In 1970s, China ushered in the grand renaissance of action films led by the legendary Bruce Lee.
Soon after, the Korean cinema joined the movement and the rising action films turned the spotlight on stunt actions.
Let us now introduce to you the daring actions stars behind the scenes-the stuntmen and women of Korea!
Here's a stunt action school located in Paju of Gyeonggi Province.
It's early in the morning, but the school's gym is already filled with energetic shouts!
It is time to do basic physical exercises to warm up.
[Interview : Kwon Kwi-deok, Stuntman Seoul Action School ] "I usually get here at 10 AM and start basic training around 10:30 AM".
But the basic exercise, which includes full speed, back-and-forth running drills, seems closer to an actual training session than a warm-up exercise!
[Interview : Kwon Kwi-deok, Stuntman Seoul Action School ] "Basic physical training comes first. Not only for self-improvement, but also for our own safety. Our bodies are our biggest assets, you know. If we hurt ourselves, that will end our careers".
From early in the morning till the evening, the stuntmen and trainees follow a strict time schedule. Beginning with the basic physical exercise in the morning, their days end with intensive action training and special education.
Their days involve constant training and exercises.
Meanwhile, one man is overseeing the training process!
He's director Lee Jong-yeon, a stuntman with 24 years of experience.
[Interview : Lee Jong-yeon, Director Seoul Action School ] "This stunt action school was founded by martial art director Jeong Du-hong in hopes to firmly systemize this field in Korea. So we've built the school together step by step. Last year, our 14th class graduated, and our prospective 15th class will be recruited soon. I'm sure there will be many more milestones to set down the road".
Founded in 1998, this action school has been the birthplace of Korea's best stuntmen and women. It offers a 6-month curriculum every year.
With a bachelor's degree in physical education, Hyeon Dae-sik first entered this school three years ago, with an undying fascination for stunt action.
[Interview : Hyeon Dae-sik, Stuntman Seoul Action School ] "I thought that I would regret for the rest of my life if I didn't become a stuntman. I love how I get to move a lot when I'm performing stunts, sweating as I constantly move my body. Stuntmen may be stunt doubles, but their roles could go far beyond that. I was fascinated by the fact that I get to show my body movements to many viewers. I would watch the television and say, 'Hey, that's me'. I think these are the reasons why I continue performing stunts".
Among some 40 men in the gym, one young-looking female trainee grabs our attention.
She's none other than Yoo Mi-jin, a talented stuntwoman in her first year!
Thanks to actress Ha Ji-won's charismatic role as a stuntwoman in this mega-hit drama, Korean viewers began to develop an interest in the world of stuntwomen.
[Interview : Kim Ji-min-II, Stuntwoman Seoul Action School ] "Thanks to the TV drama "Secret Garden", the public perception towards stuntmen and women has become more positive in some aspects. But many of the stereotypes still persist, such as that the only reason we perform such dangerous stunts is because we're incompetent and we have nothing better to do. So I guess we have to work harder to change those negative perceptions".
There are less than 10 stuntwomen currently active in Korea.
Among them, stuntwoman Kim Gyeong-ae has an impressive profile. She was a promising mixed-martial-art fighter who won the lightweight Korean martial art championship in 2005.
[Interview : Kim Gyeong-ae, Stuntwoman Seoul Action School ] "I wanted to work in a field that involves a lot of body movements and physical exercise. So I came here and to my surprise, the work is so much more interesting and fascinating than I've imagined. I think I found the right path".
It's now time for a spine-tingling wire action training!
[Interview : ] "Try jumping from there to here in your wires".
They are focusing on the action sequences to be used in a period piece.
[Interview : Lee Jong-yeon, Director Seoul Action School ] "Although we use wires and harnesses, our performances should not hint any use of wires. They have to look as natural as possible. So when the viewers watch them on screen, they will get truly impressed by the realistic scenes. That is what we are aiming and practicing for".
To ensure safety, every stunt has to be executed exactly as planned. So repeated practice is essential.
A beautifully choreographed sequence creates an amazing scene.
But Sim Cheo-min with a 4-year experience, doesn't seem so satisfied.
[Interview : Sim Cheol-min, Stuntman Seoul Action School ] "Our choreography and timing weren't synchronized this time. Since
I have bad postures, I had to make precise stunt movements, but I didn't".
[Interview : PD] "And why is that
[Interview : Cheol-min] "It was lack of training on my part".
Becoming a stuntman or woman is by no means easy. Only some 10 out of the 40 trainees get to finish the training and the dangerous work environment.
Enduring an excruciating physical pain for a beautiful scene on screen, these stuntmen and women are the strength that have sustained the Korean cinema all this time.
[Interview : Kwon Kwi-deok, Stuntman Seoul Action School ] "There are still some issues that must be addressed".
[Interview : Hyeon Dae-sik, Stuntman Seoul Action School ] "I hope that we can participate not only in Korean productions, but also in foreign dramas and movies".
[Interview : Lee Jong-yeon, Director Seoul Action School] "I believe that performing stunts is to constantly struggle with oneself".
Although faceless on the screen, these stuntmen and women reminded us once again, that they are indisputably the proud and splendid action stars of Korea!
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