Finish the year strong with the most anticipated new Korean programs
Streaming platforms are scrambling to win viewers' hearts with their new programs in the end-of-the-year race. Netflix, Tving, Disney+ and Amazon Prime Video have all announced or are already airing brand new shows — from drama to reality television — in order to get ahead of the game. Here we will evaluate each new show and what they bring to the table in terms of noteworthy content.
What’s new out there?
There are plenty of options for viewers during the end-of-the-year season and as the new year approaches.
Netflix has already come out with “The Glory,” featuring Song Hye-kyo and written by star screenwriter Kim Eun-sook. The streaming service has also released “The Fabulous,” a drama about the fashion industry, starring Minho from SHINee and Chae Soo-bin.
Tving, Korea’s domestic platform and a joint venture between CJ ENM, Naver and JTBC, will air “Missing: The Other Side,” featuring Go Soo and veteran actor Huh Joon-ho. “Island,” featuring Cha Eun-woo and Kim Nam-gil, will also air on Tving from Dec. 30. “Island” is an exorcism fantasy drama set in Jeju Island, Korea’s most popular vacation destination. “Island” will also air on Amazon Prime Video for global viewers.
Disney+, which has been showing sluggish performance in the Korean market, is coming forward with a full list of Korean original series, including documentaries about K-pop stars BTS and Super Junior, a romantic drama series “Soundtrack #2” and “Shadow Detective 2.”
“The Glory,” to start with, is a largely anticipated show among Korean viewers since it is another collaboration between Kim Eun-sook and Song Hye-kyo. Kim and Song previously worked together on “Descendants of the Sun,” which was a mega-hit series that took over not only Korea but the whole of East Asia when it aired in 2016.
“Descendants of the Sun” garnered a 38.8 percent total domestic viewership with its final episode, meaning that nearly a third of the entire population of Korea watched the finale. Naturally, all eyes are on whether the Kim and Song combination can achieve another home run. “The Glory” also marks Song’s first venture into the so-called genre field, meaning that she is throwing away her typecast roles as leading lady in a romantic plotline and going for a revenge plot.
Song plays Moon Dong-eun, a woman who was constantly bullied during her middle and high school years, and who sets out to seek justice against the perpetrators. Whether Song can pull off a non-romantic role is another point of contention.
“The Fabulous,” another Netflix show, is directed by Kim Jung-hyun, who directed hit shows such as “Hotel Del Luna” (2019), and “Gu Family Book” (2013). The “The Fabulous” subhead reads “Millennial life that burns bright.” The show tells of four childhood friends who dream of making it in the fashion industry, and features not only stars such as Minho of SHINee and Chae Soo-bin but also actual fashion industry icons like Park Hee-jung, a top Korean model.
Whether or not a story about the glitzy world of fashion will resonate with viewers is still up in the air. During the press conference for the show last week in Gangnam District, southern Seoul, the director and producers of the show said that they wished to relay the message that “sometimes friends are better than lovers in terms of lifting you up and supporting your dreams.”
This means that “The Fabulous” could break from the usual Korean drama plotline of everything coming to a happy end involving romance.
Tving’s contender, “Missing: The Other Side,” is a sequel to the sleeper hit series “Missing” (2020), starring Go Soo and one of Korea’s leading actors of his generation, Huh Joon-ho. The two form a buddy-cop combination of characters who set out to find missing people and bring them home.
The original series in 2020 aired only on OCN, a subsidiary of CJ ENM, but the sequel is streaming on Tving this year, with the first episode of the 14-episode series having begun on Dec. 19. Along with Go and Huh, An Sohee of girl group Wonder Girls also joins the show.
All eyes are on whether Go’s performance as Kim Wook, a needlessly righteous swindler, can bring in viewers for Tving. Go was involved in a number of sleeper hits so far, from “Money Game” (2020) on tvN, “Heart Surgeons” (2018) on SBS and “The Flower in Prison” (2016) on MBC. He is known to have a wide range when it comes to acting different characters, but the commonality is his charisma.
Another show airing on Tving and also on Amazon Prime Video is “Island,” starring Cha Eun-woo and Kim Nam-gil. Kim is a household name in Korea, with his long list of roles in films such as “Memoir of a Murderer” (2017), “The Shameless” (2015), which garnered an award at Cannes, and most recently a cameo in “Hunt” (2022) as a Tokyo branch agent, which was directed by Lee Jung-jae from “Squid Game.”
Kim and Cha will play a half-human, half-demon character and a Vatican priest who comes to Jeju. Kim is well known for his acting chops, and Cha said at the press conference for “Island” in Yeouido, western Seoul, last week that Kim helped him a lot with his own role. Cha is a star within Korea and Asia for his roles in “Rookie Historian Goo Hae-ryung” (2019), “Gangnam Beauty” (2018) and “True Beauty” (2020-21).
Disney+’s new shows are also catching eyes, especially “Soundtrack #2” and the BTS and Super Junior documentaries. “Soundtrack #2” is a sequel to “Soundtrack #1,” which aired earlier this year and features Han So-hee and Park Hyung-sik.
Han and Park both return to the sequel to continue the story of a woman who is asked to write the lyrics for a song by a famous composer. Han plays Eun-soo, a struggling lyricist, and Park plays Sun-woo, a newbie photographer who gets involved in Eun-soo’s story. “Soundtrack #1” was another sleeper hit, with fans expressing disappointment that it was only a four-episode series.
Details about the BTS and Super Junior documentaries to be produced and released by Disney+ have not yet been revealed.
What should I watch?
It’s all up to the individual viewers, of course, to choose from this long list of new shows, but critics say that discerning which shows will live up to the hype and potential is a task. The streaming service market is changing rapidly, and while more dark, thrilling content were popular on streaming services previously, that trend is changing, according to critics.
"A softer and female-viewer oriented content trend will be the key for next year," said Kim Heon-sik, a pop culture critic. "Before, darker and wild content like zombie movies, heist dramas and crime thrillers dominated the streaming service market. But that is changing for 2023."
Only time will tell what trends will be set for next year in the race to the end of the year.
BY LIM JEONG-WON [email@example.com]