Table of Contents
Top Korean Celebrities Debut in Hollywood
We are witnessing an increase in the number of Korean movies, dramas, musical artists, and celebrities who are gaining popularity outside of Korea as a direct result of the meteoric and historic success of BTS, Squid Game, and Parasite. While Park Seo-joon, Kang Dong-woon, Son Ye-jin, and many others are making their way to Hollywood, Ma Dong-seok (or Don Lee) makes his debut in Eternals as Marvel’s first Korean superhero. Ma Dong-seok can also go by the name Don Lee.
Without the pioneering work of the first generation of Korean stars, the increasing number of Korean actors and actresses appearing in Hollywood or English-language productions would not be possible. In this article, we take a look back at some of the Korean celebrities who were successful enough in Hollywood to pave the way for other Korean stars to follow in their footsteps.
1. Blackpink’s Jennie
Jennie is the second member of Blackpink to attempt a career in acting, following in Jisoo’s footsteps. She made her first appearance on screen in The Idol, which was produced by HBO and starred Lily-Rose Depp, the daughter of Johnny Depp, as well as The Weeknd. The official teaser trailer was released the week before last, and it has already received more than 1.5 million views.
“As soon as I read the scenario, I thought that the story was very charming and for that reason, I wished that I could be a part of it. She stated, “I’m excited and I’ll do my best, so I hope that everyone will tune in warmly,” even though the specifics of her role have not yet been disclosed, as reported by All K-pop. “I hope that everyone will tune in warmly.”
The relationship between a young female pop star and her cultish “self-help guru” is the focus of The Idol, which was produced by Sam Levinson, who also worked on Euphoria.
2. Park Seo-joon
Since last year, when it was announced that he will be appearing in Marvel’s upcoming Captain Marvel sequel, The Marvels, starring Brie Larson and Zawe Ashton, fans have been eagerly awaiting Park Seo-debut joon’s in the Hollywood film industry.
Screen Rant has debunked the popular idea that Park will portray the Korean-American young hero Amadeus Cho, who is the son of Dr. Helen Cho. However, fans of Marvel continue to believe that Park will play the role.
A spate of hit dramas like She Was Pretty (2015), Fight for My Way (2017), What’s Wrong with Secretary Kim (2018), and Netflix’s Itaewon Class have earned Park, 33, the title of “King of K-drama romcoms” in South Korea. Park is renowned as the “King of K-drama romcoms” in South Korea (2020). In addition to that, he appeared in the suspense film Parasite, which went on to win an Academy Award (2019).
3. HoYeon Jung
HoYeon Jung gained the attention of Hollywood following her breakthrough performance in the worldwide smash hit Squid Game. She made an appearance in The Weeknd’s music video for the song “Out of Time” and was offered a part in the upcoming A24 film The Governesses, in which she will, by complete coincidence, also star alongside Lily-Rose Depp, like Jennie.
According to Deadline, she will play one of three young governesses who are rebellious and who lead their students on sensual adventures. The other two will be played by Johnny Depp and Renate Reinsve.
The model, who began walking the runway at the age of 16, returned to her fashion roots after the success of Squid Game by becoming an ambassador for Louis Vuitton, Calvin Klein, and Chanel. She began her modeling career at the age of sixteen.
4. Yoo Teo
According to Deadline, the film Past Lives, which will be produced by A24 and star Greta Lee, has cast the actor Yoo Teo in the role of the film’s protagonist. The movie will portray the love tale of a man and a woman who first met in South Korea when they were young and then reconnected in the United States after they had both grown up.
Despite the fact that this is Yoo’s first role in a Hollywood production, he has already participated in a number of other productions throughout the world. Actually, he shot to fame thanks to the Russian movie Leto (2018), and he also had roles in the Vietnamese movie Bitcoin Heist (2016) and the Thai drama The Moment (2017). He most recently appeared in “Love to Hate You” and “Dr. Brain.”
