2010, it was an interesting year for Kpop fans.  While on the Kpop music scene many lamented the use of autotune, little originality, and nothing that blew us away- there were still a few gems that made the year worth listening to.  It was a much better year for Kdrama fans as an abundance of good dramas fed our addiction with a steady stream of tragic love stories, evil mothers-in-law, and wacky stories that we know are unrealistic, but we just don’t care.   What 5 things did I love about the Korean Entertainment industry in 2010?  Keep reading to find out.  You might be surprised at some of my choices, surprised myself at times.

Good Kpop

In the year of the girl group, who did I think ruled the Kpop world? These are who I thought were the gems amongst the mediocre.

Artist of the Year – 2AM

SNSD might have ruled the Kpop world in 2010, but really, the biggest mover and shaker in the industry was 2AM.  Riding the wave of Jo Kwon‘s insane popularity as Kkap King and Ga-in‘s virtual husband, 2AM blew up in January 2010 with their mini album Can’t Let You Go Even If I Die, and its similarly named title track.  The sad love ballad shot to the top of the charts, ruled the charts in the first half of the year, and brought 2AM their 1st #1 wins on music shows since their debut in 2008.  They changed things up a bit with the faster paced “I Did Wrong” and again reached #1 with the song.  Their second mini album Saint o’Clock, continued their success with the hit “You Wouldn’t Answer My Calls” and “Like Crazy.”

Individually, all members also thrived:  Jo Kwon with his variety show hijinx on various shows including the short lived Family Outing 2, his popular virtual marriage on We Got Married, two solo hits- his duet with Ga-in “We fell in Love” and the song he wrote for her the “Moving Song,” and being cast in his first acting role in the Kdrama All My Love; Changmin had a hit as Homme with 8eight‘s Lee Hyun and the song “I Was Able To Eat Well,” appeared on several variety shows, and got his own radio show; Seulong had an individual hit as well with his duet with IU “Nagging,” is a regular commentator on We Got Married, and made his acting debut in the Kdrama Personal Preference; Jinwoon also is a regular commentator on We Got Married and appeared in the good, but short lived variety show Idol Maknae Rebellion.  Here’s my favorite of their hits this year, “I Did Wrong.”  Congratulation on a hard fought, successful, and great year.

Honorable mention: SNSD

Best Girl Group:  SNSD

It kind of kills me to say this because of the atrocity that was “Oh” (I seriously can’t believe it was ranked as like the #1 song), but the influence of the Girls of this Generation can’t be denied.  “Run Devil Run” was probably my fave song of theirs this year, but the Korean and Japanese Kpop fans worshipped everything SNSD in 2010.

Honorable mention: 2NE1, KARA

Best Boy Band:  BEAST

BEAST debuted in October 2009 and has been gaining fans and recognition ever since.  The hard working members of the group was once known as the ‘kpop rejects’ since a few of them got rejected from other groups (Doo-joon from 2AM/2PM, Hyun-seung from Big Bang, etc.), but there are more than making up for it.  Although their debut album BEAST is the B2st did well, it wasn’t until 2010 and the release of Shock of the New Era that their popularity began to skyrocket.  Since then, the members have been appearing in variety shows, MVs, began acting careers, had solos and collabs with other artists, and had successful solo concerts.  It sure doesn’t look like they are gonna slow down anytime soon.

Honorable Mention: Super Junior, 2PM

Best Collaboration: Lee Hyori and Daesung

There were TONS of great collabs this year in Kpop, so much so that to name them here is just mind boggling.  Some may disagree with me on this one (especially because of the the whole plagiarism scandal), but this duet between Hyori and Daesung was pure love.  Of course I’m totally biased because Hyori and Daesung are two of my faves, but well, this is my list.  I’ll be forever thankful that they were able to perform this once together live on Yoo Hee-yeol’s Sketchbook.

Honorable Mention:  Jo Kwon and Ga-in “We Fell In Love,”  Homme “I Was Able To Eat Well”

Rookies of the Year:  C.N. Blue

Rookies, you say? Yeah, rookies. C.N. Blue debuted on the Kpop scene on January 14, 2010.  Some may say that they aren’t rookies because they debuted as a band in Japan in August 2009, but since this is a Kpop site I’m using their Kpop debut.  There were rumors of a second F.T. Island floating around about them, but no one really heard of the band until one thing happened:  Jung Yong-hwa debuted in a little Kdrama fan cult favorite called You’re Beautiful.  Riding on his new found popularity, C.N. Blue debuted in Korea with their hit single “I’m a Loner.”  They ran into a plagiarism scandal with “I’m a Loner” and accusations of them not being a “real” rock band, but that didn’t seem to slow them down as soon they were all over the Kpop scene.  No matter what anyone says, C.N. Blue does great music.

