Edited by Hwang Hong Sun
Translated by Jeon Gyeong Ju
We can easily search and watch old movies through various OTT (over-the-top) and VOD (video-on-demand) services in this digital era. It has become more convenient to check the true value of old works and look back on our memories, and it’s especially fun to find the familiar faces of actors, who have been the top stars now, when they were just rookies. Let’s bring together the minor roles played by the prominent actors, who showed their own potentials with a small but extraordinary presence, in the old films.
Park Sung Woong – As a Gym Trainer in “The Foul King”
Park Sung Woong had lived a long life of obscurity until he made his own name well-known by MBC’s limited series The Legend and the movie New World. He appeared in many films during his decade of obscurity, and if you take a closer look at the Korean films released from the late 1990s to the early 2000s, you can find Park Sung Woong in the unexpected scenes. One of the most notable works is The Foul King in which Park Sung Woong appeared as a gym trainer. When the main character Dae Ho (played by Song Kang Ho), who wants to learn wrestling in this movie, acts weirdly with a jockstrap, the trainer portrayed by Park Sung Woong shows Dae Ho the right location to wear it with a scary look. In addition, Park appeared in No. 3 as a gangster who serves Tae Ju (acted by Han Suk Kyu). It’s an irrelevant assumption, but I just wonder if he had strengthened his own basis to play Lee Joong Gu in New World since then.
Song Kang Ho – As Pansu in “Green Fish”
Song Kang Ho gained huge popularity after he skillfully portrayed the gang boss Jopil, who stammers whenever he gets angry, in No. 3. But how did he get cast as the big role in No. 3? The answer can be found by watching Green Fish. Song Kang Ho previously played Pansu, the mean gangster who picks on and bullies Makdong (acted by Han Suk Kyu) in Green Fish. Song drew an attention from Song Neung Han, director of No. 3, because he greatly portrayed the role as if he were a real gangster. Furthermore, Bong Joon Ho, who used to be a directing team member of the 1997 film Motel Cactus and had a crush on Song’s performance in Green Fish, proposed a meeting on casting for Motel Cactus and met him for the first time. Thus, Pansu in Green Fish was technically a role that marked a turning point in Song Kang Ho’s career.
Yoo Hae Jin – As Yonggari in “Attack The Gas Station!”
Yoo Hae Jin originally acted a lot of funny supporting roles in the old movies and recently underlined his presence as a lead actor, starring several works such as Luck-Key, MAL-MO-E: The Secret Mission and The Battle: Roar to Victory. He even signaled his own success as an actor in the days of obscurity, portraying small but extraordinary characters. When Yoo played Yonggari, a gangster who came to dunk on the four main characters in Attack The Gas Station!, his acting felt so real that his fellow actor Cha Seung Won asked director Kim Sang Jin, “why did you bring a real gangster to the shooting site?” Since then, Yoo Hae Jin has been loved for showing off his strong presence in various works such as Kick the Moon, Public Enemy and Jail Breakers.
Hwang Jung Min – As an Intelligence Agent in “Shiri”
Shiri, the representative work causing the renaissance of Korean films, made headlines with a desperate battle (portrayed by Han Suk Kyu and Choi Min Sik) and a gunfight sequence that was second only to Hollywood action movies. When it was released in 1999, Shiri topped the all-time Korean box office with 6.2 million viewers. If you watch Shiri again, you can see the unexpected people and Hwang Jung Min surprisingly appears as a member of special investigative team that interrogates Han Suk Kyu in the latter part of the film. Hwang and his fellow actor Jang Hyun Sung, who did some plays with him at that time, arrived at the set and said only one or two lines after getting an urgent contact from the production team of Shiri. He was said to have been in agony, however, because he was paid several times higher than the performance fees from the plays in which he starred.
Jung Yumi – As Mi Ae in “A Bittersweet Life”
Jung Yumi impressively performed in various genres including her latest work Kim Ji Young: Born 1982, Train to Busan, My Dear Desperado, Silenced and Family Ties. Nevertheless, it’s not widely known that she also appeared in the 2005 noir A Bittersweet Life. In the drama, Jung Yumi played Shin Min Ah’s roommate Mi Ae who keeps Lee Byung Hun’s last gift for Shin and delivers it to her later (the lead male portrayed by Lee Byung Hun determines to die before giving his gift to Mi Ae). Those sequences are rare moments to meet the young Jung Yumi, although there are just a few scenes of her to find in the film without knowing this fact.
Ra Mi Ran – As Oh Su Hee in “Sympathy for Lady Vengeance”
Ra Mi Ran made her screen debut in the 2005 film Sympathy for Lady Vengeance. She portrayed Oh Su Hee, one of Lee Young Ae’s helpers, who was put into jail for adultery by having an affair with a married man (the lead female Geum Ja, played by Lee Young Ae, dreams of revenge against her enemy). She is also the very person who askes Geum Ja, “why do you paint your eyes so red?” That line became popular when it was released through the trailer of the movie. You will recognize Ra Mi Ran easily if you watch Sympathy For Lady Vengeance again, but she had spent nearly 20 years in obscurity after the work. There were so hard moments that made her decide to give up acting, but she gradually showed her own presence across the small screens and the big ones. She eventually rose to her current throne.
Lee Sung Min – As a Chef in “Secret Sunshine”
Lee Sung Min expressed his apologies and gratitude to his wife and daughter, who suffered from his long obscurity, when he appeared in the latest episode of SBS‘s reality show My Little Old Boy. He belatedly entered the movie industry after a long period of acting in theatres, but his scenes were deleted from each of his films and he had a hard time due to his lengthened obscurity. Nonetheless, he continued his acting career without giving up and appeared as Song Kang Ho’s friend, who runs a restaurant, in Secret Sunshine (2007). Though it was a small role, his character added a breathtaking humor with his silver tongue and attractive dialect to the film, which runs in a serious mood. After revealing his presence in Secret Sunshine, Lee Sung Min escaped from the long obscurity in 2012 when he played the humane doctor Choi In Hyuk in MBC’s medical drama Golden Time.
Kim Yoon Seok – As Detective Lee in “The Big Swindle”
Kim Yoon Seok has showed off his charisma by playing mostly dark and serious roles in the previous hits such as 1987: When the Day Comes, Dark Figure of Crime and The Fortress. However, Detective Lee in The Big Swindle, one of the early films in which Kim Yoon Seok appeared, is quite different from his current image. Detective Lee makes the audience laugh comfortably with his fine comedy acting. In particular, the best scene comes out when he gets embarrassed as Lee Moon Sik, who was caught robbing the Bank of Korea, pulled down the detective’s pants during his getaway. Director Choi Dong Hoon previously paid attention to Kim Yoon Seok, who had actively done many plays for a long time, and wanted to cast him in his film so badly. Finally, he entrusted Kim with the role of Detective Lee in The Big Swindle. In 2006, Kim Yoon Seok met with Choi Dong Hoon again in Tazza: The High Rollers and played Agwi, one of the most infamous villains in Korean film history. He was highly praised for his acting and swept the Best Supporting Actor awards at the different film festivals in the year.