Kingdom (South Korean TV series)
|Based on||The Kingdom of the Gods|
by Kim Eun-hee and Yang Kyung-il
|Written by||Kim Eun-hee|
|Country of origin||South Korea|
|No. of seasons||2|
|No. of episodes||12 + 1 special (list of episodes)|
|Executive producer(s)||Lee Sang-baek|
|Running time||36–56 minutes|
|Audio format||Dolby Digital|
|Original release||January 25, 2019 –|
Kingdom (Korean: 킹덤; RR: Kingdeom) is a 2019 South Korean political period horror thriller web television series written by Kim Eun-hee and directed by Kim Seong-hun. It is Netflix's first original Korean series,[b] which premiered on January 25, 2019. The series is adapted from the webcomic series The Kingdom of the Gods, which was authored by Kim Eun-hee and drawn by Yang Kyung-il.
The series was positively reviewed, and renewed for a second season which was released on March 13, 2020. A special episode of the series, titled Kingdom: Ashin of the North is set for release in 2021 and will be focusing on the supporting character Ashin played by Jun Ji-hyun. It will be a sidequel from Kingdom season two and a backstory about the mysterious character Lee Chang’s group encountered on their journey north to discover the origins of the infected.
Set during Korea's Joseon period, three years after the Japanese invasions of Korea, the first season depicts the story of Crown Prince Lee Chang (Ju Ji-hoon), who stumbles across a life-threatening political conspiracy while investigating the spread of a mysterious plague. Barred from seeing his ill father, the King of Joseon, by the powerful Chief State Councilor, Lord Cho Hak-ju (Ryu Seung-ryong) and Queen Consort (Kim Hye-jun), Lee Chang takes it upon himself to secretly investigate his father's illness. Shocked by what he finds, he heads to the Southern province of Gyeongsang with his loyal bodyguard Mu-yeong (Kim Sang-ho) to search for more answers. There he encounters the physician Seo-Bi (Bae Doo-na) and the enigmatic Yeong-Shin (Kim Sung-kyu) who are already struggling to deal with a plague that appears to bring the dead back to life as blood-thirsty monsters. Together they all face a life or death struggle to not only stop the spread of the plague but to also save the royal dynasty from being overthrown.
The second season continues to depict Lee Chang's struggle to save his people from the spread of the plague, which is found out to have adapted to winter, and his dynasty from the machinations of the powerful Haewon Cho clan. As Gyeongsang province is sealed off to trap Lee Chang and prevent the spread of the plague, a series of devastating revelations at the city of Sangju changes the balance of power and the onset of winter changes the behaviour of the undead hordes. While Lee-Chang rallies his allies to secure their position against the undead, the political intrigue in Hanyang continues to unfold as Queen Consort Cho puts a deadly plan into action to secure a male heir that can usurp the Crown Prince. As tensions between the rival factions rise, with death and betrayal on all sides, it seems there are no lengths to which the Haewon Cho clan will not go in order to secure the throne, and so Lee Chang is forced into a risky plan to storm the capital Hanyang and take a final stand before it's too late. As calamity looms among the living, only one question remains; can the Prince save his people in time and end the political turmoil in the capital or will the plague mark the end of the Joseon dynasty?
- The Crown Prince of Joseon and the current heir to the throne. Suspicious of the mysterious illness afflicting his father, the King of Joseon, his investigation not only uncovers a dangerous plague that brings the dead to life, but also a plot to betray the Royal family and usurp him as heir.
- A physician's assistant from Dongnae who is among the first to discover the outbreak of the mysterious plague. She desperately seeks to find a cure, and comes to possess a journal containing crucial information about the disease.
- Kim Sung-kyu as Yeong-shin
- A mysterious tiger hunter from the South who is also among the first to discover the outbreak of the plague. A skilled fighter who carries early European muskets, he allies himself with Lee Chang and helps to lead the fight against the undead.
- A somewhat, incompetent magistrate of Dongnae and Cho Hak-ju's nephew. He used to be more interested in self-preservation than protecting his people.
