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'Moving' opens Korean-style superhero genre

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Actor Zo In-sung in a scene from Disney+ series
Actor Zo In-sung in a scene from Disney+ series "Moving" / Courtesy of Walt Disney Company Korea

By Kim Rahn

Disney+'s series "Moving" has been gaining growing popularity here and abroad.

The streaming platform, whose performance here had not met expectations, has seen a record number of subscribers since the release of the first seven episodes on Aug. 9.

The series, written by famous webtoon artist Kang Full and directed by Park In-je, is based on Kang's 2015 webcomic of the same title. It is about people with supernatural powers and their teenage children who inherited the powers. The parents, mostly former agents at the predecessor of the current National Intelligence Service (NIS) back in the 1980s to 1990s, keep painful secrets.

The cast members include some of the nation's top box-office stars, such as Zo In-sung, Ryu Seung-ryong, Han Hyo-joo, Cha Tae-hyun, Kim Sung-kyun and Ryoo Seung-bum, as well as rising rookies including Lee Jung-ha, Go Youn-jung, and Kim Do-hoon. With a large budget ― estimated at over 50 billion won ($37.6 million) ― special effects showing the characters' superpowers also helped complement the storyline.

But there are many factors that make this series different from usual Hollywood films or series that feature protagonists with supernatural powers.

A poster for Disney+ series
A poster for Disney+ series "Moving" / Courtesy of Walt Disney Company Korea

The protagonists with the powers in "Moving" are not superheroes. They are called "monsters" ― in a negative sense.

Their powers vary ― flying, Herculean strength, highly sensitive five senses, incredibly high speed, regeneration of injured body parts, x-ray vision, harnessing electricity to generate massive strength, etc.

But despite these fabulous powers, they are not regarded as heroes and do not set out to save the world; rather, they hide the powers and live reclusive lives.

It is because the parents were "used" by the NIS for special missions, mostly anti-communist ones, during a time when the tension between North and South Korea was high. Despite their loyalty to the organization and the country, they were treated as outcasts even within the organization and some were "discarded" after their use.

After learning that their children inherited their supernatural powers, the parents become reclusive, trying to keep their identities under wraps and hiding their past from their children ― out of concern and fear that the children might also be used by the state and have to live their lives as monsters. The protagonists do not consider using their powers with noble causes in mind ― they already bear enough personal burden in keeping their families safe.

The fictional story is also well-weaved with Korea's history from the 1980s to the 2000s: The parents worked for the spy agency when its status was at its peak amid strong anti-communist sentiment and some ranking officials of the agency feel nervous over the possible cut of organization and budget if the two Koreas' ties are mended; and an overpass along the Cheonggye Road was demolished for restoration of Cheonggye Stream beneath and street vendors along the road were forcibly removed.

Compared to the parents' dark pasts, the children's stories are much brighter, but they also show Korea's current social problems that most people can resonate with, such as youth unemployment, competition for college admission and the high cost of private tuition.

These factors make "Moving" a compelling view. The fresh aspect of portraying individuals with supernatural powers seems to appeal to global audiences as well, with "Moving" topping the worldwide chart of Disney+ shows in the 34th week of the year announced by FlixPatrol on Aug. 24. Among the series' 20 episodes, the last two remain for release on Sept. 20.

At least six of Kang's other webcomic works, since the 2004 work "Apartment," are loosely linked to "Moving," with the characters sharing common backgrounds, spy agents meeting people with other supernatural powers, etc. All these works are collectively referred to as the "Kang Full Universe," like the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

It has been reported that Disney+ is planning another series based on Kang's works. I hope the Korean-style superhero series and "Kang Full Universe" can establish another globally popular genre.

The writer is news division head of The Korea Times.

Kim Rahn


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