When 17-year-old Moon Geun-yeong
starred in "My Little Bride
", a romantic comedy, released in April, few expected she would steal the show. Her counterpart Kim Rae-won
was a sure to hog the spotlight as a proven heartthrob. But it turned out that young Moon out-charmed her co-star.
Moon is now a part of something much bigger: a wave of young-teen female stars featured on the silver screen. The concept usually refers to those in the 13 to 15 age group.
Although Moon does not strictly fit the definition, her image as an irresistible kid is inspiring other producers and directors to recruit young actresses.
For instance, "Lovely Rivals
" ("Yeoseonsang vs. Yeojeja") which will be released tomorrow nationwide, features Lee Se-yeong
as an elementary school student who confronts her teacher played by Yeom Jeong-a. Lee is not a mere supporting character; her role is on equal footing with veteran actress Yeom.
Lee already showcased her talent in "When I was Nine" and "Sweet Sixties". In a recent premier for the press, her acting drew positive reviews. Even though Yeom's resume is much more colorful, Lee is getting more coverage in the domestic media.
In "Wet Dreams 2
" ("Mongjeonggi 2"), the sequel focuses on three curious girls, instead of the original story which revolved around three boys.
, one of the lead actresses, debuts after winning an online beauty contest. Kang and co-stars Park Seul-gi
and Jeon Hye-bin
are expected to heat up the demand for young-teen movies where girls with innocent looks and charm take a center stage while other factors including boys are pushed to the sidelines. Filming for "Wet Dreams 2
" started at the beginning of September.
" is also making headlines. Produced by the company which filmed "My Little Bride
", the film is about young students who somehow have to handle a pregnancy. For this shocking plot, 15-year-old Park Min-ji
teams up with Kim Hye-seong
, a high school aged actor.
Cine2000, a production house known for discovering young talent, is also looking for aspiring teenage actresses for its next projects.
The sudden boom is largely attributed to the popularity of Moon and the commercial success of "My Little Bride
". Now that Moon's image as a young pretty girl has proved its box-office potential, a horde of filmmakers are eager to exploit the newly-discovered formula.
Moon, who is now in her second year at Gwangju International High School, demonstrated her talent in 2000 for a TV drama. Viewers loved her innocent, yet mature acting skills. Notably, her purity won over audiences who seem tired of seeing the same old veteran actresses.
Kim Jong-do, president of Namu Actors who first discovered Moon, said she is raising the bar for teenage actresses in general. "Young-teen actresses are now solidifying their positions, using their innocent looks to compete with seasoned actors", Kim said.
Moon is also appealing to those in their early teens, an overlooked target audience.
Unlike other age groups, young-teen moviegoers rely on their parents for leisure expenses, suggesting that they are relatively shielded from the protracted economic downturn that is dampening consumer spending. In other words, it has rich box-office potential.
By Yang Sung-jin