Drama Casting & News
Drama trends for 2009
by | January 4, 2009 | 33 Comments

Note: The following is taken from a Korean article, so the opinions therein aren’t necessarily my own. Still, it’s a look into the trends we can expect in the coming year of dramas. (For instance: Not one, but TWO figure-skating dramas?)

2009 looks like a bright new year. This year, there are many dramas to be produced and aired that may capture viewer hearts. Last year, the economic slump and the shrinking of the drama market caused many difficulties for drama production, a number of dramas still drew viewer notice.

Last year, the sageuk, which used to be a sure thing, fell back, and professional-themed series like medical- or broadcast-centered dramas came into the spotlight. Also, daily and weekend dramas that were strongly criticized had high ratings with trite characters, sharp contrasts between good and evil, conventional conflicts, extreme plot setups, and so forth. On top of that, there were many dramas looking to score success featuring top stars that failed.

Furthermore, because of production cost issues, the one-act drama disappeared. Also because of budget difficulties, stars’ fees shrank and kept the drama production system in order.

In the midst of these production difficulties, 2009 has a diverse range of dramas in production. This year, strong women fronting sageuks promise to revive the sageuk genre, and attention is turning to the sports drama, which hasn’t been produced much in recent years due its higher risk of failure.

The profession-centered drama, which started its rise last year, looks to be emphasized this year. Blockbuster dramas featuring top stars draw attention; daily dramas get much criticism but attract middle-aged female viewers; and weekend dramas also look strong in the new year.

Given this landscape, which dramas will draw audiences in the new year?

Chae Shi-ra heads “Empress Cheon-chu”


KBS’s Cheon-chu Taehu (Empress Cheon-chu), which aired its first episode on January 3, is representative of the female hero sageuk. The drama illuminates the heroine Empress Cheon-chu, the granddaughter of Emperor Taejo, who with General Kang Gam-chan fights Kitan invaders and dreams of a Goryeo nation. Sageuks have not shown women in action scenes in the past, but with Chae Shi-ra in the title role, this drama sets the stage with its strong female hero and emphasis on action. Lee Deok-hwa, Kim Seok-hoon, Kim Ho-jin, and Shin-ae also appear.

MBC’s large-scale sageuk Queen Seon-deok, to air in May, is another historical drama based on a strong woman. Dealing with Queen Seon-deok, who ruled in the Shilla era, the drama shows a girl named Deok-man overcoming all sorts of tribulations to become queen, becoming a model for a female hero in the process. The role of Deok-man has been cast with Lee Yo-won, while Go Hyun-jung has been cast as Mi-shil, a woman of outstanding beauty and ambition.

SBS premieres its Princess Ja Myung Go on February 16, a decidedly female sageuk. Although the story is about Princess Nak-rang and Prince Ho-dong, this sageuk’s “Ja Myung Go” isn’t the drum of lore, but established as Princess Nak-rang’s older sister. Park Min-young, Jung Kyung-ho, Jung Ryeo-won star, and Lee Mi-sook, Moon Sung-geun, Sung Hyun-ah, Jo Mi-ryung, and Lee Won-jong also appear.

In addition to these, MBC premieres its Return of Iljimae on January 21, under PD Hwang In-roi‘s delicate direction, which looks like it will showcase an appeal as a different kind of sageuk. This drama is based on the manhwa created by Go Woo-young and stars Jung Il-woo and Yoon Jin-seo.

This may be a promising new subset in the sageuk genre, but I wonder if it’s going to just be another throwaway fad. I have a vague feeling that the “female hero sageuk” may end up a lot like the fusion sageuk — one or two interesting takes on the genre, followed by a bunch of lame imitators.

The ladies of “Empress Cheon-chu”


Yoon Kye-sang, cast in “Triple”


2009 presents a new landscape for television dramas with its flood of sports dramas. In the past, the sports drama Last Match (1994), which centered around college basketball players, met with much success, but following it, KBS’s soccer-related Shooting, MBC’s ice-hockey-centered Icing, SBS’s boxing-themed Punch, and SBS’s swimming story of friendship and love in Blue all failed. With its large budgets and production difficulties, it looked as though the sports drama was on its way out.

But this year, viewers will be presented with dramas about figure skating, baseball, golf, and other various sports.

Personally, this category intrigues me the most, and not just because I saw (and tottttallly enjoyed) the ’90s cheesiness of the early Jang Dong-gun hit Last Match (I also saw a few of the failures that followed, like Icing, which was a bad imitation of Last Match on ice.) But perhaps because this genre has lain dormant — not just in kdramas but in U.S. fare to boot — it seems like a refreshing change of pace.

