|Based on||The Kingdom of the Gods|
by Kim Eun-hee and Yang Kyung-il
|Written by||Kim Eun-hee|
|Country of origin||South Korea|
|No. of seasons||2|
|No. of episodes||12 + 1 special (list of episodes)|
|Executive producer||Lee Sang-baek|
|Running time||36–56 minutes|
|Budget||₩35 billion (US$29.6 million)|
|Audio format||Dolby Digital|
|Original release||January 25, 2019 –|
Kingdom (Korean: 킹덤; RR: Kingdeom) is a 2019 South Korean political period horror thriller streaming television series written by Kim Eun-hee and directed by Kim Seong-hun. It is Netflix's first original Korean series,[b] which premiered on January 25, 2019. The series is adapted from the webcomic series The Kingdom of the Gods, which was authored by Kim Eun-hee and drawn by Yang Kyung-il.
The series was positively reviewed, and renewed for a second season which was released on March 13, 2020. A special episode of the series, titled "Kingdom: Ashin of the North", is set for release on July 23, 2021 and will be focusing on the supporting character Ashin played by Jun Ji-hyun. It will be a sidequel from Kingdom season two and a backstory about the mysterious character Lee Chang's group encountered on their journey north to discover the origins of the infected.
Set during Korea's Joseon Dynasty, three years after the Imjin War, the first season of Kingdom follows the story of Crown Prince Lee Chang (Ju Ji-hoon) and his subordinates, who stumble across an unnatural plague that resurrects the dead amidst his investigation of a brewing political conspiracy and rumors of the King of Joseon's death. Amidst the chaos and death that ensues, Chang meets allies who try to make a stand in the city-state of Sangju before it spreads further into the province, only to discover that the plague has already adapted. The second season picks up during Lee Chang's struggle to save his people from the spread of the plague and his dynasty from the machinations of the powerful Haewon Cho clan who hides a sinister secret.
Kingdom is set during Korea's Joseon period, three years after the famous Unpo Wetland Battle, where 500 Korean soldiers, lead by Governor Ahn Hyeon, defeated an army of 30,000 Japanese invaders. This was achieved by using the resurrection plant, which turned the diseased Sumang villagers into ferocious zombies.
At the start of the series, the King dies of smallpox, while the Queen is pregnant. Her father, the Chief State Councillor Lord Cho Hak-ju (Ryu Seung-ryong), decides to hide the King's death until the Queen Consort Cho (Kim Hye-jun) produces a son. Such a son would be more legitimate than the Crown Prince Lee Chang, whose mother was a concubine. As a result, the King is inoculated with the resurrection plant and subsequently becomes a monster at night who must be restrained in chains. Kept at bay, the Prince searches for Lee Seung-hui (Kwon Bum-taek), the doctor who last treated the King. Shocked by what he finds in the process of investigating the King's illness, he heads to the Southern province of Gyeongsang with his loyal bodyguard Mu-yeong (Kim Sang-ho) to search for more answers. At the clinic, the physician assistant, Seo-bi (Bae Doona) cares for the patients, but they are starving for food. Yeong-shin (Kim Sung-kyu), one of the patients waiting here, makes a stew for the people from what he says is deer meat. However, the meat is later revealed to be sourced from the cadaver of someone bitten by the King and all the patients quickly turn into zombies.
The next day, the magistrate of Dongnae and nephew of Lord Cho Hak-ju, Cho Beom-pal (Jeon Seok-ho), disregards Seo-bi and Yeong-shin's advice to cut off the head of each cadaver, leading to a night of chaos. When the Prince takes control and orders to burn the bodies of the undead, the yangbans are reluctant and choose to flee on the only boat, carrying their belongings and the corpse of a precious son. Special troops sent from Hanyang confront the Prince, creating additional chaos. Subsequently, the Prince goes to Sangju to seek help from Lord Ahn Hyeon, his former preceptor. Investigating a village that seems to be oddly well-fed in such dire times, he discovers the fate of the Dongnae's boat; the precious son turned into a monster, the yangbans were killed or drowned and the boat was looted after stranding itself. Awakened from his retreat by his own alarm network, Lord Ahn Hyeon (Heo Joon-ho) arrives with troops who know how to deal with the zombie crisis. The season ends with Queen Cho taking the Regency of the vacant throne, decreeing the blockade of the South, while Lord Cho Hak-ju comes to Gyeongsang's gate with the Army and the zombie King. On the other side, Lord Ahn Hyeon and Lee Chang fortify Sangju against the zombies while Seo-bi and Cho Beom-pal explore the Frozen Valley.
