Posted : 2013-03-03 16:32
Updated : 2013-03-03 16:32

K-pop stars dominate TV dramas

K-pop stars Nam Ji-hyun, from girl group 4Minute, Kim Dong-jun, from boy band ZE:A, and Kim Yeo-won from Jewelry, pose for cameras in a press event for the new season of KBS television's drama series, "Love and War," at the broadcasters headquarters in February. / Yonhap
By Kwon Mee-yoo

It takes talent and a lot of effort to shine in K-pop, where the bar in singing and dancing ability seems to be set higher than ever. And as if this wasn't enough, they better be able to deliver a line when plugged into a soap opera.

An increasing number of television dramas are depending on young pop singers to give them a boost in viewer ratings, which means that the members of boy bands and girl groups have to find time for acting lessons between their grueling schedules. On the three national television networks — KBS, MBC and SBS — there are more than 20 dramas featuring these young singers-turned-actors.

KBS television's big budget spy thriller "Iris II" has cast B2ST's Yoon Doo-joon and MBLAQ's Lee Joon in the roles as secret service agents. Competing against them for living room eyeballs is 2PM's Hwang Chan-sung, who appears on MBC television's "7th Grade Civil Servant," also a spy drama but more of a romantic comedy.

In the popular SBS television melodrama, "That Winter, the Wind Blows," Jung Eun-ji, from girl group A Pink, plays a girl who is in love with Zo In-sung's main character, Oh Soo.

While their experience in acting may be shallow, many of these K-pop stars are being asked to carry weighty roles. Girls' Generation member Yoona is one of the few singers who has proved she can act, and she generates massive buzz whenever she is about to appear in another drama. Apparently, broadcasters are doing their best to discover the next Yoona.

The country has a long list of entertainers who both sing and act. Kim Dong-wan, member of the boy band Shinhwa, whose popularity peaked in the late 1990s, is now starring in KBS daily drama "Cheer Up Mr. Kim." Eugene, a former member of the now-disbanded girl group S.E.S, is appearing in MBC's weekend drama, "Hundred Year's Inheritance."

Park Jung-a, former Jewelry member, is now a full-time actress and starred in "My Daughter Seo-young," the popular drama that finished on a high note on Sunday.

In the old days, broadcast stations openly recruited new actors every year. But the recruitment system was abolished in the early 2000s and producers had to find new ways to source young actors. The boom of K-pop groups and the increasing number of them has fueled the influx of singers into acting.

They are more well-known than some new faces and learned acting as a part of their training, so it's no wonder producers and directors want to cast them for publicity purposes.

With their popularity overseas, K-pop singers also contribute to the international sales of dramas. Last year, KBS drama "Love Rain" was sold to Japan for $10 million, which was the second highest price for a KBS drama, thanks to Yoona and Jang Keun-suk, another "hallyu" star.

However, K-pop singers' domination of the acting scene could choke budding actors and actresses who stick to just acting from the beginning.

"More and more idol stars appear on television dramas and they dampen the spirits of acting aspirants. This vicious cycle could degrade the overall quality of Korean dramas," an official of the Korean Broadcasting Actors Association said.

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