The story of how Ryohei Otani landed a coveted role on Korean national TV could make every model in Japan want to move to Korea. Three years ago, Otani, then 23, came to Seoul for two days to do a doughnut commercial. The first-time model, who managed to smirk somewhat awkwardly while holding a doughnut in front of the camera, caught the eyes ― and hearts ― of even those who didn't like doughnuts. Over the following months, Otani was brought back to Korea for more endorsements. By the time he moved his base to Seoul in 2004, he was already a star in Korea's lucrative advertising industry. Earlier this year, female writers at the MBC TV station also fell for the strikingly handsome model and created a role in a new drama just for him, a "hot guy" for the leading lady.
Choi Sung-eun, director of the Spring agency, which represents the Japanese model-turned-actor, thinks he is every talent agent's dream-come-true. "We didn't have to do anything actually [to promote our actor]", she said raising both arms in the air. "For a Korean actor to get a spot like that, managers have to 'work it' big time ― to entertain directors, production people and the like. He became naturally popular here, and the money keeps rolling in. We feel incredibly lucky to have merchandise that can sell so well, especially when there is a huge hurdle that divides the fashion and entertainment industries".
Less than a decade ago, it might have been unthinkable for foreigners, especially Japanese, to high-jump from the modeling industry and snatch a prime-time segment in mainstream Korean entertainment, but thanks to local fans, Otani was able to join a scarce new breed of young Japanese actors, which includes Sadaharu Shiota, Yukei Mori and Yuko Fueki. They have made names as "Japanese actors based in Korea", in contrast to Japanese actors who are merely cast in Korean films, such as Toru Nakamura, who appeared in two Korean films, "2009 Lost Memories
" (2002) and "Blue Swallow
For the general public nowadays, especially the young generation that has grown amicable toward Japan and its culture, discovering that their favorite celebrities are in fact Japanese is increasingly less shocking.
Already, Korean brands and advertising companies specializing in trendy commercials have become familiar with using international models and, in search of qualified "Korean-looking" faces, local industry professionals have turned to Japan. Kim Kyu-hwan, a leading commercial film director who shot Otani three years ago, has employed a few other Japanese mo...More