Singaporeans get quick access to Korean shows with TV channel Oh!K

The Real Men. -- PHOTO: OH!K
The Real Men. -- PHOTO: OH!K
Infinite Challenge. -- PHOTO: STARHUB
Infinite Challenge. -- PHOTO: STARHUB
Lee Dong Wook (left) as the hotel manager and Lee Da Hae (right) as the heiress in Hotel King. -- PHOTO: OH!K
Lee Dong Wook (left) as the hotel manager and Lee Da Hae (right) as the heiress in Hotel King. -- PHOTO: OH!K
Just Married. -- PHOTO: OH!K
Just Married. -- PHOTO: OH!K
Triangle. -- PHOTO: OH!K
Triangle. -- PHOTO: OH!K
Bachelor Choi Jin Hyuk plays the lead in drama Pride And Prejudice and with Song Ji Hyo (above) in Emergency Couple. -- PHOTO: FAST TRACK EVENTS
Bachelor Choi Jin Hyuk plays the lead in drama Pride And Prejudice and with Song Ji Hyo (above) in Emergency Couple. -- PHOTO: FAST TRACK EVENTS
Bachelor Choi Jin Hyuk plays the lead in drama Pride And Prejudice (fourth from left) and with Song Ji Hyo in Emergency Couple. -- PHOTO: OH!K
Bachelor Choi Jin Hyuk plays the lead in drama Pride And Prejudice (fourth from left) and with Song Ji Hyo in Emergency Couple. -- PHOTO: OH!K
Bachelor Choi Jin Hyuk (above) plays the lead in drama Pride And Prejudice and with Song Ji Hyo in Emergency Couple. -- PHOTO: OH!K
Bachelor Choi Jin Hyuk (above) plays the lead in drama Pride And Prejudice and with Song Ji Hyo in Emergency Couple. -- PHOTO: OH!K
Jang Hyuk, a devoted family man in real life, in current drama You Are My Destiny and in The Slave Hunters (2010, above), for which he won Best Actor at the Korean Drama Awards. -- PHOTO: OH!K
Jang Hyuk, a devoted family man in real life, in current drama You Are My Destiny and in The Slave Hunters (2010, above), for which he won Best Actor at the Korean Drama Awards. -- PHOTO: OH!K
Jang Hyuk, a devoted family man in real life, in current drama You Are My Destiny (above) and in The Slave Hunters, for which he won Best Actor at the Korean Drama Awards. -- PHOTO: OH!K
Jang Hyuk, a devoted family man in real life, in current drama You Are My Destiny (above) and in The Slave Hunters, for which he won Best Actor at the Korean Drama Awards. -- PHOTO: OH!K
Jang Hyuk (above), a devoted family man in real life, in current drama You Are My Destiny and in The Slave Hunters, for which he won Best Actor at the Korean Drama Awards. -- PHOTO: OH!K
Jang Hyuk (above), a devoted family man in real life, in current drama You Are My Destiny and in The Slave Hunters, for which he won Best Actor at the Korean Drama Awards. -- PHOTO: OH!K

Singaporeans will have easier access to K-dramas and shows with the launch of new TV channel Oh!K

Finally, K-drama fans in Singapore can get quicker access to popular entertainment programmes from major South Korean broadcaster Munhwa Broadcasting Corporation (MBC).

With the launch of new TV channel Oh!K (StarHub TV Channel 816) in October, audiences here now have an easier - and legal - way of catching their favourite dramas and variety shows made by MBC, as the channel has a volume content deal with the broadcaster.

It is a long time coming for many K-drama followers, given that MBC is the last of the three major South Korean broadcasters to get a dedicated TV channel here. Previously, a handful of MBC content was syndicated as and when on channels such as the free-to-air Channel U.

The other two Korean broadcasters have staked their claim here for a while, with Korean Broadcasting System (KBS) programmes shown on KBS World (StarHub TV Channel 115) and Seoul Broadcasting System (SBS) content being played on One (StarHub TV Channel 124).

The launch of Oh!K means that viewers can watch the latest episodes of MBC programmes such as the long-running variety show Infinite Challenge, where celebrities take on various games and challenges to comedic effect.

There are also top-rated MBC dramas such as the ongoing procedural-cum-romantic drama Pride And Prejudice starring Choi Jin Hyuk and Baek Jin Hee, and the upcoming Shine Or Go Crazy starring Jang Hyuk, a period drama centred on the arranged marriage between a cursed crown prince and the princess of another land.

Both dramas will be shown here one day after the original Korean telecast.

Other shows such as the hit reality programme Dad, Where Are We Going?, which features celebrity fathers on outings with their kids, will be broadcast here within a week of the Korean premiere. Looks like K-drama fever is here to stay.

yipwy@sph.com.sg

Follow Yip Wai Yee on Twitter @STyipwaiyee


JANG HYUK, 37

My laugh is crazy

Anyone who has been watching South Korean TV drama You Are My Destiny would have noticed the maniacal, almost shocking, laughter that lead actor Jang Hyuk belts out every now and then.

