Who Grabbed the Spotlight in 2010?

Sporting events were a big source of energy and pleasure for Koreans this year as young rising athletes shone in major world competitions.

Figure skating star Kim Yu-na secured her leading status in February by winning the gold medal in the Vancouver Winter Olympics with the highest score ever by a female figure skater at 228.56 points. AP spoke of "a women's figure skating performance that likely will be remembered as one of the best of all time."

In speed skating, Mo Tae-bum won gold in the men's 500 m sprint, Lee Sang-hwa in the women's 500 m race, and Lee Seung-hoon in the men's 10,000 m race.

From left, Kim Yu-na, Lee Chung-yong, Ji So-yun, Jeong Da-rae, and Son Yeon-jae From left, Kim Yu-na, Lee Chung-yong, Ji So-yun, Jeong Da-rae, and Son Yeon-jae

In June during the World Cup in South Africa, 22-year-old Lee Chung-yong helped the Korean team advanced to the round of 16 for the first time on foreign soil. Ji So-yun, a 19-year-old woman striker who defied a difficult family background, became a star in the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup by scoring eight goals in the tournament and leading Korea to a record third-place finish, the best result ever by Korea in any FIFA competition. Carrying on the momentum, a month later, Korea's U-17 girls' football team brought home the FIFA champion's trophy for the first time. Seventeen-year-old Yeo Min-ji excelled in the tournament, winning the Golden Shoe Award for the most goals scored.

The Guangzhou Asian Games in November gave sudden celebrity status to Korea's "three beauties" -- 19-year-old 200 m breaststroke gold medalist Jeong Dae-rae, 19-year-old double gold medalist in baduk, or Go, Lee Seul-a, and 16-year-old rhythmic gymnast Son Yeon-jae, who won a bronze medal. Choi Na-yeon, a 23-year-old golfer, topped the U.S. LPGA money list and won the Vare Trophy for the lowest scoring average throughout the season. In professional baseball, Lee Dae-ho, a 28-year-old slugger with Lotte Giants, bested seven categories in batting out of eight available -- the one exception being stolen bases -- and set a new record of home runs in nine consecutive games. These records are expected to last for some time.

From left, Kim Moon-soo, Sohn Hak-kyu, Han Myeong-sook, Rhyu Si-min and Oh Se-hoon From left, Kim Moon-soo, Sohn Hak-kyu, Han Myeong-sook, Rhyu Si-min and Oh Se-hoon

In politics, the ruling Grand National Party widened its pool for potential presidential candidates in the local elections on June 2, when Gyeonggi Province Governor Kim Moon-soo easily won a second term over Rhyu Si-min, the waspish candidate for the united opposition front, making him a strong candidate for the next presidential election.

Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon, meanwhile, successfully defended himself against a challenge former Prime Minister Han Myeong-sook to become the first elected Seoul mayor to serve a second term. And Lee Jae-oh's political career was resurrected when he won a by-election on July 28. He is currently a minister without portfolio.

For the Democratic Party, Sohn Hak-kyu has the edge over the competition as the next presidential candidate as he became party chairman despite being an erstwhile member of the GNP. South Gyeongsang Province Governor Kim Doo-kwan, South Chungcheong Province Governor Ahn Hee-jung and Gangwon Province Governor Lee Kwang-jae, who all served crucial roles in the Roh Moo-hyun government, established themselves as respectable candidates in local elections.

In the private sector, Samsung embarked on preparations for a new era under the leadership of the third generation of the founder family. Lee Jae-yong, the only son of Samsung Group chairman Lee Kun-hee, was promoted to president of Samsung Electronics, while his sister Lee Boo-jin was promoted by two levels from executive director to president of the Hotel Shilla. Over at LG Electronics, vice president Koo Bon-joon is leading reforms in the company following his transfer from vice president at LG International Corp. in October.  

From left; Jang Hyuk, Yoon Si-yoon, Song Sae-byuk, Kara and 2AM From left; Jang Hyuk, Yoon Si-yoon, Song Sae-byuk, Kara and 2AM

In entertainment, 2010 saw actors Jang Hyuk and Yoon Si-yoon enjoy immense popularity thanks to the success of the KBS dramas "The Slave Hunters" and "Bread, Love and Dreams." The latter hit viewer ratings of over 50 percent. Rookie Song Sae-byuk swept six awards for newcomer and best supporting actor in recognition of his brilliant performance in the film "The Servant."

In K-pop, girl groups such as Girls' Generation, Kara, and T-ara and boy bands like 2AM and SHINee were the dominant figures, leading a fresh crest of the Korean Wave across Asia.   

englishnews@chosun.com / Dec. 31, 2010 08:38 KST