The New Year heralds a new start for the three major broadcasting networks. A total of six dramas are revamping the 2010 lineup.
A trio of period pieces shuns court and queen and explores the past from a different angle, while a rom-com, a family-oriented drama and a teen-friendly series tackle modern-day issues. Here`s a closer look at this month in television.
The Slave Hunters
A swashbuckling period piece with a fresh premise, KBS` new Wednesday and Thursday night series looks set to carry on the winning streak of its blockbuster predecessor "IRIS."
The action-packed series, aptly titled "The Slave Hunters," channels the high stakes allure of a modern-day thriller while bringing on the classic tang of a martial arts piece and the grit of a Western.
The tale unfolds in the 1600s, during the Joseon Dynasty. The king and two of his sons are dead. One final son, the last crown prince remains. A former warrior-turned-slave, Song Tae-ha, is sent on a mission to save him. The infamous slave hunter, Lee Dae-gil, is sent on a mission to capture Song Tae-ha.
In essence, viewers will be tuning into a 24-episode long chase scene. Despite its longevity, this is a prolonged pursuit that promises to never let up. Stellar action scenes involving martial arts, swords and guns and a bar brawl or two will keep audiences on the edge of their seats as they cheer on the hunter and the hunted.
"Tazza (The War of Flowers)" actor Jang Hyuk, who is returning to the small screen as slave hunter Lee Dae-gil, captured the charm of his bad boy persona at a press conference on Dec. 21: "Rather than categorize him as a villain, my character possesses both good and evil traits."
Bulked up, sporting a tan, long bedraggled locks and a devil-may-care smirk, Jang Hyuk looked well-suited for his a role as a ruthless hunter.
But it is the duality of his character that will display his versatility and charm as an actor.
A nobleman who lost his family to a fire set off by the brother of his first love, Jang Hyuk is tasked with the burden of making a convincing transformation from a soft and gentle aristocrat to a vengeful and cold-hearted ruffian.
Starring opposite Jang Hyuk, "My Wife is a Superwoman" Oh Ji-ho takes his first turn at a period piece as slave Song Tae-ha. "My Girl" actress Lee Da-hae plays Lee Dae-gil`s first love and Song Tae-ha`s last love.
"Spirit of Jeet Keun Do" actor Lee Jong-hyeuk spices things up as an assassin hot on Song Tae-ha`s trail. "Marrying the Mafia II: Gamunui Wigi" actor Gong Hyung-jin sheds his comedic skin for the role of a tattooed slave who shoots up aristocrats and "Jump 2009" actor Kim Ji-suk plays a member of Lee Dae-gil`s slave hunter posse.
Jejungwon The Hospital
Starting tonight, SBS fuses two popular genres -- medical drama and historical romance -- for its new series "Jejungwon The Hospital."
Based on the first modern hospital in Korea, the new period piece charts the establishment of Kwanghyewon, later named Jejungwon, by American missionary Dr. Horace Newton Allen in 1885 and of its first Korean doctors.
"Once Upon A Time" actor Park Yong-woo plays a butcher`s son who becomes Korea`s first surgeon. "East of Eden" actor Yeon Jung-hoon stars as the aristocrat with a passion for medicine. "Jumong" actress Han Hye-jin tackles the role of Horace Allen`s translator, a heroine who becomes a doctor.
The Reputable Family
Yet another period piece that goes against the trend towards charting royalty, KBS` new Saturday and Sunday night series churns out a classic family saga with the tale of the famed and wealthy Gyeongju Choi household.
Veteran actor Cha In-pyo and actress Han Go-eun star opposite each other in "The Reputable Family." The first episode aired on Saturday.
The gourmet rom-com has established itself as a staple of Korean television. From "My Lovely Sam-soon" to "Coffee Prince," MBC has been successful at this genre and is attempting to repeat history with its new Monday and Tuesday series "Pasta."
Featuring "Coffee Prince" actor Lee Sun-gyun as the new chef of an Italian restaurant and "Thank You" actress Kong Hyo-jin as his ambitious underling, "Pasta" promises to bring a bit of kitchen romance to the small screen. Former Miss Korea Lee Ha-nui and Clazziquai Project singer Alex will also be starring in the series.
The Masters of the Art of Study
Last January, KBS garnered massive viewer ratings with its comic book-inspired hit series "Boys Over Flowers." This year KBS is bringing audiences yet another comic book-based drama with its new Monday and Tuesday night series "The Masters of the Art of Study."
Like "Boys Over Flowers," a Japanese TV version of the original comic series has already aired. "The Masters of the Art of Study" director Yoo Hyun-gi promises that the Korean version will not draw inspiration from the Japanese television drama.
"We are making the original comic book Koreanized," he said at a press conference last week, adding that it would showcase more content and that it would be reinterpreted to suit "our situation."
Comedic veteran actor Kim Su-ro plays the lawyer tasked with saving a high school from closure by sending five of its underdog students to Korea`s top university. Actress Bae Doo-na plays the school`s good-hearted English teacher. "The Great Queen Seondeok" hottie Yoo Seung-ho, "The Host" actress Ko Ah-seong and girl group T-ara member Ji-yeon star as the school`s students.
When asked how he felt about playing a rebellious student, the 16-year old Yoo answered: "I play a student who confronts his teachers and is hip."
Sporting an edgy haircut and pierced ears, he grinned.
"It`s really fun."
Wish Upon a Star
This year, SBS is going to make Monday and Tuesday nights a double whammy. Airing right before "Jejungwon The Hospital," SBS drama "Wish Upon a Star" and future dramas that will air in its timeslot targeting female viewers aged 30 and over, stated an SBS press release.
"Famous Princesses" actress Choi Jung-won stars as a newly orphaned heroine raising her adopted siblings. "Love and Marriage" actor Kim Ji-hoon stars opposite Choi.
"The Slave Hunters" airs its first episode on Wednesday on KBS 2 TV at 9:55 p.m.
"Jejungwon The Hospital" starts tonight on SBS at 9:55 p.m.
"The Reputable Family" airs on KBS 1 TV at 9:40 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.
"Pasta" starts tonight on MBC at 9:55 p.m.
"The Masters of the Art of Study" starts tonight on KBS 2 TV at 9:55 p.m.
"Wish Upon a Star" starts tonight on SBS at 8:50 p.m.
By Jean Oh