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Can the Korean Wave Crash Hollywood?

2007/01/04 Source

The Korean pop-culture wave has swept Asia. Now what? The challenges to Korean stars continue, and their next target is the heart of the international movie market, Hollywood. Park Joong-hoon, Lee Byung-hun and Jung Joon-ho already have their engines revving. With their dreams seeming to come into focus, the group of top stars may even be seen in Hollywood this year.

Park Joong-hoon, the first to break into Hollywood with the film "The Truth About Charlie" (2002), is now involved in his second project, working title "Bibimbap". "Bibimbap" is a romantic comedy that tells the story of a Caucasian restaurant critic who falls in love with an Asian chef. If everything works out, it will be the actor's first starring role in a Hollywood film.

The U.S. magazine Variety recently said of the actor, "Of all Korea's top-ranked male stars, Lee Byung-hun may be best placed to break through internationally". As a K-Wave star with a huge following in Japan, Lee is also already linguistically prepared for the task. In TV dramas and films he has already shown off his near-perfect command of English on various occasions.

Jung Joon-ho has already finished shooting "West 32nd" in Hollywood. Also participating in the project are director Michael Kang and actor John Cho, who both have Korean backgrounds.

Jung Woo-sung is reported to be serious looking into the idea of appearing in a Hollywood film. He spent three months in San Francisco taking English classes and private lessons. Singer Rain, who has big global ambitions, has also brought his characteristic intensity to his English studies. He is getting help from his agency, JYP, which calls in English and Chinese tutors for him twice a week who also teach his trainers and other employees.

Among actresses, Kim Yunjin is already on the list of global stars. With her outstanding English skills, she lent her charm to the TV series "Lost" and continues to embellish the covers of international magazines. The hopeful predict that calls from Hollywood are just a matter of time.

Jun Ji-hyun's agency announced her advancement into Hollywood at last year's Pusan International Film Festival. Ha Ji-won and Jang Jin-yeong are also both immersed in English studies. Despite Ha's packed schedule, she is studying hard with a private teacher and showed her improved English skill proudly at the Hawaii International Film Festival in October. Since the release of "Between Love and Hate" ("The Unbearable Lightness of Dating"), Jang Jin-yeong has also been taking private classes three times a week for two hours each. BoA, who already speaks perfect Japanese, is working hard with a private English teacher too.

So who are the Korean-Americans currently in action in Hollywood? First, there are Rick and Karl Yune, brother actors who were for a spell the talk of the town. Rick Yune rose to the surface after the currents affairs magazine Newsweek selected him as a next generation star in "New Faces of '99", and he appeared in the James Bond movie "Die Another Day" in the role of Zhao, the North Korean commando who was the villain of the piece. Will Yun Lee, who played Colonel Moon in the same film, is another Korean-American star. He was even selected as one of the "50 Most Beautiful People" of 2002 by People Magazine. At the Pusan International Film Festival, he drew attention when he said the first Korean movie he ever saw was "My Wife Is a Gangster", and he has since discovered that highly original work is being created in Korea. He added he wants to work with a great director like that. Leonardo Nam and Sung Kang, who were present at the festival, are also well-known actors. Sung Kang is in the midst of shooting of "Live Free or Die Hard"

Besides those, there are Sandra Oh, considered the most successful actor with Korean heritage, and Alexandra Chun, who appeared in "Saw", and Daniel Dae Kim who appeared in "Spider-Man 2" and "Lost".

Most actors of Korean heritage are so-called 1.5 generation or second generation, so they speak perfect English. But they had their share of struggles, including a high cultural wall in Hollywood. But while the first generation had to be satisfied with extra or minor parts, recently actors of Korean heritage have appeared in starring roles, drawing up their own American dream.

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