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The study of narrative representations of disasters and responses: Focusing on the Netflix K-zombie drama series <Kingdom>

  • Journal of Popular Narrative
  • 2024, 30(2), pp.231-264
  • DOI : 10.18856/jpn.2024.30.2.007
  • Publisher : The Association of Popular Narrative
  • Research Area : Interdisciplinary Studies > Interdisciplinary Research
  • Received : May 14, 2024
  • Accepted : June 18, 2024
  • Published : June 30, 2024

Kim Hyeong-Seek 1

1남서울대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

We are currently in a state of perpetual crisis, with not only the coronavirus pandemic but also various other crises. In the 21st century, the zombie genre has become increasingly popular, depicting disaster landscapes that reflect the current times. In Korea, the zombie craze was at its peak with the success of <Train to Busan> (2016), and the K-zombie craze is now leading the global zombie genre trend. At the center of this trend is the <Kingdom> series, which deals with zombies from various perspectives as the narrative progresses. In particular, <Kingdom: Ashin of the North> is different from other zombie narratives in that it depicts an unstoppable catastrophe. In typical zombie narratives, the origins of zombies are either not mentioned or dealt with in a vague and indirect way. This is because the purpose of a zombie narrative is not to resolve the situation or analyze the cause, but to create a spectacle and a landscape of catastrophe. The <Kingdom> series, however, presents a clear origin of "Saengsacho (Life and Death Plant)." The zombies are not portrayed as inevitable or irresistible, but as a disaster that could have been prevented. While the typical K-zombie narrative portrays zombies as indiscriminate and uncontrollable monsters, the <Kingdom> series portrays them as somewhat 'controllable.' The characters in the series utilize zombies to achieve their own goals and control the disaster. By doing so, the series seeks to find the root cause of the disaster rather than focusing solely on the disaster itself. This is suggested to be due to corrupt and broken politics. However, <Kingdom> seasons 1 and 2, and <Kingdom: Ashin of the North> diverge in their themes and solutions presented. In the first and second seasons of <Kingdom>, the situation is resolved through the struggle of a mythical hero named Lee Chang, who believes that the return of righteous rule is the solution. He believes that if certain forces and corrupt politicians are eliminated, a better world can come into existence. On the other hand, Ashin in <Kingdom: Ashin of the North> is a peripheral character who is excluded and exploited by the power of the state itself. For her, the state is the most corrupt and ugly entity, a negative power that must be overthrown and destroyed. Ashin's solution is collective catastrophe.

Citation status

* References for papers published after 2022 are currently being built.