It was less than two months ago when the news about SBS having to drop Kim Eun-sook’s latest drama Mr. Sunshine due to the very high cost of production surfaced. The upcoming pre-produced series starring Lee Byung-hun has a price tag of over 1 billion won per episode totaling to at least 30 billion won for 20 episodes. It is a huge financial obligation with a significant risk for the network, but probably not for a government-funded broadcaster like KBS.
No, KBS did not pick up Mr. Sunshine (cable network tvN did) but it is in the works to make another drama that costs just as much. The network announced on October 11 its upcoming blockbuster spy action drama titled Prometheus: War of Fire, set to be broadcast in 2018 with a staggering estimated production cost of 30 billion won or about $26.5 million. This amount is bigger than Descendants of the Sun‘s total budget of 13 billion won by 131 % and if the drama will have 16 episodes, the cost per episode (1.875 billion won) will far exceed the average budget for Kdramas (350 million won per episode) by a whopping 536 %.
Specific reasons behind the costly production were not explicitly revealed but it is apparent from the ambitious plans of the network why Prometheus needs such a big amount of money to be produced. The drama’s premise involves the sudden disappearance in an unspecified foreign country of North Korea’s leading scientists who hold the top-secret knowledge about the country’s nuclear and long-range missile arsenal. When the news about the situation is revealed to the public, several countries from around the world deploy their agents to find the scientists and use them to their advantage. South Korea will also send a team, composed of an elite National Intelligence Service agent and a North Korean defector who will meet a mysterious genius girl while doing their mission.
The scenario stated above explains why KBS announced that the drama will have to film in five foreign countries. Casting has not commenced yet but the show is determined to scout top Korean actors to play the lead roles. The producers of the drama are also reportedly looking for Hollywood actors for the non-Korean roles, probably the agents from other countries. KBS purposely set Prometheus to be a drama on a grand scale, so it is prepared to shell out for a massive production. The producers also seem confident that the drama will have a top-notch quality to cater to the global audience, which is why they are already in talks to pre-sell the rights to Prometheus to an online platform that has a distribution network around the world.
Planning for the drama actually started in 2016 but KBS concealed their plans until now. JL Media Group acquired the rights to produce Prometheus and while no writer and director have been attached to the project yet, Choi Ji-young, who had worked on award-winning dramas such as Iris, The Slave Hunters (Chuno), and The Princess’ Man, signed on to become the executive producer.
This recent development makes 2018 a year of promising blockbuster dramas that boasts of high-profile actors, writers, directors, and producers, and an ambitious production setups. Aside from Mr. Sunshine, a drama adaptation of a popular zombie webtoon Dreamcide was announced earlier this year, with a selling point that it could become Hallyu’s next big hit that will follow in the footsteps of Descendants of the Sun. There is also Signal writer Kim Eun-hee’s zombie thriller Kingdom which will be released next year on Netflix, and the recently announced Different Dream, SBS’s espionage melodrama starring Jewel In The Palace actress Lee Young-ae as a spy during the Japanese colonial rule in Korea.