K-drama 'Goodbye Earth' to be released despite actor Yoo Ah-in’s drug charges


South Korean actor Yoo Ah-in is set to appear in a fourth court hearing over charges of illegal drug use. Photo: Yoo Ah-in/Instagram

With Netflix set to release its South Korean dystopian drama Goodbye Earth on April 26, the media and viewers are wondering how frequently leading man Yoo Ah-in will feature in the 12-part series.

Some argue that it is too early to see him on-screen, as the 37-year-old South Korean actor is set to appear in a fourth court hearing on April 16 over charges of illegal drug use.

In a two-minute trailer for Goodbye Earth released on April 12, Yoo is omitted in the clip, which focuses on the story of middle school teacher Se-kyung (Ahn Eun-jin) instead.

She is the long-time lover of Yoon-sang (Yoo), and goes out to save people stranded on the Korean Peninsula with only 200 days left before an asteroid is expected to hit. The story is based on Japanese fantasy novel Shumatsu No Furu by author Kotaro Isaka.

While Netflix typically offers a media preview of an upcoming series’ first two episodes, that was not the case for Goodbye Earth. Yoo’s name was not on the list of cast members provided to the media nor on the streaming platform’s website.

A Netflix official told English-language daily The Korea Herald that scenes showing Yoo were edited following discussions between the director and staff to avoid ruining the overall storyline.

Goodbye Earth was originally planned for release at the end of 2023 – the shooting was completed in the first half of 2022.

But the release was delayed after the South Korean prosecution requested an arrest warrant for Yoo, suspecting the star of breaching the country’s Narcotics Control Act, tampering with evidence and fleeing the scene of a crime.

“The release plan of a series is in sync with other schedules for dubbing and subtitling, so we don’t normally put a title on hold,” a Netflix official told The Korea Herald.

While some are critical of the show’s release at this point, others argue that it should be released, regardless of the charges against Yoo, considering the situation of the other actors and production staff.

Goodbye Earth actor Kim Young-woong wrote on his personal social media account in 2023 that it was a shame to think that the hard work and sacrifices of the cast and crew may come to naught.

“Everything seems to end in tears,” he wrote, expressing regret over the teamwork between ensemble actors, the director and the writer for Goodbye Earth.

This is not the first time Netflix has pushed ahead with releasing works featuring an actor embroiled in a controversy.

The final two episodes of the 2023 Netflix action series Bloodhounds had to be rewritten after lead actress Kim Sae-ron was charged with drink driving.

When the show was released in June 2023, Bloodhounds director Jason Kim told The Korea Herald: “It was an agonising time for me, the actors and all the other staff because we had to shoot the scenes immediately after writing. The more time we spent on rewriting, the more money we were wasting.”

Despite the drink-driving scandal, the series topped the Netflix charts in 22 countries and cracked the top 10 in 88 countries, proving that global fans did not care that Kim Sae-ron had been charged with driving under the influence.

Industry watchers say that global streaming platforms opting to star actors embroiled in a controversy has to do with a “phenomenal change” in the entertainment landscape in South Korea.

“With Korean content going global, it has become a new trend and part of this phenomenal change (of watching works that feature such actors), although it might not seem like good timing for releasing Goodbye Earth,” pop culture critic Kim Hern-sik told The Korea Herald.

“For Netflix, it has to recoup the production cost, so releasing it before it is too late is the only option,” he said, adding that it is too early to say whether Netflix is taking a risk due to Yoo’s situation, as it might simply not impact the series’ global reception.

And what about Yoo’s other films that are waiting to be released?

Pop culture critic Kim Hern-sik told The Korea Herald that Yoo’s other movies opening in cinemas in South Korea are a different story compared with a global streaming platform release.

“Korean audiences are very keen on watching viral content and discussing it, which means that the actors and directors’ reputations are important in the local market,” he said. “Especially at a moment when people visit theatres only when there is a special purpose, it’s highly unlikely that Yoo’s films will open in theatres.”

The releases of Hi.5 and The Match, both movies starring Yoo, have been delayed. – The Korea Herald/Asia News Network

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