Korea’s presence in global entertainment grows


While the latest achievements by BTS appear to be in headlines nearly every day, it is not just the K-pop boy band enjoying unprecedented success in the global entertainment industry. More Korean actors have come into the limelight, starring in major productions created for international audiences.

Before, it was not easy to see an Asian lead actor in Hollywood productions. Asian actors usually landed small, supporting roles. Typecasting was common, too, as many were hired to reflect stereotypes. Some Asian roles were “white-washed” — taken by white actors.

However, as calls for diversity in the entertainment industry have grown, more actors of Asian descent — including those of Korean ethnicity — are being featured in US productions, breaking stereotypes and taking lead roles.

Korean-American actors such as Steven Yeun and Lee Ki-hong have starred in major productions such as TV series “The Walking Dead” and film series “Maze Runner,” respectively.

Recently, the presence of Korea on the global entertainment scene has been increasing with a number of productions showing Korean culture and history in their storylines.

Tech giant Apple is to develop its own TV series with a largely Asian cast. The drama series is to be based on Korean-American writer Lee Min-jin’s best-selling “Pachinko.”

The novel, describing the lives of four generations of a Korean immigrant family, was one of the New York Times’ 10 best books of 2017 and a finalist for the National Book Award for fiction, chronicles. The story is to be told in three languages: Korean, Japanese and English.

“Kim’s Convenience,” a CBC sitcom produced in Canada and available via Netflix, features a Korean immigrant family running a convenience store. 

“Kim’s Convenience” (Netflix)

Originally a stage play that debuted at the Toronto Fringe Festival in 2011, “Kim’s Convenience” was inspired by how playwright Ins Choi’s uncle owned a convenience store named Kim’s Grocer in Toronto. Choi was born in Korea and moved to Canada with his family when he was 1 year old.

The sitcom, which Choi also wrote and co-produced, humorously yet realistically depicts intergenerational conflicts common among immigrant families. Launched in 2016, the third season is set to be produced next year.

Another example of a Korean-American story breaking into the mainstream is Netflix film “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before.” Released through the video-streaming service in August, the romantic-comedy also realistically shows the life of a Korean immigrant family. 

“To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” (Netflix)

An adaptation of Korean-American writer Jenny Han’s novel of the same name, the film grabbed attention as a Vietnamese-American actress took the lead role — not a common casting choice for a teen romance production.

Hollywood film “Searching” was an unexpected hit in cinemas this fall. Korean-American actor John Cho, who also plays Sulu in recent “Star Trek” films, played the lead role of a desperate father trying to find his missing daughter by tracing her digital footprints.

The story does not go into so much detail about the family’s background, rather the main family being ethnically Korean is treated naturally as a matter of course. It was lauded as the first time for an Asian-American actor to take the lead role in a mainstream contemporary Hollywood thriller.


“Searching” (Sony Pictures)

Director Aneesh Chaganty wrote the part specifically for Cho, wanting to put Cho in a scenario he had never been in before.

Cho, however, revealed in a recent interview that he was not so thrilled about being the first Asian actor to play the lead in a Hollywood thriller.

“I’m just looking forward to the day when none of this is news. That’s my take on it. It’s exciting to be the first but it’s a little sobering to learn that, too. I guess I no longer want to be the first Asian anything … because it means we haven’t done it yet!”

The unique storytelling structure, led by the now-27-year-old director who formerly worked at Google, has captivated global audiences and earned over $67 million worldwide so far.

By Im Eun-byel (silverstar@heraldcorp.com)

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