Top Google searches in Korea, 2015

It's that time of year. Google Trends has released their top search lists for 2015, and the results are divided up by country and topic. You can see them in Korean here, but I've gone ahead and translated them for you with a tiny bit of personal commentary. Everything I've written has come from either my own knowledge or that of my friends and coworkers, so if you do notice any errors, please let me know. Also, remember that Naver dominates "real" Korean internet searches, so take these Google results with a grain of salt. See my other post for the corresponding Naver top searches for 2015 and also Facebook's top 10 in Korea for 2015.

Now sit back, relax, and let's review Korea's 2015 together. Enjoy.

Top Google Searches in Korea, 2015

종합 - Overall 

  1. 메르스
    Virus outbreak that hit Korea and its tourism hard this year
  2. 나무 위키
    "Namu Wiki"
    basically a Korean Wikipedia
  3. 워터파크 몰카
    Waterpark Hidden Camera
    this year a woman was hired by some shady guys to stroll around the women's locker room at a Korean waterpark, recording the showering and changing women with a small hidden camera
  4. 킹스맨
    the movie was a surprise hit in Korea, and I guess everywhere else too
  5. 베테랑
    a very popular Korean movie released this year, about a detective investigating a megacorp's rich kid

IT기기 - Tech

  1. 갤럭시 S6
    Galaxy S6
    Samsung's flagship phone, released in April this year. So were all these other products.
  2. 아이폰 6s
    iPhone 6s
    Anyone ever notice the 6S and the S6 were released together? 
  3. 갤럭시 노트 5
    Galaxy Note 5
  4. LG V10
  5. 애플 워치
    Apple Watch

TV 프로그램 - TV

Most of these are just K-dramas. I don't watch this genre so I don't know much about them. By the way, AllKpop has listings from #1~10 for the TV and music categories
  1. 그녀는 예뻤다
    She was Pretty
    I'm a bit surprised that this hit the #1 spot, since I have no idea what this show is and have never heard of it. Maybe I'm in the wrong demographic. 
  2. 프로듀사
    The Producers
    This drama featured IU, basically being IU, although apparently a lot of people would disagree with that second clause. Also features 김수현, currently one of the most popular male actors in Korea. 
  3. 복면가왕
    Masked Singer
    This was actually a mildly interesting singing competition show, where famous and not-so-famous singers compete but their identities are secret until they're eliminated. The best parts were the upsets when the original singers of a song scored less than the imitators. 
  4. 용팔이
    Friends spoke highly about this show, but I never saw it. Forever-classy 김태희 is here. 
  5. 오 나의 귀신님
    Oh My Ghostess
    This one featured Park Bo-young, aka the girl from the movie Werewolf Boy (늑대소년)

게임 - Gaming

Here's another category I don't know much about. 
  1. 메이플 스토리 2
    Maple Story 2
    aka THE GAME THAT NEVER DIES. Seriously, that people are still playing this is amazing. 2003~2015, that's twelve solid years of adorable characters and scenery. 
  2. GTA5
  3. 검은사막
    Black Desert 
    some kind of weird bubble-eating game? The NZ Herald has a brief explainer. Never heard of it. I'm getting too old for this I guess. 
  5. 파이널 판타지
    Final Fantasy
    I think they're probably talking about the FF 14 online version.

경제 - Economy

  1. AIIB
    Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank
    China's version of the World Bank. Korea eventually decided to join this year, to the chagrin of the US. 
  2. 국제 유가
    International oil prices
    Check out the huge dive in 2015 in this image. Not a good sign for Korea, which has been investing heavily lately in oil infrastructure like refineries. 
  3. TPP
    Trans-Pacific Partnership
    The US-led trade pact, trying to contain China's influence over international trade practices. Korea has spent nearly the entire year either carefully weighing the pros and cons, or hand wringing, depending on your point of view, over whether to join or not. Stay tuned. 
  4. 핀테크
    The confluence of the finance and the technology sectors. This was an especially popular buzzword this year with news like the relaxing of regulations for online-based banks, app-based payment systems like Naver Pay and Samsung Pay, and Kakao getting into the banking sector with services like Bank Wallet
  5. 디플레이션
    Not a great year for Korea overall. Lower demand abroad, continued high household debt. Ouch.