- The Chief State Councilor of Joseon and head of the Haewon Cho clan. He's the father of Queen Consort Cho and Cho Beom-il and the uncle of Cho Beom-pal. A cold, ruthless leader, he is desperate to secure his power over the throne through Queen Cho's unborn child who he seeks to make heir to the throne in place of Lee Chang.
- Kim Hye-jun as Queen Consort Cho (season 1–2)
- The young and "pregnant" Queen of Joseon who is Cho Hak-ju's daughter, Cho Beom-il's sister and Lee Chang's stepmother. Like her father, she is desperate to secure her power over the throne by giving birth to a son that will displace Crown Prince Lee Chang as the rightful heir.
- Prince Chang's loyal personal bodyguard who accompanies him to the southern provinces to investigate the plague, leaving his pregnant wife in the capital.
- A former governor and war hero who has retired from public service, despite his popularity with the people, to live a quiet life in Sangju. He was also a mentor to the young Lee Chang.
- Jung Suk-won as Cho Beom-il
- Cho-Hak-ju's son and Queen Cho's elder brother and a commander in the Royal Army.
- Kim Jong-soo as Kim Sun
- Chief Scholar in Hanyang who clashes with Cho Hak-ju.
- Kwon Bum-taek as Lee Seung-hui
- Royal physician who attends to the King.
- Lee Yang-hee as the Minister of War
- Powerful politician in Hanyang who is initially loyal to the Haewon Cho clan but finds his loyalty wavering.
- Jin Seon-kyu as Deok Sung
- Ahn Hyeon's loyal right-hand man.
- Joo Suk-tae as Lee Do-jin
- Leader of the Palace Guard who travels south to apprehend Lee Chang, he is loyal to Cho Hak-ju.
- Ahn Eun-jin as Mu-yeong's wife
- A loving, pregnant, wife who was put under the protection of the Haewon Cho clan.
- Kim Tae-hoon as Lee Gang-yun (season 2)
- Head of the Royal Army, who travels south with Cho Hak-ju.
- Park Byung-eun as Min Chi Rok (season 2)
- Head of the Royal Commandery and a skilled archer who becomes suspicious of the Queen.
- Jo Han-chul as Won Yu (season 2)
- Descendant of an exiled member of the royal family living a quiet life on remote island, who is sought out by Lee Chang.
- Jun Ji-hyun as Ashin (season 2)
- A mysterious stranger from Hamgyeong province in the North of the country.
|1||6||January 25, 2019|
|2||6||March 13, 2020|
Season 1 (2019)
|Title||Directed by||Written by||Original release date|
|1||1||"Episode 1"||Kim Seong-hun||Kim Eun-hee||January 25, 2019|
|Officials find notices in Hanyang alleging the king is dead. Crown Prince Lee Chang tries to check on his father, but the young queen stands in his way. Determined to find the truth about his father, the Prince heads to Jiyulheon to search for the doctor who last treated the King. At the clinic, Seo-bi is caring for the patients, but they are starving for food. Yeong-sim, one of the patients waiting for the doctor, makes a stew for the people from what he says was deer meat. The people have a strange reaction that starts the outbreak.|
|2||2||"Episode 2"||Kim Seong-hun||Kim Eun-hee||January 25, 2019|
|The Crown Prince and Mu-yeong arrive at Jiyulheon, where they make a horrific discovery. Seo-bi’s story of what she saw eerily resonates with the Crown Prince.|
|3||3||"Episode 3"||Kim Seong-hun||Kim Eun-hee||January 25, 2019|
|Night leads to chaos in Dongnae. Cho Hak-ju and the Queen oversee the king’s care. The Crown Prince reaches a disquieting conclusion and vows to fight back.|
|4||4||"Episode 4"||Kim Seong-hun||Kim Eun-hee||January 25, 2019|
|On his way to seek Lord Ahn Hyeon’s help, the Crown Prince encounters a group of stranded survivors and leads them to Jiyulheon, following Seo-bi’s advice.|
|5||5||"Episode 5"||Kim Seong-hun||Kim Eun-hee||January 25, 2019|
|The Crown Prince’s group comes across a village that oddly seems to be well-fed. While taking refuge at Lord Ahn Hyeon’s, Seo-bi notes something peculiar.|
|6||6||"Episode 6"||Kim Seong-hun||Kim Eun-hee||January 25, 2019|
|Cho Hak-ju has chilling words for the Queen, who hides a sinister secret. The Crown Prince shores up Sangju's defenses, but Seo-bi senses something awry.|
Season 2 (2020)
|Title||Directed by||Written by||Original release date|
|7||1||"Episode 1"||Kim Seong-hun||Kim Eun-hee||March 13, 2020|
