Among them are those who have come back to their roots, such as You Oh-seong and Sol Kyung-gu.
The star of "Friend" (2001), You returned to the Daehangno stage last summer for the first time in eight years, as he played John the filmmaker in Hanyang Repertoire Theater`s "Tape." Sol, on the other hand, is acting in "Love Letter," marking his comeback to the center of Korean drama in six years.
Most recently, another versatile actor, Moon Sung-keun, has said that he will join the two, by performing in Stage Ship`s "Till the End of Time (Marugo Daltorok)," which will run at the Seoul Arts Center Jayu Theater from Dec. 1 to 18.
Also well-known as the son of the late Rev. Moon Ik-hwan, a renowned pro-unification activist, Moon was the key figure in the beginning of the renaissance of Daehangno dramas in the mid-`80s, playing the main role in such mega-hit dramas as "Chilsu and Mansu." His new thriller "Princess Aurora" has also recently come out.
Besides them, film stars who have very little, if none at all, theatrical background are also flowing to the nation`s performing arts hub to sharpen up their acting skills, as well as to come in closer contact with their fans. One of the better known is Yoo Ji-tae, who is scheduled to join the production of "Six out of Six" as director and main actor.
"As an actor, I prefer to act in dramas to films because a film is a recreation of a director, while dramas are heavily dependent on actors," Yoo said in a recent interview with Yonhap Television News. For the actors with professional theatrical background, the only major difference between drama and film seems to be that of space.
"It doesn`t matter whether I act in dramas, movies or for TV," You told reporters last July, to which his college alumnus Sol also agreed. "Acting is acting. Not much will be different," Sol said when he met reporters to promote his upcoming drama earlier this month.
For the local theatrical industry, which has long been troubled with the lack of both audiences and actors, having such celebrities in dramas must be the surest guarantee for the success of the shows they present. As if to prove this, the press event for "Love Letter" on Oct. 18 was almost as crowded as that of any new film.
It seems like the pie is getting bigger for the theatrical industry by including more and more film stars in its new productions. The problem, however, is that the popularity of such dramas is not very much related to the popularity of the drama in general. More than anyone else, the actors seem to recognize it well. "I hope the audience won`t be outnumbered by the actors when I`m not on the stage," Sol said. (His new play, "Love Letter," is a two-person drama, mind you).
Under the circumstances, such star-marketing strategies of the industry can degrade the living standards of already poor drama actors as fewer and fewer chances will be given to more experienced but less popular stage actors. "I made a lot more money with a minor role in the film `Memories of Murder` than I earned as the main actor of the drama with the same story in the same year, although the drama was the most successful at the time," actor Ryu Tae-ho once said.
Without persistent and more thoughtful measures to revitalize Daehangno`s drama industry, such efforts to attract more people to venues in the short term could be a poison to the industry in the long run, critics say.
By Lee Yong-sung