Naver top searches in Korea 2016

Naver released their listings of top search terms for 2016 (2016 검색어 결산) a few weeks ago, but I'm just now getting around to them. The data is divided into four tables: most popular by topic, most popular by month, most popular new terms, and overall most popular.

I've gone through and reprinted them in an easier to read format, translated them to English, and offered explanations and commentary. This gives you a good sense of what real Koreans were really searching on real Naver during 2016.  This took a lot of work so I hope you enjoy. Here we go.

Naver Top Searches in Each Category for 2016
분야별 검색어

Naver Top Searches 2016, by catagory. Image: Naver

Society – Choi Soon-sil

최순실 이미지
시사 - 최순실

There's no way around it. This was the absolute biggest news for Korea in 2016. In a nutshell, it was revealed that behind the Korean president Park Geun-hye, an absurd about of real power was being held by her longtime friend Choi Soon-sil. This story had everything from boytoy gigolos to toilet fetishes, from horse dancing to placental implants under fake names.  Ultimately resulted in an impeachment vote against Park.

For a detailed and entertaining look at this whole scandal from start to finish, check out Ask A Korean's Choi Soon-sil explainer series.

Current Events – “The Its Know”

그것이 알고 싶다 이미지
시사방송 – 그것이 알고 싶다

Google calls this show’s name “The Its Know” in English. I don’t know why. I’d call it “I Want to Know” or “Need to Know”. Very popular weekly investigative journalism show. Their coverage of the mystery of the “missing 7 hours” when President Park was conspicuously absent from the public eye during the sinking of the Sewol ferry was one of the most popular episodes. The show won SBS’s Grand Prize award this year for their work. Another popular episode this year was on the seedy world of idol sponsoring.

I.T. – Lee Sedol vs. AlphaGo

이세돌 알파고 이미지
IT - 이세돌 알파고

The top "Go" player who lost to Google's AI bot AlphaGo this year. The epic man versus machine match was held in Seoul over six days this year. The 5-game match ended with 4 AlphaGo wins to Lee Sedol's 1 win. Mr. Lee is ranked 9-dan in the game, which is apparently good. Fans of "Reply 1988" (응답하라 1988) may notice that the baduk-playing character Choi Taek (최택) played by "Naver Search Person of the Year" Park Bogum, is also ranked 9-dan, as was the real-life inspiration for the character (maybe).

Sports – Rio Olympics

리우올림픽 이미지
스포츠 - 리우올림픽

The 2016 Rio Olympics saw a great performance by Korea's archery team. It also led to one of my favorite Korea Times' headline puns of the year: Rio 2016: Boyfriend a tall order for 192cm South Korean volleyball star. That volleyball star, by the way, was hilariously caught on camera mouthing the Korean for "Ah, f*ck!" during gameplay.

Entertainment – King of Masked Singer

복면가왕 이미지
예능 - 복면가왕

King of Masked Singer is a very popular mystery singer competition. A contestant by the name of Ha Hyun-woo absolutely dominated this season. His renditions of songs --including 하여가,일상으로의 초대, 걱정말아요 그대, and Lazenca Save Us-- earned him 4 of the top 10 spots in Google’s rankings for music-related searches this year (links to his versions of these songs in that post). Ha is notable for his impressive vocal range.

Drama – Descendants of the Sun

태양의 후예 이미지
드라마 - 태양의 후예

TV drama with a modern wartime setting and love between a heart-throb soldier and a doctor. This show was extremely popular both domestically, throughout Asia and elsewhere. Featured the "Song-Song couple," Song Joong-ki and Song Hye-kyo. Interesting tidbit: Song Hye-kyo is famous for dating her on-camera boyfriends off-camera as well. But this time, with a younger man, no such luck. She's also had some tax evasion issues, lives in an amazing house, and recently had a contract dispute (sort of) with a luxury accessories brand. Who needs these produced dramas when their real lives are better? The drama was also wildly lucrative:
China and Japan have bought broadcasting rights to the drama series for $250,000 and $100,000 per episode, respectively. The price per episode of broadcasting rights in China marked a record high for Korean dramas, which is eight times higher than that for 2014 hallyu megahit "My Love from the Star," which was sold at around $35,000 per episode. "As soon as the first episode was aired, we reached the break-even point, where gains from the drama sales reached the production cost of 13 billion won," said its production company NEW. [Korea Times | New hallyu dawns on 'Descendants of the Sun']

If you're interested in top rankings specifically for dramas and actors/actresses, check out this post:
"W" Sweep the KdramaStars Awards Taking Best Drama, Actors, Actresses, and Couple For the Year 2016! : Buzz : KDramaStars

Music - Twice's "Cheer Up"

트와이스 Cheer Up 이미지
뮤직 - 트와이스 Cheer Up

Twice debuted last year, but really hit it big in 2016. Another successful group out of JYP's incubator. I'm glad to see him have some success with girl groups now. His last success was probably with Wonder Girls, which was 100 years ago in K-pop time. Of course he was better on the boys side with 2PM. "Cheer Up" has probably been one of the top songs this year, though their song "TT" ("tee tee") was also popular, and was claimed to be overly sexual due to a dance that involved the girls doing the sad ㅜㅜ gesture that some thought was just an excuse for them to point at their breasts and sing "titties" over and over. Twice also contains a Taiwanese member Chou Tzu-Yu, who started an international incident when she waved the Taiwanese flag on TV. Don't ask me how her name 쯔위 (Jwee?) gets rendered in English as Tzuyu.

