Tang Wei: Korean Auds Give Chinese Star A Rare Embrace

Tang Wei Samsung Korea

Tang Wei famously lost a contract to endorse Ponds skin cream when China’s State Administration for Radio Film and Television banned her for her role in Ang Lee’s “Lust, Caution.”

The ban prevented Chinese media from reporting on her, cut her out of awards shows and even outlawed advertisements featuring the young actress. But what she lost in China she gained elsewhere — especially in South Korea.

Not only was “Lust, Caution” a rare Chinese-language hit in the country, which boasts a domestic industry that has very little room for movies of any other origin, it — especially her performance — was a critical success.

Was that sympathy? Not a bit, says Lee Joo-ick, who produced Tang-starrer “Late Autumn” and became a mentor to Tang. “Acting counts for more in South Korea than celebrity or notoriety,” he says.

Her performance in ‘Late Autumn,’ in which she played an inmate who strikes up a relationship with a man while on 72-hour release, stoked the flames of her fandom. It also made her the first non-Korean to win the Paeksang Arts Award for an actress.

“While it is true that her huge success in South Korea comes in from only two films, she has always done things right,” says Lee. “She has worked with the press, been humble and friendly, and even allowed herself to be spotted drinking makgeolli (a kind of Korean rice wine).”

And she is no ugly duckling. Lee argues that Tang has a classic Asian charm and beauty that appeals in South Korea more than her Chinese contemporaries. She has also avoided the surgically enhanced beauty that has made so many of South Korea’s celebrities look so similar and interchangeable.

That authenticity has helped commercial endorsements to flow in: Samsung Smart TV; upmarket Japanese cosmetics brand SK-II; Korean sportswear brand Kolon. In Greater China, she is the face of Rado watches.

Lee isn’t worried Tang will lose her appeal in South Korea, after marrying Kim Tae-yong, director of “Late Autumn.”

“People understand that she is of an age to get married. And she is not like teenage K-pop stars or TV drama stars who have ‘little sister’ reputations to uphold,” he says.

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  1. Said says:

    Tang Wei has also had plastic surgery, so I don’t know how that makes her better than Korean celebrities who have done the same. “Similar and interchangeable”? I would like to know which celebrities Patrick Frater is referring to. This article sounds like hyperbolic “fanboying” under the guise of serious reporting. Some Koreans may like Tang Wei, but this article sounds like she is some major star in Korea. That is not true. It is just exaggerated nonsense.

  2. I saw her in ‘Lust Caution’ which is a profound movie of substance about fighting for the freedom of her country and falling in love with one of its oppressors. She is torn between love of country and her love for her oppressor. It is a beautifully tragic story of idealism as it plays out against her deep romantic love.

  3. Rex says:

    China can go pound salt. They seem to think their industry will one day be the next Hollywood, but that’s never going to happen in such a homogenous culture. Tang Wei was right to escape it when they forced the opportunity on her. Other performers should follow suit, but unfortunately, too many Mainlander actors have those agrarian features that only makes them look completely out of place when they pop up in Hong Kong, Taiwanese or Korean movies. Maybe it’s better they stay where they are, churning out “safe” movies that appease the government.

    • Homogenous culture? The country with 56 ethnic groups and and 292 living languages? Yep, they’re all the same.

      • angetty says:

        Rex, you must really be an inbred idiot. Agrarian features? Some of the famous HK actress actually hail from China. How stupid are you? Btw, there are no lack of naturally beautiful China actresses without plastic surgery, while HK people’s ancestry is ALSO from China. Just coz British cheated the land through Opium War does not change their DNA. Moron!

      • Mike says:

        China has 56 ethnic groups but only 5% make up that minority group.95% are all Han Chinese. So not much diversity.

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