It is loud, abrupt and sounds hilariously insane and has gained so much attention that there are fan- made YouTube videos dedicated to his laughter.

He came up with the laugh by accident, Jang says with a grin: "Before shooting the show, I had just finished filming a period drama. So for fun, I read out the new script with my period drama voice and it was so funny that I laughed this crazy laugh.

"The crew heard it and loved it, so I decided to make it the signature laugh for my character."

Speaking to Life! and other Singapore media at his agency Sidus HQ in Seoul's Gangnam district, he looked tired and grimy, having just returned to the capital from a long outdoor shoot in the countryside.

The temperature was a freezing minus 7 deg C outside and he probably still felt cold inside the heated office because he had his thick coat on throughout the 45-minute session.

He was a professional, answering every question in Korean via a translator patiently, even when asked personal questions about fatherhood and his family. He would look straight at the journalist when he answered and give him his undivided attention throughout, despite the obvious lanaguage barrier.

He lapped up the role for You Are My Destiny as he had been waiting to do a romantic comedy "for a long time", he says.

"I did so many serious roles in recent years that pushed me further and further away from the opportunity for romantic comedy parts," says Jang, who acted recently in historical drama The Slave Hunters (2010) and espionage thriller drama Iris II (2013).

"So getting to do You Are My Destiny felt a little like, well, destiny. Even though there were many overnight shoots and I was exhausted during filming, I enjoyed it so much. There was a lot of ad-libbing on set, so we would burst out laughing at random all the time."

Age is making him veer towards comedies, it seems. "Personality-wise, I've become more flexible and a lot less stubborn than before, which I think is perfect for comedies," he says.

"Doing comedy requires a wide range of emotions and performance styles, and now that I'm older and have more experiences, I think it would be fitting for me to do more comedies."

In You Are My Destiny, he plays a wealthy hair product company heir who marries a sweet but nondescript girl (Jang Na Ra) after a one-night stand.

The show is a remake of the hit Taiwanese melodramatic comedy Fated To Love You (2008) starring Ethan Juan and Joe Chen, which Jang watched in full, twice.

He says: "The first time was to decide whether I wanted to take on the role. The second time I saw it was to make sure my performance is as different from the original as possible, which worked, I think.

"In the Taiwanese version, the comical character is the female lead. But in the Korean one, we made it so that my character is the funnier one."

The series marks the second time he is collaborating with co-star Jang Na Ra, 33, whom he worked with on the hugely popular comedy series Successful Story Of A Bright Girl (2002).

He says: "When we were shooting the last drama, I was filming two shows simultaneously and she was busy with her singing too, so we never had any time to rest, let alone the time to hang out.

"This time, we got to talk a lot more outside of work. Na Ra is a very sensible girl and it felt really great working with her again."

Outside of work, the father of two boys, aged seven and six, is a family man through and through.

Whenever he is done with his shoots, he cannot wait to get home and spend time with his wife, a pilates instructor, and kids.

"When I go home and see my kids, I'm so happy. I'm busy filming all the time, so I don't get to spend that much time with them, but I really try to as best I can," he says.

"My father was not an actor, but he had a similarly crazy busy schedule working in construction. I saw him only one month in the whole year, so I know what it's like to have a father away for long periods. I want to be different," he says.

With both a loving family and stardom in the bag, the award-winning A-lister appears to have it all.

But Jang, who earned a Korean Drama Award for Best Actor for his role in The Slave Hunters in 2010, insists that there is still a lot of room for him to grow in the industry.

He adds: "I still feel like I made my acting debut only yesterday. I'm not as hunky as Jung Woo Sung and I'm not as funny as Cha Tae Hyun. I think I look alright, but I still need to improve my acting skills. I think I'm average, so I have to work even harder."

You Are My Destiny airs on Oh!K (StarHub TV Channel 816) on Thursday and Friday at 8.55pm.


CHOI JIN HYUK, 28

I almost quit acting

Boy, is South Korean actor Choi Jin Hyuk glad he stuck to his craft. He once said in an interview that he felt like quitting the industry numerous times as he was scolded on set every day and felt crushed from the stress.

Now that he has achieved leading-man status on television, he can look back with a sigh of relief.

"I think I made the right decision to continue acting," he tells Life! in an e-mail interview.

"Any actor would have felt like quitting at some point in his career. But I kept myself motivated by watching other actors around me - both experienced ones and newcomers - and how they work.

"That gave me the strength to overcome my difficulties in acting. I am very thankful and glad that many people recognise me and like me for my work."

Indeed, the past 1½ years has been especially good for Choi, who has received much exposure in one popular TV series after another.

