Korean Stars Make Beeline for Hollywood

Korean stars are moving into Hollywood. Starting with Korean pop star Rain's screen debut in "Speed Racer" last year, a number of Korean stars are finally taking to Hollywood with highly anticipated films.

For the screen version of "G.I. Joe," Paramount Pictures brought together the crack team who worked on "Transformers," "The Mummy," and "The Bourne Ultimatum." In the movie "G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra," Lee Byung-hun plays Storm Shadow, a ninja master who is adept in using all manners of weapons.

But Storm Shadow is one of the bad guys, the personal bodyguard and assassin for the evil Cobra Commander. Lee Byung-hun has already won recognition around the world for the powerful action scenes in his previous films.

Korean wave star Jeon Ji-hyun has also made it to Hollywood in the action-packed feature "Blood: The Last Vampire." She plays the 400-year-old halfling vampire Saya, who works in a secret government organization to hunt and eliminate rogue vampires that feast freely on human blood.

Jeon has been treated well, starring in her very first Hollywood feature film, and responded to the challenge by doing her best work. She went through three months of hard training to play the sword-wielding martial arts heroine. Even being hit by a crane while practicing some high-wire stunts was not enough to stop her.

With this film, Jeon has put her innocent and girlish image behind her. Although the film has not done well at the Korean box office, she has opened up a path to Hollywood for other Korean actors to follow.

From left, Lee Byun-hun, Jeon Ji-hyun, and Daniel Henney From left, Lee Byun-hun, Jeon Ji-hyun, and Daniel Henney

An actor who is at a distinct advantage with his multicultural heritage and English-language skills is Daniel Henney, who plays a villain in "X-Men Origins: Wolverine." Henney's appearance was enough to fill seats in Korean theaters. The fourth in the series, it goes deep into the past, to examine the "origins" of antihero Wolverine. After killing his own father and losing his girlfriend Kayla to his brother's murderous hands, Wolverine is reborn as Weapon X. As the hitman Agent Zero, Henney doggedly pursues him, both to follow orders and to appease his own inferiority complex.

Henney has also been cast for the U.S. TV series "Three Rivers" which will be airing this October. He has outgrown his fame in Korea, and is now ready to become a global celebrity.

With their solid fan base in Asia, Korean stars are quickly becoming the logical choice for Hollywood films that have Asian sales in mind. The trend may be short-lived, but it will serve Korean actors well to use the opportunity to hone their acting skills and find more fans around the world.

Arirang News / Jul. 09, 2009 12:08 KST