국제뉴스 - International News

  1. IS
    Korea's preferred moniker for ISIS. You may remember that this was the year a Korean teenage boy joined ISIS and then later was apparently killed in a counterattack. 
  2. 파리 테러
    Paris Terror
    Of course, the Paris terror attacks of November
  3. 그렉시트
    Aka, "Greek Exit" from the Eurozone. Don't laugh. I remember seeing it called this on CNN and thinking "Good lord... that Konglish habit of contracting anything/everything to two initial syllabus has gone full circle, back into English."
  4. 중국 열병식
    Chinese Military Parade
    China went all-out this year celebrating the 70th anniversary of Japan's defeat in WWII. I always wonder why China-US ties aren't warmer, given how much both sides were happy to have a defeated Japan. Yeah yeah, the whole communism thing, but still. 
  5. 네팔 지진
    Nepal earthquake, of April this year

기업 - Business

  1. 경남기업
    Kangnam Enterprises
    The owner of this chaebol committed suicide this year after his involvement in a bribery scandal. Famously, his body was found with a list in his pocket, a "tell all" list of names of big-shots who he had (we're just speculating of course, please don't sue me) given money to. 
  2. 한미약품
    Hanmi Pharmaceuticals
    This pharmaceutical company donated a billion dollars' worth of drugs to North Korea this year. They also just so happened to be the best performing stock of 2015
  3. 다음 카카오
    Daum Kakao
    The two major internet players merged this year. Daum, Korea's #2 search/portal, and Kakao, Korea's #1 messaging platform. This year also saw the release of some of their new services like KakaoTaxi. 
  4. 삼성물산
    Samsung C&T
  5. 제일모직
    Cheil Industries
    I'm combining numbers 4 and 5 here because I suspect they take-up these spots due to their merger in 2015. There are, I think, 3 things to consider here: (1) The companies were already heavily affiliated. I think of this one as Samsung finally marrying their long-term cohabiting girlfriend. (2) The merger as a means of Samsung "beefing up" in order to prevent a stock take-over from the US-based Elliott Management Corporation, famous for their "buy up and break up" approach. (3) The merger prompted a reorganization putting Samsung's heir 이재용, son of이건희 and grandson of Samsung's founder, basically in-charge. 

사회 - Society

  1. 메르스
  2. 나무 위키
    Namu Wiki (see above)
  3. 딸통법
    "Masturbation Control Law"
    A nickname for a new law this year (전기통신사업법 시행령), cracking down on major P2P uploaders of porn. It also had a weird detail of requiring underage internet users to install special porn-blocking software, which will automatically alert parents if the student tries to delete the app. Needless to say, this law was the butt of many online jokes and commentaries.  
  4. 김영란법
    "Kim Young-ran Law"
    A nickname for a law (부정청탁 및 금품등 수수의 금지에 관한 법률), that was passed this year cracking-down on bribery. Though specifically targeting government officers, it all but includes teachers in its definition, leading to some comedy about the limit of gifting that can now be done for teachers. 
  5. 메갈리아
    This is a weird one. "Megalian" is an off-shoot of DC Inside (a Korean site that's sort of 50% 4chan and 50% Reddit). During the MERS crisis this year, a MERS Gallery (메르스 갤러리) board opened to discuss the MERS issue, but somehow the topic degraded into being about how terrible Korean men are, how ineffective Korean men are at sex, earning money, etc. The presumably women users (but who can be sure on the Internet) became known as MERS-gallery-ians, or Megalians, and the term now refers to a sort of uber-Kimchi-girl.
    UPDATE 2016-01: Koreabang has done a nice English-language overview of Megalia

소비재 - Consumer Goods

  1. 허니버터칩
    Honey Butter Chips
    This year's surprise viral "gotta have it" item was definitely Honey Butter Chips, which spawned an entire Honey Butter craze that even McDonalds got in on
  2. 순하리
    "Mild" Soju
    This year, milder soju brands, with slightly less alcohol and added fruity flavors like blueberry, tangerine, and pomegranate became big hits during the summer. 
  3. 스베누
    A Korean brand of casual footwear popular among youth. This year they struck a deal to become the official "casual" shoe of Manchester United. 
  4. 자연별곡
    "Nature Kitchen"
    A Korean traditional foods buffet-style restaurant franchise, focusing on healthy, natural, raw ingredients. This type of restaurant became very popular this year, and many similar type "traditional/natural" buffet chains popped-up as a result.  
  5. 던힐
    Dunhill (cigarette brand)
    Taxes on most cigarettes in Korea were highly raised as of 2014, and most of the price increases for consumers went into effect in 2015, with many brands now costing double