His outstanding works include “The Arthdal Chronicles” (2019), “Vagabond” (2019), and “The School Nurse Files” on Netflix. He was born and raised in South Korea.
5. Cha Eun-woo
According to Soompi, the leading part in the upcoming film K-pop: Lost in America has been offered to the K-pop idol Cha Eun-woo, making it likely that he would make his way to Hollywood in the near future. The movie follows the story of a Korean pop boy band that becomes separated in Texas and has trouble making it to New York for their international debut performance. In addition, Rebel Wilson and Charles Melton have been cast in the film.
Cha made his debut with the group Astro in 2016 as the vocalist, and his attractive looks have contributed to the rising popularity of his work in songs such as My ID is Gangnam Beauty (2018) and True Beauty (2018). (2020). According to “TMI News Show,” which airs on Mnet, he has the distinction of having the “second job” that brings him the most money.
6. Bae Doona
According to K-drama Stars, Bae Doona will be making her way back to Hollywood in order to participate in the next sci-fi thriller Rebel Moon that will be released on Netflix. In this demonstration, Bae will demonstrate her prowess in the ring alongside Ray Fisher, Charlie Hunnam, and Djimon Hounsou.
Rebel Moon will take place in a space colony where a soldier is given the mission of seeking help from other planets in order to save the residents of the colony. The film will be directed by Zack Snyder, who is known for directing the films 300, Wonder Woman, and Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice.
As a result of her roles in films such as Cloud Atlas (2012), Jupiter Ascending (2015), and Sense8 on Netflix, Bae is already a well-known Korean actress in Hollywood (2015). The most recent projects that she has been in on Netflix are Kingdom (2019–present) and The Silent Sea (2021).
YOU MAY LIKE THIS: Top 17 K-Drama Actors Abs
7. Lee Jung-jae
According to Soompi, Lee Jung-jae, another star from “Squid Game,” just secured a contract with the American Creative Artists Agency. This agency boasts a client roster that includes high-profile actors and directors like as Brad Pitt, Tom Hanks, George Clooney, and Steven Spielberg. Not just as an actor, but also as a producer and director, he has several opportunities knocking at the door of Hollywood.
During the month of May, he made his debut as a filmmaker at the Cannes Picture Festival with the spy-action film Hunt, in which he also stars. A multifaceted artist who began his career as a model and made his acting debut in 1993, Lee was already a well-known figure in South Korea before to the release of Squid Game as a result of his success in films such as An Affair (1998), Il Mare (2000), The Face Reader (2013), and Assassination (2015).
8. Lee Byung-hun
Lee Byung-hun is a well-known figure in South Korea due to the widespread appreciation that has been bestowed upon his work in a variety of artistic fields. The films Joint Security Area, A Bittersweet Life, The Good, the Bad, the Weird, I Saw the Devil, Masquerade, and Inside Men are among his most well-known works; practically all of these films garnered him honors at renowned award ceremonies. He also directed the films Inside Men and Masquerade. Iris and Mr. Sunshine are two of his most well-known television endeavors, and more recently, he appeared in a cameo role in Squid Game.
Lee made his debut as an actor in the United States in the role of Storm Shadow in the films G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra and G.I. Joe: Retaliation. Additionally, you may recognize him from his roles in Red 2, Terminator Genisys, and The Magnificent Seven. Lee was the first actor from South Korea to become a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and to present an Oscar at the annual Academy Awards ceremony. In doing so, he paved the way for many more Korean actors and actresses to follow in his footsteps. They were the first South Korean performers to leave an impression of their hands and footprints at the forecourt of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, California. They were joined in their endeavor by the actor Ahn Sung-ki.
Most recently, Lee was the first Korean actor to be picked for an award at the 15th annual Asian Film Awards, when he was given the Asian Film Excellence Award. In addition to that, he has worked on a number of films, including Ashfall, The Man Standing Next, and Emergency Declaration, all of which were shown at international film festivals.
