'My Dearest' gets real drama with viewer comparisons to 'Gone with the Wind'

In this scene from the period drama series “My Dearest,” Yoo Gil-chae is played by Ahn Eun-jin, left, and Lee Jang-hyun is played by Namkoong Min. [MBC]

MBC drama series “My Dearest” wrapped up its first batch of episodes earlier this month with its highest viewership yet, at 12.2 percent. The drama series started off at 5.4 percent viewership, which slid to 4.3 in its second episode, having been overshadowed by a competitor in the same time slot. Eventually, the story picked up steam and continued to attract viewers until its last episode.

Actor Namkoong Min plays Lee Jang-hyun in “My Dearest.” [MBC]

Actor Namkoong Min, who played the lead role, delivered a satisfactory performance and demonstrated that he has an eye for the period drama series.

After a bit of downtime, the drama series will broadcast its second part, which consists of another 10 episodes, sometime in October.

A scene from the film “Gone with the Wind.” Rhett Butler played by Clark Gable, left, and Scarlett O'Hara played by Vivien Leigh. [PETERPAN PICTURES]
A scene from the 1939 Hollywood film “Gone with the Wind” [JOONGANG PHOTO]

Despite its popularity, the drama series came under fire for having numerous similarities to the novel “Gone with the Wind,” published in 1936 by Margaret Mitchell. The novel was made into a film with the same title in 1939 in Hollywood and snatched as many as 10 awards such as Best Picture and Best Director at the Academy Awards in 1940.

The main pillar of “My Dearest” is the story of two lovers during the Qing invasion of Joseon in the 17th century, but it also depicts the struggles of ordinary people who cultivate hope even in a hard time. Writer Hwang Jin-young had previously said of the series, “I wanted to write stories of ordinary people who are trapped in a tragic situation. I didn’t even dare to start [writing the script] because the Qing invasion is undeniably the history of defeat, but the novel ‘Gone with the Wind’ inspired me to start writing casually.”

However, some viewers called out the possibility of plagiarism, uploading posts that compare the Korean drama series to the classic novel.

The poster of period drama series “My Dearest” [MBC]
Scenes from “My Dearest” [MBC]

Yoo Gil-chae, the female lead, is the daughter of a noble family. She enjoys playing mind games with young men in town and knows how to keep men under her control, which is similar to Scarlett O'Hara in “Gone with the Wind.”

Lee Jang-hyun, the male protagonist, is Korea’s answer to Rhett Butler. Unlike the many men who are eager to fight for the country against soldiers from the Qing Dynasty, Lee opposes the war, thinking that there is a slim chance of winning. He is also skeptical about marriage, but falls in love with Yoo at first sight — and then eventually leaves her.

Other supporting characters in “My Dearest” have many things in common with the sidekicks in the classic.

For example, Nam Yeon-joon, the husband of Kyung Eun-ae, is akin to the upstanding Ashley Wilkes, while Kyung and Melanie Hamilton are both good-natured and wise.

Goo Won-mu, who has a crush on Yoo and wishes to marry her, is reminiscent of Frank Kennedy, the second husband of O’Hara.

Another male character, Gong Sun-yak, proposes to Yoo when the war breaks out by thinking that he has nothing to lose. Gong is similar to Charles Hamilton, the first husband of O’Hara.

Although the two stories are set in very different times and backdrops, the overall flow and certain episodes are strikingly similar.

Yoo confesses her love for Nam but is rejected by him, without knowing that Lee is watching her from a distance. O’Hara reveals her love for Wilkes but she is not accepted by her admirer, and Butler accidentally witnesses her confession.

Again, in "My Dearest," people hear the news of the outbreak of the war while they are gathered to enjoy a party. There is a scene where people assist a woman giving birth as they flee from their town in the midst of war. And then there is the male character who shows symptoms of insanity due to the war — these are all also found in “Gone with the Wind.”

There are more. Yoo and Kyung develop a sisterhood after Yoo kills a soldier from the Qing Dynasty who attempts to sexually assault Kyung. In “Gone with the Wind,” Hamilton also kills a soldier who tries to rape O’Hara. The women open up to each other for the first time by sharing a secret over a corpse.

After the war ends, O’Hara happens to meet Kenney, who runs a lumber business, and helps him with his business. Yoo is no different from O’Hara. She produces bronze bowls by collecting devalued coins after the war as the blacksmith of Goo. As the stories unfold, the two female characters grow from spoiled and self-centered to independent women.

The poster of the 1939 Hollywood film “Gone with the Wind” [JOONGANG PHOTO]

With countless similarities, however, there is a slim chance of “My Dearest” getting embroiled in a true legal dispute. In Korea, copyrights are good for 70 years after the death of the original copyright holder. The novel came out in 1936, and Mitchell passed away in 1949. The copyrights of the novel are no longer valid.

There are various takes on the drama series. Some say it’s better to just take it as the Korean remake of “Gone with the Wind,” while others say the drama series is off the hook from any plagiarism accusations because the writer already mentioned the source of her inspiration.

Culture critic Jung Duk-hyun said, “It’s pretty understandable why viewers raised the issue of plagiarism, but the writer already talked about how she came to work on the script when she mentioned ‘Gone with the Wind.’ So it’s better to just see it as the Korean reinterpretation of the novel.”

The second half of the drama series will air next month, and many viewers are waiting to see whether the second part will similarly follow the Hollywood show or if it will start anew with a fresh take.