The Grand Bell Awards (or Daejong Film Awards) just held its award ceremony on November 20. Unfortunately, most of the major award nominees did not attend. Lee Min Ho was the knight who saved the night by not only attending but also winning the Best New Actor award. What is the controversy that led to the absence of the nominated stars in major categories?

The controversy started in early October, when the award organizers announced a rule change. According to the new rule, awards will not be given to actors who did not attend the ceremony, and will be given to other nominated actors instead. This is a shocking rule change coming from a most prestigious award, as the Grand Bell Awards is considered the equivalent of Hollywood's Academy Awards.

Say what? The reaction was quick and loud. How can this rule be implemented while insuring fairness in the final judgement? The public also criticized this untenable rule change. 

The backlash was clear on award night as none of the best actor or actress nominees attended. Most of them cited scheduling conflict or overseas trips as the reasons. The Grand Bell Awards' head of operations, Jo Geun Woo, criticized the actors as losing their quality and respect for the audience once they became stars, and he stressed that the new rule was intended to encourage actors to attend. By this time, the award committee had already backtracked on its new rule and decided to allow awards for no-shows, but they could not avoid the tide from the apparent protest.

Among the no-shows were all nominees for Best ActorYoo Ah In (Veteran and The Throne), Hwang Jung Min (Ode to My Father), Son Hyun Joo (Chronicles of Evil), Ha Jung Woo (Assassination). Hwang Jung Min won, and Kang Ha Neul accepted the award for him. Ode to My Father also took 9 additional prizes, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor, and 6 technical awards.

Also absent were all nominees for Best Actress: Kim Yun Jin (Ode to My Father), Jeon Ji Hyun (Assassination), Kim Hye Soo (Coin Locker Girl)Uhm Jung Hhwa (Wonderful Nightmare), and Han Hyo-joo (Beauty Inside). Jeon Ji Hyun won but did not attend, citing her pregnancy.

Even Kim Soo Hyun and Gong Hyo Jin, who won Most Popular Actor and Actress by online voting, did not attend. The paid nature of online voting was another factor in the overall controversy.

The one shining light came from Lee Min Ho, who won Best New Actor for Gangnam Blues (aka Gangnam 1970). He lit up the red carpet that would have been dim without the other major stars.

In his acceptance speech, Lee Min Ho said, "Six years ago, I came up on this stage to receive the Rookie award for Boys Over Flowers. Today, I'm on this stage to receive the Best New Actor award for Gangnam 1970. Sincere thanks to director and all of the [cast and crew] of Gangnam 1970 who worked so hard on this film. I will put more hard work into my films. I hope to contribute more to Korean film in the future." 

Congratulations to Lee Min Ho and all the winners!

What do you think about the controversy? Do you also think Lee Min Ho saved the night?


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