NHK has high hopes for Korean drama

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TOKYO -- The most expensive South Korean drama series ever produced debuted in Japan on Monday, with national broadcaster NHK hoping "Taewangsasingi" will spark a new boom in Korean television entertainment.

The first episode of the 24-part series was broadcast on NHK's Hi-Vision satellite channel at 10 p.m., and though ratings are not available for that channel, NHK believes it has a hit show on its hands.

"The lead role is played by Bae Yong-joon, who has been an idol for Japanese women ever since his starring role in another Korean drama, 'Winter Sonata,' " said Hidemi Hyuga, NHK's deputy executive director-general of broadcasting.

"The powerful CGI images and battle scenes will also be a major attraction," he said. "And a Japanese composer, Jo Hisaishi, is responsible for the music."

A fantasy historical drama, "Taewangsasingi" -- which translates as the Story of the First King's Four Gods -- is set in the seventh century, and the main character is modeled on the 19th king of the Goguryeo Dynasty, Gwanggaeto the Great.

The series cost a reported $45 million to produce, but Korea's TSG Production Co. and broadcaster MBC have been reaping the benefit of that investment, capturing an average 30% viewer share in the domestic market.

NHK would not reveal how much it paid for the rights to screen the series, which also has been sold to Taiwan.

The series is subtitled on Japanese television at present, but a dubbed version will be screened on NHK's other satellite channel, BS-2, next year.

Anticipating high demand, the 24 episodes are also being screened at some Japanese cinemas.
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