|An unexpected setback in Sangju poses new problems for Prince Chang and the others. Seo-bi and Cho Beom-pal seek safety with Cho Hak-ju.|
|8||2||"Episode 2"||Park In-je||Kim Eun-hee||March 13, 2020|
|After prince Chang breaks into Mungyeong Saejae, a nightmare unfolds. Officials search the queen's home, suspecting she is hiding something.|
|9||3||"Episode 3"||Park In-je||Kim Eun-hee||March 13, 2020|
|When Cho Hak-ju is taken from his custody, Prince Chang goes after him. Seo-bi looks for a way to treat the disease. The queen awaits her prince.|
|10||4||"Episode 4"||Park In-je||Kim Eun-hee||March 13, 2020|
|Seo-bi shares a critical discovery with Prince Chang, who has a favour to ask of her. Cho Hak-ju visits the queen and demands she tell him the truth.|
|11||5||"Episode 5"||Park In-je||Kim Eun-hee||March 13, 2020|
|After the disaster in Episode 4, Chang is deemed a fugitive, while Beom-pal is forced to be the executioner of multiple people. Seo-bi is tortured and imprisoned the noble town, while Yeong-shin is with Chang. After Hak-ju's death, Cho is crowned as the queen, having already gave birth. However, Chang planned a raid beforehand, with the Police Academy, the Royal Court, and Chang's rebels raiding the noble town. Many of the soldiers imprisoned and freed in order to stop the Queen. Confronting the Queen, she reveals that she let infected in the town to ensure that her baby will take over as king. Seo-bi manages to escape the prison and Chang realizes, that to his horror, that the infected are slowly eating and infecting nobles. The soldiers begin dispatching zombies, but it proves to be of no use, as hordes continue to charge. The Minister of War commits suicide after being bitten, and Seo-bi is taken inside the palace for the protection of the Queen and the baby|
|12||6||"Episode 6"||Park In-je||Kim Eun-hee||March 13, 2020|
|Prince Chang and his comrades prepare to make a final stand against the zombies, after the queen lets them in, claiming if she can't have the throne, they might as well die. Prince Chang and his comrades escape by roof and cut their palms so that their blood will lure away the zombies from the palace. Meanwhile, Seo-bi and eight other guards are swarmed by the zombies, but Seo-bi manages to rescue the baby as the queen is mauled to death. Meanwhile, Prince Chang and his comrades prepare to shatter the lake ice and freeze the worms to death. As the zombies kill and bite everyone, Chang breaks the ice with a large zombie. The worms exit Chang, Beom Pal, Yeong Shin, and Chi Rok, as a pan-out shows them swimming away, while zombies freeze under the ice. Prince Chang returns to the now destroyed palace, and meets with Seo-bi. However, seeing the baby has been bitten, he lifts his sword, ready to kill it. Seo-bi talks him out of it by making him remember his childhood, and they manage to get the worm out. Seo-bi writes in the patient journal that the worm only thrives in cold temperatures, so they stay dormant in summer and spring. In addition, water releases the worm from the body and if bitten the victim either turns into a zombie, or their body temperature drops drastically and they die. Seven years later, Beom-pal is now a government official and is visited by Yeong-shin, who gives him Seo-bi's patient journal so that he may use it if a new outbreak occurs. Meanwhile, a worm makes its way to the young king's brain, while in the north, Crown Prince Chang and Seo-bi track down a mysterious merchant woman who was selling the resurrection plant to find out the culprit behind the zombie invasions.|
On March 5, 2017, Netflix announced that it had given the production a series order for a first season. Alongside the series announcement, it was confirmed that Kim Seong-hun would direct the series and that Kim Eun-hee would be credited as the writer. Production companies involved with the series were slated to consist of AStory. Director Park In-je joined the production and directed the second episode and onward from season two. Director Kim Seong-hun is set to direct the one-off special episode Kingdom: Ashin of the North with Kim Eun-hee reprising her role as screenwriter.
