Covid-19 plagues K-drama productions


Actor Um Ki-joon (centre) who stars in 'The Penthouse: War In Life' is self-isolating himself for two weeks after having come into contact with an extra who was diagnosed with Covid-19. Photo: Handout

With the resurgence of Covid-19 in Seoul, South Korea, many dramas were forced to halt production as actors tested positive for the new coronavirus or came in contact with people who had.

So far, 10 dramas across multiple South Korean broadcast stations have halted production when actors and staff tested positive. They are The Penthouse: War In Life (SBS), The Spies Who Loved Me (MBC), The Moon Rising River, Bossam, Snowdrop (JTBC), Sisyphus: The Myth (JTBC), Hush (JTBC), Joseon Exorcist (SBS TV), Mr Queen (tvN) and Lovestruck In The City (Kakao TV).

Some of these dramas are new, with their first episodes yet to air. The situation is even more challenging for dramas that are currently airing should one of the main actors test positive for Covid-19.

On Nov 25, three actors – Um Ki-joon, Park Eun-seok and Bong Tae-gyu – of SBS’ hit drama The Penthouse: War In Life announced separately through their agencies and social media that they had tested negative. Um, who had had direct contact with an extra who was diagnosed with Covid-19, announced that he would quarantine himself for two weeks.

Fortunately, the extra, who was diagnosed a day before, appeared in only one scene with Um and Park. The actor is believed to have gotten the virus from another extra in a different drama who had tested positive.

Filming of The Penthouse: War In Life was almost finished for the first season when the production team was notified of the positive Covid-19 test. The drama attained a viewership rating of 16% with the latest episode, making it one of the most popular dramas this quarter.

The drama industry responded promptly to the extras’ diagnoses. The production staff immediately cancelled production upon being notified, and staff and actors were tested for the novel coronavirus. With many drama sets located in close proximity to each other, a cluster at one could easily lead to outbreaks at others, making a quick response vital.

Many broadcast stations have restricted the number of actors present at a shooting since February and have followed strict quarantine measures. Also, the norm nowadays is for dramas to shoot and produce many episodes in advance, to ensure continuity even in the event of a coronavirus outbreak affecting the production team.

“We have lots of filming that’s already taken place and our film staff is divided into two teams so that the chance of us being unable to air a drama is very low, ” said an MBC drama official. “Although it is a different story if a main actor tests positive, there has been no such case so far.” – The Korea Herald/Asia News Network

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