In Korea, singers don’t just sing to make a living any more. They try hard to map out a career cycle as entertainers, with the arch usually taking them into acting ventures of varying success. In soap operas particularly, some acquit themselves well. Others, however, provoke derision from Korea’s merciless Netizens for the way they flounce and pout around the sets.
In fact, the majority of soap leads are played by singers today. The Chosun Ilbo asked 14 writers and producers of hit dramas who the best and worst of the bunch are. We asked them to rank the top three in each category by giving three points to the best, two to the second best and one to the third.
From left to right: Bi, Kim Chang-wan, Kim Dong-wan, Lim Chang-jung, Mun Jeong-hyeok (Eric)
Among men, famously ambitious Rain came top with a score of 29 for appearances in Full House and A Love to Kill. Praise was fulsome. “He successfully appeals to the public with his ability to express feelings in a sympathetic way and by making the transition from singer to actor very naturally,” one panel member enthused. “He’s a jewel. It would have been such a loss if he hadn’t decided to act.” In second was Kim Chang-wan with 13 points, followed by Kim Dong-wan with 10 points and Lim Chang-jung with 9. Mun Jeong-hyeok or Eric, who landed in fifth with 8 points, got mixed reviews. Some said he was “taking full advantage of his pretty face and ability as an entertainer.” Others were less kind.
From left to right: Jung Ryoe-won, Uhm Jung-hwa, Eugene, Seong Yu-ri, Lee Hyo-lee
Among women, Jung Ryoe-won came top thanks to her part in My Name is Kim Sam-soon. Jung “is able to reflect her own natural image into the role she plays in the drama,” one panelist said. “She works hard at learning her craft. If you look closely at her eye movement, tempo, breathing and reactions to her partners, you can see that she studies the script really hard.” Uhm Jung-hwa came second with 17 points and Eugene in third with 12. Uhm is said to be able to play a wide range of parts, have a lively spirit as an actress and act very naturally. Eugene drew favorable responses thanks to her fluent dialect in the drama I Really Really Like You broadcast this year. She was praised for speaking dialect very well, which is not easy at all.
Overall, Rain came top with 27 points, followed by Uhm Jung-hwa with 14, Jung Ryeo-won with 12, and Lim Chang-jung with 11.
Who, then, is the worst singer-turned-actor? Seong Yu-ri held the sorry title with 21 points, followed by Lee Hyo-lee with 14, Park Jung-ah with 13, Kangta with 8, and Eric again with 5. Seong, our panelists said delicately, “has starred in several dramas but still has a long way to go.” Lee Hyo-lee, who was featured in the drama Three-Leaf Clover, was denounced as woefully miscast. The glamour girl “did not suit the character of a factory worker,” they said. In Park’s case, the difference between the singer’s image and her soap character was also judged too glaring.
doozy: For the most part, I agree with the panelists’ critiques, especially the comments regarding Bi. It would definitely be a loss if Bi didn’t venture into acting. He totally impressed me with his debut performance in Let’s Go To School, Sang Doo.
Regarding Eric, he has really good comedic timing so comedy is his forte. However, his dramatic scenes, erm.. need more work.
I haven’t seen any work from the three singers/actors in the middle, so no comment there. But, was Lim Chang-jung in the movie All About Love? If yes, then he’s good too.
On the female side, Jung Ryoe-won was good in My Name is Kim Sam Soon. However, my view of her performance in Which Stare Are You From? might be biased since, to put it mildly, I did not like that drama.
I watched Uhm Jung-hwa in All About Love and she delivered a good performance, if I remember correctly. It’s been awhile since I saw that movie.
Eugene, I like.
Although harsh, I agree with them about the part on Seong Yu-ri. I have yet to watch Snow Queen so let’s see how she does in there.
I did not see Three-Leaf Clover, so can’t comment on Lee Hyo-lee’s skills (or lack thereof).