Actress Kim Soo-hyun / Screenwriter Kim Soo-hyun / Actor Kim Soo-hyun
‘Soo-hyun' increases hallyu craze
By Park Si-soo
In Korea, "Soo-hyun" is a common name like John or William in the U.S. and U.K. Three figures sharing the very ordinary name are now playing a crucial role in lifting Korean entertainers' international profile to an extraordinary level.
They are actor Kim Soo-hyun, actress Kim Soo-hyun and screenwriter Kim Soo-hyun.
Simply put, for now, Kim Soo-hyun defines everything as far as Korean entertainment's globalization is concerned.
Soo-hyun in ‘My Love From the Star'
The leader among the pack is actor Kim Soo-hyun, one of the hottest Korean stars.
The 26-year-old jumped to international stardom with the hit drama "My Love From the Star," which was a huge success here and was exported to nearly 20 countries, including China, Japan, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Thailand, the Philippines, Myanmar, Cambodia, Israel and Belgium.
What he wore and ate — along with his costar Jun Ji-hyun — in the 21-episode drama instantly went viral in Korea and other countries where people watched it almost in real time through YouTube or other websites. For instance, the TV series triggered a "chimaek" (eating fried chicken and drinking beer — an amalgam of "chi" from chicken and "maek" from maekju, Korean for beer) craze in China.
Early last month, the Wall Street Journal reported that "My Love From the Star" was one of the most talked-about topics on Weibo, a Chinese version of Twitter, with more than 3.7 million articles related to "chimaek" posted on Chinese websites.
In the same month, the drama was put on the discussion table of China's National People's Congress, when people representing the Chinese culture and entertainment industry lamented about their country's lack of ability to "make a show as good and as big of a hit," according to The Washington Post.
Experts say the drama's economic effect was estimated at 3 trillion won ($2.8 billion).
The state-run Korea Tourism Organization said the country saw a 34 percent hike in the number of inbound Chinese tourists thanks to the drama. Korean companies operating in China also benefited a lot from the program. CJ Foodville's bakery chain Tous les Jours saw sales surge by 28 percent in Beijing and 40 percent in Shanghai because the bakery features him in its advertisements.
Soo-hyun in ‘Avengers 2'
Actress Kim Soo-hyun, 29, deserves much acclamation for bolstering Korean actresses' international profile. She has recently opted to go by "Soo Hyun."
Unlike their male counterparts, only a few Korean actresses have been cast in Hollywood films. Perhaps this can be blamed for either their unsatisfactory acting skills or the language barrier. No matter what the reason may be, what's important is that she beat them all and snatched a ticket to appear in a Hollywood blockbuster: "Avengers; Age of Ultron."
Kim is fluent in English thanks to her years-long stay in the United States during childhood. She graduated from Ewha Womans University's division of international studies whose curriculum is available only in English.
Her role in the Avengers sequel that will be released worldwide next year is largely unknown. What's known to the public is that she will portray a genius scientist who is tasked to assist the world-saving acts of Marvel's superheroes, including Iron Man, Captain American, the Hulk and Black Widow. She departed for London on April 9 to film her scenes.
On March 13, Kim attended the premier red carpet event of another Marvel superhero flick "Captain America: Winter Solder" held in Los Angeles. The following day she posted a photo of her on Twitter with a short message, "It's actually happening."
Screenwriter Kim Soo-hyun is widely known as having the "Midas Touch" in the Korean drama business. A slew of TV dramas and films based on her scenarios have been smash hits, including "What is Love" (1992), "Men of the Bathhouse" (1996) and most recently "Thrice Married Woman" (2014). Many of them were exported.
The 70-year-old wields powerful influence on drama producers and actors so they follow her with a strong sense of respect, calling her "teacher." Although she is notorious for her fiery and outspoken personality, many performers listen to her, seeking her bitter but accurate advice.
Kim is called "Godzilla" on set by insiders, for controlling how actors depict her characters. Famous for her intense but meaningful dialogue, ad-libbing is forbidden and actors are required to say their lines exactly as her script dictates, word-for-word, down to her trademark fast tempo.
In a 2010 interview, she said she had been told about actresses who cry in the bathroom because she forced them to act until she was satisfied.
The veteran writer specializes in stories about Korean family life — how traditional values conflict with the new and how women struggle to adjust to or resist cultural suppression at home and work.
Her work tends to target middle aged or older audiences, and she is also known for putting a spotlight on social issues rarely discussed in public, making some of her work controversial.
Making her debut in 1968 with radio drama "The Fable of That Year's Winter," she has received a total of eight prizes, including the Best Writer prize at the 2005 Korea Broadcasting Awards and the Best Writer prize at the 2008 Seoul Drama Festival.