Going Global

February 4, 2013

More Korean TV stars act abroad

By Shim Sun-ah YonhapNews

SEOUL, Feb. 4 (Yonhap) — Korean TV stars have become known internationally through hit Korean television series that have graced the small screen worldwide like “Winter Sonata” (2002), “Jewel in the Palace” (2003) and “Jumong” (2006). Now, with a larger audience, these Korean household names are boldly extending their reach by acting abroad — primarily in Hollywood and China.

Standing at the cusp of international stardom are Lee Byung-hun, Kim Yun-jin and Bae Doona.

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Lee entered the Western market with the multinational co-production “I Come with the Rain” in 2008 and the Hollywood blockbuster “G.I.Joe: The Rise of Cobra” in 2009. This year, he is scheduled to star in two Hollywood blockbuster films: “G. I. Joe 2: Retaliation” and “Red 2,” both starring Bruce Willis.

Korean-American actress Kim Yun-jin, who rose to stardom in the U.S. with her appearance in the U.S. television series “Lost” (2004), is set to star in the upcoming ABC drama series “Mistresses.” She will play the second lead in the series scheduled to air this spring.

“When I was in ‘Lost,’ it took two weeks before all the members of the drama team to know my name as they experienced difficulty in precisely pronouncing the name ‘Yun-jin,’ but in ‘Mistresses,’ every staff member knew it,” Kim said in a recent interview with Yonhap News Agency.

Actress Bae Doona is also expected to field many offers from the U.S. market. She captivated the eyes of major Hollywood film studios with her Hollywood debut in “Cloud Atlas” (2012), according to industry sources. Though the 130-billion-won budget film, directed by the Wachowskis, was a commercial failure, she won critical acclaim as a serious, young actress. 

In China, the popularity of Korean pop culture has undeniably gained strength year after year.

The “Korean Wave,” known as “Hallyu,” began there when the MBC TV soap opera “What is Love?” became a sensation in China after first being broadcast on the state-run CCTV channel in 1996.

The rise of Hallyu is no longer news and Korean stars are now landing lead roles in Chinese TV series. Helming this trend are actresses Jang Seo-hee, Jang Na-ra and actor Park Hae-jin.

After rising to stardom in China with the 2002 Korean TV series “Miss Mermaid,” Jang Seo-hee played one of the female leads in the Chinese hit TV series “Master Lin in Seoul” (2011). She is also the lead in a big-budget Chinese historical drama that began airing in December.

Park, who was first introduced to the Chinese market with his appearance in the Korean TV series “Famous Seven Princesses” (2006), is now as popular as Jang Seo-hee in China. His popularity has sky-rocketed in recent years with successes in two Chinese TV series, “Another Brilliant Life” and “Qian Duo Duo Jia Ren Ji” both shot last year. “He has recently received many job offers in China” and is the top-earning Korean actor there, the star’s management agency said.

Jang Na-ra, who has acted in several Chinese TV series, such as “My Bratty Princess” (2006), “Good Morning Shanghai” (2007) and “Unruly Qiao” (2011), is so well known in China that some local viewers often mistake her for being Chinese. Her agency says the young actress will continue to work and foster her popularity in the country.

In the Chinese film industry, Korean stars Song Hye-kyo, Kwone Sang-woo and Jang Dong-gun have also been active.

Song, who gained popularity in the Chinese-speaking world through the Korean dramas “Autumn in My Heart” (2000) and “Full House” (2004), has recently starred in two Chinese films. One of those films, Wong Kar Wai’s new masterpiece “The Grandmasters,” also features Tony Leung and Zhang Ziyi, and is set to open at the Berlin International Film Festival on Monday. Song was cast in renowned Chinese director John Woo’s next film “1949” starring Chen Chang. The film recently finished shooting.

Kwone knocked on the door of the Chinese market with the country’s romantic comedy “Shadow of Love” co-starring Hong Kong actress Cecelia Cheung last year. He later captivated Chinese movie goers with “CZ12,” also known as “Chinese Zodiac,” a 2012 Hong Kong-Chinese action film written, directed by, and starring world-renowned action star Jackie Chan. Released in December, the film to date has grossed over US$137 million at the Chinese box office.

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