9. Han Ye-ri
It is incredible to consider that Han Ye-acting ri’s career began with roles in short films and indie film projects and that she finally starred in Minari, a film that was nominated for an Academy Award. Han first came to the notice of the general public and film reviewers with her performance in the sports drama titled “As One.” For that part, in which she played a real-life North Korean table tennis star named Yu Sun-bok, Han had to master the Hamgyng dialect. After some time, she was cast in her first main part, which she played in the films Commitment, Haemoo, and A Dramatic Night.
When Han featured in both the historical drama Six Flying Dragons and the youth comedy Hello, My Twenties, she once again demonstrated the breadth of her abilities as a performer. Han received a number of nominations and awards for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress for her portrayal of Monica in the film Minari, which was her breakout role. This year, she was also presented with the Prime Minister’s Commendation by the government of South Korea. This is a governmental honour that is bestowed on those who have made significant contributions to South Korean pop culture and the arts.
10. Jun Ji-hyun
Jun Ji-hyun, often known as Gianna Jun, has one of the most recognizable faces in Asia. Despite having spent the past 24 years working in the entertainment industry, her popularity shows no indication of waning; after all, she is the South Korean star who has made the most money this year. The award-winning actress created a reputation for herself with her breakthrough performance in the Asian film My Sassy Girl, which challenged the conventions of gender roles in that region. The film achieved the title of the highest-grossing Korean comedy film of all time in South Korea and catapulted Jun into the status of a superstar.
After that, she went on to star in additional productions such as “The Uninvited” and “Daisy,” both of which were directed by Andrew Lau, a Hong Kong director. Jun, who is well-known across Asia, debuted in Hollywood with the film Blood: The Last Vampire. She is now considered a star on both sides of the Pacific. Jun put in a total of three months of training to hone her combat and swordsmanship skills in preparation for her duty as a vampire hunter who is half-human. Even though the movie was not well received by audiences and did poorly at the box office, Jun’s performance was praised by critics, who called her the “one bright point” in the movie. Even though she never appeared in another Hollywood picture, as a result of this, she became known as an actress to look out for in other regions of the world than Asia.
Following that, she had a role in another Hollywood film called Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, in which Hugh Jackman was her co-star. Even if she only appears in one or two films or television dramas every year, Jun maintains her high level of accomplishment. Not just in South Korea, but also throughout the rest of Asia, there was a great deal of excitement around her return to the small screen this year with Jirisan and the special episode of Kingdom.
It is impossible to consider the first generation of K-pop and Korean dramas without bringing Rain into the conversation (real name Jung Ji-hoon). The multi-talented performer is also a dancer, an actor, and a record producer, in addition to being a singer and composer. His colorful musical career has included the release of seven albums, 28 singles, and numerous concerts all over the world, earning him the title of “global star” and propelling Rain to the position of a worldwide star.
On the acting front, Rain is frequently mentioned whenever the subject of Hallyu is brought up, notably for his performance in the Korean drama Full House, in which he appeared opposite Song Hye-kyo. In his debut film role, “I’m a Cyborg, But That’s OK,” which was directed by the acclaimed South Korean filmmaker Park Chan-wook, the film was nominated for the Alfred Bauer Award at the Berlin International Film Festival. He also collaborated with Park Chan-wook.
The rain made his debut in Hollywood in the Wachowski brothers’ Speed Racer, playing the role of Racer Taejo Togokahn, riding high on the popularity he had achieved in Asia. After that, he was cast in his first leading part in Hollywood, which was in the movie Ninja Assassin. The Wachowski sisters were so inspired by Rain’s ninja scenes in Speed Racer that they used those as the basis for their new movie. He worked on his performance for more than half a year in preparation for the part, for which he ultimately received an MTV Movie Award. Rain went on to have success in South Korea, despite the fact that after that he never worked in the film industry in Hollywood again.
