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.
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 Jung-hyuk 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.
Among women, Jung Ryeo-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? Sung 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. Sung, our panelists said delicately, "has starred in several dramas but still has a long way to go." Lee Hyo-ri, 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.