Won Bin and Ha Ji-won were voted the most popular actor and actress in Korea in an email poll by the Chosun Ilbo and Korea's largest film ticketing site MaxMovie. Some 22,362 people voted from March 30 to April 5.
The two drew 16.2 and 10.9 percent of the votes, respectively. But Song Kang-ho and Jeon Do-yeon were chosen as the best as opposed to most popular actor and actress, with 17.7 and 21.8 percent of the votes.
Since the poll targeted online users of MaxMovie who had been to the cinema at least once last year, it probably reflects moviegoers' preferences more accurately than other surveys.
◆ Popularity Vs. Acting Skills
A star's image seems to play a bigger role than the films in which they appear when people choose their favorite actors. The most popular stars were those who became famous in TV series or commercials, despite a lack of box office hits or critically acclaimed films to their credit. A good example is Hyun Bin, the ninth most popular actor with 3.5 percent of the votes, who became hugely popular with the TV soap "Secret Garden" but whose recent film "Late Autumn - 2010" released on Feb. 17 only managed to attract 850,000 spectators.
Shin Min-a, the fifth most popular actress, is a much sought-after face for commercials but has not appeared on screen since "A Million" in 2009.
Kim Myung-min, Sol Kyung-gu, Son Ye-jin, Song Kang-ho, Su-ae, Ahn Sung-ki, Won Bin, Jeon Do-yeon, Ha Jung-woo and Ha Ji-won were on both the popular and best actors lists. They all have at least two box office hits or highly rated films in their portfolio. Veteran actress Kim Hye-ja, who starred in "Mother" in 2009 after a 10-year absence since 1999's "Mayonnaise", ranked third on the best list with 7.1 percent.
Among directors, Im Kwon-taek was picked as the best with 17.4 percent. With the exception of Lee Jeong-beom, who directed last year's box office hit "The Man From Nowhere", the top 10 were mainstream directors like Bong Joon-ho, Kang Je-gyu, Kang Woo-seok and Lee Chang-dong.
Although respondents said going to the cinema is their preferred way of watching films, the poll shows that illegal downloading is spreading like wildfire. Downloading was voted the second favorite with 27.7 percent of the votes after the cinema (66.1 percent), showing a slight increase of 14.6 percent from 2007. Since nearly all websites where people can pay to download films legally have disappeared and transactions on the remainder are miniscule, illegal downloading must be endemic.
Preference for older media such as video tapes and DVD, or cable channels which broadcast older films, is dwindling. Kim Hyung-ho at MaxMovie said, "We believe improvement of theaters such as digital screens and 3D films contributed to a slight increase in the preference for cinema from four years ago, when it garnered 61 percent".
The biggest problem with Korean cinema, chosen by 51.8 percent of the respondents, is the quality of the scripts. Other drawbacks were lack of investment (28.5 percent), cinematography (8.6 percent), quality of direction (6 percent) and acting skill (5.1 percent).
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