After struggling with minor roles for seven years, he landed his breakthrough in the fantasy drama, Gu Family Book (2013), as a mythical guardian spirit named Gu Wol Ryung. He was cast in mega-hit school drama The Heirs (2013) shortly after, with heart-throbs Lee Min Ho and Kim Woo Bin, before he got his first lead role in the romantic comedy Emergency Couple (2014) opposite Song Ji Hyo.

The bachelor is currently the lead in procedural drama Pride And Prejudice (2014) alongside rising starlet Baek Jin Hee. In South Korea, the series has consistently topped the charts as the most popular network drama in its time slot, taking up an average of 11 per cent of the nation's audience share.

When its 12th episode aired there two weeks ago, it was well ahead of the other network dramas showing at the same time. It took 11.1 per cent of the nation's audience share, with SBS' period drama Secret Door starring Han Suk Kyu and Lee Je Hoon taking 5.4 per cent and KBS' romance drama Cantabile Tomorrow starring Joo Won with 4.9 per cent.

Choi himself has certainly felt the tangible effects of his own stardom rise.

He says: "It is not to the point where I cannot walk on the streets, but my fan base has grown. I can feel that my stardom has grown at events where I get to interact with viewers at fan meetings."

Working on Pride And Prejudice, which is being filmed as it is aired, has been a blast - largely thanks to his goofy co-star Baek, 24. He says: "She's very easygoing and good to joke with, so we were able to become close very quickly. Actresses can be self- absorbed but she's not like that at all."

The pair's chemistry has been praised by both TV critics and audiences. In fact, Choi has regularly displayed good chemistry with co-stars on his shows. It helps that he makes the conscious effort to get to know his fellow cast members, he says.

"I joke around on set to liven up the atmosphere and I also make the effort to really get to know the cast, as well as the production staff."

He still has fond memories of his time on Gu Family Book, the drama that made his name. He appeared in only the first two episodes of the show at first, but his complex, loyal character was so popular that it sparked what is known as "Wol Ryung fever" and audiences took to online forums to demand for his return.

The show's writers brought him back in episode 12 and kept him there till episode 22, just two episodes shy from the conclusion. He says: "I took the role thinking it would be my last as I thought I would be quitting. But I started to get a lot of attention, support and love because of the character. So that role definitely is the most significant for me."

Looking ahead, he hopes to take on "diverse roles that show he different, new sides of me".

"I want to take on the role of a deep and mature character in a film noir," he says.

He is not shy to say that he has a special affinity for romantic comedies. "Romantic comedies provide laughter and can be easily enjoyed by the audience. Personally, that's what I would like to do."

Pride And Prejudice airs on Oh!K (StarHub TV Channel 816) on Tuesday and Wednesday at 8.55pm.


HIT PROGRAMMES ON OH!K (STARHUB TV CHANNEL 816)

TRIANGLE

When: Premieres tonight, 10pm

What: This story follows the lives of three young brothers who grew up apart over two decades without any contact, after their father died and their mother left them. As adults, the brothers cross paths again and find themselves at odds with one another, all the while completely unaware of their blood ties.

The eldest is a detective, the middle child grew up to be a thug and the youngest was adopted by a wealthy family. Other than the compelling tale of mystery and jealousy, K-pop fans will lap up the chance to see heart-throb Kim Jae Joong of boyband JYJ in his first leading  role. Also stars Lee Beom Soo and Yim Si Wan.

JUST MARRIED

When: Premieres Dec 23, 11pm

What: Also known as We Got Married, this hyper-reality series pairs popular celebrities in pretend marriages. It is the ultimate fantasy trip for many K-pop and K-drama fans as they watch their favourite idols get all sweet and loving with one another in romantic settings. Popular pairings include Nichkhun of boyband 2PM with Victoria of girl group f(x), and T-ara’s Eunjung with actor Lee Jang Woo.

HOTEL KING

When: Monday, 8.55pm

What: This drama stars heart-throb Lee Dong Wook as a cool-headed hotel manager vowing to seek revenge, so convinced is he that the chairman of the hotel he is working at is his biological father and also the man who abandoned him as a child. Things get complicated when the heiress to the hotel (played by Lee Da Hae) shows up and becomes suspicious of the manager.

INFINITE CHALLENGE

When: Saturday, 8pm

What: Celebrities on this comedy variety show play funny games that involve anything from wordplay to physical challenges. It is fun to see which guests will appear on the show. In the past, they included popular boyband BigBang and heart-throb actors So Ji Sub and Lee Dong Wook.

THE REAL MEN

When: Saturday and Sunday, 11pm

What: This variety show features a group of male celebrities undergoing tasks in the Korean military, which is a mandatory rite of passage for Korean men. Many of these celebrities have been discharged from the army for years, so watching them take on the tough challenges all over again is both intriguing and entertaining. Some celebrities will surprise, though: When Jang Hyuk, 37, was on the show, he often outdid the younger and trained enlistees in many physical challenges.