In Hanyang, the Queen has gathered many pregnant women at Naeseonjae, her private residence. Mu-yeong's wife is there as well, taken as a hostage, to force Mu-yeong to spy on the Prince. The pregnant women are killed when their delivery is not as expected. As a result, the Special Forces Commander becomes suspicious and searches Naeseonjae. He finds the corpses of seven delivered women. The baby girls were strangled, but the baby boys were only stillborn. At Sangju, it is discovered that the zombies are slowed not by sunlight, but by temperature. Since the weather gets colder, the situation becomes worse after another night of chaos. The Prince decides to break into the border fortress with a limited squad. They are successful, but fall into a trap. Lord Ahn Hyeon is shot to death, while The Prince is put in presence of the zombie King, and must cut his head off to save his own life. But there was a trap inside the trap; when Lord Cho Hak-ju turns back to Hanyang, Lord Ahn Hyeon appears as a resurrected zombie. Wearing his commanding flag, he bites Lord Cho Hak-ju, before being killed himself, proving the existence of zombies and the good faith of the Prince. The blockade army allies with The Prince.
The next day, Lord Cho Hak-ju's corpse disappears. He has been taken by Mu-yeong, helped by Seo-bi and Cho Beom-pal. They flee towards Hanyang, but along the way Mu-yeong is killed. At the Lord Cho Hak-ju residence, Seo-bi discovers a cure; a full immersion in water forces away the worm-like entities causing the zombification. At the same time, the Queen pretends to give birth, presenting Mu-yeong wife's new-born as her own. She poisons her recovered father who discovered the lie, and organizes a zombie research lab beneath her Palace. While the Queen prepares a large proscription, the Royal Guards are lured out of the Palace, allowing the Crown Prince to conquer the place. But the Queen practices a scorched earth policy and orders to release the zombies from the research lab, and chaos ensues. However, the plan of closing the gates of the inner Palace is not sufficient, and the Queen is eaten. The last few survivors escape to the Rear Garden and break the ice of the pond. The zombies are stopped by the water, while the bitten but not yet transformed people are saved from being zombified.
Seven years later, the baby is crowned King, while Seo-bi, Yeong-shin and the former Crown Prince investigate the Northern Provinces. Shortly after their arrival to a seemingly empty village, a mysterious female named Ashin (Jun Ji-hyun), appears inside a house, and stands next to the undead who are kept inside wooden boxes for some nefarious purpose.
|Character||Portrayed by||Season||Kingdom: Ashin of the North|
|Lee Chang||Ju Ji-hoon||Main|
|Yeong-shin||Kim Sung-kyu (actor)|
|Cho Beom-pal||Jeon Seok-ho|
|Lord Cho Hak-ju||Ryu Seung-ryong||Main|
|Queen Consort Cho||Kim Hye-jun|
|Mu-yeong||Kim Sang-ho (actor)|
|Min Chi Rok||Park Byung-eun||Recurring|
|Ashin (Young)||Kim Shi Ah||TBA||Recurring|
|Lord Ahn Hyeon||Heo Joon-ho||Recurring||Guest||TBA|
|Kim Sun||Kim Jong-soo (actor)||Guest||Recurring|
|Lee Seung-hui||Kwon Bum-taek|
|Cho Beom-il||Jung Suk-won|
|Mu-yeong's wife||Ahn Eun-jin|
|1||6||January 25, 2019|
|2||6||March 13, 2020|
|Title||Directed by||Written by||Original release date|
|1||1||"Episode 1"||Kim Seong-hun||Kim Eun-hee||January 25, 2019|
|2||2||"Episode 2"||Kim Seong-hun||Kim Eun-hee||January 25, 2019|
|3||3||"Episode 3"||Kim Seong-hun||Kim Eun-hee||January 25, 2019|
|4||4||"Episode 4"||Kim Seong-hun||Kim Eun-hee||January 25, 2019|
|5||5||"Episode 5"||Kim Seong-hun||Kim Eun-hee||January 25, 2019|
|6||6||"Episode 6"||Kim Seong-hun||Kim Eun-hee||January 25, 2019|
|Title||Directed by||Written by||Original release date|
|7||1||"Episode 1"||Kim Seong-hun||Kim Eun-hee||March 13, 2020|
|8||2||"Episode 2"||Park In-je||Kim Eun-hee||March 13, 2020|
|9||3||"Episode 3"||Park In-je||Kim Eun-hee||March 13, 2020|
|10||4||"Episode 4"||Park In-je||Kim Eun-hee||March 13, 2020|
|11||5||"Episode 5"||Park In-je||Kim Eun-hee||March 13, 2020|
|12||6||"Episode 6"||Park In-je||Kim Eun-hee||March 13, 2020|
On March 5, 2017, Netflix announced that it had given the production a series order for a first season. Alongside the series announcement, it was confirmed that Kim Seong-hun would direct the series and that Kim Eun-hee would be credited as the writer. Production companies involved with the series were slated to consist of AStory. Director Park In-je joined the production and directed the second episode and onward from season two. Director Kim Seong-hun is set to direct the one-off special episode Kingdom: Ashin of the North with Kim Eun-hee reprising her role as screenwriter.