The series overspent the budget, with each episode costing more than $1.78 million. Even before the release of the first season, Netflix announced that they would be making a second season. Filming for the second season started in February 2019, with Director Park In-je joining the production to direct the second episode and onward from season two.
On January 16, 2018, a crew member of the art team died due to overwork. On March 14, 2019, it was confirmed that in the midst of filming the second season, a staff member in the production team died after a car accident.
Actor Song Joong-ki was courted for the lead role but declined. In September 2017, it was reported that Ju Ji-hoon, Ryu Seung-ryong, and Bae Doo-na were in talks to star in the series. In November 2019, it was reported that Jun Ji-hyun would star in the second season.
The first season received critical acclaim from critics and the audience. The review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reported an 93% approval rating with an average rating of 8/10 based on 14 reviews. The website's critical consensus reads, "An enthralling blend of blood, terror, and political intrigue, Kingdom is a refreshing addition to the zombie landscape."
Aloysius Low of CNET praised the cinematography of the first season, stating that "shots cleverly linger on certain scenes to draw out the impressive sets, while adeptly tracking the action during sword fights or zombie attacks." Renaldo Matadeen from CBR mentioned in a positive review of the first season, that "Kingdom makes even bolder sociopolitical statements than The Walking Dead does. Sure, the AMC series waxes on about class and elitism, but Kingdom wades deep into governance and the divide between the rulers and the suffering populace." Jonathan Christian from The Playlist complimented the series by adding that "this series is risky programming for people who appreciate the unusual, gory, but imaginative, things in life. Considering the over-saturated state of the market, it is refreshing to see Netflix taking chances." Joel Keller from News AU recommended the first season in their review of the series by stating that "Kingdom dares to show that zombies aren't just a 20th and 21st-century phenomenon, and we applaud that kind of creative storytelling."
While reviewing the first season, Kate Sanchez from But Why Tho? declared in a positive review that "Kingdom offers a period drama, a zombie show, and a tense atmosphere that will keep you watching until you're done with this season. In an over-saturated sub-genre, this show takes common horror tropes and rewrites zombie rules for Joseon Korea in a way that reinvigorates my love of the sub-genre." Michael Pementel from Bloody Disgusting praised the series, stating that "Kingdom is by far one of the most compelling works to come out of the zombie genre" and further adding that "thanks to strong acting, gripping action and drama, gruesome visuals, and an overall powerful narrative, Kingdom is a must watch for horror fans."
On Rotten Tomatoes, the second season reported a 100% rating with an average rating of 8.25/10, based on 7 reviews.
On December 17, 2018, the official trailer for the series was released. On January 25, 2019, the first season of the series, consisting of six episodes, was released for streaming on Netflix. The second season, also consisting of six episodes, was released on March 13, 2020. A special bonus episode, titled Kingdom: Ashin of the North is scheduled for release in 2021.
Awards and nominations
|56th Baeksang Arts Awards||Best Drama||Kingdom||Nominated|||
|Technical Award||Kim Nam-sik, Ryu Gun-hee (Visual Effects)||Nominated|
|2nd Asia Contents Awards||Best Drama||Kingdom||Nominated|
|Best Actor||Ju Ji-hoon||Won|
|Best Writer||Kim Eun-hee||Won|
|Technical Award||Visual Effects, Make Up, Costume Design, Sound Effects||Won (Visual Effects)|
- For the two seasons only. The special episode Kingdom: Ashin of the North will be produced by Studio Dragon, Baram Pictures and B.A. Entertainment.
- Love Alarm was the first Korean series confirmed for pick-up by Netflix, but Kingdom was streamed first on the service since Love Alarm was released later on August 22, 2019.
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- "Mysteries of Kingdom Series To Be Unravelled By Kingdom: Ashin Of The North, A Special Episode Starring Gianna Jun and Park Byung-Eun". Netflix News. November 1, 2020. Retrieved November 2, 2020.
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