Song Joong-ki‘s new drama Arthdal Chronicles premiered Saturday night and obtained a nationwide audience share of 6.7 percent, according to Nielsen Korea. This figure is so far the highest rating for a cable drama’s first episode in 2019, surpassing the records achieved by The Crowned Clown (5.7 percent) and Touch Your Heart (4.7 percent).
The 17th* prime time Korean drama to premiere this year on cable TV, Arthdal Chronicles did not only top the record of The Crowned Clowned, but it also became the highest-rated show in cable/pay TV platforms for the entire day (June 1), beating current affairs and other entertainment programs.
In terms of viewership in South Korea’s capital, Seoul, the series pulled in a higher audience share, 7.7 percent.
However, with its impressive rating, Arthdal Chronicles still failed to surpass the record made by the highly anticipated cable dramas last year, including Mr. Sunshine, Encounter, and Memories Of The Alhambra, which achieved 8.9%, 8.7%, and 7.5%, respectively, during their premieres.
Set in the fictional and ancient land of Arth, Arthdal Chronicles is a fantasy historical Korean drama that depicts the lives of mythical heroes as they protect their people and fight for their survival, with an underlying theme of embracing diversity and “otherness.” It is the first ancient historical drama in Korea whose central setting—the City of Arthdal—is based on the capital (Asadal) of the ancient Korean Kingdom of Gojoseon.
The series was initially titled Asadal Chronicles but the screenwriters renamed it following their decision to associate “Arth” to the word “earth” and upon learning that the Korean counterpart of the said English world is “dal.” They then combined the words and came up with “Arthdal.”
Song Joong-ki, who is returning to the small screen for the first time in three years after headlining the world famous drama Descendants Of The Sun, is starring in Arthdal Chronicles as Eun-seom, an innocent looking member of the Wahan Tribe who is willing to protect his group at any cost.
Kim Jin-won (Fight For My Way), who also starred as the second female lead in Descendants Of The Sun, plays the character of Tan-ya, the successor of the Wahan Tribe who is destined to protect her people from their enemies.
Jang Dong-gun (Suits) and Kim Ok-bin (Children Of A Lesser God) round out the main cast of the drama, playing a charismatic warrior and an ambitious woman from another tribe, respectively.
Kim Young-hyun, one of the two writers of Arthdal Chronicles who also penned the 2003 hit period drama Jewel In The Palace, said during the May 28 press conference for Arthdal that the inspiration for the series came from anthropological books like Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind and Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fate of Human Societies, and the song “Imagine” by John Lennon.
The series obviously boasts of a grand production that is led by PD Kim Won-suk and writers Kim and Park Sang-yeon. Director Kim was the man behind the award-winning series My Ajusshi and Signal as well as the cultural phenomenon TV series Misaeng. The two writers, meanwhile, previously worked together in Six Flying Dragons, Tree With Deep Roots, Queen Seondeok, and H.I.T, making Arthdal Chronicles their fifth collaborative project—which according to them, took seven years to be completed.
Arthdal Chronicles airs every Saturday and Sunday on tvN, with its latest episodes also available for streaming on Netflix. It consists of three 6-episode parts or seasons, the last of which will air in September.
UPDATE: Arthdal Chronicles saw an increase in viewership rating on its second episode. Click here for more details, including the ratings of other Korean dramas which aired on June 2.
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED: Did you know that Song Joong-ki went to Brunei in February to shoot some scenes for Arthdal Chronicles? That plus other notable events before and during the filming of the drama are found here.
*The counting only includes Monday-Tuesday, Wednesday-Thursday, Friday-Saturday, and Saturday-Sunday dramas from JTBC, OCN, and tvN.