Duty After School: A new hit from Korea’s CJ ENM
BY Stanislav Kimchev
Song Jin-sun, the chief producer of the new CJ ENM series Duty After School, and Sebastian Kim, Director of CJ ENM International Content Sales & Acquisitions, talked to Stanislav Kimchev right after the show’s world premiere at Series Mania. The series is now streaming on TVING and already enjoying great popularity and excellent reviews among Korean viewers.
Song Jin-sun, chief producer of the new CJ ENM series Duty After School
Duty After School is one of the most-awaited Korean premieres this year. The series is about a class of high-school students forced to join the army in order to fight against an alien invasion. What genre is the series? Is it skewing teenage audiences or older viewers?
Song Jin-sun: Duty After School is a unique drama with various genres all mixed up. It's a school drama with sci-fi and military elements. I believe the series is for everyone who's ever been to school, and I think especially scenes containing monsters and people being victimized by them are going to target SF fans (the drama is actually for audiences over 18 in Korea due to war imagery).

Tell us a little bit more about the casting - will viewers see familiar faces or the majority of the actors are new talents?
Song Jin-sun: Duty After School doesn't have any celebrities. Most of drama fans would want 'star' casts, but we focused more on finding 'new faces' this time to deliver the storyline of the drama more effectively.

We needed actors who could depict real high school students and wanted actors as similar as possible to the characters in the original webtoon. For this, we tried finding out new faces that might be unfamiliar to the audiences, but I believe such casting will be the a meaningful action in that in the future, the drama will be the reference images for the casts who'll become stars one day.

What attracted you to the webtoon by the same name which the series is an adaptation of? What unique elements will viewers see that will make the project stand out?
Song Jin-sun: As a big fan of webtoons, I've read many of them. There are many cartoons with good idea and original concept but not many of them successfully deals with in-depth depiction of emotions and setiments.

Duty After School was one of those cartoons that has unique concept and also successfully portrays the depth of emotions. One crucial scene that led to my decision to adaptation was two friends who have never really had conversation when they just busy studying, start to have a real human connection while looking at the extraterritorial spheres in the midst of sunset. I thought creating a story of all the moments that happen between the spheres which were just a threat becoming something to appreicite, was going to be interesting. Depicting such moments, I expected the audiences to feel all of joy and anger felt in war and to enjoy cinema-like imagery only SF genre can give out.

What are the main themes in the series?
Song Jin-sun: The main theme is 'survival.' As the drama series itself is about surviving agianst the invasion of outer space, we all have to survive from corona virus, unwatned natural dissaters, and other external reasons we cannot control. Our lives could fall off all of a sudden, from many reasons, and I think despite all that we have to "survive" and "live" the lives that are given to us.

Duty After School was the only Korean series screened at this year's Series Mania. To what do you attribute its success of being selected for the prestigious forum and how did the screening go, what was the feedback?
Song Jin-sun: I think the reason why Duty After School got a good feedback is because it has such attractive storyline and concept. I think people who are big fans of drama series are often attracted to new type of concept. I focused on mixing all kinds of genres like action, human, drama, military and teen, and I think Series Mania understood this unique mixture of genre as a ground-breaking concept. Also Duty After School was successful in creating a trasnfiguration of genres, and in showing an universal topic of 'survival.' Audiences at the screening really enjoyed the storyline that only this genre can show, and also were very moved by the emotional flow of the students depicted in the drama sereis.

Has the series already been sold to other territories?
Sebastian Kim: Many countries are showing interests in the series, mainly in European countries, Mongolia, and CIS countries.

Korean series have gained popularity throughout the world in recent years. What have been the latest trends in K-storytelling and what is its uniqueness that viewers will also see in Duty After School?
Song Jin-sun: Many Korean dramas are becoming hits these days but I still feel that many TV series are missing out on the importance of good storyline. Good storylines often naturally lead the audiences to link to all character's emotional shifts. I think the core of Korean culture is 'relationship' and the emotional exchange that comes from it. From this cultural background, stories from Korea can be quite successful in bringing many emotions in depth.
Duty After School, as Korean drama, deals with various emotional struggles from happiness to sadness and anger to joy, but with good contruction in storylines. I feel confident that viewers will also notice these two aspects in the series.

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