Pricey Korean series delivers

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The most expensive television program in Korean history got off to a solid start as "Taewangsasingi" grabbed a 20.4% share of the audience.

"It's a good start, but we'll have to see how the ratings continue," said John Kim, CEO of series co-producer SSD.

At a cost of $43 million for 24 episodes, "Taewangsasingi" features an effects-heavy take on Korea's founding mythology. Most TV dramas in Korea cost less than $200,000 per episode.

"Taewangsasingi" has been presold in 14 Asian territories, and Kim said he is in talks for as many as 70 more countries.

By far the most important territory for the series' success is Japan, where state broadcaster NHK is expected to begin airing "Taewangsasingi" in December. Kim said a theatrical run there is a possibility.

The series stars Bae Yong-joon, who became one of Korea's biggest international stars following the success of the melodrama "Winter Sonata" in 2003. When Bae signed on to "Taewangsasingi," the show's budget tripled to $33 million, largely based on Bae's appeal in Japan. Costs swelled to $43 million because of production problems and the complicated effects.
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