영화 - Movies

  1. 킹스맨
    Kingsman (Western movie)
  2. 베테랑
    Veteran (Korean movie: see above)
  3. 암살
    Assassination (Korean movie)
    Film set during the Japanese colonial period, featuring both independence fighters and collaborators. It starred Jun Ji-hyun who you may know from every Korean TV commercial ever. 
  4. 간신
    The Treacherous (Korean movie)
    Film set during the Chosun dynasty, about a hedonistic king, and features many extreme scenes including both violent brutality and carnal lesbianism. Not recommended for Christmas day viewing with the family. 
  5. 스물
    Twenty (Korean movie)
    A coming-of-age movie about three friends who turn, you guessed it, 20. Stars Kim Woo-bin, one of the supposedly most handsome actors. I don't see it. 

음악 - Music

I won't bother linking to them, but you can find all of these on YouTube.
  1. 위아래 (EXID)
    "Up & Down" by EXID.
    That sexy dance where the girls move, you guessed it, up and down, a lot. "We are eh, we we are eh." No surprise here that this reached #1. The video found its way to my playlist a, er, couple of times. 
  2. 떨려요 (스텔라)
    "Vibrato" by Sellar
  3. Ring My Bell (걸스데이)
    "Ring  My Bell" by Girls Day. A member of Girls Day, Hyeri, would star this year in the super-popular "Reply 1988" TV show, but I think the show came out too late in the year to really make a dent in the overall top yearly search rankings. 
  4. 바램 (노사연)
    "Wish" by Noh Sa-yeon
    After a seven year absence from the music scene, this older singer released a new song of hers this year.
  5. 제제 (아이유)
    "Zeze" by IU
    I'm surprised this only made it to #5. This year "the nation's little sister" really grew-up, and found herself in a scandal over allegations that her song "Zeze," about a character in a children's book beloved by many Koreans, portrayed the character in a sexual or even pedophilic light. Because of many Korean's fond childhood memories of the book, many attacked her viciously online for purposefully trying to generate buzz and controversy. Others supported her artistic reinterpretation. Still others saw a deep personal metaphor for IUs own career status in the song. 

자동차 - Automotive

I'm sorry, I don't know anything about cars at all, and can't be bothered to look-up why any of these might have been more popular than any others this year.
  1. 티볼리
    Tivoli (SsangYong)
  2. 임팔라
    Impala (Chevy)
  3. 아반떼
    Avante (Hyundai)
  4. 스포티지
    Sportage (Kia)
  5. 재규어 XE
    Jaguar XE

조리법 - Recipes

  1. 백종원 레시피
    Baek Jong-won recipes
    Mr. Baek is a famous TV chef and entrepreneur with a chain of popular restaurants. His easy-going style and friendly demeanor, not to mention easy recipes with casual ingredients, have made his popularity soar recently. 
  2. 매생이국 끓이는 법
    Green algae soup cooking methods
    Supposedly tastes like you're eating thin soft strands of hair, I wouldn't ever have called this a "popular" dish, though my informal survey of friends revealed a unanimous belief that it's a delicious soup. No idea why it was so popular this year though.   
  3. 열무 김치 맛있게 담는 법
    Yeolmu kimchi preparation method
  4. 백종원 만능간장
    Baek Jong-won's all-purpose soybean sauce
  5. 파김치 맛있게 담는 법
    Spring onion kimchi preparation method

키즈 - Kids

This is just a list of toys that were apparently popular this year.
  1. 터닝메카드
    Turning Mecard
    An unholy combination of an animation series, trading card game, and transformer toys. They sure know what kids like. 
  2. 요괴 워치
    Yo-Kai Watch
    Some kind of Japanese animation/game, a watch that has monsters come out. So like a Pokeball you wear on your wrist? Gotcha. 
  3. 파워레인저 다이노포스
    Power Rangers: Dino Force
  4. 헬로 카봇
    Hello Carbot
    Transformers, but all the cars they turn into are Hyundai models. Smooth marketing, Hyundai. 
  5. 마다가스카의 펭귄
    Penguins of Madagascar
    A Dreamworks movie

Well, there you go. It's been an interesting year. I'll try to have the Naver rankings out in the next day or two. Stay tuned. My post on the top Naver searches of 2015 is up and live. Check it out to get a better picture of what Koreans were really searching for this year. And you might also be interested in Facebook's top 10 in Korea for 2015.