2014 in Review: Day 16 – Storylines and Other Recognition

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[The 2014 in Review Series]

1. Introduction and Best Album Art
2. R&B and Soul
3. Rock and Alternative
4. Rap and Hip-hop
5. Dance and Electronic
6. Pop and Ballad
7. Folk and Country
8. Jazz and Blues
9. Crossover and Other
10. Best Collaborative Work
11. Rookie Artist of the Year
12. Artist of the Year
13. Song of the Year
14. Album of the Year
15. Staff Picks
16. Storylines and Other Recognition
17. Concluding Remarks

Welcome back to the penultimate article in our 2014 In Review series. Today, some of our Hellokpop staff discuss the various happenings of K-pop’s 2014 and offer their thoughts, and we give out a few extra “awards” that aren’t quite covered in the last two weeks of recognition. HKP staff members CL, Grandpagyu, Hyerim Kim, Jess Lau, Napthesoul, and Sun Lee all contributed to this article.

Storylines of 2014

Ladies’ Code and other tragedies

Ladies' Code

– Jess: “2014 has undoubtedly been a roller coaster of emotions for all Kpop fans. From the minor to the major, the Kpop world has been abuzz with how cosmically unpredictable this year has been. However, I think one of this year’s greatest tragedies for Kpop fans is the loss of two Ladies’ Code members, EunB and RiSe. It served as an unwanted reminder into the harshness of life’s realities, and as Yoo Jae-suk said, “these children as beautiful as flowers…have flown away like flower petals. If we lose them from our thoughts, they will be forgotten” – and that is something we should never do.”

– Hyerim: “After EunB and RiSe were reported to have passed away, a lot of fans were left breathless. No words will ever be able to explain the pain I saw in the eyes of my friends who are fans of Ladies’ Code. After that, the group’s song “I’m Fine, Thank You” started to rise through all the music charts, becoming a song of comfort for all those sad and mourning hearts. Later in the year, singer Joanne (Lee Yeon-ji) passed away due to a car accident as well. Not a lot of people know of her. She was called “the second BoA” after her debut in 2001 at the age of 13. Ten years after leaving the industry for personal reasons, she came back and appeared on Superstar K4. We also had idols involved in car accidents but fortunately not hurt severely, like Big Bang‘s Seungri, actress Gong Hyo-jin and Dal Shabet‘s Subin.”

– Jung:Shin Hae-chul and Yu Chae-young are two other figures that we’ll miss greatly, both passing away from illness. Their legacies live on.”

– Sun Lee: “The most tragic car accident that happened, at least to my knowledge – this accident took the lives of EunB and RiSe. I can’t even talk about this because it will just make my heart bleed. There were a lot more tragic accidents that happened last year such as the Sewol tragedy, Seungri’s car accident and the accident that happened during 4Minute’s open concert, but let’s just leave that in the past and hope that 2015 will be better.”

– CL: “The correlation between idols’ packed schedules, back-to-back activities that involved near-impossible travel times, distances, and weary drivers were a recipe for disaster. Companies and studios need to understand that often so, some environmental elements (weather, traffic jams, etc) are beyond our control and a little tardiness in idols’ schedules can be edged in for the sake of the safety of human lives, and that road managers and those on the wheel should be getting sufficient rest as well. May the girls rest in peace.”

Couples and relationships

Lee Seung-gi and Yoona

– Hyerim: “The year was full of couples coming out or getting caught by paparazzi. To start off the year, we had Lee Seung-gi and Yoona getting caught by Dispatch during their secret meetings, which ended in the revelation that they indeed were an official couple (and still are). What surprised me the most is that a lot of fans were okay with this couple, and didn’t go insulting or hating on them like with other couples.

