Veteran actor to show Korea’s scientific heritage on TV

July 21, 2016

SEOUL, July 21 (Yonhap) — Veteran South Korean actor Lee Sun-jae will begin a new TV series Thursday that showcases Korea’s scientific heritage and promotes the country’s achievements in the field.

“KBS Special,” a documentary program on state broadcaster KBS, traces the roots of South Korea’s scientific and technological development by revealing the legacy of Korea’s Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) in four parts — mathematics, medicine, astronomy and time.

“I’m not a science person at all,” the actor said at a meeting with reporters Wednesday. “I knew as soon as I got a 60 on a math test in elementary school that this wasn’t the path for me. But even a layman such as me understood and explained it, so it should be easy for you to watch.”

It will be Lee’s debut as a presenter. He turns 81 this year.

Lee Sun-jae poses in front of a banner for the "KBS Special" series on Korea's scientific heritage during a press conference in Seoul on July 20, 2016.

Lee Sun-jae poses in front of a banner for the “KBS Special” series on Korea’s scientific heritage during a press conference in Seoul on July 20, 2016.

“Out of all the historical figures who appear in the documentary, the only ones I was familiar with were Heo Jun and Yoo Ui-tae because I acted them out in dramas,” he said, referring to two famous doctors of the Joseon era. “I was often amazed by the great scientific achievements of our ancestors during the filming.”

Lee confessed that he had to stay up all night at times to fully understand the script and coordinate his steps with the visual aids.

He also expressed hope that the government and political leaders would show more interest in science and technology.

“With the clock, if we had been able to properly develop the ‘jagyeokru’ and the ‘honcheon’ clock, we would by now make much better clocks than the Swiss,” the actor said. “It’s a pity that we weren’t able to inherit and develop that technology.” Jagyeokru is a water clock, and honcheon is an astronomical clock.

The program’s producers said they inserted various visual aids and reenactments to make it easier for viewers to understand the science and history involved.

Shin Dong-won, the head of a research center specializing in Korean science and civilization at Chonbuk National University, said it is time to raise international awareness of the country’s achievements in the science field.

“I hope this will be made possible through KBS,” he said.

The center provided counseling and funds for the show, which will air for two weeks on KBS1 TV at 10 p.m. on Thursday and Friday.