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We asked our Life & Style Desk reporters what they thought were the top ten stories in 2005. The answers ranged from embarrassed celebrities and an increasingly upscale shopping culture to a public embrace of those formerly shunned ― the autistic, the half-foreign and the merely average people in our midst.

Forged or real?


In March, drawings by Lee Jung-seop, one of the best-known Korean artists of the 20th century, were the subject of a forgery dispute. Thus started a scandal that has rippled through Korea’s art community and prompted doubts about the authenticity of other works circulating among Seoul galleries. The controversy over the drawings intensified as they originated from the artist’s family. The artist’s son filed a libel lawsuit against the people who claimed the drawings were fake. A police investigation concluded in October the the drawings were indeed forgeries.

Naked punks


Two punk rockers caused a public uproar in August by pulling down their pants on live television. The network was flooded with complaints from viewers who were shocked by the sight of the pair’s genitals on the live music show. The nudity was aired uncensored for about six seconds. The MBC network apologized for the incident, but public criticism eventually led the network to suspend the program. The punk rockers were arrested on charges of violating laws pertaining to public performances.

Spotlight on autism


Autistic children received special attention after the movie “Running Boy” became a huge box office hit. The film about the trials and triumphs of an autistic athlete training to run a marathon was inspired by the real-life story of Bae Hyeong-jin, a 22 year old who finished the 2001 Chuncheon Marathon in the exceptional time of 2 hours, 57 minutes and 7 seconds. The movie drew over 5 million viewers, a surprising figure considering the film’s low budget. Currently, about 7,600 autistic people are registered with South Korea’s Health and Welfare Ministry. But experts say the actual number of people suffering from the disability ranges from 30,000 to 40,000.

Entertainer X-files


In January, a 113-page report containing personal details and rumors on about 100 top Korean stars surfaced online. “X-file on entertainers” was a PDF file that Dongseo Research, a market research firm, compiled on behalf of Cheil Communications, an advertising agency, as a confidential reference guide. The file included potentially libelous content and groundless rumors, and also evaluated the attractiveness, talent and outlook of the stars. The file circulated from online portal sites to personal blogs rapidly. Despite protests that circulating file was an act of defamation, it spread relentlessly. The advertising agency issued an apology in major newspapers, expressing regret to the celebrities named in the document. The entertainers filed a class libel suit against Cheil and Dongseo Research but withdrew the case later.

Lovely Ms. Average


There have been many popular soap operas, but none have been as gratifying for Korean society as “My Lovely Samsoon.” The main character, Kim Sam-soon, overturned the conventional expectation that women should be beautiful, obedient and feminine. She is a defiantly average woman in her 30s: She’s chubby, was just dumped, is very frank about love and sex, and doesn’t pretend innocence. Nevertheless, she’s proud of herself. Such a realistic character appealed to many Koreans who have been sick of Mr. Prince and Ms. Princess. The show’s popularity spurred an interest in working as a pastry chef (Sam-soon’s job) and a number of new bakeries took her name. Michael Ende’s “Momo,” the book Sam-soon read, has been a bestseller for weeks, and copies of her pink piggy doll have sold like hot cakes.

The half-blood prince


Daniel Philip Henney leaped to super-stardom this year by co-starring in an MBC hit television drama, “My Lovely Samsoon.” Born of a British father and a Korean mother, the actor’s good looks and friendly charm made him one of the highest paid models in Korea ― he recently did an ad with Gwyneth Paltrow for the Korean clothing brand Bean Pole ― while helping to break local prejudice against people with mixed blood. As popularity grows for mixed-blood Korean actors, another new face named Dennis O also debuted this year in Korean dramas.

Museum’s new home


After wandering the city for half a century, the National Museum of Korea moved into its new state-of-the-art facility in Yongsan district in November. Five millennium worth of sculptures, paintings, documents, pottery, ornaments, armor and other artifacts are housed in the facility. The museum has 59 items registered as “national treasures,” 79 designated “treasures,” and one “important folklore cultural asset,” among the 11,000 items on display. A victim of Korea’s turbulent modern history, the museum was forced to relocate six times since 1945, but it’s latest incarnation looks particularly permanent ― the facility has exhibition space of 2,781 square meters (29,934 square feet) and was designed to resemble a fortress.

Boutiques bloom


The opening of free-standing import-brand fashion stores ― outside of department stores and markets ― was a new trend this year. To an increasing number of trend-savvy shoppers, Gucci and Prada bags have become all too common. Showing off wealth these days requires a more refined sense of international fashion and trends, and stores like “Mue” and “Boon The Shop” target clients seeking hard-to-find designer labels such as Hussein Chalayan, Viktor & Rolf, The Habitual and Sass & Bide.

Star-studded home shopping


T.V. home shopping used to be the province of cheap gadgets and underwear. But the business has recently graduated from mere household commodities to trendy crocheted shawls and jewelry. Meanwhile, companies have recruited some of the most beautiful models and actresses to help sell these higher-priced items. The recent launching of G-market online and the introduction of brands promoted by local stars have proven that alternative shopping is here to stay. Celebrities are clamoring for lucrative contracts with firms like CJ Home Shopping.

Catering to a higher high-end


As social polarization continued, with the poor getting poorer and the rich getting richer, marketers have sought to cash in on the latter by offering VVIP (very VIP) services for super-wealthy clients. These include personal shopping and special opening events reserved for target customers. Also, the opening of the new department store Avenuel in Myeongdong in central Seoul, is the latest tribute to high-end luxury shopping and lifestyles.

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