The awards season of the Western entertainment industry has come and gone. But one thing to take away from it was its recognition of works and talents, even of those far-beyond the English-speaking world. It's been two months since (but it sure seems so long ago, doesn't it?), and now it's time for South Korea to showcase their own remarkable accomplishments in their entertainment industry, starting with the announcement of the 2020 Baeksang Arts Awards nominees.
For the uninitiated, the upcoming Baeksang Arts Awards honour outstanding achievements in film, theatre, and TV from the past year. It's usually presented in April or May, but with the COVID-19 situation disrupting the world, their previously scheduled event on 1 May was pushed a month further to 5 June. The ceremony — which will be hosted once again by Shin Dong Yup, Suzy, and Park Bo Gum — will be held without an audience for health concerns, and will be broadcasted live at 5PM KST (4PM in our time) on JTBC.
The 2020 Baeksang Arts Awards nominees are particularly interesting. Their Best Film category, for one, features Bong Joon Ho's Parasite. As you may know, it already bagged major international awards. Another notable film competing for the award is Kim Ji Young, Born 1982 with Gong Yoo and Jung Yu Mi, who both previously starred in Train to Busan. But what's especially intriguing are the shows and acts fighting for a spot in the various TV categories. The Hallyu treated us to a wonderful lineup of shows, and it seems it will be a close fight between them all. While waiting for the results, we rounded up a few of the most notable ones that are definitely worth watching.
When the Camellia Blooms
First up, there's the KBS2 drama, When the Camellia Blooms, whose production and crew are vying for most TV categories save from the Best New Actress Award. Nominated for the Best Television Drama, the show revolving around a single mum dealing with a love triangle on top of a serial killer threat has been praised for its unique mix of the genres rom-com and thriller. No to mention, their character portrayals were incredibly realistic, thanks to the striking performances of Kong Hyo Jin (The Master's Sun), Kang Ha Neul (Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo), and the main supporting casts who are all in the running for the Best Acting awards this season.
Watch this if: You're so tired of Kang Ha Neul being the second male lead all the time. His great acting chops — not to mention, his good looks — definitely deserve the spotlight, which he's finally getting at long last in this drama.
Crash Landing On You
There's also Crash Landing On You, one of tvN's highest-rated dramas, vying for the Best Television Drama Award. Hyun Bin and Son Ye Jin, nominated for Best Actor and Best Actress respectively, portrayed the roles of star-crossed lovers that struck a chord in everyone's hearts. The show also has an entry for Best Supporting Actress with Seo Ji Hye, who, in her role as the fashionably elegant Seo Dan, managed to call for the sympathies of the viewers despite her initially intimidating role as Ri Jeong Hyeok's fiancee. And of course, the drama wouldn't be complete without the support of Captain Ri's company of soldiers, led by Best Supporting Actor nominee Yang Kyung Won as the hilariously cheeky Pyo Chi Soo.
Watch this if: You haven't gotten on the CLOY hype yet. You might think someone accidentally crash-landing across North Korean borders is quite far-fetched, but this unique premise actually makes it all the more intriguing. You're just never sure how things are going to play out, despite all your theorising and predictions.
In a surprising turn of events, the 2020 Baeksang Arts Awards nominees also included a few Netflix Original titles for the first time ever. One of those was the second season of Kingdom, released in the streaming platform just this March. Ever since its first instalment ran last year, the South Korean series written by Kim Eun Hee has been lauded for its refreshing take on the zombie trope. Since it's set during the Joseon era, Kingdom's portrayal of the zombie outbreak became an unpredictably thrilling ride. Not to mention, Ju Ji Hoon's portrayal of the vulnerably naive Crown Prince who grows to take charge of his country also added depth to all the action happening; it was definitely far from his last Crown Prince role in Princess Hours, to say the least.
Watch this if: Political dramas are your thing. These sorts of shows, especially those set in historical times, are often far too serious because their issues usually come with grave consequences for all. It can be a heavy watch, but it's one that'll leave you reflecting about society as a whole afterwards.
That's right, another Ju Ji Hoon-led title leads the nominees' list of this year's Baeksang. With entries in the Best TV Drama, Best Actor, Best Actress, and even Best Supporting Actor Awards, Hyena is another K-drama to watch. Set in present-day South Korea, Ju Ji Hoon and Kim Hye Soo (Signal) play two rival lawyers working for an elite clientele. They're both predatory, as the title suggests, and the two use any means necessary, infiltrating each other's lives to achieve their ambitions and tear each other apart. It's a classic enemies-turned-lovers scenario, and while we won't spoil you with how the two will end up, you can rest assured that their electrifying chemistry between them makes it an unforgettable watch.
Watch this if: You want to have a good laugh. Both selfish and narcissistic, the main characters aren't really the best people around. But the way they try to outsmart one another is unexpectedly engaging, and you find yourself rooting for both of them.
SBS' Stove League didn't get as much buzz as the other titles — which is definitely undeserved. It follows Nam Gung Min (Beautiful Gong Shim) and Park Eun Bin (Ghost Detective) as two managers working to pull their bottom-ranking baseball team, Dreams, to the top of the league. Aside from the amazing dynamic of the team that will make you cheer for them right from episode one, the sports drama is noted for its thought-provoking and witty dialogue. Having been listed as candidates for the Best Television Drama and Best Actor Awards, surely this 2019 drama is worth everyone's bingeing.
Watch this if: You're having romance plot overload. Stove League focuses on the development of its characters through its well-built narrative. It's full of inspiring lessons, too, which you'll be able to apply in your own life whether you play baseball or not.
Hotel Del Luna
Another honourable mention is Hotel Del Luna, a literally fantastical watch, not only for Best Actress nominee IU's stellar act as the hot-tempered Jang Man Wol. Stuck between life and death for more than a thousand years, she must welcome lost souls into her titular hotel and lead them safely and happily to their next life. Helping her manage it all is the human manager, Chan Sung (Yeo Jin Goo), who incidentally also is the key to the doors of her own afterlife. With a tragic story that encompasses time, the tear-jerking drama hooks its viewers, leaving them wanting more after each episode.
Watch this if: You're tired of weak and dependent female characters. Sure, Man Wol is cold and even cruel at times, but you won't really find her helplessly crying for someone to save her. She's self-sufficient and does the work to solve her own problems. In fact, she's the one who goes on saving the male leads in a number of crucial scenes.
(Cover photo: netflix.com)