That brings us to the Baekhyun and Taeyeon couple. After being “caught” through their Instagram posts and a secret midnight date captured by Dispatch, the couple came out, and everything started to crumble down. EXO fans started to insult Baekhyun and Taeyeon and asked for Baekhyun to leave the group, which was totally an overreaction. And then there’s Sulli, who suddenly became inactive on F(x)’s “Red Light” performances – and later on, revealed to be in a relationship with Choiza, which lead people to assume she was pregnant or getting married… which was totally wrong. But after all the drama, scandals and such, there are still couples like Jung Kyung-hoSooyoung, ShingdongKang Shinae and Nickhun – Tiffany that make us go “aww” at their loveydovey-ness and brighten up the year with love.”

– Sun Lee: “Opening the year was the revelation that SNSD’s face and center, Yoona, was dating. I’m actually happy to know that she is finally be able to date publicly, but I’m not going to lie – this issue shocked me, especially as the kind of news that you see when you just wake up. Let’s not forget those revelations that the other members are also dating, but what really catches our attention is how Taeyeon’s relationship received not-so-good reactions. I swear, when I saw that picture of her almost crying in the airport, it pulled my heartstrings big time.”

– Hyerim: “It was a huge year for ELFs after Sungmin revealed his marriage plans with musical actress Kim Sa-eun. A lot of fans were really heartbroken and I witnessed one of my very close friends break down to tears, but after all, it was really surprising to see a lot of fans supporting Sungmin. Of course, there was a lot of hate thrown at Sungmin as well – the hashtag “#sungminOUT” trended on Twitter in Korea. But then the supportive ELFs came out and trended the hashtag “#sungminstaystrong” in response. On the other hand, a lot of other fans started to come up with theories about this marriage, saying it was a forced marriage and that it was arranged through business, but none of that was confirmed – [what was confirmed was] the love seen in the marriage pictorials uploaded by friends and professional photographers. They sure look adorable.”


– CL: “The year also saw some of the biggest falls from grace for several known personalities, and of one of my favorite groups, EXO. Kris and subsequently Luhan of EXO-M withdrew from the group to much controversy, citing health issues and being overworked by the company as root issues influencing the decision to leave. They have yet to settle their respective cases with SM; however, the situation brought to light once more the discussions regarding “slave contracts” and companies overworking their people to the bone for the sake of monetary profit. B.A.P’s group request to terminate their contract with TS Entertainment was further proof of this. SNSD’s Jessica was also, to put it bluntly, kicked out of the group that she served as a member for the past 7 years, reportedly because she placed her own fashion line Le Blanc and personal relationship with Tyler Kwon above her obligations with the SNSD and the company.”

– Sun Lee: “One of my most feared events happened, one that I still can’t seem to believe even now – that Jessica is no longer part of my beloved group. Well, just so you know, she was the one who pulled me into knowing this group. Even now, it still hurts.

– Hyerim: “As things were cooling off, MBLAQ added more logs to the fire as Lee Joon and Thunder announced that they weren’t planning to renew their contracts with J Tune Camp. Then we had Hello Venus. The group was originally created under the joint venture of two companies, Pledis Entertainment and Fantagio. Later on, Ara and Yoon-jo announced that they would go back to Pledis, leaving the group and fans with broken hearts. Honestly, to see all of these departures is just heartbreaking. Even if I am not a fan of these groups myself, I can’t bear to see how fans are trying to cope with all of these things in one year. After reading article after article on departures, I just can’t think of how I would react if a member of my biased group left. #staystrongfans”

– CL: “It seems that many companies (especially SM, cough) seem to value profit a bit too much, and even with their stocks dropping after a string of controversies, they are still one of the biggest money-makers out there. I still cannot fathom that they would rather have sick and fatigued employees than healthy, rested ones, but apparently there would not be leeway for rest in scheduling unless someone is extremely sick (and even then, they might pull the person out of the hospital after a couple of IV drips to perform, something what TS allegedly did to a member of B.A.P.)”

More controversies

Enes Kaya

– CL: “On the variety side of things, JTBC’s Abnormal Summit was one show that rose to prominence pretty quickly and then pummeled hard after a string of controversies. The show’s premise featured the “G11”, eleven foreigners living in Korea speaking eloquent Korean and discussing various topics each week in accordance with their own cultures and opinions. It was a fun and hilarious talk-show, one of the best of the year in my book, but faced backlash after airing Kimigayo, the Japanese national anthem. This incited the anger of both Korean and Chinese viewers as it signified the era of Japanese imperialism, a period where many of their peoples suffered.