The series overspent the budget, with each episode costing more than $1.78 million. Even before the release of the first season, Netflix announced that they would be making a second season. Filming for the second season started in February 2019, with Director Park In-je joining the production to direct the second episode and onward from season two.
On January 16, 2018, a crew member of the art team died due to overwork. On March 14, 2019, it was confirmed that in the midst of filming the second season, a staff member in the production team died after a car accident.
On January 7, 2021, a castle on the filming set of Kingdom: Ashin of the North caught fire as a staff member attempted to melt the snow using a torch lamp. Parts of the castle were destroyed in the process of extinguishing the fire, and there were no resulting injuries.
Actor Song Joong-ki was courted for the lead role but declined. In September 2017, it was reported that Ju Ji-hoon, Ryu Seung-ryong, and Bae Doo-na were in talks to star in the series. In November 2019, it was reported that Jun Ji-hyun would star in the second season.
The first season received critical acclaim from critics and the audience. The review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reported a 93% approval rating based on 14 reviews. The website's critical consensus reads, "An enthralling blend of blood, terror, and political intrigue, Kingdom is a refreshing addition to the zombie landscape."
Aloysius Low of CNET praised the cinematography of the first season, stating that "shots cleverly linger on certain scenes to draw out the impressive sets, while adeptly tracking the action during sword fights or zombie attacks." Renaldo Matadeen from CBR mentioned in a positive review of the first season, that "Kingdom makes even bolder sociopolitical statements than The Walking Dead does. Sure, the AMC series waxes on about class and elitism, but Kingdom wades deep into governance and the divide between the rulers and the suffering populace." Jonathan Christian from The Playlist complimented the series by adding that "this series is risky programming for people who appreciate the unusual, gory, but imaginative, things in life. Considering the over-saturated state of the market, it is refreshing to see Netflix taking chances." Joel Keller from News AU recommended the first season in their review of the series by stating that "Kingdom dares to show that zombies aren't just a 20th and 21st-century phenomenon, and we applaud that kind of creative storytelling."
While reviewing the first season, Kate Sanchez from But Why Tho? declared in a positive review that "Kingdom offers a period drama, a zombie show, and a tense atmosphere that will keep you watching until you're done with this season. In an over-saturated sub-genre, this show takes common horror tropes and rewrites zombie rules for Joseon Korea in a way that reinvigorates my love of the sub-genre." Michael Pementel from Bloody Disgusting praised the series, stating that "Kingdom is by far one of the most compelling works to come out of the zombie genre" and further adding that "thanks to strong acting, gripping action and drama, gruesome visuals, and an overall powerful narrative, Kingdom is a must watch for horror fans."
On Rotten Tomatoes, the second season reported a 100% rating based on 8 reviews.
The New York Times named Kingdom one of "The Best International Shows of 2020."
On December 17, 2018, the official trailer for the series was released. On January 25, 2019, the first season of the series, consisting of six episodes, was released for streaming on Netflix. The second season, also consisting of six episodes, was released on March 13, 2020. A special bonus episode, titled "Kingdom: Ashin of the North", is scheduled for release on July 23, 2021.
|56th Baeksang Arts Awards||Best Drama||Kingdom||Nominated|||
|Technical Award||Kim Nam-sik, Ryu Gun-hee (Visual Effects)||Nominated|
|2nd Asia Contents Awards||Best Drama||Kingdom||Nominated|
|Best Actor||Ju Ji-hoon||Won|
|Best Writer||Kim Eun-hee||Won|
|Technical Award||Visual Effects, Make Up, Costume Design, Sound Effects||Won (Visual Effects)|