Last updated on January 15, 2019
From PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games, BIGBANG’s enlistment, to top stars’ dating news (including Suzy and Park Shin Hye), 2018 has been a hectic year. Here are the top Korean entertainment news of 2018 for the K-pop and K-drama fans.
1. DramaFever evaporates
On October 16, DramaFever suddenly shut down. It had been a go-to site to stream legal and English-subbed videos of dramas and movies from not just South Korea, but also China, Taiwan and Japan. Its portfolio also contained Spanish and British titles. Now all you see is a farewell announcement at the site. Gone also are the popular news section as well as its previously very strong social media presence. After a successful run from 2009 to 2018, DramaFever is gone!
2. A year of strong female characters in K-dramas
Korean actresses have played beloved and indispensable characters in romantic and family dramas. They have also starred in action and mystery thrillers. However, in 2018, we saw seasoned actresses starring in powerful roles, not just as a leading lady to a leading man, but in dramas themed with strong social commentaries. Prime examples were Lee Bo Young as a teacher in “Mother,” who runs away with a young student to keep her safe from her abusive family, and Kim Nam Joo as a top anchorwoman who faces a murder charge and public scrutiny in “Misty.” Another example is Im Soo Hyang as a college student in “My ID is Gangnam Beauty.” Her low self-esteem leads her to undergo plastic surgeries. But in the end, she learns to love herself in any shape or form.
And then there was “Room No. 9” where two well-knowns actresses Kim Hee Sun and Kim Hae Sook play dual roles as their characters are inexplicably switched into each other’s body, but one of them is imprisoned for life. Fans have applauded these shows and their leading actresses, and the impressive trend adds to the diverse genres offered by Korean dramas.
3. K-dramas gain further mainstream notice
Viewers now have more choices to find popular Korean dramas, movies, and even variety shows. Netflix is adding Korean dramas (as well as Chinese and other Asian dramas) at a faster-than-ever pace. It already has some titles of completed series, such as “Strong Girl Bong-Soon,” but now it is adding brand new series that are simulcast, meaning that they are broadcast along the same schedule as in South Korea. The prime example is “Mr. Sunshine,” which was exclusively licensed to Netflix. Other streaming sites such as Hulu and Amazon’s Prime Videos are also adding K-drama titles. Expect more of this trend to continue!
4. Advanced technology shapes the characters
Although we’ve seen many sci-fi and fantasy productions, K-dramas have always brought a unique dimension and imaginative twist. In 2018, these high-tech influences are front and center in shaping the leading characters. In “I’m Not A Robot,” a woman discovers her facial image has been used by a scientist to make a human-like robot, and she falls in love with an unsuspecting man when she pretends to be the robot that was temporarily out of commission. On the other hand, in “Are You Human?” an android falls in love with a human woman, while his human namesake lies in a coma. Now, the currently on-air “Memories of the Alhambra” has a fantastic AR (Augmented Reality) element where humans are immersed in virtual reality in real-life environments. The tension is all too real when they fight with NPC (Non-Person Characters) on a street near you.
5. BTS encourages young people to find their voice at UN
Korean boy band BTS, which stands for Bangtan Boys, spoke at the United Nations’ General Assembly session in New York on September 24. The seven band members urged the world youth to love themselves and speak up. The band’s leader Kim Nam Jun explained the motive behind launching a campaign with UNICEF.
“After releasing the ‘Love Yourself’ albums and launching the ‘Love Myself’ campaign, we started to hear remarkable stories from our fans all over the world, how our message helped them overcome their hardships in life and start loving themselves. These stories constantly remind us of our responsibility,” Kim said, according to CNN. “So, let’s all take one more step. We have learned to love ourselves, so now I urge you to ‘speak yourself.’”
In May, the “Love Yourself: Tear” album topped the US Billboard 200 chart. In March, Forbes ranked BTS as the top celebrity on their Korea Power Celebrity list. Time Magazine featured BTS on its International cover, referring to them as the “next generation leaders.”
6. Rise of OTT channels & original contents
People don’t watch TV anymore. They watch the shows online. Over-the-top media services are on the rise, and this phenomenon is no exception in Korea. Netflix, with its plans to have a stronger presence in Korea, has produced two variety shows in brand-new formats: “Busted!” and “YG Future Strategy Office.” “Top Management,” a YouTube Originals series starring Astro’s Cha Eun Woo, is also worth checking out, especially if you’re into K-pop.
7. BIGBANG’s enlistment and marriage
Following T.O.P, who enlisted in 2017, G-Dragon, Taeyang and Daesung joined the army in 2018. Taeyang enlisted shortly after his marriage to longtime girlfriend Min Hyo Rin. (Actress Choi Ji Woo and her non-celebrity fiance and FT Island’s Choi Min Hwan and former Laboum member Yulhee also tied the knot in 2018.)
Seungri, the maknae, released his third solo album and starred in the Netflix original “YG Future Strategy Office.” He shared plans to enlist early this year at the Netflix show’s press conference in October 2018. Click here to read about BIGBANG enlistment timelines, discharge dates and more.
8. Suzy, Park Shin Hye and more celebs’ dating news
Actors Suzy and Lee Dong Wook confirmed dating in March and breakup in July. Other celebrity couples who confirmed dating in 2018 are Lee Joon and Jung So Min and MBLAQ G.O Choi Ye Seul.
9. PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games
South Korea has already become a world famous exporter of specialty entertainment programs. When it hosted the Winter Olympics, it’s not a surprise that the host country gave the world a fantastic show that combined the excitement for the Games with appearances from K-drama and K-pop stars and celebrities, with such big names as BTS, Twice, BIGBANG, Girl’s Day, VIXX, EXO, CL and more. And, of course their performances were widely reported by international news media. Check out the K-pop performances at the Olympics’ opening and closing ceremonies.
10. Will Twice be the next Girls’ Generation?
This nine-member girl group has been enchanting us since “TT” in 2016. In 2018, they dropped two albums (“What Is Love?” and “Yes or Yes”) and won numerous awards, including the best female group of the year at the 2018 MAMA and MBC Plus X Genie Music Awards (MGAs). They’re leading the competition among girl groups like BLACKPINK, Momoland and Red Velvet, according to Metro. Read Billboard K-pop columnist Jeff Benjamin’s interview with Twice here.
Which of the 2018 Korean entertainment news surprised you the most? Please share in the comments below!