Shortly after recovering from that issue, one of the show’s most popular panelists, Enes Kaya of Turkey, had a flurry of infidelity rumors with multiple women, who have produced evidence and provided interviews about his identity, and everyone from all sides were hit hard by these rumors.

JTBC have since removed Enes from the panel, and the production team pulled some editing magic in the most recent episodes in which he’d participating in filming (aside from some wide, establishing shots, you could barely tell that Enes was there). I’d like to give him the benefit of the doubt, but he has since returned to his home country without any clarification of these rumors, and it seems like the netizen witch hunt has calmed down somewhat despite some unfinished business.

Former SS501 leader Kim Hyun-joong too had some startling revelations revealed about him – he was accused of habitually assaulting his girlfriend until she was hospitalized for nearly six weeks, with incriminating photographic evidence to boot. Although she later withdrew the charges against him, it left a definite sour taste in many mouths, including my own. The entire situation was shocking, but what appalled me the most was how his fans defended him and chose to show their support by attacking and shaming his girlfriend. It not only brought to light domestic violence faced by couples in Korea, but also how violence against women is blamed on the victims themselves, as was the case with actress Choi Jin-sil. The stigmas and general attitude towards domestic violence should change, and with this situation perhaps more support will come to victims of domestic violence/abuse as well.”

– Jung: “I actually enjoyed GLAM‘s early works, so I’m hoping that the Lee Byung-heon extortion scandal that has member Dahee currently being prosecuted doesn’t influence the rest of the group. Maybe a bit too much to hope for, but we’ll see.”

– CL: “Love them or hate them, diss tracks are almost part and parcel of the K-hiphop scene, and last year’s “Control” diss battle was certainly dramatic (and entertaining to keep up with). This year, however, we had a change of things when a rapper decided to diss… an idol singer. Unconventional, but it brought on an onslaught of backlash and media coverage as well, considering that 2NE1’s Park Bom was the target of A.Kor’s Kemy diss track. Some called it media-play, since A.Kor was a yet-to-debut girl group at the time and the spotlight seemed to get them quite some attention on search engines, while others thought it was unnecessary and some enjoyed the unfolding drama and impending fanwar that exploded between Blackjacks, Kemy supporters, and everyone else in between.”

-Jung: “Speaking of Park Bom – she and E-Sens were embroiled in the year’s requisite drug-related scandals. I’m not a fan of the way in which these things get way overblown in Korea, compared to even more serious offenses. Frustrating to see E-Sens’s career take a second dip because of the exact same thing as the last time.”

-CL:iKon’s Bobby, after a successful run in Show Me The Money 3, had pretty much solidified the fact that he’s a good rapper transitioning into Idols-ville. But in true hip-hop fashion, he called out those whom he thought were inferior to him in terms of rap talent and skill in a standard diss track. Fans interpreted the attacks as targeting BTSRap Monster, Boyfriend and VIXX’s Ravi, with the latter responding with a track called “Diss Hater” which, despite its name, tries to make peace by falling into the premise that “at the end of the day, no matter who we are or where we come from, we’re still idol rappers”. Personally, I agreed with Ravi on the most part, and it is rather unwise to be dissing your seniors in the industry (one of which who shares similar underground roots), because it would extremely awkward for future working situations such as collaborations and the like.”

Silver linings


-Sun Lee: “However, there was also some notably good news. One of them was Wonder GirlsYe-eun and former member Sunmi making noise in the music scene. Sunmi winning the Best Dance Performance Solo is worth celebrating.”

-Jung: “I love seeing good solo debuts – Ye-eun stole the year for sure, but SHINee‘s Taemin and Kara‘s Nicole also had great outings. These solo debuts have only been getting better in quality. I also love unexpected collaborations, and we got a ton this year – people started pushing these even more after how well “Some” did.”

