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'Snowdrop': What is NSA and why its glorification in Jisoo's K-drama is being slammed

Blackpink Jisoo's first major K-drama is surrounded by cancel petitions for distorting history and glorifying the NSA
Snowdrop is a love story set during the 80s democratic uprising (@jtbcdrama/Instagram)
Snowdrop is a love story set during the 80s democratic uprising (@jtbcdrama/Instagram)

Like every country’s security team, we have the National Intelligence Service of South Korea. Known by several names like the Agency for National Security Planning (ANSP) and the National Security Agency (NSA), they did not have the general population’s backing in the 80s. They have been used as a plot device and for the subplot of a character with a mysterious past in the controversial new K-drama ‘Snowdrop’, which is set during the 80s democratic uprising. The JTBC drama stars Blackpink’s Jisoo and Jung Hae-in in the lead roles.

South Korean citizens have two main problems with the drama. The first is that the male lead, Su-ho, played by Jung Hae-in, is a North Korean spy. Activists who had participated in the uprising and survived found it insensitive that he had been mistaken as an activist as a plot device for the two main leads to meet. ‘Snowdrop’ further justified the then rulers’ claims that violence was used to quell the uprising because it was led by North Koreans. Innocent protesters had been tortured and killed with the false accusation that they were spies.

'Snowdrop': Next 3 episodes to drop early as lawsuit, protests bolster cancel petition

The problem with 'Snowdrop': Why South Koreans want Blackpink Jisoo's K-drama canceled


Glorifying of the NSA

This leads to the second problem. The torture of these innocent activists was perpetrated by the NSA. However, in ‘Snowdrop’, Lee Kang-moo, the NSA officer, is described as a righteous man who is doing what he has to do because his father and colleague were killed by North Korean spies. He is shown as an upright man who chose his country over his first love. Furthermore, when his team is chasing Su-ho, a symbolic song of the uprising is played in the background which citizens found offensive. 

Additionally, the team chasing him is shown to be following laws and procedures which families of the victims found offensive. In the second episode, the NSA search for Su-ho, who is hiding in a girls’ hostel with Blackpink Jisoo's character, Young-ro. The headmistress shares that since they do not have a search warrant, they have to get one before they can barge in. The NSA team is shown to be full of rational people who then go get a search warrant. Victims and families of martyrs claim that this was glorifying the NSA as in reality they never followed any lawful procedures and simply arrested and tortured innocents based on their suspicions.


The memorial of martyrs Park Jong-cheol and Lee Hanyeol who had died in the protest claimed that romanticizing the NSA was the same as glorifying Nazis. The history revisionism and whitewashing of the NSA’s brutal reign in ‘Snowdrop’ was a second assault on the victims who had suffered in real life.

Real-life inspiration

Apart from these two problems, viewers feel that the drama failed because the characters were all inspired by real-life people which is a sore point for those who survived the uprising which took place only three decades ago. Activist Young-cho’s husband was falsely accused as a North Korean spy and killed by the NSA when he was caught participating in the democratic protest of 1987. Citizens found it insensitive that Blackpink Jisoo’s character was called Young-cho and would meet the male lead and North Korean spy Su-ho by mistaking him as an activist. JTBC then changed her name to Young-ro.


It further shows that Young-ro’s father, Eun Chang-soo is one of the leaders of the NSA. The character he is based on was a terror in real life unlike the softie coward he is shown in the drama. We then have Su-ho’s father who is based on South Korean musician Yun Insang. He was falsely accused of being a spy by his own country and was exiled to North Korea. Su-ho on the other hand is shown to be a spy. And whether he is doing it of his own volition, viewers find it insensitive.

Two lawsuits filed

At the same time, citizens have filed two lawsuits against ‘Snowdrop’ and its channel JTBC. They want the show to be stopped and the broadcasting channel to be shut down for its anti-national content. With the next three episodes being aired earlier than planned, JTBC hopes to clear all misunderstandings and prove that they are in fact reprimanding those who were in power in the 80s. The third episode will be broadcast today on December 24 at 10:30 pm KST (8:30 am ET) on JTBC and Disney+.

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