Setbacks, breakthroughs define the last year
Actress Jun Ji-hyun, who played a mischievous character in the film “My Sassy Girl,” and actor Kim Su-hyun, better known as the king in the TV drama “Moon Embracing the Sun,” paired up for the television series “My Love From the Star,” displaying chemistry that hooked viewers in China as much as Korea.
Clothing worn by Jun in the drama also sold well both here and in China.
Considering that Jun played a top celebrity, her on-screen wardrobe was full of high-end brands. She was styled in extravagant outfits when her character attended public events and donned contrary casual looks at home with her family.
Both ends of the fashion spectrum appealed to female fans. In fact, items worn by the actress - such as a trench coat - sold out regularly.
Chinese viewers also adopted Korean vocabulary after watching the drama. Fans started to use the Korean word “sshi,” which means “mister” in English instead of translating the word into Chinese.
In the drama, Jun calls Kim’s character “Do Min-jun-sshi” - a polite way to refer to someone in Korea. Instead of translating the honorific term to “Do Min-jun Sshiansheng,” which means “Mr. Do Min-jun” in Chinese, fans in China use “Do Min-jun Sshi” instead.
Even Incheon University, where Jun meets Kim as her college professor, has become a popular travel destination.
Chinese tourists have also been visiting Incheon Museum, the Korean Folk Village and Jangam Reservoir in Gukmang-bong, Gyeonggi, after the locales were featured in the drama.
‘The Admiral: Roaring Currents’ smashes records at box office
The period film managed to sell 10 million tickets in 12 days - faster than all nine other Korean movies that surpassed the 10 million mark.
It also achieved this nine days quicker than “The Host” (2006), which held the existing record.
The movie is based on Admiral Yi Sun-sin of the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910), who led the country to a legendary naval victory during the Battle of Myeongnyang in 1597.
Yi used 12 ships to defeat the Japanese navy’s fleet of 300.
After a good start from the industry’s largest opening day on July 30 with an audience of more than 680,000, “The Admiral” also broke the record for the largest accumulated audience - more than 17 million.
The record-breaking feature was a silver lining for the local film industry, which had been struggling. Many people welcomed the good run of a locally made movie and stayed hopeful that more will follow.
Its success has also stimulated other cultural scenes. As the movie is based on the true story of the great admiral and the battle in South Jeolla, Yi’s diary, known as “Nanjung Ilgi” has become popular at bookstores.
Actor Choi Min-sik, who played the admiral, said that he relied on the diary to better understand the character.
Schools also seized the chance to teach students more about Korean history by taking them on a field trips to South Jeolla where the real battle happened.
Many travel agencies presented packages to the area too.
The movie also affected corporate culture. Several executives tried to acquire leadership skills by learning from what the admiral did.
Many how-to books introduce tips from the admiral and how to adapt his skills and apply them to leading in the current generation.
Stars from the 1990s make successful comebacks en masse
Popular singer Seo Tai-ji, left, from the 1990s excited many people with the release of his album “Quiet Night” in October. Fans had high hopes for the album, which was his first in about five years.
The singer, who was previously considered a very private individual, showed he has changed by sharing his personal life on TV in entertainment shows.
Another popular boy group back in the 1990s, g.o.d., right, released eighth album “Chapter 8” in July. The original five members of the group gathered together to continue making music after the release of their seventh album in 2005.
Many other singers who had their heyday in the 1990s also released new albums, including Im Chang-jung, Lee Seung-hwan, Kim Dong-ryul and You Hee-yul (as a member of his group Toy).
‘Avengers’ filming in Seoul thrills some, incenses others
When it was revealed that Seoul would act as a backdrop to part of “The Avengers: Age of Ultron,” by Disney’s Marvel Studios, movie fans were in a frenzy.
The city government closed streets on some of Seoul’s busiest districts for more than 10 days until April 14 to film “The Avengers” sequel, which is slated to be released next year.