-Hyerim: “Idols’ body weights ended up being a huge issue for fans. Fans were disappointed [when idols lost weight] and some idols were praised for gaining weight, turning the tables on the [traditional] public concept of idols. (As in not wanting them to look like stick figures but instead wanting them to look healthy).”

Other Recognition

-Best album promo blurb: Reasco – Reasco. (Drummer Yoon Sung-i pens a witty and endearing account of the band’s origin story.)

-Best bridge let down by rest of the song: Mad Clown – 견딜만해 (Without You) (Featuring Hyolyn)

-Best musical interpretation of Seoul landmarks: Everything released by Dulce in 2014.

-(CL) Best music video: Seo Taiji and IU – Sogyeokdong (Runner-up: Block B – Jackpot)

-(Jung) Best music video: TVXQ – 수리수리 (Spellbound) (Runner-ups: Small o – 마의 산 (Into the Wild), Nell – 지구가 태양을 네 번 (Four Times Around The Sun), Lee Michelle – Without You, Seo Taiji and IU – Sogyeokdong, GRAYE – { notinparis })

-(CL) Best solo debut: HA:TFELT for Me?

-Day of the Year: February 13, 2014. Works by Youngjoo Song, A.T, Ubare’s Picnic, SM The Ballad, Yun Soll, Nalja Ohnyong, Myungs and Juns and Hasu, Hollins, and Crystal Tea were released on this one day, and all of these made the 2014 In Review.

-Day of the Year (runner-up): February 27, 2014. Works by 2NE1, Whang Bo-ryung, Yang Wang-yeol, TVXQ, Kim Chang-gi, and Nell all made the series.

-Day of the Year (two-day span): March 19 and March 20. Works by Loco, Zitten, Rocoberry, Aev, G.Brown, Kim Sung-hyung, Han Chae-yoon, Moinoi, Devil_E_So_Marko, and Ironic Hue all made the series, and Good Night Patrasche and Play Mode came pretty close to making it.

-Hardest missed opportunity to use the word “undecimber” in official translation: Soulstar – 13월의 겨울 (13 Month Winter)

-Least expected genre switch by artist: JK KimDongUk – Dirty Dancing

-(Likely) longest album of the year: ODAERI – 국풍 (Gukpung) ’13 (138 minutes long!)

-Lowest under-the-radar comeback: Kwon Ji-ahn, formerly known as Solbi, with a pretty good EP to boot.

-(Napthesoul) Most disappointing release when compared to teasers: WINNER – 2014 S/S

“WINNER’s collection of teaser movies – particularly the first, titledThe Visitor – had me excited for something uniquely hypnotic, something entrancing and haunting and infused with eerie instrumentals. While I nevertheless did enjoy their debut album, the title tracks Empty and Color Ring seemed musically tame in comparison to the sounds I had expected. I’m definitely hoping for a more experimental follow-up in 2015 from this talented group.”

-Most entertaining comedic musical work: UJUNGRAN (Yu Se-yoon & Lee Jung) – 별이삼샵 (Shadow)

-Most entertaining comedic musical work by a rookie: Pungdeng-E – 알탕 (Altang)

-Most faithful concept album: The Tourist – 설렘 가이드북 (Guidebook To Giddiness)

-Most niche work released through major agency: Hitchhiker – 11

-Most obscurely translated title: Zatmaruami – 모든 인간은 존재와 존재의 가치의 문제로 귀결된다 (There Is Only Rise And Fall Of The Value Of Existence In A Life)

-Most reminiscent of the year 2003: S – 하고 싶은 거 다 (Without You)

-Most reminiscent of the year 2006: M – Taxi (Featuring Eric)

-Most unfortunate combination of individual pieces that are pretty good by themselves: Gilme – Success (Don’t Kill My Vibe)

-“My goodness he actually made a sequel”: Pa Hul Za – 님좀짜 (Pissing Me Off)

-Wildest music video: Noh KyungHwan – 질주 (Rush)

Sources: Photos – Ladies Code from Daum Music, Lee Seung-gi and Yoona from Jstarclub, Enes Kaya from SNTD, Taemin from Tenasia; videos from YouTube

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