Person - Park Bogum

박보검 이미지
인물 - 박보검

Park Bogum (actor) was very popular this year, and the most searched in Korea. He starred in the period drama Love in the Moonlight this year after hitting it big last year as Taek in "Reply 1988." In this particular drama, he's adored by old lady fans who want him as the ideal son, or son-in-law, or maybe just for themselves. He held numerous fan-meetings around Asia this year, no doubt adding to his international popularity. He and Irene (from girl group Red Velvet) were popular hosts of KBS's Music Bank (K-pop top charts show) and fans were hopeful they would hook up.

Books - The Vegetarian

채식주의자 이미지
책 - 채식주의자

The Vegetarian, by Han Kang, was released in Korea a few years back in 2007, but was translated into English and released this year to critical acclaim, eventually winning the Man Booker prize for 2016 which prompted renewed interest in it. Needless to say, it's English translator Deborah Smith was a darling in the Korean media, and people (including me) were impressed at her Korean skill despite a relatively short time spent studying it. The book also reached New York Times' Top 10 Books list for 2016. I haven't read it, sadly, but a common consensus among friends in an informal poll is that, prior to 2016, no one had read it, and few seemed to want to for its reputation of being disturbing. Take that for what you will.

Webtoon - Lookism

외모지상주의 이미지
웹툰 - 외모지상주의

"Lookism" (link goes to original Korean version) is a popular webtoon by Park Taejoon . I've never read it myself. You can read it in Indonesian or in Thai on Naver's excellent webtoons site, but I couldn't find an English version there. Luckily a few other sites have it in English, including here, here, and here. The official summary reads something like "One day was a miraculous day to him..." or as these sites show it:
Park Hyung Suk, overweight and unattractive, is bullied and abused on a daily basis. But a miracle is about to happen. [readcomicbooksonline]
Here's a fuller description:
One night, he wakes up to discover that he is suddenly tall, fit, and incredibly handsome. He returns to the bedroom to find his other unattractive body sleeping. He now has one mind, and two bodies. Whenever one falls asleep, the other is awakened, and whenever one is woken up, the other falls asleep. Afraid to show up at school for fear of being bullied again, he decides to use his new body for school. But how will it go? Will he finally be accepted? [Lookism (Webcomic)]

Health - Zika virus

지카바이러스 이미지
건강 - 지카바이러스

There were at least 14 confirmed cases of Zika in Korea this year, mostly from Koreans having traveled in Southeast Asian nations. Korea even made supposedly Zika-proof uniforms for its Olympic athletes.

Gaming - League of Legends

리그오브레전드 이미지
게임 - 리그 오브 레전드

League of Legends is why your Korean friends don't mean they're laughing when they write LoL (rhymes with roll). The game was still very popular this year, and a Korean team won the world championship. However don't expect this game to remain in the top spot for long, as there are clear signs that Overwatch is taking over

Naver Top 2016 Searches by Month, 2016
월별 검색어

Naver Top Searches 2016, by month. Image: Naver

January – Reply 1988

응답하라 1988 이미지 
1월 - 응답하라 1988
Another installment of the beautifully nostalgic "Reply ___" drama series. Though mostly run in 2015, the finale aired in January 2016. Actress and K-pop singer Hyeri from Girls' Day starred, alongside Park Bogum, the Naver Search Person of the Year. If you ask me, Hyeri suits acting even better than singing. You may also recognize her from the Korea Times' comments section.

February – Produce 101

프로듀스101 이미지
 2월 - 프로듀스 101
Produce 101. A K-pop girl group formation competition on music network "Mnet" channel, which ultimately gave rise to the group I.O.I. Although fairly popular, the group was only ever really a temporary concept, and will disband in 2017. Their top song was "Very Very Very" and if you like tons of fit young girls prancing around and aegyoing the camera, you'll like its music video. However, back in February they were still in development, and that's more or less why the girls are singing and wanting you to pick them pick them pick them, to the bane of anybody who had to walk by a cell phone shop blaring this song all year. "Crush" was another popular song.

March - Lee Sedol vs. AlphaGo

이세돌 알파고 이미지
 3월 - 이세돌 알파고
The epic man versus machine match was held in Seoul this month over the 9th –15th. Discussed a bit more above. 

