Following the success of last year’s equivalent post here are the winners and losers of the second annual LKL Awards. Again, a personal and unscientific selection.
Man of the Year
Last year there was a clear winner: a man who had been in the press all year with little but positive coverage. This year started promisingly for him, and I was afraid he was going to run away with the award again this year. But then everything went pear-shaped and he virtually vanished from the pages of the newspapers and the blogosphere. I’m talking of course of Jung Ji Hoon: Rain.
This year, Saharial has nominated Lee Minwoo, a highly deserving candidate. I have a nomination as well: Park Jin-young, aka JYP, the man who created Rain. To earn his nomination he’s said some pretty sensible things about the hallyu; he’s proved his worth as a manager (as evidence, since he and Rain parted company, Rain has been invisible); he’s opened up his talent academy in New York; he’s unleashed the Wonder Girls on the world of K-pop; and he’s released a generally well-received album himself. Not a bad list of achievements, and he only fails to win the award because of his peculiar dress sense (left).
So the winner is… a composite one actually. They’ve been all over the world, with three shows in Edinburgh, a sell-out show in London, performances in Trafalgar Square, not to mention the Chongdong Art Hall. And they’ve made it into the Korea, Sparkling tourism video. Who are these omnipresent emblems of modern Korea? Yes, it’s the Korean B-boy.
Woman of the year
A slightly easier and more obvious choice for Woman of the Year. Joint runners up in terms of press and blogosphere coverage are actress Kim Yun-jin and kayageum-playing beauty queen Honey Lee. Indeed, if the Korean B-boy got the male award, there’s an argument that the female equivalent should be the kayageum player, given the proliferation of female kayageum orchestras this year. But the award has to go to Jeon Do-yeon for her performance in Secret Sunshine.
Best cultural promotion: Briton in Korea
2006 was “Think Korea” year in Britain, and 2007 was the return match, “Think UK” year in Korea — so you would have thought that there would be loads of candidates. The West End performance of Saturday Night Fever played in Seoul in January; Trevor Pinnock took the European Brandenburg Ensemble over in April, while the Chemical Brothers played the Incheon Pentaport Rock Festival in July. Separately, the London Symphony Orchestra participated in the soundtrack of Im Kwon Taek’s 100th movie, which might have won them the award. But all these efforts at cross-cultural engagement are trumped by the runaway success of Thomas the Tank Engine — translated into Korean this year and launched with all sorts of other promotional products.
And winners in the sub-category of Britons in North Korea are Susannah Clarke and Jason Carter.
Best cultural promotion: Korean in Britain
In the year that was supposed to mark the opening of the Korean Cultural Centre in London, the runaway winner of the award for the Korean who made the biggest splash with Korean culture in London is Justina Jang of the Korean Cultural Promotion Agency — an independent organisation which in 2006 brought Kim Duk-soo to the South Bank and other traditional musicians to Oxford, Cambridge and London’s Bloomsbury Theatre. 2007 saw possibly the highest profile Korean event London has seen: the Dano Festival in Trafalgar Square. The KCPA organised this event single handedly, negotiating with City Hall to get the date and bringing over countless performers from Korea. Funding came from Asiana and also the usual government agency sources including the Cultural Centre. But shame on the other Korean companies operating in the UK for failing to provide any support. LG, Korean Air, Samsung — where were you?
Best cultural promotion: Non-Korean in Britain
The surprise event of the year was David Heather‘s exhibition of North Korean art in La Galleria, a new gallery space in Pall Mall. David scored a coup by signing a deal with Mansudae Art Studio and bringing the work of the DPRK’s top artists to London. The show — which had commercial objectives as well as artistic — got press coverage as far afield as the USA and Japan.
Photo of the year
To the left, an image from the Hankyoreh documenting some of the damage done by the Saemangeum land reclamation project:
A year after the completion of a sea wall reclamation project at Kimjae, North Jeolla Province, sea foam devoid of life washes up on the Geojeon tidal flats. A researcher said the levels of life in the surrounding sea dropped suddenly after the reclamation project, signaling an ecosystem that has been thrown out of balance.
To the right, one of the many snaps collected by Popseoul this year: Posh Spice and JYP wearing identical outfits.
Special mention also goes to Samuel Cho for his coverage of some of the London events this year: (Some great B-boy action shots in Trafalgar Square, and energetic shots of the action at the British Museum’s Chuseok festival, a sample of which is lower down this post)
Album of the Year
There is no single winner of LKL Album of the Year.
