Korea film industry has come down with 1970 fever

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Korea film industry has come down with 1970 fever


From left, Lee Byung-hun, Ryu Seung-ryong, Jung Jae-young, Hwang Jung-min and Park Hee-soon. Each actor has become a well-known figure in the Korean film industry, and each was born in 1970.

Do these names ring any bells? Lee Byung-hun, Ryu Seung-ryong, Kim Soo-ro and Hwang Jung-min.

If they don’t yet, they will soon. These booming actors have all starred in lead roles in 2012 films or soon-to-be-released flicks. And apart from their exceptional acting talents and sharp looks, they share one other commonality: They were all born in 1970.

During the last few years, these men have contributed so much to the Korean film industry that nowadays, many say that without them, movies are bound to struggle at the box office.

“For the few actors who become successful, their heydays come during their mid-30s to mid-40s. There are so many actors born in 1970 who are doing very well,” movie critic Kim Hyun-seok says.

Starting out on stage

Except for Lee Byun-hun, who rose to stardom in his late teens, and Cha Seung-won, who started off his career as a model, the rest of these actors made their debuts on stage, performing in plays for seven to 10 years before moving on to films. Most started out in Daehangno, the artsy theater district in central Seoul.

Go Chang-suk, who acquired fame through his portrayal of the head of a Vietnamese gang in the movie “Secret Reunion” (2010), once earned his living by working on farms and in iron foundries.

After accepting the Best Actor award at the 2005 Blue Dragon Film Awards for his role in the movie “You Are My Sunshine,” actor Hwang Jung-min revealed the hardships he went through during his youth in his now famous speech: “All I did was add a spoon to a dinner table that had already been prepared by others.”

The speech described how sorry Hwang felt for being the only one to receive the spotlight while the rest of the staff was working hard as well.

Viewers born in the ’70s are increasingly becoming the major target audience in the film industry.

“Since last year, there are many middle-aged people who come to watch movies not for the good-looking actors but for those who are of their same age because they feel a connection,” said Kim Taek-gyoon, the department head of film distributor Showbox.

Actors Ryu Seung-ryong and Hwang Jung-min captivated middle-aged audiences through their talented roles in “All About My Wife” and “Dancing Queen,” respectively.

Jung Joon-ho’s fifth sequel in “Marrying the Mafia 5 - Return of the Family” will provide some comedic relief, while Jung Jae-young plays an unstoppable detective determined to catch his killer in the movie “Confession of Murder” that is set to be released next month.

Won Dong-yeon, the vice president of the Korean Film Production Association, said, “Actors born in 1970 are the power of the Chungmuro cinema district. They have the ability to attract both the younger and older generations.”

In their eyes

Those who were born in 1970 lived through the liberalization of Korean society after the Park Chung Hee era.

They were allowed to wear anything to school for several years, listened to the music of Seo Tae-ji, one of the most influential Korean pop icons in the ’90s, and were introduced to foreign pop that later had a powerful influence on Korean culture.

These aspects of popular culture and openness appealed to many people, and it was to the extent where the competition rate in the Department of Theater and Film at Chung-Ang University and Dankook University was 40 to 1.

Actors Jung Jae-young, Hwang Jung-min, Park Hee-son, Yoo Hae-jin and Ryu Seung-ryong all graduated from the Seoul Institute of the Arts at similar times.

Board member of Lotte Entertainment Lee Sang-moo says, “Those born during the second baby-boom generation from 1968 to 1974 are conscious of both the analog era of the ’70s and ’80s, and of the digital era of the ’90s.”

By Jung Hyun-mok [estyle@joongang.co.kr]
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