5 Years of Baeksang Daesang Winners
Beloved variety show hosting legend Yoo Jae-suk took home the Daesang (Grand Prize) for Television at the recently concluded 57th Baeksang Arts Awards. Currently hosting no less than five ongoing variety shows, the judges commended him for his contribution to lifting people's spirits during the pandemic. Here are the last five programs/individuals that have also received this extraordinary recognition from Korea's most prestigious award-giving body for television.
The Daesang is the highest honor at any awards show and the last trophy to be given out. At the Baeksang Arts Awards, all the nominees, whether a program or individual are eligible to win the Daesang. Prior to the ceremony, the panel of judges shortlists the nominees, without announcing them to the public. The shortlist, as well as some insight into the judges' thought process, is disclosed days after the ceremony.
2016 (52nd Baeksang Arts Awards)
Descendants of the Sun
To win the highest honor at the Baeksang Arts Awards, a television series has to be more than just good. It has to be outstanding, and it has to have impact. Descendants of the Sun certainly meets this criteria. It’s more than just a swoon-worthy love story between a charming soldier (Song Joong-ki) and a gorgeous doctor (Song Hye-kyo) set against picturesque Grecian backdrops, and did more than just catapult the Song-Song couple to worldwide fame. The series, often referred to as just DOTS, is in fact credited for reviving the Hallyu wave that was seen to be waning at the time, and boosting global interest in all things Korean.
DOTS was so massively popular and successful that it has been sold to at least 32 countries and translated to 32 different languages, with streaming site Viki saying viewers themselves volunteered to do the translations. Its direct and indirect effects on South Korea’s economy have been estimated at over 1 trillion won ($880 billion), with huge boosts in tourism and exports of Korean products as well as some 4,500 new jobs created, according to a report by the Export-Import Bank of Korea. It was also the first Korean drama to be aired simultaneously in South Korea and China, and it inspired k-dramaland to shift toward more pre-produced shows, though none have been as successful.
Aside from the grand prize for DOTS, Song Joong-ki and Song Hye-kyo also won the Popularity and Global Star awards at the Baeksang that year. DOTS also won the Daesang from a number of other award-giving bodies, and the Korean Popular Culture and Arts Awards gave the Presidential Award to Song Joong-ki, Song Hye-kyo, and writer Kim Eun-sook.
2017 (53rd Baeksang Arts Awards)
Kim Eun-sook, Goblin
One of Korea’s most respected and successful screenwriters, Kim Eun-sook had written 10 television dramas, including the previous year’s Daesang winner Descendants of the Sun by the time she took home the Grand Prize for writing Goblin (also known as Guardian: The Great and Lonely God). She had also previously won the Baeksang Best Screenplay award for hit dramas Lovers in Paris (2005) and Secret Garden (2011).
Goblin, the fantasy romance drama starring Gong Yoo as Kim Shin, an immortal being searching for the bride who could help him cross over into the afterlife (Kim Go-eun), broke television records and became tvN’s highest rated series of all time. It was the first cable drama to surpass 20% viewership ratings.
With its balanced mix of Korean mythology, drama, romance, and humor, combined with high production values and a chart-topping OST, Goblin became a cultural phenomenon. A gateway drama for many international k-drama fans (including some of us GwenchaNoonas), it even boosted tourism to its overseas filming location, Quebec, Canada.
Goblin also received nominations for Best Drama, Best Director, and Best Actress (Kim Go-eun), while Gong Yoo took home the Best Actor trophy.
2018 (54th Baeksang Arts Awards)
In the 1985 Kurosawa film Ran, the character Kyoami uttered one of the most iconic lines in Japanese cinema: 狂った今の世で気が狂うなら気は確かだ, roughly translated to “In a mad world, only the mad are sane.” The Baeksang-award winning drama Stranger, one the first of Netflix’s forays into the medium, is a fitting exploration of such madness and what one must do to restore any semblance of decency.
Hwang Si-mok, portrayed beautifully by the usually cheerful Cho Seung-woo, is a prosecutor who has no empathy or social skills due to a botched brain operation in childhood. When he is called to investigate a murder that he suspects is related to the powers that be, the cold Si-mok finds himself having to work with the effervescent and warm detective Han Yeo-jin (Bae Doona) in order to catch the culprit. But in order to do that, he must first survive the manipulations and games that his own Prosecution Office inflicts on him as they, too, hide their sinister motives and shady dealings. In a mad world rife with corruption, our unlikely hero realizes that his own madness is a gift, and that his incapacity for emotion is the one strength that will see him -- and Yeo-jin -- through to the end.
For their exemplary performances and the drama’s intriguing plot, Stranger won the Daesang (Grand Prize for Television) at the 2017 Baeksang Arts Awards. So strongly did it perform and so beloved were the tandem of Si-mok and Yeo-jin that Netflix commissioned a second season which was released in 2020. The second season is much more politically-charged than the first, and because it now deals with the boundaries between the police and the prosecution, it places Si-mok and Yeo-jin on opposing sides instead.
2019 (55th Baeksang Arts Awards)
Kim Hye-ja, The Light in Your Eyes
When we first meet Kim Hye-ja, the lead female character in The Light In Your Eyes, she is an energetic 26-year-old played by a bright-eyed Han Ji-min. A tragic turn of events forces her to use a magical watch that allows her to turn back time. But as a consequence of manipulating time to save her father’s life, she turns into the 70-year-old version of herself (played by actress Kim Hye-ja). Having aged overnight, she mourns the loss of her youth and struggles to adjust to life in her new (old) body with all its aches and frailties, not to mention the often poor treatment that senior citizens receive, even in a society that supposedly highly values respect for their elders.
For almost the entirety of The Light In Your Eyes, veteran actress Kim Hye-ja, who was 77 at the time the drama was filmed, had to act like a young, modern woman trapped in an old woman’s body. Despite the physical demands of the role, she turned in an incredible performance that was both heartbreaking and funny, earning this veteran acting legend her fourth Baeksang Daesang, an honor no other Korean actor can claim.
2020 (56th Baeksang Arts Awards)
When the Camellia Blooms
One of the most successful series of 2019 by any metric, When the Camellia Blooms premiered to ratings of 6.3% and ended with 23.8%, nearly quadrupling its audience. It then went on to receive over 50 nominations from multiple award giving bodies, including eight from the Baeksang Arts Awards: Best Drama, Best Director (Cha Yeong-hoon), Best Screenplay (Lim San-choong, winner), Best Actress (Gong Hyo-jin), Best Actor (Kang Ha-neul, winner), Best Supporting Actress (Yeom Hye-ran), Best Supporting Actor (Oh Jung-se, winner), and Best New Actor (Kim Kang-hoon). With so much critical acclaim and love from Korean viewers, it came as no surprise that the rom-com/thriller brought home the highest honor at the 56th Baeksang Arts Awards.
Set in the fictional seaside town of Ongsan, When the Camellia Blooms is the story of Oh Dong-baek (Gong Hyo-jin), a single mother who runs a pub named “Camellia” to support her precocious son, Kang Pil-gu (Kim Jang-hoon). Unapologetic about her unconventional life choices and ostracized by the small-town ahjummas, she finds a doting (albeit initially unwelcome) ally in country bumpkin cop Hwang Yong-sik (Kang Ha-neul). Raised by a single mother himself, Yong-sik is irresistibly (and quite adorably) drawn to Dong-baek’s quiet strength, and helps protect her when she becomes the target of a serial killer.
In their decision that was released days after the awards ceremony, the judges hailed When the Camellia Blooms for its relevant social insight, "that ordinary people can gather and make a collective change."