Honorable Mention: miss A, INFINITE

Biggest Disappointment of the year in Kpop: BIG comebacks that didn’t deliver

Se7en, BoA, Lee Hyori, and Big Bang all had comebacks in 2010, or in Big Bang’s case were supposed to come back.  While I loved a couple of songs on Se7en’s album it wasn’t as epic as many hoped after his long absence.  Same thing goes for BoA.  Hyori’s album was pretty great, but was hit with major problems when half the songs on the album were accused of being plagiarized, forcing Hyori to end all promotions.

A bumper crop year of Good Kdramas

I usually watch only a handful of Kdramas that catch my interest during the year.  This year, I’ve watched double of what I usually do with a lot of interesting dramas in all genres.

Drama of the Year: Baker King, Kim Tak-goo

It wasn’t perfect and was at times predictable, but in 2010 no other drama was as big as the Baker King, Kim Tak-goo.  The drama about “Bread, Love, and Dreams” had an average viewer ratings of a whopping 38.6% (which is double what the average ratings of most kdramas receive) and reached a high of 50.8% for its finale.  Just because it was 2010’s ratings king isn’t the only reason I picked it as drama of the year, the story and acting was great.  The awesome performances by Yoon Shi-yoon and Joo Won, both rookie actors, carried the drama with their emotional performances along with a stellar supporting cast.  Yoon Shi-yoon in particular brought a lot of heart and soul to the character of Tak-goo which is why the show performed so well and made him a hot commodity.

Honorable Mention:  SungKyunKwan Scandal, The Woman Who Still Wanted To Marry, Giant

Best performance by an Actor in a Kdrama:  Jang Hyuk, Chuno

Jang Hyuk is a veteran actor having debuted in 1997’s kdrama Model. He’s had a long career in dramas and movies over the past 13 years, even surviving a draft dodging attempt, but it wasn’t until Chuno that he received much critical acclaim.  His passionate portrayal of Lee Dae-gil, a noble man whose family is ruined and becomes a slave hunter to get revenge on those who caused his family’s ruin, brought him the best reviews of his career.

Honorable Mention:  Yoon Shi-yoon, Baker King, Kim Tak-goo; Hyun Bin, Secret Garden; Kwon Sang-woo, Daemul

Best performance by an Actress in a Kdrama:  Moon Geun-young, Cinderella’s Sister

Moon Geun-young showed off her considerable acting skills in her darkest role yet, that of Go Eun-jo in Cinderella’s Sister.  Eun-jo is a jaded and untrusting young woman after leading an eventful life due to her capricious mother, but things change when her mother finally finds a good man and marries.  Her skill at playing a wide range of emotions for the character helped to gain a wide following for the drama that started great, but whose story started sputtering in the middle.

Honorable Mention: Go Hyun-jung, Daemul; Shin Mina, My Girlfriend is a Gumiho; Han Eun-jung, The Gumiho’s Revenge

Breakout performance by an Actor:  Park Yoo-chun, SungKyunKwan Scandal

Be honest, when you first heard that DBSK‘s Micky Yoochun was going to debut as the lead actor in a saeguk Kdrama set at SungKyunKwan University including a cross dressing scholar centered around a Joseon F4, you had the same reaction as I did.  Uh oh, Heading to the Ground, take 2.  Thankfully, I was wrong and I’d have to say that SungKyunKwan Scandal was my fave drama of the year.  Although Micky got off to a slow, kind-of cardboardish start, you could totally see his growth as an actor in the drama.  His growth in acting was parallel to the growth of his character Lee Sun-joon‘s growth as a person in the drama.  It was a very good thing.