First, while interest is still high in the sport through athlete Kim Yuna‘s activities, a figure-skating drama is in production. With PD Lee Yoon-jung of Taereung National Village directing, Triple depicts a love story between an ad agency executive and a figure skater with the rink as the drama’s stage, and singer Min Hyo-rin as the female lead.

Olive Nine is producing a figure-skating drama, Can’t Lose, which deals with young figure-skaters on their path to success.

Not much to say other than: wheeee!

A baseball drama is also in production. Lee Hyun-sae’s manhwa Alien Baseball Team is as popular with young men as ever; the manhwa portrays outsiders who work to succeed in baseball, and a movie was successfully made in 1980, which will now meet audiences as a television drama. Yoon Tae-young takes the role of Oh Hye-sung, and Park Sung-min also stars.

For the first time, a drama is being produced about golf. KBS is preparing a golf drama adapted from Lee Hyun-sae’s manhwa Buddy, which gained popularity through serialization in a newspaper. A golfer risks everything on golf as his only way out of poverty, and a rivalry unfolds between two players as they both head for the international stage.

Not a baseball fan OR a golf fan (but my dad just may find himself in heaven). The first sounds like Mighty Ducks but may be fun depending on the tone it adopts. The second reminds me of Get Karl, although I’ll hold off on making judgments until I see it. With the Korean love of golf (and the success of Koreans on the pro golf circuit), it’s high time someone took the sport into drama territory.


Ji Sung, Sung Yuri of “Swallow the Sun”


Last year, On Air, New Heart, Beethoven Virus, and other profession-based dramas met with favorable response. This year will continue to see more of these types of dramas.

First, there is the fashion-based and Kwon Sang-woo-led Cinderella Man on MBC, which is set to air in May and centers around clothing-obsessed Dongdaemun proprietors and their lives, loves, and successes.

Last year, the novel Style was a bestseller, and now is set for an SBS broadcast, portraying the fashion world through its main character, a female reporter at a fashion magazine.

Recently, medical dramas have received much love from audiences, and more will come this year. So Ji-sub, Shin Hyun-joon, Han Ji-min and other famous stars will be featured in SBS’s Cain & Abel, which premieres on Feburary 18.

Iris, starring Lee Byung-heon, Kim Tae-hee, and Kim Seung-woo is set in the world of intelligence agents. This type of drama isn’t commonly seen, and takes place in foreign locations, such as the U.S. and Russia, and deals with the agents’ daily lives and loves.

Then there’s Swallow the Sun, called an “All In 2,” which stars Sung Yuri and Ji Sung and depicts young people in Jeju Island who take on a project to turn the location into an international city.

I’m not exactly drawn to the occupation dramas, but some of these sound like potentially awesome campy goodness. For instance: Cinderella Man?? The article doesn’t mention the dual-role that Kwon takes involving two men who look alike, who both happen to work in fashion (one is a CEO, another a struggling designer), who then decide to SWITCH PLACES. Omg, it’s like the ’90s died and went to heaven on my TV.


So Ji-sub of “Cain & Abel”


Lee Byung-heon and Kim Tae-hee in Iris; So Ji-sub and Shin Hyun-joon in Cain & Abel: Many dramas are being produced with top stars. Last year, stars weren’t able to live up to their big names, but this year one wonders if star power will be able to recover.

Golf drama Buddy, with a 20 to 30 billion won investment, secret-agent drama Iris, and other blockbuster-scale dramas also sport huge production budgets.

Indeed, anticipation is mounting as to which of these series will win favor and popularity from audiences this year, revitalize the domestic drama market, and reignite the Hallyu fervor.

Via My Daily


33 Comments from the Beanut Gallery
  1. Angela

    Hmm… they didn’t mention Hana Yori Dango. That’s the one I’m looking forward to most, though I have no idea what it would be categorized under. manga/ manhwa adaptations maybe?

  2. vis

    Wow! Thanx for the insight into the drama trends for the new year XD That sure was an interesting read ^^ I’ll probably follow those ice-skating dramas in the sport genre, not too sure about the baseball or golf one~

    Weeee! “Boys Over Flowers” is airing tomorrow XD I hope it’ll prove to be a hit, because apart from “Temptation of Wife” (surprisingly got me hooked) I haven’t been truly addicted to any running kdrama in a real long time!

  3. stargazer377

    i can’t wait for Triple to air!!!


    no info on Boys before flowers
    just one more day yeah!!

