By Lee Haye-ah
GOYANG, South Korea, July 21 (Yonhap) -- Even for a veteran TV producer like Lee Byung-hoon, the period drama "Flower of Prison" has proven to be a difficult series to please viewers with.
Speaking in a press conference Thursday, the 71-year-old producer, who is best known for his other epic dramas like "Dae Janggeum" and "Huh Joon," lamented that he still doesn't know what viewers want with the series nearly halfway through.
"I said I would appeal to them with something completely new, but now I think I may not have appealed to them with anything new," he told reporters at MBC TV's broadcast station in Goyang, northwest of Seoul. The director was joined on the stage by key members of the cast, including Jin Se-yeon and Go Soo.
"It's not over yet ... but in the case of dramas, a lot depends on the second half, so I'm hoping that if we push ahead as planned, we'll be able to meet our expectations," he said.
"Flower of Prison" got off to a promising start, surpassing 20 percent viewership in its fifth episode in May. However, contrary to Lee's expectations, the series began to slip in its 6th episode. It has since hovered below the 20 percent mark, with 27 out of 50 episodes left to air.
The story is set in the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) in Korea during the reign of King Myeongjong. Through Ok-nyeo (Jin), a precocious girl born in a prison, it tells the tales of various fictional and historical figures who seek to establish justice against the backdrop of a powerful monarchy.
In prison, Ok-nyeo learns the ropes of Joseon's legal system and later becomes an attorney who fights for the rights of the oppressed peasant class.
"We haven't reached the part about the 'oejibu' yet," Lee said, referring to the Joseon equivalent of an attorney. "But I still plan to make the 'jeonokseo' the main setting until the end. It will be up to me and our writer to keep it alive as a setting."
"Jeonokseo" was where the government kept prisoners during the Joseon era.
On the romance element of his drama, the director said he personally believes Ok-nyeo should end up with Yoon Tae-won (Go), a skilled merchant who later sets up an attorney's office for the lower class.
Go sought to keep the suspense, saying the ending is still out in the open.
"I'll do my best until the end," he said with a laugh.
Jin, who sounded upbeat and smiled throughout the press conference, burst into tears when Lee praised her for her hard work and faith in him.
"I'll continue to be the best Ok-nyeo I can be," she said after dabbing at her tears.
"Flower of Prison" airs on MBC TV at 10 p.m. every Saturday and Sunday.
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