Consumers of K-pop and arthouse Korean films have a definite divide, but now that boundary is blurring as well-known K-pop stars are showing up in arthouse titles and social dramas with a message.
Case in point, Park Yoo-chun drew a packed, enthusiastic crowd of largely female fans at the Birth of an Actor event Friday afternoon at BIFF Village – an official festival venue. Until a few years ago, most K-pop stars were at BIFF – not as part of a film in the festival line-up – but to promote other, more commercial films in glitzy, non-festival events.
Park is at the fest this year as an actor in “Sea Fog,” recently selected as the South Korean entry for the foreign-language film at the 87th Academy Awards. Produced by Bong Joon-ho, it revolves around a real-life group of South Korean seamen who smuggle North Koreans into South Korea with terrible consequences. Park plays a poverty-stricken fisherman who falls in love with a North Korean girl, a far cry from his image as a member of one of the best-selling K-pop boy bands, JYJ.
Another K-pop star with a film at this year’s BIFF is Do Kyung-soo, aka D.O. a member of EXO, one of the hottest boy bands. He plays a supporting role in “Cart,” a social drama about middle-aged women who are unfairly dismissed from their supermarket jobs.
Last year, BIFF drew crowds of screaming fans thanks to Lee Joon, a member of MBLAQ, who starred in Shin Yeon-shick’s “Rough Play.” Written by Kim Ki-duk (“Pieta,” “Moebius”), the low-budget film failed at the box office but critics and audience members were surprised and impressed by Lee’s acting.
Shin has been a tutor to several big name K-pop stars including Dara of 2NE1 and SE7EN. Speaking to Variety, Shin says the reason more K-pop stars are turning to arthouse titles is that it was their goal from the beginning. “They consider entering big management agencies at a young age an efficient way to get trained in multiple areas of the entertainment industry,” he adds.
Shin says he will continue to have K-pop stars in his arthouse films. He is currently in the pre-production stage of “Like a French Film” starring Dasom of SISTAR and Steven Yeon of “The Walking Dead.”