Animal abuse? Horse dies after stunt goes wrong in K-drama The King of Tears, Lee Bang-won

PHOTO: Screengrab from YouTube

Was it a case of animal abuse or simply a tragic accident?

On a recent episode of the South Korean historical drama The King of Tears, Lee Bang-won, a scene showed a man thrown off the horse he was riding.

It was reported that the scene was filmed by tying wires around the horse's legs and pulling it to the ground. According to Soompi, viewers raised their concerns with Korean Animal Welfare Association (KAWA) over potential animal abuse.

A behind-the-scenes video was released and in a clip shared by KAWA, the horse is seen flipping over and landing on its neck. The stunt actor, thrown hard to the ground, is seen flinching.  

In the aftermath of the fall, crew members almost immediately went to check on the stunt actor.

The video was cut off shortly after that but up to that point, no one physically inspected the horse.

Koreaboo reported a statement by KAWA: "We can't help but be surprised that the filming by Korean public broadcasting channels is happening in such a way in 2022.

"The current Animal Protection Act regulates and prohibits the 'act of injuring animals for the purpose of gambling, advertising, entertainment, etc' as animal abuse. Also, the filming and posting of videos of such scenes can be considered animal abuse.

"The scene of forcibly knocking down the horse is obvious animal abuse. This is an incident that has clearly revealed the problem of animal abuse at filming sites, which has been continuously raised prior."

It was also reported that the stunt actor was only wearing the usual protective gear without additional protective measures. After the fall, he lost consciousness temporarily and couldn't continue the shoot due to his injuries.

On Jan 20, the Korean Broadcasting System (KBS), which airs the series, released a statement addressing the issue and taking responsibility for the eventual death of the horse.

The statement read: "It is very difficult to film a fall from a horse. The horse's safety is fundamental, and we also have to consider the safety of the actor on the horse and the safety of the crew members filming the scene. Because of this, the production staff spent several days preparing for the scene in order to prevent any accidents from potentially occurring.

"Despite this preparation, during the actual filming, an accident occurred in which the actor was thrown hard from the horse and the horse's upper body struck the ground with great force. After the accident, the horse got up on its own, and we checked to see that it had no external injuries before returning it.

"However, as viewers recently began to express concern for the horse's current condition, we checked the horse's condition again, and we regret to say that the horse died about a week after the filming occurred.

"We cannot help but take serious responsibility for this unfortunate incident that has occurred. We apologise to the viewers for not preventing this accident and causing such an unfortunate event."

bryanlim@asiaone.com