  5. ktbrods

    I’m also waiting for Triple to air. I’m trying really really hard not to be too excited because I don’t think I could bear disappointment. However, it is The Voice, Yoon Kye Sang AND Kang Ji Hwan. I’m thinking its gonna be really super difficult to mess that up.

  6. Liv

    Between The Voice and Yoon Kye-sang, Ive already voted Triple as the best drama of 2009. No matter that Im yet to watch it – in fact that its yet to air – I strongly *strongly* insist that this will be a groundbreaking oeuvre that will explore the world of figure skating in a sensitive and breathtakingly beautiful manner. Definitely. 😛

  7. Miki

    Yup. The trend for manga/manhwa adaptation should’ve been shown, with Hanadan thrown in. Because come on, who hasn’t heard of it, arguably one of the most highly anticipated dramas of 2009? (Though, alright, with its air date so close, maybe it sort of/sort of not qualify)

    And up there, I count 3 dramas adapted from manhwa. The trend’s been around in Taiwan and Japan too, so they should’ve mentioned it. But then it might seem like a copycat idea?

  8. heejung

    OMG I just read that hanadan is airing today at 9:55!!! yay!!! just 11 more hours…!!!

  9. Rory

    speaking of hanadan, what’s the fastest way you can access it and watch it even as its just airing in korea?


  10. 10 cosmopolite

    Cheese for all lol.

  11. 11 Ichiru

    I’m looking forward to seeing Triple–Kang Ji hwan!; Princess Ja Myung Go- I want to see how well Jung Ryeo-won will act on this; Kwon Sang woo’s Cinderella Man–about twins I assume? And the baseball drama! love baseball (and basketball) and I won’t get bored even if they just show how the character hit the ball!, and I hope they choose good-looking actors!
    Btw, I want to see Jang Dong Gun’s “Last Match” wonder if anyone knows where I can watch it or even buy it?

    And of course HANADAN! woooohooo it’s tomorrow! are you going to recap the series javabeans?

  12. 12 sonam

    Thank you for all the pictures of So Ji Sub. I am looking forward to his drama….the mask brings out those striking eyes.

  13. 13 White Star

    yeah.. Hana Yori Dango…is like another Goong…although i’m not really fond of the casting…..they kinda grew on me in the past month. I have a feeling that this drama will have the same success as Goong if….and only if…..the female lead can pull it off. YEH is Goong is pretty much why it was successful…. with teenage-bizaare manga theme we need the protangonist to be likable, relatable, cute, and not too extra-ordinary.

    On that note…as an YEH fan i also look forward to her comeback this year….hopefully. I know this is really outdated news…..but i hope she will reconsider Personal Preference ….the plot sounds ordinary but fun.

  14. 14 ndegeocello

    Eh, I know it’s just me, but Can’t Lose sounds more promising of the two figure skating dramas. Triple pretty much sums up the overused K-drama formula which I despise. Pick an occupation, any occupation. Glam it up, cast some eye candy and plastics, make it a love triangle/square/circle and you’ve got another generic, occupation-based K-drama. If these dramas are going to ride the Kim Yeon-ah wave, I would rather watch a drama truly depicting a skater’s life. I’m sorry, but figure skating + a cheesy love story sounds incredibly lame and a little childish when compared to the real hardships a figure skater like Kim Yeon-ah had to go through. The fact that competitive figure skating was almost unheard of in Korea until she came into the picture, or the only place she could practice was a public rink at Lotte World, or how about it wasn’t until she gained international recognition that the Korean skating federation gave her an ounce of support since they only care about speed skating, or when she had to skate through severe back pains at not one, but two world championships and managed to medal at both competitions or having to skate at a huge international skating competition on home ground with the expectations of millions of people on your back. See now, these kinds of stories are worth depicting and watching. A love story? Not so much. You could write a love story into anything, but don’t drag figure skating into it just for the sake of capitalizing on it because it’s currently popular.

    I don’t mean to sound like a complete Debbie Downer. I do enjoy romantic comedies, but this is my ultimate frustration with K-dramas: they make everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, into a freaking love story. Not every drama has to be a love-less story, but it wouldn’t hurt to see a trend following a rarity like White Tower.

  15. 15 javabeans

    #14, I hear ya and I think that’s why Taereung National Village is so compelling. It focused on the athletes’ emotional and mental struggles as they worked toward Olympic-level skill, and was handled very deftly. (If that sounds interesting, I’d recommend it.)

    Ironically, I think Can’t Lose — coming from Olive Nine — is going to be just as romance-centered. And double ironically, the director of Taereung is the one behind Triple — which also, thankfully, has three great male lead actors — so I wouldn’t write it off just yet.

