12-26-2007 17:05
CultureTrend 2008

The Korea Times reviewed what was popular and what worked in the culture scene in the year 2007 and came up with what we saw as likely trends for 2008. We invite you to tell us what you think of our choices and whether you have something you would like to add. Write to editor@koreatimes.co.kr

Musicals: Homegrown Musical Boom Continues Next Year

The booming musical industry is likely to see more productions of homegrown musicals next year, due to increasing public demand.

According to ¡°The Musical,¡± a monthly magazine, the number of musicals this year rose to 160, a 44 percent increase from last year.

Among them, 72 percent or 115 were homegrown. But despite the growing number, local musicals such as ¡°Janggeum, The Great¡± and ¡°Dancing Shadows¡± failed to meet expectations.

However, despite this, the local musical industry will likely accelerate their momentum to continue producing more musicals as next year will see more theaters established with enhanced acoustics.

Seven medium and large theaters will be constructed in Seoul by 2011.

Lifestyles: Wines to Become More Popular

The popularity of wine continues to grow significantly, and its transition from status symbol to daily delicacy is becoming evident.

¡°Les Gouttes de Dieu¡± (Drops of God), a Japanese comic book, has triggered the so-called ¡°wine syndrome¡± in Korea this year. As wines grow in popularity, consumers are going more for table wines and bargain wines. Quality wines at reasonable prices are gaining popularity among smart shoppers.

According to Winenara, a wine distributor, the prices of the bestseller wines of this year range from 30,000 won to 40,000 won. Also, the Chilean and American wines were consumed equivalent to that of Italian and French wines, indicating that wine consumers are turning away from the Old World wines to wines of the New World like the United States, Australia, Chile and Argentina.

However, the imports of the high-tagged wines from Burgundy reached 2.35 million euro in 2006, annually growing by about 30 percent from 1.78 million euro in 2005 and 1.42 million euro in 2004, which are expected to polarize wine connoisseurs.

Fashion Trend: Gap, Banana Republic Open

Korean fashion industry will witness the ¡°accelerated entry of foreign brands¡± but at the same time, discover overseas markets for Korean brands, according to the Korea Fashion Association¡¯s industry forecast for 2008.

In 2007, Koreans welcomed global brands such as Gap, Banana Republic and Roots. With the free trade agreement with the United States and Europe, more foreign brands are expected to enter the Korean market. Popular ¡°fast-fashion¡± brands such as Zara, Forever 21, Top Shop and H&M are expected to follow soon.

However, local brands are feeling the pressure to become more competitive in terms of quality and, more importantly, price. To succeed in an increasingly competitive market, Korean fashion companies should look for ways to strengthen their brands and to expand their market overseas.

Art Boom: Lee U-fan, Park Soo-keun and More

The year 2007 saw Korea's art scene thrive. As global interest in Asian contemporary art, especially Chinese art, continues, the spotlight is soon expected to turn to Korean artists.
Last June, abstract painter Lee U-fan's work ``From Point'' sold for $1.94 million at Sotheby's Contemporary Art sale in New York, the highest ever for a Korean artist abroad.
Many wealthy Koreans are seeing the value of investing in artworks. Several art investment funds have been established. Auction houses are reporting a significantly higher turnover this year. A painting by the late Park Soo-keun ``A Wash Place,'' showing women washing clothes in a lake, was sold for 4.52 billion won, the highest ever for an artwork sold in an auction in Korea.

International art events, Gwangju Biennale and Busan Biennale, are expected to draw more attention to Korea's art scene and artists. Gwangju Biennale, which opens on Sept. 5, will try to shake off the scandal involving Shin Jeong-ah (she was supposed to be co-director of the biennale until her educational credentials were found to have been forged) and focus attention on the artworks.


The importance of design is now on the rise, and now Korea has finally joined the flow. The year 2008 will be the stepping-stone for architecture design, and cities will be soon flourish with sophisticated and stylish constructions.

Last Oct. 20, Seoul was chosen the ``2010 World Design Capital (WDC)'' during the International Council of Societies of Industrial Design's closing ceremony. The WDC is appointed to the city that holds great design value or is to develop their city into a design oriented one. In a bid to successfully meet expectations, Seoul Mayor Oh Sae-hoon announced the ``U-Seoul Design 2010'' plan, in which the city will promote a design campaign that is ``Universal, Unique, Ubiquitous'' and apply it to streets, buildings and homes.

No more cookie cutter apartments will be put up starting from 2008, instead cities will collaborate with architects and build homes that are not only desirable to live in, but also to look at. The designs will mostly be artistic, minimalized and environment friendly. Renowned architects, such as Daniel Libenskind for Busan's I-Park and Jean Michel Wilmotte for Yongin's Raemian Apartments, will work on the new buildings and homes.

Movies: Independent Films to Gather Momentum

It was a surprisingly fruitful year for independent films, both local and international. The low-budget Irish film ``Once,'' which was in theaters for a long 14-week period, drew over 200,000 audiences. The original soundtrack also sold over 30,000, topping charts for OST rankings.

``Our School'' was a breath of fresh air for the underrepresented documentary genre, garnering a record of 75 thousand moviegoers.

Local flicks like ``Who's That Knocking at My Door?'' and ``Milky Way Liberation Front'' were hot Internet search items. The latter was awarded prizes at the Directors Cut Awards and Independent Film of the Year Award by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism and the Association of Korean Independent Film & Video.

