K-pop stars find success on screen
The phrase “Sprinkling SM on top of fully cooked rice,” which derives from an old Korean saying that means adding one element can ruin a perfectly fine situation, is often used to criticize boy and girl group members who try their hand at acting without being fully prepared.
SM refers to SM Entertainment, one of the largest music agencies in Korea.
Similarly, the newly created term bal-yeon-gi is also used to mock idol singers who act.
It literally means acting by foot and is used in reference to a person with terrible dramatic skills.
Despite a lack of experience, famous singers are cast as actors because they bring star power that compels younger audiences to see musicals, plays and films and watch drama series.
The two most notable idol singers who have carved out a name for themselves in the acting scene are ZE:A’s Yim Si-wan and Exo’s Do Kyung-soo, who is also known as D.O.
Yim is currently starring in the popular drama series “Misaeng,” an adaptation of a web cartoon of the same name.
Although Yim has been building his acting career since his debut, when he bagged the lead role of Jang Geu-rae in “Misaeng,” industry insiders were critical of the choice.
They said that the 26-year-old idol singer was too inexperienced to act as a timid high school graduate who lands a job as an intern at a trading company - a jungle-like society.
Yim started his career as a singer but now it seems like he’s on the right track to keep acting.
Exo’s Do has also earned rave reviews for his acting skills in the recently aired drama series “It’s Okay, That’s Love.”
In the show, the 21-year-old plays the role of a high school student, the alter ego of the lead male character who suffers from schizophrenia.
His role was multidimensional. The character is a traumatized teenager who is beaten by his father almost every day and later realizes that he is an illusion that was created by his alter ego.
Do performed his part excellently, however.
Film critic and TV celebrity Heo Ji-woong, a regular guest of the TV talk show “Sseol Jjeon,” said during one episode of the talk show that he didn’t realize Do was an idol singer until recently.
“I thought he was just a new actor because he’s doing a great job,” said Heo. “I think SM [Do’s agency] has changed its acting instructor.”
Based on the positive reviews Do earned with his first drama series, the singer also earned a part in the recently released film “Cart,” which he has also been praised for.
In the movie about temporary workers and their labor rights, Do once again plays the role of a high school student.
When the news came out that Sooyoung will pair up with veteran actor Kam Woo-sung, who is 20 years older than the girl group member in real life, many people were concerned that the singer would spoil the drama series.
Sooyoung’s role was not easy. She had to play a woman who receives heart transplant surgery.
But Sooyoung made viewers relate to the fairy tale love story of a woman in her early 20s who receives the heart of a middle-aged man’s dead wife.
“All the idol signers learn the basics of acting once they join [SM Entertainment] because they need to know how to express emotions on stage or in music videos,” said Kim Eun-ah, the head of the public relations team at SM.
“Over the course of taking the acting classes, if certain singers excel in the class, we recommend that they take more acting classes and advise them to audition for certain roles.”
SM probably has the largest number of pop stars who are active in both singing and acting.
Other than Do and Sooyoung, Sulli and Krystal of f(x), Yuri and Yoona of Girls’ Generation and solo artist Boa all pursue acting careers when they are not performing on stage.
For entertainment agencies, having more celebrities who are good at both singing and acting helps to diversify their income sources.
JYP Entertainment also has Taecyeon of 2PM and Suzy of Miss A, who both have prolific careers in acting.
Unlike at SM Entertainment, where all the singers learn the basics of acting, JYP has different policies, according to Hwang Jun-min, the leader of the public relations team at JYP.
“In the case of Taecyeon and Suzy, they began to learn acting after they debuted as singers.”
For example, Suzy failed to impress viewers as an actress with her first drama series “Dream High” (2011). Critics and viewers felt that her diction and facial expressions were unnatural, but she improved in her later work.
Local cinemas are currently filled with films featuring idol singers.
Most recently, “Cart,” featuring Do, was released last week, while “Fashion King,” a film starring Sulli of f(x), also hit nationwide theaters earlier this month.
“The Youth,” with Donghae of Super Junior and Nam Ji-hyun of 4Minute, was released last week. This week, “You Can Borrow My Father,” which has Minah of Girl’s Day in it, will be released.
BY SUNG SO-YOUNG [firstname.lastname@example.org]