From Idol Stars to Serious Acting Talents
May 28, 2018
- Writerby SONG Soon-jin
Idol Stars, the New Power House of Korean Cinema
Twenty years have passed since the first generation of idol star groups such as H.O.T., Fin.K.L and S.E.S have entered the public scene. And it’s now fair to claim that idol stars have become key players in Korea’s entertainment industry, their presence growing even stronger by the day. If it is true that it used to be a big deal for idol stars to challenge the silver screen, it has now become a cliché. Some are recognized for their potential as Korean cinema’s rising stars, and thanks to their ticket power-guaranteed fandoms, they are often being ranked at the top of the casting list. We have covered in this article a few names that might well be the fuel of Korean cinema's engine.
DOH Kyung-soo, Building a Profile of His Own
DOH Kyung-soo shows the most notable track record in Korean cinema lately. Better known for his K-pop boy band EXO persona, ‘D.O’ grabbed his first role as an actor in TV drama It’s Okay, That’s Love, impressing the public with his delicately detailed delivery of a broken teenager. Expanding his fan base even more, when the drama became a hit, he headed straight for film, making his big screen debut with the Myung Films-produced Cart (2014). In this socio-politically charged film directed by BOO Ji-young and based on a true story, DOH excellently performed as the son of Sun-hee (played by YUM Jung-ah), a temporary worker at a large retail store who organizes a labor union and strike against the company with her colleagues. Fresh face tinted with rebellious puberty, DOH made his mark as a character who triggers Sun-hee to break out of her shell, as well as proving himself as an acting talent with the potential to lead the future of Korean cinema. He won Best New Actor at the Blue Dragon Awards and Most Popular Actor at the Paeksang Arts Awards for comedy film MY ANNOYING BROTHER (2016) he co-starred with JO Jung-suk. Praised as “an actor with a promising future”, he was then cast in black comedy Room No.7 (2017) last year.
This year, DOH will be performing in two films distributed by film investment/distribution company NEW: feature animation The Underdog presented by the producers of Leafie, a Hen Into the Wild (2011) and Swing Kids, the latest feature from KANG Hyoung-chul, director of Scandal Makers (2008) and Sunny (2011). In The Underdog, DOH will be the voice of street dog Moongchi who embarks on a journey for an independent life after he is abandoned by his master. And in Swing Kids, one of the most awaited Korean films of this year, DOH plays a young North Korean soldier ‘ROH Ki-soo’ who dreams of tap dancing amidst the Korean War. DOH shaved his head to play this role alongside the likes of one of Broadway’s most accomplished tap dancers and Hollywood actor Jared Grimes. Both films are scheduled for theatrical release in the second half of this year.
Suzy, Actress of Korean Film Industry's Next Generation
Like DOH Kyung-soo, K-pop girl group ‘miss A’ member, BAE Suzy who goes by the stage name Suzy, is another acting talent Korean Cinema definitely acknowledges. Soon after making an impressive debut through high-teen TV drama Dream High, she was cast in the teenage role of Seo-yeon (whose adult role was performed by actress HAN Ga-in) in the Myung Films-produced Architecture 101 (2012). Her fresh-faced feistiness immediately captured the Korean film industry’s attention. In a market where melodramas continued to remain at a low, Architecture 101 owes much if its success of 4.11 million box office entries to Suzy. She won the Best New Actress award at the Paeksang Arts Awards and moved on to co-star with RYU Seung-ryong in costume drama THE SOUND OF A FLOWER (2015). After a year-long ‘Pansori (Korean traditional opera)’ training, Suzy was transformed into Pansori singer Chae-sun, making the most of her idol star background. Meanwhile, she has continued to build a lengthy track record in TV dramas including Gu Family Book, Uncontrollably Fond and While You Were Sleeping.
From YOON Kye-sang to AN So-hui, Idol Stars who are Now Full-fledged Acting Talents
Film production company Myung Films’s discovery of DOH Kyung-soo and BAE Suzy motivated a new trend in the Korean film industry to cast talented idol stars. Girl group f(x) member Sulli has starred under her real name CHOI Jin-ri in The Pirates (2014), Fashion King (2014) and REAL (2017), while Yoon-a (IM Yoon-ah) of girl group Girls’ Generation, who performed in a number of TV dramas, was cast in 2017 hit Confidential Assignment and is now starring in the new-style disaster film EXIT directed by LEE Sang-geun. Acting talents who debuted as idol stars but came to chose acting early in their career are quite a few. Wonder Girls’ AN So-hui of TRAIN TO BUSAN (2016) and A Single Rider (2017), as well as first generation idol star boy group G.O.D member YOON Kye-sang who began his film career in 2004 with Flying Boys and is now recognized more for his screen presence are good examples. YOON’s filmography displays a wide spectrum ranging from romantic comedy with Lovers of 6 Years (2008) and LOVE GUIDE FOR DUMPEES (2015) to indie film such as The Executioner (2009) and YOON Jong-bin’s Beastie Boys (2008) as well as the latest box office hit THE OUTLAWS (2017) co-starring Don LEE which attracted more than 6.8 million in theater attendance. Big Bang’s T.O.P (CHOI Seung-hyun) whose works include hits such as 71-Into The Fire (2010), Commitment (2013) and Tazza-The Hidden Card (2014), MBLAQ’s LEE Joon who started with Ninja Assassin (2009) to then play in Rough Play (2013) and LUCK-KEY (2016), and IM Si-wan who gave a striking performance in 10 million ticket sales hit The Attorney (2013) and co-starred with SUL Kyung-gu in The Merciless (2017) last year are also the few who deserve to be recognized as full-fledged acting talents.
Idol Stars in Web Dramas
The online contents industry has also been moving fast recently to cast idol stars. Chinese online platform Tencent-produced web drama Black Cat directed by PARK Hyun-jin of Like for Likes (2016), has raised much expectations for Korean and international fans by casting IM Si-wan. B1A4’s Baro-starring Close Eye (2017), AOA’s Yu Na starring My Old Friend (2016) are also web dramas with idol stars attached. Yuri (GWON Yu-ri), another member of Girls Generation, considered one of the leaders of the Korean Wave ‘Hallyu’ is following the footsteps of Yoon-a with a new web drama waiting to be screened for worldwide viewers. Kross pictures produced web drama the Sound of Heart, based on the popular Korean webtoon of the same title, has cast Yuri alongside Sung Hoon as their new female and male leads for Season 2 and 3, now in production. Season 2 is scheduled to be serviced globally in the second half of this year.