However, the unprecedented traffic control sparked debates about whether the result will be worthwhile. Some argued that it greatly inconvenienced too many people while others felt optimistic about its effect on bringing more movie franchises to Korea for filming, which would boost tourism. Marvel promised to portray Korea as “a high-tech, modern country.”
The first franchise movie “The Avengers” in 2012 made about $1.52 trillion worldwide.
Sewol ferry disaster results in mass cancelation of events
The tragic sinking of Sewol ferry on April 16, which killed more than 300 people, put a stop to many events that had been planned in the cultural industry.
Several regional festivals scheduled to celebrate the arrival of spring were either canceled or continued with minimal promotion.
Singer Park Jung-hyun, also known as Lena Park, pushed back the release of her newest album “Syncrofusion” until June.
Many broadcasters decided not to air comedy programs for weeks to show their condolences to families and friends who lost loved ones.
A press conference for movie “King’s Wrath” with actor Hyun Bin was substituted for simple video-playing and the press event for film “The Target” canceled its movie screening and interviews.
An icy wave of ‘Frozen’ fever sweeps the Korean Peninsula
Elsa, the animated princess from Disney’s “Frozen,” melted the hearts of many children - and adults - here in Korea.
The film was watched by more than 10 million people in the cinema, becoming the second most popular overseas movie released here after “Avatar” (2009).
While children clamored for an Elsa doll, or to have their hair braided to one side just like the character, adults became hooked on the movie’s main soundtrack song, “Let It Go.”
Many local singers covered the song and some amateurs even came under the spotlight for posting their own versions online.
Cultural assets taken during Korean War returned to nation
A move to bring back cultural heritage items that were removed from Korea is expected to be expedited after the country reacquired several important artifacts.
Nine royal seals from the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) that were removed from the country during the 1950-53 Korean War were brought back from the United States in April.
The Cultural Heritage Administration continues working to retrieve more ancient Korean artifacts taken away during the war. Experts stay hopeful that more will return to their rightful home.
Several stars, including Shin Hae-chul, pass away tragically
Some painful goodbyes were said in entertainment this year. The most notable ones went to rocker Shin Hae-chul, right, who died unexpectedly in October in a hospital after suffering from stomach pain.
He received surgery but later had a heart attack and fell into a coma before passing away. His death is still being investigated for medical malpractice.
All 2,500 copies of Shin’s album “Reboot Yourself” sold out as fans clamored to commemorate the rocker.
There were other tragic accidents as well. Ri-sae, left, and Eun-bi, two members of girl group Ladies’ Code, died from injuries sustained in a car accident in September. Actress Kim Ja-ok and singer Yoo Chae-young also passed away after battling cancer.
Gov’t clamps down on book discounts to stabilize industry
Korea decided to modify a book law in November in an attempt to stabilize prices. The Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism said that stricter laws will help smaller independent stores survive while competing against gigantic book store chains and online retailers.
The new regulation allows book sellers to give a discount of up to 10 percent on retail items, along with letting buyers accrue 5 percent of the book price as points under the buyer’s membership card if they have one. Such a law used to only apply to new books or those released less than 18 months ago, but now the restrictions apply to all books, whether old or new.
A surge of people stocked up on books ahead of the enforcement of the law on Nov. 21.
Office politics drama strikes a chord with corporate workers
Many employees working in Korea found comfort in tvN’s drama “Misaeng,” which follows fictional workers who struggle to adapt to office life, mingle with fellow coworkers and bosses, and climb the corporate ladder.
Many critics have said that the TV drama, which began airing Oct. 17, has made ordinary people reflect on how they are doing as colleagues, bosses or subordinates.
The drama also proved that a show can become popular without incorporating a romance between two main characters - which almost every Korean drama includes - leading industry insiders to predict that more alternative plots will be used in the future of local TV shows.
BY LEE SUN-MIN [firstname.lastname@example.org]