Honorable Mention:  Yoo Ah-in, SungKyunKwan Scandal; Song Joong-ki, SungKyunKwan Scandal; Jung Gyu-woon, Dr. Champ

Breakout performance by an Actress:  Jung So-min, Bad Guy & Playful Kiss

Jung So-min made her debut in the Kdrama Bad Guy as the spolied youngest daughter of a chaebol family, Hong Mo-ne.  In the drama she is at times sweet and spoiled as Mo-ne who is used by the object of her affection, Kim Nam-gil‘s Shim Gun-wook, to take revenge on her family.  During the run of Bad Guy, word started spreading like wildfire about Jung So-min being a new actress to watch in the future.  CF offers and photo shoots started rolling in and then So-min was announced as the lead for Playful Kiss opposite Kim Hyuun-joong. So-min brought so much heart, joy, and warmth to the character of Oh Ha-ni which made the character totally lovable instead of pathetic as seen in other adaptations of the manga that the drama was based on.  I started watching Playful Kiss for Hyun-joong, I kept watching because of So-min.  The greatest indicator that So-min is a great actress? Despite all the kissing and make-out scenes she had with Hyun-joong, I saw not one posting from his fans for her head.

Honorable mention: Park Min-young, SungKyunKwan Scandal; Eugene, Baker King, Kim Tak-goo

Best Couple:  Moon Jae-shin & Goo Yong-ha

I know what y’all are thinking:  Of all the couples I could’ve picked from all the great Kdrama this year I picked two guys?  But no one brought the bromance to Kdrama like Song Joong-ki and Yoo Ah-in.  They were so great in their roles as supporting actors, they were as popular as the leads in the drama and received just as much love from fans (if not more).

Biggest Disappointment in a Kdrama this Year:  Mary Stayed Out All Night

With such a stellar cast: Jang Geun-suk, Moon Geun-young, Kim Jae-wook, Park Hyo-jin and the rest of the supporting actors the only thing that I can say is… What the hell happened?  I was really let down by the drama and not just because of high expectations.  The PD and the writer just really failed and wasted the great talent and opportunity they had for Kdrama greatness.

Variety in Variety

I’m a huge fan of Korean variety shows, they’re awesome and lots of fun.  This year a lot of news shows debuted which was great, the only problem was that if they didn’t start getting high ratings right away they were cancelled.

Best Variety Show: Strong Heart

No other variety show attracted the biggest stars and got them to tell all kinds of stories about themselves like Strong Heart.  Hosted by Kang Hodong and Lee Seung-gi, the show did have some bumps in the road, but still remains as one of the top of the variety shows.

Honorable Mention: Invincible Youth, Happy Together, Dream Team 2, Kim Jung-eun’s Chocolate, We Got Married

Best New Variety Show: Running Man

Yoo Jae-suk, is the man.  His new show with a regular cast of Ji Suk-jin, Kim Jong-kook, Haha, Gary, Lee Kwang-su, Song Joong-ki, Song Ji-hyo, and Lizzy along with special guests for each show take over some of South Korea’s biggest and most popular landmarks and buildings for an all at war of variety show greatness.  I mean how can it not be best new show with hilarious moments like this and punishments for losing like above?

Honorable Mention: Midnight Idol, Night After Night, Oh, My School

Best Performance in a Variety Show – Male: Leeteuk

SuJu leader Leeteuk has been all over the Kvariety world as an MC and permanent cast member of variety show heavies like Strong Heart and Star King. He’s said he’s trying to do as much as he can before leaving for his two years of military service late 2011/early 2012.  He even now has his own show with fellow Super Junior members called Super Junior’s Vision. He’s some classic Leeteuk with his buds Shindong and Eunhyuk on an episode of Strong Heart.

Best Performance in a Variety Show – Female: Song Ji-hyo

She just won a special award for her appearances on Running Man and many said she added that special something to the show when she joined, it seems like Song Ji-hyo was just what the show needed, a woman.  Whether it’s her love line with Gary or her pwning the boys during games, Song Ji-hyo is just hilarious on the show.

Best Variety Cast:  We Got Married

No one tickled our fancies more than the virtual newlyweds on Saturday nights.  After huge ratings when it first debuted and then dismal when the original couples left, the idols saved the show.  Jo Kwon & Ga-in, Yong-hwa & Seohyun, Nichkhun & Victoria have charmed fans so much that they have nicknames and fan forums for them and anxiously join the couples each week to see how they survive married life, virtually.

Scandals that Sizzled

A good scandal here and there in Kpop helps to keep things interesting.

