The Korea Herald


More Korean actors debut in Hollywood, changing Asian representation there

By Kim Da-sol

Published : Jan. 31, 2024 - 14:29

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Kim Yun-jee in “Lift” (Netflix) Kim Yun-jee in “Lift” (Netflix)

In recent years, the Hollywood debuts of Don Lee and Park Seo-joon in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Blackpink's Jennie starring in the HBO drama “The Idol,” were feted as huge feats in Korea, never mind that their appearances lasted just minutes.

Recent wins at major film festivals by creators and actors of Korean descent -- Korean Canadian director Celine Song of “Past Lives” and Korean American director Lee Seong-jin and actor Steven Yeun of “Beef” -- illustrate the changing Asian representation in Hollywood films and TV.

And more Korean actors are gearing up to debut in Hollywood, taking mid-tier lead roles -- a step up from the past when they were given minor supporting roles.

Actors Kim Tae-hee and Park Hae-soo are set to make their Hollywood debuts via Amazon Prime Video’s six-part spy thriller series “Butterfly.”

Kim has been cast in a major role, her agency Story J Company said.

“Squid Game” star Park will make a special appearance while his specific role has not been revealed. He was nominated for the best supporting actor award at the 74th Emmy Awards for “Squid Game.”

Kim Yun-jee in “Lift” (Netflix) Kim Yun-jee in “Lift” (Netflix)

Singer and actor NS Yoon-G, also known as Kim Yun-jee, recently debuted in Hollywood through “Lift,” a Netflix original film in which she plays Mi-sun, a hacker belonging to the criminal organization Cyrus Whitaker.

Her significant role in the movie received attention, as she was the brain behind the crew’s mid-air hijacking operation against a terrorist attack. The movie was directed by F. Gary Gray, known for films like ‘Men in Black: International.’

Immediately after its release on the global streaming platform on Jan. 12, the film topped the Netflix global and US charts and made it to the top 10 for a third consecutive week in 93 countries.

Netflix’s new season of “The Recruit” stars not one but several Korean actors.

Netflix said that Kim Young-ah, Shin Do-hyun, and Lee Sang-hee will be joining Yoo Teo, who was previously confirmed for Season 2 of the hit series.

“The Recruit” revolves around Owen Hendricks (Noah Centineo), a rookie lawyer at the CIA. Yoo plays Jang-kyun, a clever South Korean National Intelligence Service agent. Lee takes on the role of Jang-kyun’s wife Nan-hee. Kim plays Grace, a single mother and talented senior intelligence officer, while Shin plays Yoo-jin, a young woman who has a childhood connection to Owen.

Son Jong-hak (L July Entertainment) Son Jong-hak (L July Entertainment)

Son Jong-hak, 56, is making his Hollywood debut after acting for 37 years.

Son will star in director LeVar Leo’s upcoming action noir “24-Hour Sonata” as a Korean mafia boss with an extensive global network. Leo reportedly said that he cast Son as he was “one of the best Korean actors who spent long hours only for acting” and he was confident that he was the actor that he had been looking for after meeting him in person this year.

Meanwhile, Daniel Henney, one of the first Korean actors to work in Hollywood, said in a recent TV show that he still works hard to audition for roles in Hollywood.

“Back then, there were very few Asian male actors in Hollywood. (Roles given to them) were not the male lead nor the appearance in romance flicks. All the roles (for Asian male actors) existed to support Caucasian male actors,” Henney said in the show, adding that the majority of the characters that Asian actors played had to do with taekwondo, martial arts or kung fu.

“But as time passed by, I could finally do the acting that I wanted to do,” he said.

Henney most recently starred in director Kim Deok-min’s film “Dog Days” in Korea and Amazon original fantasy series “The Wheel Of Time” in Hollywood.

Screen capture of JTBC show Screen capture of JTBC show "Actors Meeting" (JTBC)