By Han Sang-hee
The Seoul International Drama Awards 2009 wrapped up its 10-day run with a grand award ceremony, the biggest in its four-year history, at Olympic Hall, Olympic Park last week.
The annual event started Sept. 4 at various venues around the city with 169 dramas from 37 countries competing. The final ceremony saw numerous stars, producers and writers attending, a big leap from the rather localized ceremonies of previous years.
The ceremony was broadcast on KBS, and the event venue was filled with fans that came to see some of their favorite local and foreign stars.
The Grand Prize went to ``Memoirs in China,'' a period drama about two families surviving turbulent times during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), Republican China (1911-1949) and finally the People's Republic of China.
``Our drama is about the ups and downs of a family that survived a century in China. The courage and freedom the family showed in this drama is what we need to survive in our world and also to continue history. I thank you for sympathizing and also for this award,'' Zhang Li, the director, said.
The Jury's Special Prizes went to Taiwan's ``Taipei 24H'' and China's ``Live a Luxury and Dissipation Life,'' while the Norwegian series ``Maria'' took home the Best Miniseries Award. Colombia's ``The Cartel'' won the Excellent Series Drama Award.
Duane Clark, the producer of some of the most popular foreign drama series in Korea, such as ``CSI: Crime Scene Investigation'' and ``Dark Angel,'' took to the stage to receive his award for Best Director for ``XIII: The Conspiracy.''
``I've never been to Asia before. I can't imagine a more exciting introduction to this part of the world,'' Clark said.
Korea's ``The Slingshot'' and ``Beethoven Virus'' also won awards at the event _ the Best Drama Series Award and the Excellent Miniseries Award, respectively.
``Wow. This was my first full-length drama and it's an honor to have won such an award on my first try. I thank all the actors and also the writer, Song Ji-na,'' Yoon Sung-sik, director of ``The Slingshot,'' said.
Near the end of the event, the organizers announced the winners of the People's Choice categories, including favorite actors and foreign works voted for by viewers via the Internet.
Korea's Moon Geun-young from ``The Painter of Wind'' and Kim Hyun-jung from ``Boys Over Flowers'' accepted the People's Choice Awards for Best Actress and Best Actor, respectively. Kim was unable to attend as he was still hospitalized after being infected with influenza A (H1N1).
``I would like to thank the whole staff of the drama `The Painter of Wind' and also the fans who voted for us. I also hope Kim recovers from the virus as soon as possible,'' Moon, dressed in an elegant hanbok-inspired gown, said.
The Favorite Foreign Drama of the Year Awards voted by Internet users went to ``CSI: Crime Scene Investigation'' and ``Doctor Who Season 4.''
``Thank you. It's a beautiful evening,'' Phil Collinson, the Head of Drama at the BBC, said in Korean during his acceptance speech for ``Doctor Who.'' ``It's my pleasure to be here in Seoul, it's an amazing evening. It's an amazing honor and privilege to receive this award for `Doctor Who.' It's even more special because it has been voted for by the viewers. Thank you so much,'' he said.
The event was the biggest since its initial gathering four years ago, and although it saw success in overall presentation, it could have attracted more fans, both local and foreign, with more exciting and interactive programs. Nevertheless, the event represented a good start in bringing international dramas and drama makers together.
``I started working in the broadcasting business in 1972," said veteran actor Lee Deok-hwa. "We were black-and-white then and it took 10 years to switch to color. Our dream during that time was what we are doing right now: Holding an international event where local dramas compete and celebrate with excellent dramas from around the world. That dream has come true.''