‘Scarlet Heart: Ryeo’ K-Drama Debuts With Increasing Viewership Despite Negative Reception For IU And Baekhyun’s Acting

So far this year, it seems that the Seoul Broadcasting System (SBS) has been finding their stride with period K-dramas taking place during the Joseon Dynasty. At the beginning of 2016, they finished Six Flying Dragons, a period K-drama starring Yoo Ah In, Kim Myung Min, Shin Se Kyung, Byun Yo Han, Yoon Gyun Sang, and Cheon Ho Jin. Despite it differing from most K-dramas in which it had 50 episodes, the majority of episodes received a viewership rating which ranged between 10 percent and 15 percent.

After Six Flying Dragons concluded, it was replaced by another period K-drama, The Royal Gambler, starring Jang Keun Suk, Yeo Jin Goo, Jun Kwang Ryul, Choi Min Soo, Yoon Jin Seo, Lim Ji Yeon, and Hyun Woo. The series did not do so well as its predecessor but remained around 10 percent in viewership nevertheless.

Now SBS has started airing their third period K-drama in the same time slot as the aforementioned two period K-dramas, Scarlet Heart: Ryeo. Upon its debut, the lead actors Lee Joon Gi and IU received a mixed reception for their acting, yet the period K-drama started off well with increasing viewership numbers.

Scarlet Heart: Ryeo, Moon Lovers, Lee Joon Gi, IU, SBS
"Scarlet Heart: Ryeo" is the third period K-drama to be made through SBS this year. It stars Lee Joon Gi and IU. [Image via Seoul Broadcasting System (SBS)]

Scarlet Heart: Ryeo, which is also known as Moon Lovers or Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo, is a period K-drama based on the popular Chinese novel Bu Bu Jing Xin by Tong Hua, but probably has more reference to the 2011 C-drama Scarlet Heart.

The story is about a 21st century Korean woman, Ko Ha Jin (IU), who is transported back into the Goryeo Dynasty of Korea during a total solar eclipse. She wakes up in the body of 16-year-old Hae Soo. While trying to just get by while finding a way back to her time, she falls in love with Wang So (Lee Joon Gi), the fourth prince who hides his face behind a mask and is often known by his derogatory moniker of “Dog-Wolf” for his fearful presence. There is also the ensuing of love, rivalry, politics, and friendships between Ha Jin as Soo and the other princes as they fight for the throne.

On Monday, August 30, Scarlet Heart: Ryeo made its air debut on SBS and it started out with high single-digit ratings, as provided by TNS Media Korea and AGB Nielsen Korea. However, the first episode garnered so much positive chatter among the K-drama community that there was a significant spike in viewership for the second episode. TNmS Ratings saw a one percent increase for both the nation and Seoul National Capital Area while AGB Nielsen saw a two percent increase respectively.

King and the Clown, Lee Joon Gi, period K-movies, period K-dramas, CJ Entertainment
Lee Joon Gi plays Wang So in "Scarlet Heart: Ryeo." He is recognized for his roles in many period K-movies and dramas especially "King and the Clown." [Image via CJ Entertainment]

It is possible the reason for such a sudden spike in viewership has to do with the fact Lee Joon Gi is playing the main lead role in a period K-drama. Joon Gi has starred in many roles in period films and dramas including Iljimae, Arang and the Magistrate, Gunman in Joseon, and Scholar Who Walks The Night. As a matter of fact, Lee Joon Gi’s career took off for his role as Gong Gil in the period K-movie King and Clown in which he received critical acclaim for his acting. The movie itself was a critical success and has become the ninth highest-grossing film in South Korea.

Sadly for Scarlet Heart: Ryeo, it did receive its fair share of criticisms, particularly for the acting of K-pop idols. According to AllKpop, IU and Baekhyun (K-pop idol of EXO) were heavily criticized for their acting. Many Korean viewers complained their acting were awkward and unnatural in which they demanded that IU and Baekhyun should stick to music.

“I thought they were competing to see who is the worse actor. Seriously, don’t act from now on.”

“WTF is this? Baekhyun doesn’t understand his character at all. They probably used him to gain higher viewer ratings but I seriously just can’t watch it whenever he comes on.”

Apparently, both IU and Baekhyun fall in into the stereotype of K-pop idols who are given roles in K-dramas for their popularity and star power despite having any acting ability. Bae Suzy has often been criticized for such especially with her currently-airing K-drama, Uncontrollably Fond.

Let’s just hope that the third K-pop idol with an acting role in Scarlet Heart: Ryeo, Seohyun of Girls’ Generation, isn’t automatically pigeon-holed into the stereotype too. She will play Woo Hee, a gisaeng and last Princess of Later Baekje. At this moment, Seohyun has not made her appearance.

Scarlet Heart: Ryeo airs on Mondays and Tuesdays at 10 p.m. KST, the days and time slot originally occupied by the successful Doctors, on SBS. For those who do not have access to Korean channels, the K-drama is free to watch, with ads, exclusively on DramaFever. Starting with Episode 3, the latest two episodes will be exclusive for one week for premium members.

[Image via Seoul Broadcasting System (SBS)]