“The reality (true story) was more dramatic than the drama.”
Channel A reported on the 17th that it was confirmed that Jo Bong-haeng, a real person who became the motif of Netflix’s popular drama ‘Suriname’, died while serving a sentence in Korea in 2016. He is the real person of the pastor character Jeon Yo-hwan in the play, played by Hwang Jung-min.
According to Channel A, Cho died on April 19, 2016 at a university hospital in Gwangju and was judged as a ‘soldier’. The causes of death listed on the death certificate were heart failure and hypertension. At the time, Cho was serving his sentence at Haenam Prison in Jeollanam-do, but his sentence was suspended due to worsening of chronic diseases such as high blood pressure. He was released on a suspended sentence after five years of imprisonment, and while receiving treatment at a university hospital, his condition worsened and he died. At the time, Jo was 64 years old.
Director Yoon Jong-bin, who directed Suriname, said about Jo’s whereabouts, “Neither the NIS nor the prosecution said they could tell.” In the meantime, it was estimated that Cho returned to Suriname after completing his sentence, but this is the first time that it has been confirmed that he died while serving in Korea.
From the late 1990s to the early 2000s, Cho ran a large-scale drug trafficking organization in Suriname, South America, and was called the ‘drug king’. He was arrested at São Paulo International Airport in Brazil in July 2009 after a coordinated operation between the National Intelligence Service and the US Drug Enforcement Agency. In 2011, two years after his arrest, he was sent to Korea and sentenced to 10 years in prison and a fine of 100 million won on charges of fraud and drug smuggling. The reason why he received a relatively light sentence of 10 years in prison was because, unlike the drama, he was only charged with handling 48.5 kg of cocaine. The fact that he did not distribute drugs in the country also contributed to lowering his sentence.
Meanwhile, as Suriname gained popularity on Netflix, diplomatic disputes arose. The Surinamese government said it would consider legal action against the producers and make an official complaint to the South Korean government, saying that the country’s reputation was damaged by the story that described it as a ‘drug country’. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs arbitrated for not including the name of the country in the English title (English title is Narco Saints), but it did not prevent the dispute. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said, “We are making continuous efforts to maintain friendly relations with Suriname.”
[ⓒ 매일경제 & mk.co.kr, 무단전재 및 재배포 금지]