The positive trend is expected to continue next year with more space being devoted to independent films. In November, Korean Film Council and the Association of Korean Independent Film & Video revamped Joongang Cinema in northern Seoul for the exclusive screening of independent works. Spongehouse relocated its Jongno chain to a larger space in Myeong-dong in October and launched a new theater in Gwanghwamun in December, while Indiespace also opened doors in northern Seoul last month.

Dramas: Epic Dramas Dominate TV Screen Again

Following epic dramas that swept Korea this year, such as ``Taewangsasingi'' and ``The King Dae Joyoung,'' dramas depicting historical events will continue to boom in 2008.
Various aspects of Korean history, from Goguryeo (37 B.C.-A.D.668) to Joseon (1392-1910) and from kings to mysterious thieves, will captivate audiences.

KBS's comic historical drama ``Hong Gil-dong'' will start the epic drama race on Jan. 2, with ``King Sejong'' following on Jan. 5. In the second half of the year, ``The Kingdom of the Winds'' will continue the race about the Goguryeo Kingdom.

SBS is preparing ``Princess Jamyeonggo'' ¡ª set in the Goguryeo Kingdom, and ``Jejungwon'' will show off the first modern doctor in Korea.

MBC will revive the great queen of Silla through ``Queen Seondeok.''

Adaptation from novels and cartoons will also be popular. Solid original pieces ensure popularity and high ratings, such as SBS' hit soap opera ``War of Money.''

KBS' epic drama ``The Kingdom of the Winds'' is based on the cartoon by Kim Jin, which has the same title as the drama. This novel was transformed into a musical in 2006 and now aims to win on TV screen.

SBS will work again with Park In-kwon, the author of ``War of Money,'' and will film ``Daemul,'' a story about a female president. ``Le Grand Chef'' based on Huh Young-man's popular comic series is currently filming and will be aired in 2008 as well.
(All drama titles are working titles and subject to change.)


Novels by many veteran novelist were published recently to readers delight.
Kim Hoon's ``Namhan Fortress'' led the bestseller list for months. Kim's novel focuses on the 47 days that King Injo of the Joseon Kingdom and his aristocrats spent in isolation inside a fortress surrounded by the enemy.

Gong Ji-young writes a biography style novel about her life of raising three children of different fathers.

Hwang Sok-young's ``Baridegi,'' is a short story about a North Korean defector girl's odyssey. Park Wan-seo's ``Kind Bokhee (chinjeolhan bokheessi),'' Shin Kyung-sook's ``Li Jin'' and Eun Hee-kyung's ``Beauty Derides Me'' also came out this year.

Leading among the younger group of writers was Chung I-hyeon, 34, with her ``My Lies'' and ``My Sweet City.'' Poetry section proved prolific as well.

Stars to watch for in 2008

E Ji-ah, who played Bae Yong-joon¡¯s love interest in ``Taewangsasinggi¡¯¡¯ (The Four Guardian Gods of the King) is certainly the Cinderella of the year. Lee Philip, who played Cheoro in the drama, is another rookie from the soap opera.

Three heartthrob princes of ``Coffee Prince,'' Eon, Kim Jae-wook and Kim Dong-uk, already started their next step to become top stars. Kim Dong-uk is starring in KBS `` Unstoppable Wedding'' and Kim Jae-wook is filming the movie ``Antique.''

The hit sitcom ``Unhesitatingly High Kick!'' raised Jung Il-woo and Park Min-young to star status. After the sitcom, Jung starred in ``My Love'' while Park became the heroine of KBS drama ``I Am Sam.''

Sweet-faced Lee Yeon-hee, the mystery girl of the movie ``M'' and cute freshman of ``My Love,'' expects another promising year.

Having successfully transformed from a child actor to a grown up, Jang Geun-seok participated in movie ``Happy Life'' and ``Crazy for Waiting.'' Jang is also known for his sharp fashion sense.

Operas: Classical Music Scene to Continue Blooming

Along with the local ¡°musical boom,¡± the opera scene enjoyed an increase in public interest and participation, with big sellout productions like Korea Opera Group¡¯s ¡°La Traviata¡± and National Opera of Korea¡¯s ¡°Carmen.¡±

While the number of operas produced per year remains pretty much the same as past years, the number of opera-goers shot up to over 225,000 (as of November), from 140,000 in 2005, according to Ticketlink.

Hordes of screaming female fans are no longer limited to pop stars. Violist Richard Yongjae O¡¯Neil had a new album, string of concerts and sponsorship from famed director Park Chan-wook. The 29-year-old will visit Korean fans with the Sejong Soloists in January, the London Philharmonic Orchestra in March and the chamber quartet Ditto in May.

Pianist Kim Sun-wook, 19, is expected to continue to shine. Part of the newly launched Kumho Asiana Soloists, he made a stellar European debut and will delight fans with a full concert schedule next year, starting with a New Year concert.


The five cute Wonder Girls are the wonder of 2007 without any doubt. The ¡°Tell Me¡± song and dance swept the nation, generating numerous user created content where high school students to soldiers and even policemen imitated their famous dance moves. The boy band Big Bang is also said to be on the verge of becoming the next star idols. They not only sing and dance but also compose and produce their own songs in 2008.

Among these idol groups, Younha showed her singing talent both in Korea and Japan.

While teenagers dance and entertain on TV screens, stars from the 1990s have returned to the scene with dignity. Toy (You Hee-yeol) recently released a sixth album, which sold more than 50,000 copies within a week.

Moreover, known as the ¡°president¡± of Korean popular music in 1990s, Seo Tai-ji will finally release his long awaited eighth album.

However, the decreasing album sales has prompted companies find other ways of generating revenue, such as digital albums released online and mobile contents including ring-tones.