The Korea Herald


KBS ‘Goryeo-Khitan War’ off to rough start

By Lee Si-jin

Published : Nov. 13, 2023 - 14:39

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Choi Su-jong plays Gen. Gang Gam-chan of the Goryeo Kingdom in Choi Su-jong plays Gen. Gang Gam-chan of the Goryeo Kingdom in "Goryeo-Khitan War." (KBS)

Terrestrial broadcaster KBS premiered its new epic historical drama “Goryeo-Khitan War” on Saturday with much anticipation, but the first two episodes of the series fell short of the expectations of many TV drama fans who felt nostalgic for the spectacular Korean period dramas that dominated the creative content industry for many years in the early 2000s.

“Goryeo-Khitan War,” the broadcast’s 34th period drama, unfolds the stories of King Hyeongjong (Kim Dong-jun) of the Goryeo Kingdom and his political mentor, Gen. Gang Gam-chan (Choi Su-jong), who wished to unite the nation under strong leadership and protect its people from the ruthless invasion of the Khitan-led Liao dynasty of China.

The biggest feast for TV drama fans’ eyes was expected to be the Great Battle of Guiju of 1018 -- one of the three greatest victories in Korean history.

Hoping to promote traditional period dramas -- a genre that differs from the popular historical romances that feature the love story of a Korean prince or princess -- the series decided to hop on the global Korean drama craze train by streaming via Netflix and Rakuten Viki.

Director Jeon Woo-sung emphasized in a recent press conference that his team faithfully looked to the historical record, including for costumes, weapons and events in regard to the war.

He shared that 99 percent of the Great Battle of Guiju scenes were shot at a newly built, large green screen, adding that he was able to portray the epic battle with developed technical assistance and quality computer graphics.

Glimpses into the highly anticipated battle were showcased from the release of the first episode.

However, some passionate historical drama fans were already let down from the first eight minutes.

“The clumsy computer graphics made the war look like a large-scale battle, but it was so quiet. I cannot feel any urgency of war,” said a commenter on the YouTube video of “Goryeo-Khitan War” on KBS’ official channel.

“I can study for my Suneung exam there, because the battle is so quiet,” another comment read.

While praising the lead and supporting actors’ performances, some viewers shared their disappointment with the extras in the battle scenes, feeling that more improvements could have been made.

“Some extras just swung their weapons in the air and the enemy falls down. It might have been hard to give detailed instructions to those individuals, but such performances just make it hard for me to immerse into the series,” an online forum user commented on local internet community DC Inside.

Meanwhile, others shared their hopes for the nostalgic Korean period drama and praised its improvement from the past.

“It was interesting to see how ‘Goryeo-Khitan War’ introduced the ancient war tactic and spent quality time to portray it in the battle scene. I am glad that the viewers don’t need to see more of imaginary dogfights and soldiers dying with a single strike every second. What an improvement!” a drama fan commented on the show’s official website.

Set amid the Goryeo Kingdom that stretched from 918 to 1392, “Goryeo-Khitan War” features the Liao dynasty’s second and third invasion, from 1010 to 1018.

The 32-part series sheds light on the historical background of the epic clash of the two dynasties, Goryeo’s political warfare between Queen Heonae and Prince Wang Sun, international relations in Northeast Asia and more.

“Goryeo-Khitan War” specifically highlights the clash between Khitan army commander Xiao Paiya (Kim Jun-bae) and Goryeo Gen. Gang Gam-chan, in which Gang achieved a historic victory and obliterated a Khitan army of more than 200,000.

The historical TV drama had a 5.5 percent viewership rating as of Sunday, falling short of a satisfying number for a terrestrial broadcaster's first episode for an anticipated series.

“Goryeo-Khitan War” is available on local streamer Wavve, US-based streaming service Kocowa, Netflix and Rakuten Viki.

Two episodes air each weekend.