Monday, June 09, 2008

Top ten South Korean Actors

Cinema started in South Korea in last decade of the 19th century. The first Korean movie theatre was opened in 1903. The 1930s was the Golden era of silent movie. The development of the South Korean film industry continued till the 1950’s and 60’s. It hit its low point in the 1970’s and the 80’s. Not too many good movies were made during this time. The 1980s was the period of the domination of Hollywood movies. Things started to change in the late 1990’s. Shiri, a 1999 film sold more than 2 million tickets alone in Seoul and took over the ticket sales of Titanic. The movie inspired other big budget movies. Today, South Korean film industry is a prosperous one. With the development of the movie and television industry, South Korea has produced many talented actors who are not only popular in South Korea but also in Japan, the Phillippines, Taiwan and many other Asian countries. Here is a list of top ten actors from South Korean television and cinema.

Jang Dong-gun:
Height: 181 cm (6'0)
Weight: 68 kg
Blood Type: O
Star sign: Pisces
Religion: Buddhist
Birthplace: Yongsan-gu,
Seoul, South Korea

Born on March 7, 1972, Jang Dong Gun made his debut as an actor in MBC drama Our Heaven. At that time, Jang was a student of famous Korean National University of Arts but he dropped out before obtaining a degree. He won the Blue Dragon Actor Award for his performance as the dedicated honest police officer in Nowhere to Hide. In 2000, Jang Dong Gun starred in Friend which was the highest grossing Korean movie of that year. In 2004, Jang Dong Gun starred in Taegukgi Hwinallimyo. Directed by Kang Je-gyu, who also directed famous Korean film Shiri in 1999, Taegukgi Hwinallimyo broke all previous box office records in South Korea. The movie showed the brutality of war between two Koreas. Jang Dong Gun played one of the two brothers in the movie and for his performance he won his third Blue Dragon Best Actor Award in 2004. Jang Dong Gun also worked as the brand ambassador of Nintendo DS Lite in South Korea in 2007. Recently, Korean movie entertainment weekly magazine “MovieWeek” ranked Jang Dong Gun second on its list of top ten beautiful Korean male actors.

Bae Yong-joon:
Birthplace: Mapo, Seoul, South Korea
Height: 181cm
Weight: 78kg
Star sign: Virgo
Blood type: RH+ O

Also known as BYJ among his fans, Bae Yong Joon was born on August 29, 1972. He is a television actor and immensely popular in several Asian countries including Japan. In Japan, he is known as Yon-sama. In 1994, Bae Yong Joon debuted as a film actor in PpilKu. He then appeared in two television dramas Salut D'Amour and Six Steps to Separation in 1994 and 1995. Till now, Bae Yong Joon appeared in only three movies. Bae Yong Joon first got critical acclaim for his role in the 1995 KBS television drama A Sunny Place of The Young. In this drama, Bae played the role of the son on a famous cosmetics company owner and friend of the leading character, which was played by Lee Jong Won. This role gave him a ‘regal’ image. Bae Yong Joon’s next major drama performance was First Love in 1997. In this drama series, Bae played the character of smart young man Chan-woo, who leaves law school to join a gang to avenge his family’s misfortunes. Bae Yong Joon went to Il-mun Preschool and Myung-il Elementary School. He then attended PaiChai Middle School and Hanyoung High Schoo. After a brief period of acting in dramas Bae Yong Joon returned to study at Sung Kyun Kwan University, where he obtained degree in film studies.

Ahn Sung-ki:
Born on January 1, 1952, Ahn Sung-ki is a veteran film actor. A Roman Catholic, Ahn Sung-ki is known as the “National Best Actor of Korea.” He started his career as a child artist and at that young age he was very fortunate to work with one of top Korean film directors; Kim Ki-young. Ahn Sung-ki’s first movie, The Twilight Train was released in 1957. It was directed by Kim Ki-young. In 1960, Ahn Sung-ki’s appeared in two major movies both of which were directed by Kim Ki-young: The Housemaid and Teenager’s Rebellion. For his performance in Teenager’s Rebellion, Ahn Sung-ki received The San Francisco International Film Festival award in the best child actor category. As an adult actor, Ahn Sung-ki received critical acclaim for his performance in Fine Windy Day and Mandala, the later was directed by famous director Im Kwon-taek. Since 1980s, Ahn Sung-ki appeared in nearly 100 movies, some of which are considered master pieces of Korean cinema. One interesting thing about Ahn Sung-ki is that in his long film career he acted twice as the President of Korea: Romantic President (2002), The Korean Peninsula (2006). A graduate of Hankuk University in Vietnam, Ahn Sung-ki majored in Foreign Studies. He is multi-lingual and for this reason, he was appointed as UNICEF representative.