  16. 16 Moonster

    Does anyone knows if someone caps “Empress Cheon-chu”? So far nothing is to see on d-addicts. Which worries me. 🙂

  17. 17 Javafiend

    “Omg, it’s like the ’90s died and went to heaven on my TV.” Question of whether heaven or hell aside, thanks for a much needed chuckle!

  18. 18 angelsnow2u

    ( * *) !
    2009 will have good dram such as: Queen seok deok, Cheon-chu Taehu , swallow the sun, cain & abel, tripple, buddy, boys before flowers….
    Waiting for Queen seon deok & swallow the sun of Lee yO wON & sUNG yU RI. iT IS difficulf for Sung Yuri with swallow the sun ” part 2 all in”, part 1 All In so success in asia. But I think Yuri casting good Ari.
    wITH sEON DEOK Lee Yo Won will success than all casting she had? Hoping
    awards for 2009, Mbc & Sbs will against with many heavy drama.

  19. 19 angelsnow2u

    ( * *) !
    2009 will have good dram such as: Queen seok deok, Cheon-chu Taehu , swallow the sun, cain & abel, tripple, buddy, boys before flowers….
    Waiting for Queen seon deok & swallow the sun of Lee yO wON & sUNG yU RI. awards for 2009, Mbc & Sbs will against with many heavy drama.

  20. 20 belleza

    Honestly, given the effect of the financial markets in Korea, we could be seeing major contraction with the planned mid-season dramas.

    MBC had a difficult 2008, but it’s also worth mentioning that MBC’s Monsday/Tuesday slot was dominated by 2 shows (its biggest hits of the year ) for all but 2 months of the year. MBC performed bad, really bad, but they also had it good, really good. They won’t be able to spend their way out of 2009. Projects like Binnie’s remake of Friend could be in trouble. Hopefully, Return of Ilimae does respectably.

    2008 Iljimae showed that SBS could get ratings gold with their worthy/unholy brand of “Fangirl/TeenyBopper Sageuk”, but if Princess Ja Myung Go flies, the dam will burst. Maybe we’ll see properties like Bride of the Water God be finally made.

    “The trend for manga/manhwa adaptation should’ve been shown, with Hanadan thrown in. ”

    Ehhh . . . manhwa adaptations have been a staple for K-dramas for awhile now. Comics are a natural fodder for sports-oriented dramas, but it’s pretty hard matching up a young male audience readership with traditional K-drama viewership. So they don’t usually perform that well. If any of these sports dramas can average double digits, then it’s a qualified success. I LOVE a good sports drama, though. It enables writers to work in coming-of-age themes and do tourney-style narratives, the latter of which is a lot of fun to watch and which don’t require as much “good acting.” A strong love triangle can interfere severely with the flow of a sports story, but sometimes it can produce something truly moving (like the J-drama adaptation of H2.)

    If HanaDan does well, it’ll probably pull in ratings close to Hong Gil Dong. It’s a uber-teen oriented show, and those shows have never done well on KBS. None of that matters that much anyway. A good HanaDan adaptation will capture the Netizen audience, and even if it’s crap, it’s already sold distribution rights to Japan and Taiwan.

  21. 21 pvskater

    “Triple depicts a love story between an ad agency executive and a figure skater with the rink as the drama’s stage” – hello???? do these productions know that most top ladies figure skaters are 15 to 19 years old?
    a love story between an executive (who im assuming to be late 20s and early 30s) and a dedicated teen athlete? hmmm isn’t this statutory rape?
    and please….hardcore olympic dreaming athletes have no time to date!!!!
    i should know. i was a figure skater…all you do is train train train…

  22. 22 chajjye

    triple triple triple!…

    #21: now that you’ve mentioned it…hmm…but don’t figure skaters in the end marry their partners? i mean, ad agency executive isn’t a skating partner, but this age thing can always be manipulated anyway. it is DRAMA after all. besides, after 18, u are already legal. maybe she’d be 19? 🙂

    hanadan should work. i mean, there are already 2 dramas before them that showed what worked and what did not, surely korean producers must have analysed its predecessors…

    triple triple triple!…

  23. 23 Sparrow

    #20, belleza, I also hope that Bride of the Water God will be adapted, so far manhwa/manga adaptations really worked for me, and not only in Kdrama.

    I don’t want to build up hopes, but I think it would take a great deal of “talent” to make HanaDan bomb. I agree with #22 chajjye it’s a tried-and-true formula, so why shouldn’t it work?

