K-Drama Review: When Queens Battle for a Throne on ‘The Great Queen Seon-deok’

Random Facts

The Great Queen Seondeok

This drama was filmed on location at MBC Dramia in Cheoin-gu, Yongin, Gyeonggi Province. Other historical dramas such as Dong YiMoon Embracing the Sun, and Jumong were also filmed there. It was filmed at the Shilla Millennium Park in Gyeongju.

Although this drama became a huge success, it was inevitable that it would spark some controversy. On December 31, 2009, Kim Ji-young, an obscure playwright and representative of Great Works Ltd., a culture content company, filed a plagiarism lawsuit against MBC and screenwriters Kim Young-hyun and Park Sang-yeon, saying they ripped off her script for Seondeok, Queen of Mugunghwa, an unperformed musical she said she wrote in 2005. Kim argued that the development of the story and the conflict between characters were similar to her play, including the discord between two major female characters, Seondeok and Mishil; a romance between Deokman and General Kim Yushin; and the story of the young Deokman wandering through a desert. The MBC drama contains all of these plot twists, which are not based on history but which Kim says she invented. Kim said she shared some of her scripts with the Korea Creative Content Agency to attract investment in the musical, and believed that’s how the content was leaked. Kim asked for ₩ 200 million in compensation and an injunction of the broadcast of the soap opera. The injunction was denied, and Queen Seondeok ran from May to December 2009, but the copyright infringement case continued.

The MBC network and the series’ writers maintained they did not know of the existence of Kim’s play.  MBC had copyrighted its script in May 2008. After Kim was asked for an assessment by experts, the Seoul Southern District Court asked Seoul National University’s Center for Law & Technology to investigate. In a process called a “script autopsy,” the center first identified similar content in the two scripts. At that point, university historians confirmed historical facts regarding the characters and plots, and differentiated them from the literary creations. Afterward, the center made an appraisal based on copyright laws, then the court made the final adjudication. In February 2011, the SNU Center for Law & Technology confirmed the plagiarism.

In December 2012, the High Court ruled in favor of plaintiff Kim Ji-young, saying that Queen Seondeok was a work of plagiarism, and fined MBC ₩ 200 million (US $ 186,000). In its ruling, the court stated that although the characters and the details were, in fact, different, “the overall plot was the same,” and it was “the most probable that the network relied on the script and the plot of the musical to produce their drama.” Furthermore, any additional details on cable TV and the internet, and the making of DVDs and related books were banned.

The Great Queen Seondeok

Being a very popular drama not only in South Korea, but in various other Asian countries, this series was broadcast in the following countries:

  • The drama aired in Sri Lanka from July 2015 on Rupavahini, under the title ජනහිතකාමී රැජිණිය – Janahithakami Rajiniya.
  • The drama aired in Thailand from April 2010 on Channel 3, under the title ซอน ต็ อก มหา ราชินี สาม แผ่นดิน (sxn t́xk mh̄ā rāchinī s̄ām p̄hæ̀n din), and re-aired in the same name starting on October 20, 2015, on True4U.
  • The drama aired in Vietnam from July 17, 2010, on VTV1, under the title Thiện Đức nữ vương
  • The drama aired in the Philippines from January 4 to August 13, 2010, on the GMA Network, under the title Queen Seondeok. It was re-aired on GMA News TV on December 10, 2018, after eight years.
  • The drama aired in the United States (dubbed in Mandarin), during two different frames: KTSF from 2009-2010 and Sino TV in 2011.

Although this drama was aired more than a decade ago, may people still remember the series and remain attached to it. This drama is also very suitable to be watched again, because the story is interesting and the conflict between Queen Seon-deok and Lady Mishil is very tense. Let’s continue to look forward to the dramas and the films from the actors and actresses of this drama, which are certainly no less interesting!