'Kingdom': Blood-thirsty zombies invade medieval Korea in Netflix's latest period drama

'Kingdom': Blood-thirsty zombies invade medieval Korea in Netflix's latest period drama

First blood

Text: Aravin Sandran

Netflix's latest Korean production Kingdom marries two of the most trending genres right now to create one unmissable show: the decadence of period dramas and the nail-biting action of zombie thrillers.

Set during the five centuries that make up Korea's short-lived and turbulent Joseon dynasty — which was Korea's last dynasty but most culturally significant for the nation — the storyline is led by a young prince (the dashing Ji-Hoon Ju) who hasn't come to terms with the passing of his father, the King. Shit hits the fan because the king isn't exactly dead; he's living in an undead limbo as the zombie plague's numero uno who inevitably spreads the infection that would send the kingdom into a bloody downfall. If this were a video game, he'll be that boss right at the end that scares the living daylight out of you. Think Walking Dead but medieval Korea circa 1392.

While its release date is set for January 2019, Netflix has already picked up the series for a second season. We caught up with the masterminds behind the zombie apocalypse, director Kim Seong-hun and writer Kim Eun-hee to find out more about the show.

What was your inspiration behind writing Kingdom in 2011?
Kim Eun-hee:
 I have always been a fan of zombie books and movies. There weren't any Korean zombies, so I wanted to create one in Korea that brings together the concepts of epidemics and plagues. 

How are zombie depictions in Korea different from Hollywood's versions?
Kim Eun-hee:
 It's important to focus on how, why and who becomes these zombies. In Kingdom, the zombies are ordinary people of that time who were suffering from extreme hunger, which led to the zombie plague. 

Korean period dramas and horror zombie flicks have different cinematic styles. What were the challenges in directing it? Kim Seong-hun: In the case of it being a historical drama, we have different attires so it took a lot of time to create them. By nature, historical dramas take a long time to create and that's the same for zombie movies as well. All of the actors needed special make-up that took up a lot of the time as well. Rather than seeing zombies in their usual modern-day setting, we believed that there would be a stronger story and a stronger sense of suspense to place them in this particular time in history. 

Kingdom will debut on Netflix on 25 January 2019.

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