April - Descendants of the Sun

태양의후예 이미지
 4월 - 태양의 후예
The final episode of the wartime drama aired in April. See more about it above. 

May - Fine dust

미세먼지 이미지
 5월 - 미세먼지
I'm guessing two things contributed to the issue of fine dust pollution trending in May:
  1. NASA flew an air quality monitoring plane over Korea in May, with less than flattering results. 
  2. Yale released their results in May for their 2016 environment rankings, putting Korea at #80. That's a big drop from when Korea was #43 just two years earlier. 
Searching this on Naver brings up a convenient interactive Google Now-style air quality card.

June - Park Yoochan

박유천 이미지
 6월 - 박유천
TV drama actor and all around heart-throb (you may know him from K-pop group JYJ and the show "Rooftop Prince"), but famous this year for allegedly raping up to 4 hookers in a "premium" entertainment bar bathroom and his own home's bathroom. Many netizens were nearly more interested in his apparent bathroom fetish than the sex itself. But the story had a happyish ending. It turns out it was just good old fashioned bathroom hooker sex; not rape. In fact one of his accusers will likely do jail time.

July - Lee Gunhee

이건희 이미지
 7월 - 이건희
Lee Gun-hee, Samsung's former head. He was caught on film by one of his prostitutes paying her and basically treating her in that creepy "rich old pervert" way. You can watch the video, which made it to Korea's Top 10 YouTube videos for 2016, at the link here.

August - Rio Olympics

리우올림픽 이미지
 8월 - 리우올림픽
Already discussed.

September - Earthquake

지진 이미지
 9월 - 지진
This month Korea suffered a massive 5.8 earthquake in the city of Gyeongju this year, Korea's strongest ever.

October - Choi Soon-sil

최순실 이미지
 10월 - 최순실
It was back in October when this whole scandal exploded to peak status, with the discovery of a boy toy's tablet filled with sensitive documents. Although it was back in September where the first stirrings started becoming available in English.

November - Park Geun-hye

박근혜 이미지
 11월 - 박근혜
Massive protests ran from early October through the whole months of November and December, demanding the removal of President Park.

Naver Top Year-on-Year Search Terms 2016
전년대비 상승 검색어

Naver Top New Search Terms 2016. Image: Naver

These are the Top searches by platform, but with multi-year-spanning search terms removed. So these reflect "up and comer" searches new for 2016. 

Desktop searches - PC 검색

  1. Lee Sedol vs. AlphaGo
    이세돌 알파고 로고 이미지
    이세돌 알파고

  2. Earthquake
    지진 로고 이미지

  3. Descendants of the Sun
    태양의후예 로고 이미지
    태양의 후예

  4. Overwatch

  5. Choi Soon-sil

  6. YouTube

  7. King of Masked Singer

  8. Love in the Moonlight, a drama where the main character, who we thought was a boy, is a girl, featuring Naver Search Person of the Year Park Bogum.
    구르미 그린 달빛

  9. I.O.I.

  10. Park Bogum

Mobile searches - 모바일 검색

  1. Weather (brings up a Google Now-style card with current weather info)
    날씨 아이콘 이미지

  2. Earthquake
    지진 로고 이미지

  3. King of Masked Singer
    복면가왕 타이틀 이미지

  4. Fine dust (returns a Google Now-style air quality card when searched)

  5. Descendants of the Sun
    태양의 후예

  6. Love in the Moonlight
    구르미 그린 달빛

  7. Song Joong-ki, main actor from "Descendants of the Sun"

  8. Moon Lovers. a drama that featured singer I.U.
    달의연인 보보경심 려

  9. Lee Sedol vs. AlphaGo
    이세돌 알파고

  10. Exchange rate (brings up a Google Now-style card with current exchange rates)

Naver Overall Most Popular Search Terms 2016
최다 검색어

Naver Top Overall Search Terms 2016. Image: Naver

Desktop searches - PC 검색

  1. Weather
    날씨 아이콘 이미지

  2. YouTube
    유튜브 로고 이미지

  3. Daum
    다음 로고 이미지

  4. Google

  5. League of Legends
    리그 오브 레전드

  6. Nonghyup Bank internet banking
    농협 인터넷뱅킹

  7. KB Kookmin Bank

  8. National Tax Service
    국세청 홈택스

  9. Exchange rate

  10. Facebook

Mobile searches - 모바일 검색

  1. Weather
    날씨 아이콘 이미지

  2. Lotto (brings up a Google Now-style card that displays recent winning lottery numbers)
    로또 로고 이미지

  3. Exchange rate
    환율 이미지

  4. Fine dust

  5. YouTube

  6. Google

  7. Web toons

  8. King of Masked Singer

  9. Horoscopes (brings up a Google Now-style card that reveals your daily horoscope)

  10. Earthquake

There you have it. What a wild year. For more, check out my other Year in Review posts for this year, including:

Happy 2017 folks.