Actress Lee Young-ae has been confirmed to return to the small screen with an espionage melodrama Lee mong or Different Dream (rough English translation). The series is set in the Japanese colonial period of Korea (1910-1945) and centers around a surgical doctor named Lee Young-jin who is adopted and raised by a Japanese couple and later hired as a spy by the Provisional Government of Korea in Shanghai.
Lee Young-ae will be playing the doctor, a very different character from the last one she had — a present-day Korean art history lecturer and a Joseon artist in Saimdang, Light’s Diary which was completely pre-produced and broadcast from January to May 2017 on SBS. The actress is not new to the role though as she also played a doctor, albeit a traditional one, in her megahit period drama Dae Jang Geum in 2003-2004.
The writing of the script for the new series is still underway and the filming of the drama is scheduled to begin next year. No broadcaster has been attached to the project yet but Executive Producer Go Dae-hwa, who worked on several hit dramas such as MBC’s Jumong, KBS2’s Hwang Jini, and SBS’s Doctor Stranger, and PD Yoon Sang-ho of Saimdang, Light’s Diary are known to have teamed up to produce the upcoming drama.
If Lee Mong will air in 2018, it will be the second drama set in the first half of the 20th century that will be broadcast next year on Korean television. Historical dramas depicting the life, culture, and politics in Joseon or Goryeo are very common in Korea, constituting a significant portion of drama lineups from the three major broadcasters, KBS, MBC, and SBS every year. In 2017 alone, 25 % or 6 of the 24 completed weekday prime-time dramas to date on the major broadcasters are set in either period. These include Saimdang, Light’s Diary, Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People, Ruler: Master of the Mask, My Sassy Girl, Seven Day Queen, and most recently, The King Loves. Dramas set in the last century, in contrast, are rarely explored and underrepresented. However, this may change soon with the recent developments that hint at their possible rise.
At the forefront of these developments is cable network tvN, whose fantasy romance series Chicago Typewriter became the first drama this year to have touched the 20th century period, in particular during the Japanese occupation of Korea in the 1930s. Mr. Sunshine, the first drama with a similar setting that is confirmed to air next year, also has its home in the said network. Unlike Lee Mong, Mr. Sunshine will focus on the 1900s, a few years prior to the Japanese rule in the country.