavier, heartfelt” messages.

Besides the new titles, Kang said Netflix Korea is committed to discovering more new artists, writers and directors to work with for content on the streaming service.

For them to continue helping creators bring their vision to the screen, Kang said they “need to invest in the ecosystem by working with different partners and investing in technologies.”

Netflix has poured an investment of more than 1 trillion Korean won into its K-content from 2016 to the end of 2021.

Meanwhile, Kang has also spoken on the continuing global impact of Squid Game and other popular K-content. In a previous statement, he had said that over the last year, Korean series and films have regularly been featured in the Global Top 10 list in more than 90 countries. Three of Netflix’s most-watched shows ever also originated from Korea.

“I think it’s encouraging for us, but it’s also encouraging for the entire creative community in Korea,” he said.

“More stories from Korea are getting discovered and to have that case like Squid Game becoming No. 1 hit on Netflix ever, it’s just encouraging for a lot of up-and-coming and existing artists. It’s really opened up the horizon for a lot of people.”

Asked if there’s any pressure to produce the next big global hit, he said, “In the industry… even before Netflix, Korean content did have traction, especially in the APAC region. It had niche pockets outside APAC. But people are always worried about oh, when is this Hallyu (Korean wave) thing going to end? Are we ever going to be able to produce like something as big as our latest hit?

“But you would be surprised that there are so many creators with great ideas in squeaking and opening that door and along with a lot of other titles that we did. It just empowers the entire country and the creative ecosystem to look and make forward-looking bets. So there is a pressure, definitely. But it’s a good environment to feel that pressure and turn that into something positive.”

As for the returning season of Squid Game, Kang teased that the Squid Game universe has just begun, including the related non-fiction show they’re producing in the UK.

He said director and writer Hwang Dong-hyuk has already finished the script and Season 2 is in pre-production stage.

Netflix vice-president for content (Korea) Don Kang during an interview with press from the APAC region and other countries at the Netflix Korea headquarters in Seoul.

It’s bigger so “we want to get it right,” Kang stressed.

“I don’t have the exact timeline that I can tell you now, but you know it takes time to produce these types of shows and we want to get it right. So we might take some time. And the universe has really started and we want to make sure we keep it authentic,” he said.

“We don’t want to just copy and paste the same story because it was commercially successful around the world. We want to expand the story in a way that will elevate the original Squid Game and the entire purview of Squid Game.”



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