Screenwriter Jeong Seo-kyeong puts her own spin on the classic “Little Women”

Screenwriter Jeong Seo-kyeong, right, talks about her two recent projects — the movie “Decision to Leave” and the tvN series “Little Women” — at a forum titled “Content Insight 2022” in Dongdaemun District, Beijing. east of Seoul on Thursday. [KOCCA]

Jeong Seo-kyeong, best known for co-writing the screenplay for five of director Park Chan-wook’s films, from ‘Sympathy from Lady Vengeance’ (2005) to the most recent ‘Decision to Leave’ (2022), is now seeing success with the drama series “Little Women” (2022), inspired by the classic novel by American author Louisa May Alcott.

The tvN series “Little Women”, unlike the original centering on the daily lives of four sisters, is a dark and stormy tale that involves three sisters from a poor household, a slush fund of 70 billion won (50 billion dollars) and one of the most powerful families in the country, who, with all the right connections and money, can get their hands on anything they want, even at the cost of a life.

The series, which ended on October 3 with a high viewership rating of 11.1%, ranked No. 3 on Netflix’s Global Top 10 Weekly Rankings for Non-English-Language TV category from 17-23 october.

    TvN's Drama Series

TvN’s drama series “Little Women” (2022) revolves around three sisters from a poor household who attempt to expose the corrupt ways of one of the country’s most powerful families. Kim Go-eun, Nam Ji-hyun, and Park Ji-hu portray the three sisters while Um Ji-won, above, portrays the villain. [TVN]

This is Jeong’s second drama series after tvN’s “Mother” (2018), but it was one of the hardest to write, according to the writer, who said she “had to give it her all.” . [she] had” to craft a story as big as his recent project, at the forum titled “Content Insight 2022” Thursday in Dongdaemun District, east of Seoul. The event was organized by the Korea Creative Content Agency (Kocca) and the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism to invite experts to share their knowledge and experience on the local content industry.

“Some of my favorite scenes from the novel are when Jo cuts her hair and sells it to make money, or when Amy burns Jo’s manuscript,” Jeong said. “All these scenes, little by little, challenge the rules or the moral behaviors that they have been taught and taught to follow. The scene I like the most is when Jo asks her mother for advice on her “bad personality”. […] I loved that scene because I felt like it was okay not to be good. In my memory, the March sisters weren’t always “good” – they had their bickering and rule-breaking moments, but when I looked back at the story, I felt they were too good. So I wanted to write a story about sisters who are really bad.

Jeong admits there are similarities between two female leads she wrote – Seo-rae, played by Tang Wei in “Decision to Leave,” and the villainous Won Sang-ah, played by Uhm Ji-won in “Little Women”.

“Decision to Leave” (2022) starring Tang Wei and Park Hae-il, is the fifth collaboration between Park and Jeong, for which Park won Best Director at Cannes this year. [CJ ENM]

“I hadn’t realized this before, but Uhm messaged me that she came to understand her character better thanks to Seo-rae after watching ‘Decision to Leave,'” Jeong said. . “They share a lot of similarities. They had both killed their mother. From a narrative perspective, they both hide their intentions extremely well and reveal them in the most important part of the narrative, like a flasher.

Another important protagonist who drives the series’ narrative is the second sister, portrayed by Nam Ji-hyun. The character Jeong and Nam painted was a journalist determined to expose the corrupt ways of a politician and his wife, played by Um Ki-joon and Uhm Ji-won, through what she does best – investigation and report, based on facts.

“The original novel is already about women’s desire to work as a member of society,” Jeong said. “So I didn’t want to repeat that. What interested me was how the records were different from the point of view of men and women. For example, how would the story be written differently if told by women? […] I felt Nam’s character was ready for the job – she had the potential to record and report this massive story.

“The Handmaiden” (2016) starring Ha Jung-woo, Kim Tae-ri, Kim Min-hee and Cho Jin-woong is inspired by the 2002 novel “Fingersmith” by Sarah Waters. The film is director Park Chan-wook and Jeong Seo-kyeong’s fourth film together. The film was invited to compete for the Palme d’Or at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival. [CJ ENM]

Jeong and Park’s partnership over the course of some 18 years is a huge part of Jeong’s career. Since they first met through “Sympathy from Lady Vengeance” in 2005, all of Park’s Korean feature scripts have been crafted with Jeong. With 2009’s “Thirst,” Park won the Jury Prize, and for his most recent “Decision to Leave,” Park won Best Director at Cannes this year.

A famous quote in which Park describes his partnership with Jeong is well known in the local content industry today, which Park wrote during the introduction to the script book for “Sympathy from Lady Vengeance.”

The quote reads, “I never imagined that my entire film career would be defined by before and after I met Jeong. If factors such as femininity, childlike innocence, fairy-tale beauty, optimism , excitement, gratitude or daydreams are in my film, they are all derived from Jeong.

When asked how her career changed before and after meeting Park, Jeong initially replied that the question “didn’t make sense” to her.

“Thirst” (2009), starring Song Kang-ho and Kim Ok-vin, is Park and Jeong’s third film together. The film won the Jury Prize at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival. [CJ ENM]

“I didn’t exist as a screenwriter until I met Park,” she said. “I never really learned how to write screenplays when I was in school. If there’s a Park Chan-wook Institution of Film, then I exist as a student, which, technically, I still believe I am. He’s not really one to teach people, but when I approach him with a script and ask him to take a look at it, he looks at it. I learned from him even the most complex things about writing, like how he treats others around him or even my habit of writing without worrying too much about what will happen next.

Jeong, who has been writing stories centered around female protagonists since the beginning of her career, revealed during the forum that she has already started working on another project. Although she didn’t reveal specifics, she hinted that it could be “older women” as her previous projects revolved around younger women.

BY LEE JAE-LIM [[email protected]]