This is the third part of a series of articles reviewing Korea's culture scene this year. - Ed.
By Shin Hae-in
This year, a wave of boorish women thrashed TV dramas, knocking out pretty Cinderellas. With chubby baker Kim Sam-soon, headstrong housewife Maeng Sun-i and stoic single-mom Na Geum-soon gluing viewers to their TV screens, there was no room left for "princessy" heroines.
Dramas were proven again to be the most popular genre of television as a joint poll by TNS Media Korea and AGB Nilson Media Research put seven dramas on the top-10 list of popular TV programs in 2005.
MBC primetime drama "My Lovely Sam-soon" - "My Name is Kim Sam-soon
" became the most popular TV program of the year with an average viewer rating of 50 percent, followed by "My Rosy Life
" (KBS) and "Be Strong, Geum-Soon!
" (MBC) with 41 and 39 percent, respectively. In such widely-loved dramas, Korea's top actresses showed off "woman power", leading several new trends.
To play the role of the overweight baker in "My Lovely Sam-soon" - "My Name is Kim Sam-soon
" actress Kim Sun-ah
, 31, scraped off sophistication and beauty by gaining 7 kilograms. Although Sam-soon was neither pretty nor charming, Kim's lifelike acting had made viewers fall in love with the cheerful heroine.
Applauding Kim's devotional acting, TV directors rewarded her with the best actress award in the 2005 Grimme Awards held earlier this month.
The past year was also an overwhelming period for actress Choi Jin-sil
, who made a successful comeback to the TV land after a painful one-year lull related to her highly publicized divorce with baseball player Cho Sung-min.
The 36-year-old actress, who had once been the nation's everlasting sweetheart, washed off her make-up and became Maeng Sun-i, the "boorish" housewife in KBS drama "My Rosy Life
Although many TV critics said that her status as an actress was beyond recovery, Choi, who had never been valuated as a good actress despite her 15-year-long acting career, was recognized as a "real" actress through the drama.
, the nation's most-wanted actress, matched up viewers' expectations playing the president's charming daughter in SBS drama "Lovers in Prague
With her "perspective-view" in choosing the roles that best suit her, the 31-year-old actress blew a unique soul into the fictional character, drawing viewers to the TV screen every weekend nights.
Miss Korea-turned-actress Ko Hyun-jung
, 35, also proved her continuous power as an actress, making a long-waited comeback after the 1995 TV drama "Sandglass
Despite the 10-year acting lull before divorcing Jung Yong-jin, vice president of Shinsegae, in November last year, Goh showed off her acting skills once again in SBS drama "Spring Days"
Largely due to Ko, who played the role of the beautiful heroine who finds love amid the search for answers to her own life, the drama became the 10th most popular drama of 2005 with an average viewer rating of 30 percent.
Through these actresses' lifelike acting, TV dramas took a complete turn from the past Cinderella stories.
No longer using beauty and youth as weapons, heroines in TV dramas became stronger and tougher than the Cinderella-like pretty heroines of the past.
"Nocheonyeo" - meaning headstrong "old maids" including females in their 30s - is an example of a new type of heroine.
Following "My Lovely Sam-soon" which ended in July, major broadcasters scrambled to create a "special" old maid of their own, aiming for the same amount of attention the sassy heroine of the successful drama had received.
Although perhaps less attractive than the young and peppy heroines who used to lead the trendy dramas, these older women managed to give viewers a peek at reality, arousing deeper empathy.
Some notable changes also appeared in male characters.
For the past few years, "pretty" looking heroes had dominated TV screens, leading male fashion trend through the term "metrosexual".
This year however, heroes showed off different aspects, following the international trend "ubersexual" led by British soccer star David Beckham and Hollywood heartthrob Orlando Bloom. "Uber" meaning "better" in German, ubersexual males strive to appear nonchalant about the way they look while still keeping up with the latest fashion trend.
Choi Sang-hyuk (Kim Joo-hyuk
), the novice detective in "Lovers in Prague
", and handsome restaurant owner Hyun Jin-hun (Hyun Bin
) in "My Lovely Sam-soon" - "My Name is Kim Sam-soon
" showed off ubersexual looks, grasping hearts of many female viewers.
These ubersexual heroes also shared a similar attitude of hiding their affection for the heroines behind indifferent and brusque manner. The less apparent express of affection had also appealed to the female viewers.
Judging from this year's success and viewers' ongoing affection, the popularity of TV dramas is expected to continue through 2006.
But as TV dramas are mirrors reflecting the society, viewers may look forward to seeing some unexpected changes promising to be as intriguing as the overweight heroine and the blunt mannered hero.