8 Things to Know Before Watching Kingdom: Ashin of the North

Image courtesy of Netflix

Kingdom: Ashin of the North, a special episode from the Kingdom series universe, is set to drop this Friday: 23rd July! The special episode will show the beginning of everything in the popular series as it dives into Ashin’s story and the origins of the resurrection plant. Whether you’ve watched the first two seasons or not, this special episode is perfect for you to start your journey. We’ve compiled some fast facts and BTS from the cast members Gianna Jun and Park Byun-eun; writer Kim Eun-hee, and director Kim Seong-hun from a press conference for you to enjoy ahead of the launch!

1) The Time & Place

Image courtesy of Netflix

Kingdom: Ashin of the North is where everything begins. The zombie plague that spreads in the first season takes place in the southern region Dongnae. However, the origin of the resurrection plant begins in the northern region. The northern border close to the Pajeowi tribe and the Seongjeoyains is where the action will take place. Pyesa-gun, a place where entrance is forbidden for 100 years, is where young Ashin discovers the resurrection plant.

2) The Resurrection Plant

Image courtesy of Netflix

The resurrection plant, which we learn about in the first two seasons, is a rare purple flower that can resurrect the dead. Unfortunately, someone who is resurrected through the plant becomes a bloodthirsty zombie. The plant has white eggs which hatch into parasitic worms when ingested. The worms infect the brain and turn the person into a monster. In fact, Gianna Jun who plays Ashin said that scenes that hinted at her knowing the secret of the resurrection plant were her favourite.

“My character Ashin is a woman that knows the secret of the resurrection plant, so there were certain scenes in the special episode that continued to hint at that fact. Every time I was shooting those scenes, I felt like that was really penetrating through the entire Kingdom series, so as a fan myself, I really enjoyed shooting those scenes and I really got chills down my spine in those particular scenes.”

3) The Context

Image courtesy of Netflix

Prior to the zombie problem, the kingdom of Joseon faced various issues with its neighbors. One area of concern is the northern region where Jurchens have consolidated into a powerful group called the Pajeowi tribe. Joseon keeps an eye on the tribe by using another group of Jurchens called the Seongjeoyains to spy on them. The Seongjeoyains are Jurchens who have lived in Joseon lands for over a 100 years.

4) Ashin

Image courtesy of Netflix

The story will begin with young Ashin (Kim Si-a)’s life in her Seongjeoyain village. Her father is the head of their village and her mother is bedridden. Desperate to cure her ill mother, Ashin ventures deep into the forbidden area in search of something to help. She comes across the resurrection plant, but she experiences a great tragedy. As a result, adult Ashin (Gianna Jun) is intent on getting revenge. When asked how she got ready for the role of Ashin, this is what Gianna Jun said:

“I would first of all say in terms of the physique or stamina that the character required, I was ready before I got into playing the role of Ashin. I tried to focus mostly on how to interpret the personal anguish and hurt which we in Korean refer to as “han”, and how to interpret that emotion into wanting revenge for the whole land of Joseon.”

5) Key Characters

Image courtesy of Netflix

Besides the adult Ashin we see at the end of the second season, the special episode also includes Min Chi-rok (Park Byung-eun) who was the Head of the Royal Commandery in season 2. Some new important characters include Ashin’s father Tahab (Kim Roi-ha) who is the head of their Seongjeoyain village and Aidagan (Koo Kyo-hwan) who is the Pajeowi tribe leader. When prompted about a “strong point” in regards to his character Min Chi-rok, here’s what Park Byung-eun had to say:

“This special episode rather focuses not so much on the action, but his [Min Chi-rok’s] relationship to the story and Ashin. So I believe that will be a very special aspect of this particular episode. In season 2 you may have seen my character very adept at the bow and arrow, and if you look at this particular special episode, you will also notice Ashin being a very skilled archer, so I think another good point of focus is: why all the archery?”

6) On Making Kingdom: Ashin of the North a Special Episode Instead of a Full-On Season

Image courtesy of Netflix; (Left to Right) Director Kim Seong-hun | Kim Roi-ha | Kim Si-a | Gianna Jun | Park Byung-eun | Kim Eun-hee | Koo Kyo-hwan

The character Ashin was developed in early to mid stages of working on the second season. She was created when writer Kim Eun-hee was looking into what kind of story to bring to life for the latter part of the season. Tied up with the cold properties of the resurrection plant, Kim looked into the northern areas of Joseon and came across the people that were referred to as the Seongjeoyains, the marginalised people of the time that didn’t belong anywhere. She quickly became interested in that aspect, and throughout that process, Ashin was crystallised.

As for why make this a special episode, Ashin’s story is long and complex, and this is what writer Kim Eun-hee had to say, “When you actually look at the chronological aspect of it, I felt that rather than to incorporate her story into the third season, it would be more audience-friendly and also conducive to higher-quality content if we were to provide it in a special episode.”

7) Keep a Lookout for a Certain Scene

Image courtesy of Netflix; (Left to Right) Director Kim Seong-hun | Kim Eun-hee

When asked about favourite scenes, both writer Kim Eun-hee and director Kim Seong-hun chose the same scene. Without giving away any spoilers, they said that this scene is towards the later part of the special episode, which features zombies. Writer Kim said that she had a tough time writing it, while director Kim believes that it is a scene the entire 90 minutes is running towards.

8) The Concept of “han” Is Heavily Emphasised

Image courtesy of Netflix

Under item no. 4 you have come across Gianna Jun mentioning something about interpreting “han”. “Han” is a theme prominent in this special episode, and mentioned by director Kim Seong-hun as well. He said, “The Kingdom story and the series incorporates human history: the hunger, the greed for power, as well as the concept for “han” or anguish or sadness. I truly believe that it creates a wonderful harmony that leads to a type of unique chemical reaction.” 

Bonus: Park Byung-eun Has a Hidden Talent – Fishing

Image courtesy of Netflix; Park Byung-eun

Gianna Jun on his fishing skills: Back when we were shooting Assassination (a previous project), he said that he was very good and was boasting a lot but I never really got to taste what he caught, and so this time I asked for it. We all begged him to bring the catch that he had and we were indeed able to enjoy all of the results of his wonderful fishing skills.”

Park Byung-eun’s response: Gianna did mention a lot of my fishing skills and the particular fish and squid that I caught, so I’m gonna stop right here. I don’t know which to focus on more, because I’m supposed to be working on my acting skills, but these people here have driven me out to sea to be fishing for more yellowtail and cuttlefish.”

Now that you’ve checked out this overview, you’re ready to enjoy all of Kingdom. Don’t miss out when Kingdom: Ashin of the North is released on July 23, only on Netflix!