[INTERVIEW] Meet Daniel Park, creative mind behind JTBC series 'IDOL: The Coup' - Korea Times
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[INTERVIEW] Meet Daniel Park, creative mind behind JTBC series 'IDOL: The Coup'

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Daniel DPD Park, who developed the JTBC series
Daniel DPD Park, who developed the JTBC series "IDOL: The Coup" / Photo by Johnny Tran

By Dong Sun-hwa

Dramas about K-pop stars are not a rarity these days, but JTBC's ongoing TV series "IDOL: The Coup" is dissimilar to most others. It is not a classic Cinderella story about a protagonist who ends up achieving success in their career and love life, but rather a tale of those who fail to realize their dreams.

The 12-episode soap opera revolves around a fictional K-pop girl group named Cotton Candy, which is on the verge of dissolution. Hani, the former member of girl band EXID, LABOUM's Solbin, WJSN's Exy and REDSQUARE's Green appear as the members of Cotton Candy to portray the harsh reality of washed-up singers scrambling to survive in the showbiz industry.

Korean-American producer Daniel DPD Park was the man behind the effort to take a more realistic look at the world of K-pop, where many dreams and promises lie unfulfilled.

"IDOL: The Coup explores a lot of the difficulties and pitfalls of following your dreams," Park said in a recent interview with The Korea Times. "It asks a question like, 'What happens when your dreams do not come true?'"



According to Park, today, we are bombarded with edited images and content that try to paint an unrealistic picture of success. His show, however, deviated from this by touching on more down-to-earth issues such as alcoholism, depression and sexism.

"I hope all these topics can create healthy dialogues among people," the producer said.

Thanks to its unconventional subject matter and vivid depiction of the K-pop realm, "IDOL: The Coup" has been garnering positive reviews from viewers since its premiere on Nov. 8. Asked why he first decided to develop the series, Park, co-founder of Transparent Arts, an entertainment company that specializes in amplifying Asian culture and talent, said his experience in music and entertainment industry led him to do so.

He set up the company more than a decade ago with Far East Movement, the first Asian American group to reign atop the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Transparent Arts represents a wave of well-known stars including Tiffany Young of K-pop act Girls' Generation and also serves as a record label and a music distributor.

Tiffany Young / Courtesy of Transparent Arts
Tiffany Young / Courtesy of Transparent Arts
"Thanks to my vast experience in the field of music, I witnessed early the global spread of K-pop and thought it would be great to spread that model to TV and film," he noted. "I knew that the OTT players like Netflix were going to focus on Asia and wanted to get ahead of that. I had an idea to start with and, with the help from my Korea-based production partner TAKE2, I was able to get our team together. For me, the most challenging part was doing everything in Korean which is not my first language."

So Park teamed up with acclaimed Korean director Noh Jong-chan, famous for the series, "Clean with Passion for Now" (2018-19), and writer Jung Yoon-jung. Jung penned the 2014 hit office drama "Misaeng: Incomplete Life," which propelled Im Si-wan of K-pop boy band ZE:A to meteoric stardom.

"I loved Misaeng and thought the tone of the series was right for Idol: The Coup," Park said. "Through our partnerships in Korea, I was able to pitch to writer Jung the concept for the show and after a lot of back and forth over a couple of years, she finally came on board as the writer. Director Noh was also a great fit because of his bold creative decisions and passion for music."

Poster for
Poster for "IDOL: The Coup" / Courtesy of JTBC Studio, TAKE2 MEDIA GROUP, Transparent Arts
Park took part in making casting decisions as well.

"Casting was a beast," he said. "We must have seen every idol that acts in Korea. I was impressed and moved by director Noh's ability to respect everyone who auditioned by taking the time to allow them to fully audition with notes and all."

He added that he also produced the songs featured in the drama ― such as "Cloud 9" and "Paradise" ― in cooperation with talented producers, as he had an idea for the direction and feeling the songs should have.

"Since Transparent Arts is a music-based company, we already had amazing people to work with," he explained. "I got to give big applause and credit to our producing director Rachel Lee, who made it possible to deliver with the hybrid style we had to work in music and drama. Our music director Lee Kwang-hee is also an amazing find, whose ability to capture the motions necessary for our dramatic scenes glues the drama together."

The producer, whose successful career spans more than 10 years, wrapped up the interview by talking about the Asian-American entertainment business in the U.S.

"Overall, the Asian-American entertainment business is doing better than ever," he said. "However, there is a difference between Asian-American entertainment and Asian entertainment… A lot of Asian entertainment has crossed over in big ways like it never has before. K-pop juggernaut BTS is leading the K-pop wave, with the Oscar-winning black comedy Parasite (2019) and Squid Game (2021) adding to the hype."

"It is nice to say that Asian-American entertainment is also making waves with stars like Awkwafina, Steven Yeun, Simu Liu, auteurs like Justin Chon, and of course, the triumph of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021). The biggest challenge is to keep executing. We need to keep putting out great content consistently to show the world that Asian is just another facet of popular entertainment globally."


Dong Sun-hwa sunhwadong@koreatimes.co.kr


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