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KBS employees fined W30m for abuse and death of horse

Jan. 17, 2024 - 20:41 By Jung Min-kyung
A screenshot shows the problematic scene from the seventh episode of KBS' 2021 period drama, “The King of Tears, Lee Bang-won.” (KBS)

A Seoul court on Wednesday fined three KBS employees a total of 30 million won ($22,338), holding them accountable for the death of a horse on the set of a drama production in 2021.

The Seoul Southern District Court convicted the three employees -- a 59-year-old drama producer surnamed Kim, a martial arts director and an equestrian -- of animal abuse among other charges for the torture and killing of a horse while shooting a scene for the local broadcaster’s "The King of Tears, Lee Bangwon," on Nov. 2, 2021.

The individuals were fined 10 million won each, while KBS was separately fined 5 million won for failing to stop its employees’ misconduct.

The defendants were accused of tying up the horse’s forelegs with a rope and forcing it to sprint downhill to make it tumble and fall over. The horse, which fell violently on the ground, was left unattended and died five days later.

The court referred to the case as a “serious crime,” saying that the three had “purposefully carried out the stunt despite knowing that the horse would sustain serious injuries in the process.”

The court also mentioned that despite the availability of cruelty-free options such as using computer-generated images and animatronics or employing human stunt performers, the defendants chose to sacrifice the horse to cut down on production costs.

However, the court added that it took into account the defendants' admissions to the charges and the fact that the KBS established a set of guidelines on the treatment of animals on set following the incident.

KBS came under fire in early 2022 after a video shot on set went viral online. Animal activists claimed that the incident was not the first time the public broadcaster had abused horses for drama productions. The Korea Association for Animal Protection cited scenes of horses falling on the ground in dramas such as "Bridal Mask" and "Jeong Do-jeon," which aired in 2012 and 2014, respectively.