As expected1, LKL readers voted Super Junior’s 2nd album to be the year’s best. Second on the list was Fly to the Sky’s 7th album, which also appeared in the recommendations of two LKL critics, Saharial and Jenny, so if forced to select an overall winner with a diverse support base I would have to select this album. Donawhale’s debut album also received the support of two LKL critics, Anna and Jenny, while the top choices of the three critics are Jelly Boy’s They Dream Daydream Everyday, Sung Si Kyung’s The Ballads and Evan’s Hard to Breath. And abusing my editorial privileges, I’m adding Jang Sa-ik’s fifth to the roster.
Read all the recommendations here.
Book of the year
The year has seen the publication of a wide range of books on Korea. We’ve had at least three translations of Korean novels and novellas, while in terms of foreign Korea-related fiction there’s been the excellent start to the Inspector O series from James Church (published in October 2006, and thus just making my October 2006 – September 2007 cut-off) and the not so excellent Project Yellow Sky from Robert Kaiser. On the non-fiction side we’ve had everything from a genteel monograph on Korean tea, the rather over-long memoirs of a jailed English language teacher, the continuation of KOFIC’s series on film directors, the distillation of Tom Coyner’s and Jang Song-hyong’s business consulting experience over the years, and at the more specialist end there’s the two-volume distillation of Keith Howard’s researches into Korean music and Simon Mills’s book on shamanistic drum-rhythms.
Books on North Korea also seem to come thick and fast. The most accessible of these is Charlie Crane’s Welcome to Pyongyang, while there’s also been the slightly heavier Famine in North Korea and probably many more.
Amongst all this choice I’m torn as to what to nominate. Keith Howard’s first book (Preserving Korean Music) I’ve thoroughly enjoyed (I’ve not had time to tackle the companion volume yet), but it’s not particularly mainstream appeal — and he won my book of the year 2006. Translations of Korean literature are highly to be encouraged, but I have not been bowled over by the two offerings I managed to read this year (Oh Jung-hee’s The Bird and Kim Young-ha’s I have the right to destroy myself). Hwang Sok-yong’s The Guest appeared in paperback for the first time this year, so it kind of qualifies for inclusion in the list, but as it first appeared in hardback in early 2006 I don’t feel justified in giving it an award at the end of 2007. So I’m going to give the 2007 award to James Church for A Corpse in the Koryo (above left) with Tom Coyner and Jang Song-hyong for Mastering Business in Korea (right) as runners up. I apologise to those writers whose books I have not managed to get to. There is only a limited number of hours on the tube to and from work every day.
Film of the year
Crossing the Line — hotly anticipated, but when you discover that Dresnok defected through want of anywhere else he could go rather than for any ideological reasons you have to adjust your expectations somewhat. Im Kwon Taek’s 100th film gets an honourable mention, but the clear winner is Secret Sunshine. It only failed to win the Blue Dragon awards because Lee Chang Dong boycotted them.
London event of the year
Honourable mention goes to the performance by the Korean-sponsored New York based string ensemble Sejong, and of course the two high profile events organised by Justina Jang and David Heather mentioned above. But the winner is the Chuseok Festival at the British Museum, organised by Gina Ha-Gorlin at the museum, with support from Dulsori and the Cultural Centre. For the sheer range of activities on offer — from high art (Joseon dynasty ceramics) to popular culture (highlights from Jewel in the Palace); from Samulnori to soap sculpture — there was non-stop fun and enlightenment.
- Commenter of the year: once again the award goes to Daeguowl, with runners-up Raku and the Seoul Man. Thanks, as ever for visiting. It’s always nice when someone leaves a comment.
- Comment of the year: I want to rub his tummy.
- Sponsor of the year: Asiana, for supporting the Trafalgar Square Dano event and the Korean Film Festival at the Barbican
- Upwardly mobile publisher of the year: Seoul Selection – for the expanded size and coverage of Seoul Magazine, and the growing collection of books published.
- Organisation with a bright future: London Korean Cultural Centre – they’ve finally signed contracts on a property off Trafalgar Square, will be opening in early 2008 with an art exhibition featuring Nam June Baik’s work, and hopefully we can look forward to a generous programme of events in 2008.
- Around 10% of the visitors to this site come to see pictures of Super Junior