Taewangsasingi drama set, Jeju, South Korea
Korean drama on a grand scale, “Taewangsasingi”, has been on TV screens since mid September. Starring Korean wave actor Bae Yong-joon as Gwanggaeto the Great (391-413) it follows the life of Gwanggaeto and his reign. A reign that establishes the Goguryeo kingdom as a dominant power on the Korean peninsular. The drama itself is a twenty four part mix of history and fantasy with movie extravagance for the small screen.
Some of the drama’s reported $44 million budget was used to build an impressively sized set out in the Jeju countryside. With filming having wrapped-up some time ago and a second season still in the planning stages, the whole area has now become a curious mix of fan pilgrimage-come historical education centre.
Renamed and re-branded as “Park Southern Land Time Recreation,” purple jacketed and white shirted assistants with security earpieces keep everything moving smoothly. With up to a thousand visitors on a week day (doubled at the weekends) it is a well-oiled tourist machine with a whole city waiting to be explored once inside.
The main gate leads to the township of Geo-mul and its market, gambling hall and personal residences. Everyday life in the Gogureo period is succinctly summarised with the assistance of information boards. However there seems to be a lack of information for locations used in the drama, leaving you wondering if some important plot point was developed here or not.
Progressing further and further back, the Royal Palace begins to loom. Climbing the steps and passing through another gate brings you to a wide-open courtyard. There the Royal Palace sits in a resplendent manner and a reminder is needed that this still really was just an drama set.
Go through the gaggle of tourists having their photographs taken and slip into the darkened rooms inside. The throne room is impressive as are the various adjoining rooms such as the study library. Behind the royal palace a pleasant pond and red-poled university building await visitations.
These areas of the set can be busy, buzzing with people and boisterous school children. Climb the battlements to find a quiet corner or wander off down a small alley to do some independent exploration.
The real world is never too far away however. Concession stands and toilets are about. Outside the walls a golf course and condominiums are reminders of modern times. Occasionally an airplane flies overhead. But for brief moments during your visit you can be back in the Gogureo period. Or for a drama aficionado, back in the drama itself reliving favourite moments.
The largest drama set in the country is an impressive sight for Jeju residents and ultimately more rewarding if you’re familiar with the material. Unique and grand it earns itself a hearty recommendation.
The drama has now finished its run on MBC.
Visiting the drama set (드라마 태왕사신기 세트장 )
Entrance Fee: 4,000 won with alien card discount, 8,000 won without.
June – October 10:00 am – 18:00 (last entry 16:30 pm)
November – May 10:00 am – 17:00 (last entry 15:30 pm)
The set (also known as The Park Southernland Time Recreation) is located seven kilometres inland from Gimnyoung and not serviced by public transport. A negotiated, off-meter taxi fare from City Hall can cost around 20,000 won. Alternatively take a bus to Gimnyoung. From there take a taxi (about 7,000 won.)