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(Yonhap Interview) 'Descendants of the Sun' producer feels scared by drama's stunning popularity

All Headlines 11:30 April 03, 2016

SEOUL, April 3 (Yonhap) -- The chief producer of "Descendants of the Sun" on Sunday said he feels "scared" by the show's skyrocketing popularity both in South Korea and China.

"I knew 'Descendants of the Sun' would do well but certainly not this much. I am totally overwhelmed by it all and a bit scared," Bae Kyung-soo, the chief producer of the series, said during an interview with Yonhap News Agency.

Bae, one of the drama's producers at the territorial network KBS on which the show is broadcast, wasn't the only one who felt that way.

Saying they feel "surprised" or "happy" would be the understatement of the year, many people inside the production team expressed similar feelings, like "the popularity has totally gotten out of control" or "I am bewildered by the popularity and feel a bit scared," according to him.

The series has added a new chapter to Korean drama history by surpassing the 30 percent viewer rate for the first time in four years. In China, the accumulated number of keyword searches on Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter, amounted to an astonishing 7.5 billion.

Bae said he expected the meteoric rise of the main actor Song Joong-ki, who plays Army Capt. Yoo Si-jin, at a faster speed than the one of Kim Soo-hyun from "My Love from the Star." The good cast and interesting storyline were icing on the cake, he said.

The series took more than five years to actually come into production and to finally broadcast in Korea and China at the same time. According to Bae, so many staff and interested parties put efforts together to overcome a slew of unexpected roadblocks and make that happen.

"We couldn't find a single precedent where a pre-produced drama hit it off. Its huge scale didn't help either. But we decided to go for it. If we hadn't aggressively tackled the challenges, we wouldn't have been able to make it," he said, citing the outbreak of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome as one of the major obstructions to the production.

The romance between the Army captain and Dr. Kang Mo-yeon (Song Hye-kyo) is behind the huge popularity, but he noted that the humanitarian touch of the dedication of a soldier and a doctor seems to move viewers. "Selfless dedication and humanitarian causes, which all societies need but always feel a lack of, might have touched people's hearts," he said.

Though some critics point out that the series forces patriotism on people, Bae said: "'Descendants of the Sun' is not a documentary. And just think about how you become a patriot without really realizing it when you are overseas fulfilling your duty for your nation."

Based on the experiences this time, a second and third "Descendants of the Sun" should keep coming, Bae emphasized.

jaeyeon.woo@yna.co.kr
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