BTS made a huge splash in pop music in 2018 with two albums topping the Billboard 200. The group’s popularity swept not just Asia but also the rest of the world including the U.S. and Europe despite most of BTS’s songs being sung in Korean. The band also had songs making the list of the “65 Best Songs of 2018” of The New York Times and Billboard’s “100 Best Songs of 2018: Critics’ Picks,” not to mention earning various international awards.
As of Jan. 15, BTS remained on the Billboard charts for the 20th straight week. On Jan. 26, “Love Yourself in Seoul,” a movie of true stories from the group’s concerts will be released in 3,800 theaters in 95 countries, attesting to the group’s surging popularity.
This year, K-pop is expected to remain strong, with Black Pink’s “Ddu-du Ddu-du” music video reaching 600 million views on YouTube in the shortest time in history and Monsta X having one of the “10 Most Anticipated K-pop Albums of 2019,” according to Billboard.
Topping Korea’s 2018 box office was “Along with the Gods: The Last 49 Days,” the sequel to “Along with the Gods: The Two Worlds,” which is based on a fantasy-action webtoon. Each movie in the series sold 10 million tickets to set a milestone in Korean cinema.
The other big hit in Korean cinema last year was the Queen biopic “Bohemian Rhapsody,” which punctuated the Korean boom in music-based movies with 9,797,968 tickets sold as of Jan. 14 and showed no signs of slowing down. This film also featured “sing-along screenings,” in which the audience could sing along by reading subtitles on the screen, a fad covered by ABC News of the U.S.
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With 2019 being the centennial anniversary of the March First Independence Movement and the establishment of the Korean government in exile, Korean movies this year will mark this historic event. “Battle” is about the 1920 Battle of Bongodong, the first victory by pro-independence fighters against the Japanese in Manchuria, China, and “Resistance” will chronicle the short life of patriotic martyr Yu Gwan-sun. The forthcoming release of the third film in the “Along with the Gods” series is also fueling high anticipation among moviegoers.
Korean musicals have attracted a growing number of audiences in recent years, and last year’s top production was “The Man Who Laughs.” Based on a novel by Victor Hugo, the musical is an outstanding combination of story, music and stage dynamics and earned on Jan. 14 the grand prize at the Korea Musical Awards. Other musicals for all ages included “Cirque du Soleil: Kooza,” “Matilda” and “The Lion King,” with many families going to see them.
“Last year saw performing arts productions arising from and highly affected by social and political issues, whereas this year will see many works focusing on the value of life,” said drama critic Lee Eun-kyung.
She also forecasts more works this year reflecting social issues, including those on science and technology in the era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and others reflecting the positive atmosphere in inter-Korean relations.