MANILA — Her fascination with South Korea’s second tallest mountain, Mount Jiri, was what drove screenwriter Kim Eun-hee to create the upcoming mystery series “Jirisan,” which marks her reunion with top stars Jun Ji-hyun and Ju Ji-hoon.
“Jirisan,” which is the Korean name for Mount Jiri, tells the story of a group of national park rangers who “unravel the secrets” of the eponymous mountain. The show is scheduled to premiere on streaming platform iQiyi on October 23.
At an online press conference on Wednesday, Kim revealed that she had never visited Mount Jiri, located in the country’s southern region, prior to writing the series.
“Before I wrote about ‘Jirisan,’ I had never set foot on that mountain so I had a very abstract admiration for that mountain, but I have read and heard about Mount Jiri so much in school and from other books,” she said.
“Mount Jiri was like a mountain where everybody went to pray for their wishes. Over the years, I felt that those wishes and prayers had accumulated on that mountain. So it’s a mysterious mountain with so many secrets buried on it.”
Kim said she picked park rangers as the focus of the series because of their mission to save people and familiarity with the mountain.
“Jirisan” features a powerhouse cast including Jun, Ju, Sung Dong-il (“Reply” franchise), Oh Jung-se (“It’s Okay to Not Be Okay”), Cho Han-chul (“Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha”) and Go Min-si (“Love Alarm”). The show is directed by Lee Eung-bok, who also directed popular dramas such as “Descendants of the Sun” and “Goblin.”
The series is also the latest collaboration of Kim, Jun and Ju, who previously worked together on the hit zombie show “Kingdom.”
Jun said she was honored to work with Kim for two consecutive projects, the last one being the special episode “Kingdom: Ashin of the North,” released back in July.
“What sets her script apart from others is that a lot of scenes that I took for granted later gave me a lot of hints for the plot that came out later,” said Jun, who is also making her small screen comeback after nearly 5 years. Her last TV project was 2016’s “The Legend of the Blue Sea.”
“Gradually, as we filmed, I could actually see the power of details that she put in the script,” the actress added.
Viewers can expect to see breathtaking sceneries of Mount Jiri National Park, said Choi Sang-mook, the show’s director of photography.
“It shows you a lot of the beautiful landscape of the mountain but there are also the fear elements that come from Mother Nature,” said Choi.
“I wanted to show how the characters were interacting with the mountain especially during rescue missions,” he said.
Choi admitted that it was challenging to capture the vast landscapes at Mount Jiri, prompting the production team to use a lot of equipment and even a helicopter.
Throughout the filming process, the cast members developed a high respect for rangers after learning about the difficulties of the job, such as carrying heavy equipment while climbing the mountain for hours.
“I couldn’t believe that it was possible. It’s not something that ordinary people like us do. They felt different, like heroes,” said Oh.
“I have been in dramas where I had to carry adults or children… but ‘Jirisan’ is different. There’s cliffs and slopes. When I had to carry people on my back for the drama, I couldn’t believe that the rangers had to go through this when they’re on their job,” said Ju.
Ju hoped “Jirisan” would offer comfort to viewers as the world continued to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic.
“For years, we have been trying to adapt to COVID-19 and I hope the drama ‘Jirisan’ would help you relieve your stress a little bit and heal some of the pain you are going through right now,” he said.