A new trend is taking over TV land, with entertainers freely crossing over from singing to acting and vice versa. While versatile entertainers like Uhm Jung-hwa
, Im Chang-jung
and Kim Min-jong
took on both roles in the 1980s and 90s due to their talent in both areas, younger entertainers now choose to do both as a "survival strategy".
, Eugene ("Eugene
"), Jung Ryeo-won
and Eric Mun
are now regarded as competitive rising actors and actresses after their successful acting debuts this year. With a surging number of singers aiming for the same success, the current trend is expected to stay through the coming years.
Amid the ongoing slump in the music industry, it has become harder for singers to make a living with their singing careers only.
The situation is worse for members of dance groups which cannot maintain popularity in the entertainment world for more than three years. With the surge in online music, people are only willing to buy albums of singers with excelling musical talents and strong vocal power.
But although "pretty" pop singers only manage to please people through TV screens - not bringing much profit - becoming a singer and performing on stage is still the most efficient way for new faces to leave a strong impression on the public.
And thus, many young entertainers choose to take singing careers as a stepping stone to enter the entertainment world.
Music experts warn that the current "fusion entertainment" trend can end up ruining the quality of Korean pop music.
"It is understandable that young singers are broadening their career to acting to survive the slack music market, and it is encouraging to see that they are talented in other areas", said pop music critic Sung Woo-jin. "But unless these new singers strive to maintain and improve their musical talents, the Korean pop music industry will soon face an unrecoverable depression".
Regardless of such concerns, entertainment companies are faithfully keeping to the current trend, training their new singers not just in singing and dancing, but also acting. Because youngsters are in more favor of group singers than solos, they often bind these well-trained new singers into groups.
Pop groups Shinhwa and S.E.S. are the model cases.
After making a debut as a team in the late 90s, members of these two popular dance groups have currently taken separate roads to start acting careers.
Shinhwa's rapper Eric Mun
and S.E.S. member Eugene ("Eugene
") have been especially successful, receiving praise for their good acting in the MBC drama "Super Rookie
" and KBS drama "Loving You
, a former member of female pop group Chakra, also made 2005 an accomplished year through the SBS drama "My Lovely Sam-soon" - "My Name is Kim Sam-soon
" Following the drama's overwhelming success, Ryeo Won is expected to broaden her acting scope and form a solid foundation as an actress next year.
Following the success of these singer-turned-actors, Eun, also a member of Chakra, is to make a debut through MBC primetime drama "Wolf" which will be aired beginning January. Singer Yoon Eun-hye
of Baby Vox and Kim Jung-hoon of duet group UN also await their acting debuts playing the main characters of MBC new drama "Palace".
As directors of trendy TV series aim to grab attention of young viewers in their teens and early 20s, it is only natural that popular singers become tempting options.
But not all of these "multi-entertainers" saw success in broadening their careers to acting.
Fin.K.L members Lee Hyori
and Sung Yu-ri
, and Jewelry's lead singer Park Jung-ah
, ambitiously tested out acting, but failed to earn the same popularity they had received as singers.
Although many were anxious to see the debut of Lee, the nation's sexy icon, as an actress, her first drama "Three Leafed Clover
(SBS)" had ended with an embarrassing viewer rating that barely exceeded 10 percent.
After a moderate start through the SBS weekend drama "Love for a Thousand Years", Seong disappointed many people in her second drama "First Love of the Prince (MBC)", which had also ended without much viewer enthusiasm.
Park was strongly criticized by viewers of the SBS primetime drama "When a Man Loves", for her bad acting. TV critics view that Park's chance to firm up an acting career has become very slim due to her shaky debut.
"The current trend can also end up degrading the quality of TV dramas if directors continue to cast popular singers who have not yet polished up their acting skills", said TV critic Park Sang-in. "Viewers will not watch the drama just because their idol appears on it".
"As the situation is expected to continue for quite a while, it is a must for singers to take proper acting training and directors should check if these singers are capable of playing big roles by first trying them out with smaller roles", Park added.
By Shin Hae-in