Producer Lee Byung-Hun and writer Kim Young Hyun from "Jewel in the Palace (Dae Jang Geum)", last year's major hit drama here and in China, have again teamed up for a new historical drama.
The SBS drama "Sodongyo", translated as "Sodong's Song", has much in common with "Jewel in the Palace". Both deal with similar themes: a success story of a lower class person rising to the top, a love that transcends social position, a secret of birth and a rivalry between main characters.
However, whereas "Jewel" is set in the Choson Kingdom (1392-1910), "Sodongyo" takes place in the Paekche Kingdom (18 B.C. - A.D 660), a first for a TV drama. Aside from the romance between a princess and a commoner, an interesting part of the drama is that it focuses on a fierce technology war almost 1,500 years ago.
The protagonist is Sodong, a commoner who strives to become a top technician. Sodong later became King Mu, the 30th king of Paekche as he was finally recognized as of royal birth.
The main background of the drama is Taehaksa, Paekche's prestigious institute of science technology. As it possessed and developed the most up-to-date technology at that time, the institute was always in danger of industrial espionage from other countries like the Koguryo Kingdom and the Silla Kingdom.
"The 21st century is an era of information technology. The viewers will be able to see not only the splendidly rich culture of the Paekche Kingdom but also their ancestors' passion for information technology, which is in line with today's trend", said the drama's writer Kim.
The drama also reveals the role of monks as industrial spies at that time, an aspect of monks in the past that is rarely focused 0n.
"Monks were the advance guards of intelligence war at that time. The leaders of the three countries made the best use of the monks' mobility as they were allowed to move freely from country to country on sacred missions", said Kim.
The drama also features a character who was originally from the Silla Kingdom (57 B.C. - A.D 935) but went over to Paekche as a child and smuggled himself into Taehaksa, concentrating on secretly getting out high-quality information over a long time.
Various agricultural technologies considered the most up-to-date at that time also appear in the drama.
In some episodes, to solve the problems of excessive dryness of the land, they released earthworms, and used ondol (hot floor) for the first time to decrease the humidity of homes.
"Sodongyo" is said to be one of Korea's oldest folk songs. According to Samgukyusa (The Memorabilia of the Three Kingdoms) from the Silla Kingdom, the song was written by Sodong, a commoner from the Paekche Kingdom. Hearing that Princess Sonhwa, a daughter of King Chinpyong of the Silla Kingdom was beautiful, he writes a song saying that the princess visits Sodong's room every night and spreads the song around. When her father hears the song, he condemns the princess to exile. Sodong picks her up and takes her to Paekche, and they become the royal couple of the country.