Han Suk-kyu:
Height: 5’ 10”
Weight: 64 kg
Blood type: AB
Marital status: Married

Han Suk-kyu started as a voice actor in KBS television. At that time he was a student at the Film and Theatre department of Dongguk University. In 1990, he debuted as an actor in MBC’s campus drama Our Paradise. Four years later, he played the character of a slum dwelling gigolo in another MBC television drama, The Moon of Soul. The drama is known as one of best dramas of the golden era of Korean television and Han Suk-kyu became a star. He then appeared in some of the successful movies such as Green Fish, No. 3, The Contact, Christmas in August, Shiri. All these movies were commercially successful. Christmas in August and Shiri were also very successful in Japan. During this time, Han Suk-kyu started Makdong Script Festival; an annual script competition event. The winners receive cash prizes funded by Han. From 1999 to 2003, Han Suk-kyu took a long break from the cinema and worked in television commercials. During this time, he turned down many lucrative offers. By the time, Han returned to acting, the scenario changed a lot. As a result, his comeback movie Double Agent did not do well at the box office. Other movies such as The Scarlet Letter and The President’s Last Bang were not received very well. Because of its political content, The President’s Last Bang created controversy in South Korea.

Song Kang-ho:
Some are born actors and some are trained actors. Song Kang-ho falls in the first category. This talented actor did not receive any training in acting. After graduating from Kimhae High School, Song Kang-ho joined Kee Kuk-seo’s theatre company which mainly focused on instinctive acting and improvisation. It was a major training in acting for Song Kang-ho. While working in the theatre, Song often received offers to work in movies but he turned them down. In 1996, Song Kang-ho debuted as a movie actor in The Day a Pig Fell into the Well. Directed by Hong Sang-soo, Song Kang-ho worked as an extra in this movie. In 1997, Song Kang-ho played the character of a homeless guy in a documentary style movie. Titled Bad Movie, it was directed by Sun-woo. Success came with his talented performance in No.3. It was the first movie of writer-director Song Nung-han. Song Kang-ho played the character of Jo-pil, a gangster who trains a group of young recruits. For his performance in No.3, he won his first best actor award. Till 1999, Song Kang-ho appeared in several supporting roles. In 1999, he worked in the first big budget Korean action movie Shiri, along with Han Suk-kyu. The movie was not only successful in South Korea but also in other Asian countries as well.

Kwon Sang-woo:
Till now, I did not know that this guy was the good looking teacher, Song Hak-rim, in Volcano High, one of my favorite martial art movies. Kwon Sang-woo can be referred as the “Salman Khan” of Korean cinema. In Hindi cinema, Salman Khan first started the trend of good physique. In the same way, Kwon Sang-woo started the trend of good physique or "mom-zzang" in South Korean cinema. Born on August 5, 1976, Kwon Sang-woo started as a model in 1990s. He debuted as an actor in television drama, Delicious Proposal. For the next few years, he worked in minor roles in television. In 2001, Kwon worked in Volcano High. In 2002, he appeared in his first lead role in the comedy movie, Make It Big together. Finally, Kwon Sang-woo got his first test of success in the comedy movie My Tutor Friend. Released in 2003, the movie is the sequel of My Sassy Girl. Kwon Sang-woo, played the character, Kim Ji-hoon, a 21 year old rich boy who falls in love with a lower class girl. Directed by Kim Kyeong-hyeong, My Tutor Friend is based on a short story. The movie was also Kim’s first movie as a director. Kwon Sang-woo also acted in the world’s first movie made for mobile phones, My Good Partner.

