The star of the hit TV series "Return" on SBS has quit the show over a violent spat with its producer.
The incident has divided the entertainment industry, with one side accusing Ko Hyun-jung of behaving like a spoiled primadonna, and others pointing to the producer for subjecting cast and crew to a grueling work schedule.
Ko had a violent disagreement with producer Joo Dong-min on set, reportedly screaming at him and kicking him, and Joo shut the shoot down.
Ko's management agency in a statement on Thursday said, "It became difficult to continue filming since it seems impossible to narrow repeated differences in opinion with production staff. We will not comment on rumors of assault and abuse of power. We hope the series can continue without trouble."
Ko's critics at SBS are eager to shift the blame to Ko, claiming she wanted more onscreen time and became too bossy, encroaching on the territory of the producer. An SBS staffer said, "The success of a show relies heavily on star casting, but it was impossible to allow a situation where the actor showed so little respect for the producer."
One soap opera producer at KBS said, "Differences of opinion between actors and producers are not uncommon, but even top stars try to find some sort of compromise. I've never seen a case before where the producer refused to go back on set."
Another source at a TV broadcaster said, "The incident highlights to tremendous power now wielded by top stars. Ko has reached a level where broadcasters can't control her."
Industry insiders blame the rising power of talent management agencies, who decide who gets cast in what show. In many cases, they then insist on foisting lesser-known actors from their stable on producers as well, which happened on "Return." Starlet Jung Eun-chae, who is managed by the same agency as Ko, got a part in the series.
But Ko's supporters say producers put actors and staff through grueling schedules, with filming often continuing into the early morning and right down to the wire, to finish with only days to spare before the next episode airs.
The SBS website has been flooded with comments blaming the producer for abusing his power and calling for Joo to quit instead. Producers reign supreme on the set and often order writers to change storylines on a whim. Supporting actors have no choice but to comply, but top stars have more clout. Production on the "Return" was so rushed that two film crews worked in rotational shifts while actors had to wait long hours on the set.
"The production of 'Return' was rushed from the start," an industry source said. "This was an ambitious project for Ko following a long hiatus, so it was probably not easy for her to decide to quit. It just shows how bad conditions were on the set." Another insider said Ko used her star power to speak up for other members of the cast and crew.