Craziest Scandal of the Year:  Choi Hee-jin vs. Tae Jin-ah and Eru

Boys, this just goes to show you gotta be a little more discerning in who you date. Songwriter Choi Hee-jin revealed that she was in a relationship with Eru while he was serving in the military.  She also claimed that she had been pregnant, but Eru’s father famous trot singer, Tae Jin-ah, forced Eru to break up with her and tried to force her to have an abortion which led her to a miscarriage.  Eru and his father refuted those claims and revealed she had been trying to blackmail them.  She apologized, then said she didn’t, then finally confessed the truth that she had been lying.  In the end, she got sent to jail for extortion and defamation of character.  Wow, who needs dramas with these kind of things going on.  Crazy is, as crazy does.

The Scandal that Rocked the Kpop World: Jong-hyun and Shin Se-kyung Dating

But we’re all still here so yes, we can survive idols dating.  Although usually the yeoja in the relationship doesn’t escape unscathed.  Shin Se-kyung had to shut her Cyworld after being inundated with hate mail and anti Shin Se-kyun forums grew drastically in membership.  Some doubt that the relationship is real and that it was some kind of gimmick, but if it was a gimmick there would have to have been some kind of benefit to it, and that would have been…

The Truth of a Scandal is Found:  Tablo takes down the haters

But is almost taken down with them.  He had tried to just ignore the claims that he was lying about his graduation from Stanford, but the haters just wouldn’t give up.  It all came to a head when TaeJinYo started attacking members of his family and enough was enough.  Tablo took a break from the Kpop scene and filed charges against the netizens fueling the craze.  Even verification from Stanford officials wasn’t enough, the Korean police finally stepped in, reviewed all the evidence, and once and for all confirmed that Tablo did indeed graduate from Stanford University.  Whatbecomes, the founder of the site who at once had thought he was a netizen god, started singing a different tune when police were making plans of expediting him to Korea to face his crimes, those tunes would be that of a chicken.

Korean Films make an Impact

The Korean movie industry is slowly, but surely gaining ground as a movie making powerhouse.  It’s movies are attracting audiences domestically and internationally and have been gaining much interest at international film festivals.

Best Movie:  Poetry

The story of a poor grandmother who raises her teenage grandson and gets caught up in the innocent, beautiful artistry of Poetry.  Of course life isn’t always beautiful and when a shocking revelation rips her world apart, grandma take things into her own hands.

Honorable Mention:  The Man From Nowhere, I Saw The Devil, The Housemaid

Best Actor: Won Bin, The Man from Nowhere aka Ahjusshi

In the movie Won Bin stars as Cha Tae-sik, a man everyone thinks is a former convict, leads a quiet sheltered life and has only one friend, a little neighbor girl So-mi.  When So-mi and her mother get in trouble with the drug traffickers she works for, Tae-sik gets involved in trying to help rescue them.  He’s thrust into the dark and ugly world of drug trafficking and child kidnapping as he takes on the bad guys to save So-mi.  Though he doesn’t say much in the movie, Won Bin smolders as Tae-sik and is truly masterful as an action hero in this thriller.

Best Actress:  Jeon Do-yeon, The Housemaid

This remake of the popular 1960 original, also skillfully led audiences into the sick and twisted world of wealth, corruption, and revenge by a once innocent housemaid upon the family that led her astray.  Jeon Do-yeon‘s portrayal as the housemaid Eun-yi was impressive as it ran the gamut of emotions.

Best Performance by a Rookie: Choi Seung-hyun, 71: Into the Fire

Choi Seung-hyun, better known as T.O.P. of Big Bang to Kpop fans, made his acting debut in a movie with the starring role of Oh Jang-beom in the epic Korean War movie 71:Into the Fire. Oh Jang-beom was the reluctant and inexperienced leader of 71 student soldiers left behind to protect a middle school in Pohang from the advancing North Korean army.  T.O.P.’s performance was subtle and compelling as his character faces the atrocities of war.  He thanked his co-stars and veteran actors Kwon Sang-woo, Cha Seung-won, and KimSeung-woo for their guidance throughout the film’s shoot.  While his performance wasn’t perfect, it was definitely an indicator that T.O.P. has a bright acting future ahead of him

So those were my favorite things about Kpop in 2010.  Kpop 2010, you entertained me, but didn’t wow me.  It was the first full year that I wrote for Seoulbeats (started in October of 2009) and it’s been a fun, yet sometimes perilous ride.  I’m hoping for bigger and better things in 2011, so Kpop gods please don’t let us down.

(iBigHit, StarNews, sment, beastofficialKoreanDrama.org, StarNews, SportsSeoul)