What's on Cultural Horizon in 2009?

By Han Sang-hee
Staff Reporter

The year 2009 is now finally around the corner, and it is about time to prepare for the New Year. The past year was an interesting one, and readers can now preview what is planned in 2009.


Historical Dramas on the Rise: The three major networks are planning to air three distinctive historical dramas next year, MBC with "Queen Seon-deok", KBS with "The Iron Empress" and SBS with "Princess Ja Myung Go".

The three dramas will touch on the lives of powerful women during the period in which the programs are set: the Goryeo Kingdom (918-1392), the Silla Kingdom (668-935) and the Goguryeo Kingdom (37 B.C.-A.D.668), respectively.

Starring Go Hyun-jung and Lee Yo-won, "Queen Seon-deok" will carry the story of the first queen to rule during Goryeo, while "The Iron Empress" will bring back the courageous grand daughter of King Taejo (47-165), played by Chae Shi-ra, and her lifelong struggle to protect the country her ancestors built. "Princess Ja Myung Go" is based on the folk tale of princess Nak-rang and Goguryoe's prince Ho-dong, and the relationship between the two royal subjects and Nak-rang's secret sister played by Jung Ryeo-won.

"The Iron Empress" will start airing Jan. 3 and "Princess Ja Myung Go" in February, while "Queen Seon-deok" has not confirmed a date for airing.

Hallyu Stars Return to Small Screen: Numerous hallyu stars will return to the small screen next year. Actor So Ji-sub will greet fans through new SBS drama "Cain and Abel" next February. The drama is about the intense relationship between two brothers, one a genius doctor and another outshone by his sibling. "Cain and Abel" will start airing Feb. 19. Kwon Sang-woo will star in "Cinderella Man", a program about a young man's life-changing story, while Lee Byung-hun and Kim Tae-hee will appear in "IRIS", which is a spin-off of the hit movie "Shiri". Ji Sung and Sung Yu-ri will also return to television through a spin-off of popular drama "All In", "Swallow the Sun" (working title.) The story of an ambitious young man struggling for success will continue with the SUN, with Ji Sung as the dreamer who strives to make Jeju Island one of the most popular cities in the world. "Cinderella Man" will be aired in April and the SUN in June.

Other hallyu stars include Hyun Bin with the drama "Friend, Our Story" and Lee Joon-gi with "Invisible War" (working titles).


The past year, 2008, was not the best for local movies, but there is hope 2009 will be different. With big directors planning to offer their works, fans will have the chance to re-live the heyday of Korean cinema.

Filmmaker Park Chan-wook will return with his new film "Thirst". The movie is about a priest who becomes a vampire by accident and falls in love with his friend's wife. Aiming to bring a universal film, Park decided not to make any changes in the appearances of characters, like fangs and pale white skin, but focus more on the emotional changes in characters. Starring Song Kang-ho and Shin Ha-kyun, it will be in theaters this April.

Following Park is Bong Joon-ho's thriller "Mother - 2009". While many other thriller movies have young male stars, Bong's film will have veteran actress Kim Hae-ja as the main character. Determined to save her son from being framed on a false charge of murder, Kim will play the emotionally strained mother and discover dark secrets along the way. It is slated for release in May.

Choi Dong-hoon, the director who made "Tazza: The High Rollers" ("Tazza: The High Rollers") and "The Big Swindle", has returned to the Joseon Kingdom era (1392-1910) to bring the film "JEON WOO CHI : The Taoist Wizard" ("Jeonwoochi", working title). Based on the traditional novel " Jeonwoochi Chronicles", the film presents the story of a Joseon period ascetic, who has been trapped inside a painting for 500 years and finds himself released into the modern world. Dubbed as a fantasy comic action film, the movie will star Gang Dong-won as the ascetic and Lim Soo-jung as the heroine. The film will be released in August.

Other local movies include "The Scam", a thriller about stock analysts starring Park Yong-ha and also "My Girlfriend is an Agent" (working titles), the Korean version of Hollywood's "Mr. and Mrs. Smith", starring Kim Ha-neul and Kang Ji-hwan.

In 2009, the release of highly-anticipated Hollywood films starring some of Korea's favorite celebrities will also come. They include Lee Byung-hun's "G.I.Joe: Rise of the Cobra" in August and Jun Ji-hyun's "Blood: The Last Vampire" and Rain's "Ninja Assassin" in March.

Classical Music

Orchestras to Captivate Fans: Numerous orchestras around the world will grace local fans next year. The 31-year-old Strauss Festival Orchestra Vienna will visit Korea and perform at the Seoul Arts Center (SAC) Jan. 20, while the Berlin Radio Symphony led by principal conductor Marek Janowski will bring the tunes of famous German composers like Beethoven and Schubert to the SAC Jan. 31.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra will visit Korea in April, with the National Symphony Orchestra led by music director and conductor Ivan Fischer following in June.

The New York Philharmonic Orchestra will greet fans with its new music director Alan Gilbert in October, while the Haydn Philharmonic will arrive in November to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the Austrian composer's death.

Soloists Step on Stage: Tenors Placido Domingo and Jose Carreras, who were two of the so-called "three tenors" alongside the late Luciano Pavarotti, will visit to offer their charismatic stage presence to local fans in January and May, respectively.

Chinese pianist Yundi Li will hold a piano recital after a six-year hiatus. The youngest winner of the International Frederick Chopin Piano Competition will visit Korea in February.

Local stars will also take to the stage, including cellist Chung Myung-hwa, who will hold her 40th anniversary concert in April with pianist Kim Dae-jin, while aspiring musicians ― pianist Sunwook Kim; violinist Kim Soo-yeon; Lee Yu-ra; violist Choi Eun-shik; cellist Song Young-hoon and bassist Sung Min-jae ― will perform with maestro Chung Myung-whun.


The pop scene was fierce in 2008, and it looks like there will be more competition among idol groups with several more jumping into the local scene, while some popular groups branch out to pursue their individual careers.

YG Entertainment recently announced that it will launch a new girl group in February.

According to the head of the agency, Yang Hyun-suk, former member of the hit group Seo Taiji and Boys, the dance group will make its debut early next year. Yang also added they will be a "girl version of Big Bang", referring to the popular boy band. The only hint Yang offered was that it will be a tougher and more charismatic group compared to the other girl groups on the local pop scene.

The comeback of several popular singers will also surprise fans, with pop group Girls' Generation and Se7en returning in 2009.

Girls' Generation announced that the group is releasing its new mini album "Gee" Jan. 7. The nine members have been working on personal projects such as acting, singing solo and even working as a radio DJ.

Along with Girl's Generation, Se7en will also return to Korea after a period working in the U.S.

Members of top idol groups are also set to branch out individually. TVXQ, SS501 and even Big Bang will see their members pursue new projects, like acting and releasing solo albums, including Kim Hyun-joong from SS501 and Victory from Big Bang.


The past year saw many dance troupes visiting Korea to offer their distinctive moves, including the American Ballet Theater and Stuttgart Ballet, and 2009 will be no different.

Movie star Juliette Binoche will visit Seoul as a dancer to perform "in-i" with fellow dancer and choreographer Akram Khan at LG Arts Center in March. Meanwhile, Russia's Boris Eifman Ballet will bring one of the best works "Tchaikovsky: The Mystery of Life and Death" to dance fans in September.

Choreographer Jean-Christophe Maillot, winner of the Prix Benois de la Danse Choreographer of the Year in 2007 and famous for his creativity in some of the most famous tales in the world, will offer his version of the classic "Cinderella" with dancers from the Korea National Ballet at Seoul Arts Center this coming March.