Baek Yoon-shik:
Born on March 16, 1947, Baek Yoon-shik studied at the film and theatre department at Chung-Ang University. He started his acting in 1970 on KBS TV. In 1974, Baek Yoon-shik played the lead role in his debut movie, Excellent Guys. In 1976, he co-starred with Seo Mi-kyung in a romantic comedy Only With You. Baek Yoon-shik then turned to television. From the late 1990s to the early 2000s, he appeared in several television dramas. One of his major television dramas was Moon Over Seoul. Baek Yoon-shik’s film career revived again as he starred in a comedy movie Save the Green Planet. Directed by Jang Joon-hwan, in the movie Baek Yoon-shik played the character of an arrogant company executive whom the hero of the movie thinks is an alien from Andromeda. For his outstanding performance, he received numerous nominations including Best Actor Award in the 2003 Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival. In 2004, Baek gave another outstanding performance in The Big Swindle; a high-profile caper movie directed by Choi Dong-hoon. The next year, Baek Yoon-shik gave another brilliant performance in one of Han Suk-kyu’s come back film The President's Last Bang. In the movie, Baek Yoon-shik played the character of intelligence Chief Kim Jae-gyu.

Cha Seung Won:
Height: 188cm
Weight: 80kg
Star sign: Gemini

Like Kang Dong-won, Cha Seung Won is also an engineering degree holder from Mokwon University and started his career as a model. Born in June 7, 1971 Cha Seung Won started his modeling career in 1988. His success as a model landed him in a role in the SBS situational comedy, New York Story. In 1997, Cha Seung Won appeared in his first movie Holiday in Seoul, which did poorly in the box office. For the next few years, he struggled to establish himself as a film actor. His big break came in 2000. Cha played villain in Yang Yun-ho’s action movie, Libera Me. The movie was successful and Cha Seung Won’s performance was appreciated. This was followed by Kim Sang-jin’s successful comedy Kick the Moon. In South Korea alone, the movie sold over 4.3 million tickets. The movie established Cha Seung Won as an actor. In 2003, Cha Seung Won gave another brilliant performance in My Teacher, Mr. Kim. In the movie, Cha Seung Won played the character of a corrupt school teacher, Kim Bong-du. My Teacher, Mr. Kim grossed over 2.4 million admissions. Cha Seung Won’s next big movie Ghost House was a comedy film. The movie tells the story of Pil-gi, a man who buys a dream house and then discovers that it is haunted by a female ghost.

Choi Min-shik:
Before coming to movies, Choi Min-shik earned name and fame as a theatre actor. He debuted as a film actor in Park Chong-won’s early movies: Kuro Arirang in 1989 and Our Twisted Hero in 1992. The later received critical acclaim. Till 1997, Choi Min-shik remained busy with theatrical productions and television dramas such as Moon Over Soul.Choi Min-shik made his come back in 1997 with the famous gangster comedy No.3. It was one of the most successful movies of that year. Directed by Song Neung-han, Choi Min-shik played the character Dong-pal, a tough police investigator. In 1998, Choi Min-shik appeared in The Quiet Family. It was the debut movie of director Kim Jee-woon. In 1999, Choi Min-shik appeared in Shiri. In the movie his performance as a North Korean agent was appraised by the critics. For his performance in Shiri, he also received Grand Bell Best Actor Awards. In 1999, Choi Min-shik worked in a theatre production of Hamlet. This was followed by another movie Happy End. In the movie, Choi Min-shik played the lead role of Min-ki, a former banker who finds out about his wife’s extra-marital affair.

Kang Dong-won:
Height: 186cm
Weight: 68kg
Star sign: Capricorn
Blood type: B

Born on January 18, 1981, at Pusan South Korea, television and film actor Kang Dong Won moved to Chang Won at the age of 7. In 2000, he was approached by a modeling agent. Hence started Kang Dong Won’s career in the showbiz. At that time, he was a student of Mechanical Engineering at Hanyang University. Kang Dong-won started his career as an actor working in two television dramas followed by his debut movie, Too Beautiful to Lie. His first big break came in 2004 with Romance of Their Own. Directed by Kim Tae-gyun, the movie is based on a novel written by an Internet author Guiyeoni. Romance of Their Own tells the story of a simple country side girl, Jung Han-kyeong (Lee Cheong-ah), who comes to Seoul to live with her mother after her father’s death. In the movie, Kang Dong-won played the character of Jung Tae-sung, a tough guy who is skilled in fighting. The movie turned Kang into one of the top actors in South Korea. For his good looks, Kang Dong-won is also very popular in Japan. Currently, Kang Dong-won is studying film at Sangmyung University. Recently, Korean movie entertainment weekly magazine “MovieWeek” ranked Kang Dong Won seventh on its list of top ten beautiful Korean male actors.