12. Lee Joon-gi
The fact that Lee Joon-gi has always been considered one of the best options for the role of the leading man in a wide variety of productions is evidence that his charisma is still sweeping South Korea by storm. The unknown actor was catapulted into celebrity after his breakthrough performance in the film The King and the Clown, which not only did well at the box office but also helped launch the actor into the spotlight. The gifted actor displayed his acting talents in the film. He was presented with a number of accolades, including those from the Korean Film Awards, the Grand Bell Awards, and the Baeksang Art Awards, for her performance.
In addition, he has starring roles in a number of critically acclaimed films and television shows, such as “My Girl,” “May 18,” “Scholar Who Walks the Night,” and, of course, “Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo.” Lee is considered to be one of South Korea’s most prominent action actors due to the fact that he does the majority of his own stunts, having received training in taekwondo and other types of martial arts. Lee made his debut in Hollywood with the film Resident Evil: The Final Chapter, in which he displayed his experience in martial arts. Although it was met with a variety of reactions from critics, the film ended up becoming the most financially successful installment in the series.
13. Han Hyo-joo
One of the most in-demand actresses in South Korean television and film, Han Hyo-joo has appeared in a wide range of roles throughout the course of her career. Han was nominated for two Best New Actress awards, despite the fact that her first leading part was in an independent film with a low budget called Ad-lib Night. Because of this, she was cast in two successful television dramas alongside two well-known actors: Heaven & Earth with Park Hae-jin and Iljimae with Lee Joon-gi. These dramas helped make Han a well-known name in South Korea.
She had her big break when she was cast in the movie Brilliant Legacy, which cemented her status as a celebrity and led to a significant increase in sponsorship deals. After that, she worked on Dong Yi, which ended in winning both the Deasang (Grand Prize) award and the highly sought-after prize for Best Actress at the Baeksang Arts Awards. After that, Han continued his work on a variety of critically acclaimed films, including Always, Masquerade, Love 911, and Cold Eyes.
Treadstone is an English-language television series that is situated in the same world as the Bourne trilogy. Han made her debut in Hollywood as a secret agent in this series, breaking away from her reputation as a dainty girl. Despite the fact that the show was canceled after only one season, producer Ben Smith had nothing but kind words to say about Han, referring to her as “one of the most extraordinary actors” he’s ever worked with.
14. Youn Yuh-jung
Youn Yuh-jung is one of the most renowned and honored actors in South Korea, having amassed a body of work spanning more than half a century of her professional life. Her historic victory at the Oscars for Best Supporting Actress for her role in Minari is a first for any South Korean actor or actress. The portrayal of the 74-year-old veteran actress in Kim Ki-Fire young’s Woman in 1971, for which she won several awards as the Best Actress, was largely responsible for her rise to prominence. This paved the path for further initiatives to follow in its wake.
When Youn returned to South Korea after a short break from the public eye during which she relocated to the United States — at a time when she was at the pinnacle of her career — she had to contend with the social stigma that is associated with divorced women in the country, particularly as a middle-aged actress. Youn has gone on to play characters that helped shape the narratives of the films in which she has starred, including A Good Lawyer’s Wife, Actresses, The Housemaid, Canola, The Bacchus Lady, Beasts Clawing at Straws, and many others. She has eschewed the stereotypical mother or auntie roles in favor of these roles.
Youn really made her acting debut alongside Bae Doona in an episode of the Netflix series Sense8 before she made her debut in the English-language film Minari as Soon-ja. Youn gained critical praise for his performance in the film Minari, which culminated in his bringing South Korea’s first-ever acting Oscar to the country. The honor was presented by over 40 regional American critics. In addition, the government of South Korea bestowed upon her the Golden Crown Order of Cultural Merit the following year, 2021. Those who have made significant contributions to South Korean pop culture and the arts might receive this honor from the state.