  24. 24 XinXin

    Welcome to Kye-sang Thailand Fanclub Home


    Love YoOn kye-sang so much

  25. 25 sang hee

    Sounds very promising & i just can’t wait! Yoon Kye Sang one of my faves is such a cutie & always ..always looking younger than his age! I love to see that one All in 2 with again one of my faves Ji Sung; then So Ji in C&A and the others like Boys Before Flowers — I’m so looking forward to seeing this one as well!

  26. 26 belleza

    “a love story between an executive (who im assuming to be late 20s and early 30s) and a dedicated teen athlete? hmmm isn’t this statutory rape?”

    Nah, that’s You Are My Destiny! 29year old virgin/mama’s boy falls in 18-year old girl with one functional eye? Nobody nobody but you Yoona!! 😀

    The upside to the Triple triangle (and, yeah, ad executive + figure skater sounds hella stupid) is that with 3 guys and one girl, we could see some yaoi! That’s right: Kang Ji Hwan and Lee Seon Gyun – 2009 Couple of the Year. My sweet Seoul indeed!!

    “hanadan should work. i mean, there are already 2 dramas before them that showed what worked and what did not, surely korean producers must have analysed its predecessors…”

    Pretty much. Let’s face it — Cinderella fairy tale HanaDan was a Korean drama before it became a Korean drama.

    Soompi first episode impressions seem pretty good (and a terrific 14.3 debut rating to boot . . SUCK ON THAT EAST OF EDEN!!) Some people feel that Jan-di is being played a little broad, and that it’s taking too much from J-HYD. Neither are bad, per se, for a debut though.

    “I also hope that Bride of the Water God will be adapted, so far manhwa/manga adaptations really worked for me, and not only in Kdrama.”

    I kinda brought up the SBS Princess thing, because I feel the end goal, really, is to do a true fantasy romance. That is, to do a fantasy series, with magical girl CGI and heavy romantic tropes, with lots and lots of my little ponies. Something like Bride of the Water God or Fushigi Yuugi. The Goong production crew already have rights to Bride, but I’m really afraid they’ll try to take out the fantasy bits and leave us with a sageuk romance without the bright lights. Doing such a production (like the Legend of the Four Gods) with respectable CGI could be extremely expensive and time consuming. Still, OMG, the fangirl response!! 😀

  27. 27 sunox

    Just watched Hana Yori Dango Korea….pretty good soo far, hopefully it won’t get stale

  28. 28 Miki

    “Maybe we’ll see properties like Bride of the Water God be finally made. ”

    Belleza, you did NOT just get my hope up for the adaptation to be made. I refuse to get my heart crushed. It’s been so long it might as well never happen. Not to mention carrying it faithfully off will require a huge budget, which will probably not happen in this economy. But God, if they even come close the the beauty that is the manhwa….

  29. 29 belleza

    “Belleza, you did NOT just get my hope up for the adaptation to be made. I refuse to get my heart crushed. It”

    Bride of the Water God is like Junni Kokki/12 Kingdoms territory for me. If it got made properly, the popularity of the show would go past HYD territory and into Princess Pearl uber-uber-uber popularity. But, honestly, if you attempt to reproduce all the fantasy bits today for TV, you’d get something that AT BEST resembles Promise (uhh) or Tsui Hark (uhhh x oh noes!!) The CGI in Legend is child’s play compared to what you’d need to do in Bride. Uhhh. Aside from the CGI, it would be a challenge to to actually match the aesthetics of Bride. Bride’s art work (the dramatic lines, expressive postures, the intricate patterning and texture of the clothing) is arguably above what you see in Clamp’s art books — the color inserts of the clothing almost glow off the page! You may need to hire Christopher Doyle to get the colour and lighting right.

    All the same, the Goong people bought the rights, and I think someday it will surely get done. (Though I’m kinda afraid they’ll pull a Iljimae/Kingdom of the Wind and do a loose adaptation without the fantasy bits) Just not in THIS economic situation. All the same, I think if the Princess SBS show takes off (like seriously sets off a wave of fangirl happiness), it may motivate SBS or whomever to fund something like that.

  30. 30 MIN

    i dont think this is the first time a Kdrama about golf has been produced.
    i watched “Rival” starring Kim Jae Won and So Yu Jin long ago. This drama was somewhat about golf, wasn’t it???

  31. 31 driver16

    The second go round, participants speak to the victim and the affect on self, family and community. ,

  32. 32 Makendra

    Thanks for sharing. What a pelrasue to read!

  33. 33 yfhmudxtl

    3H0teA dezmpadcghaw

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