[PICK] Korean Actors Who Received Their First Recognition at the Busan International Film Festival

Edited by Hwang Hong Sun
Translated by Kim Hoyeun

The Busan International Film Festival, which heats Busan up every fall, is the largest in Korea. From films that drew attention at Sundance, Cannes, and Venice film festivals to new Asian movies, various works will meet with the audiences. Many directors and actors received their first recognition at the Busan International Film Festival over the years, and this article will introduce some of these actors who were noted for their potential.


Socialphobia – Ryu Jun Yeol

Credit: CGV ART HOUSE, CJ Entertainment

Socialphobia, which deals with witch hunts on social media, gained huge popularity at the 19th Busan International Film Festival in 2014, and attracted 250,000 moviegoers after being released the following year, setting an unprecedented box office record for independent films. Ryu Jun Yeol, who made his official debut with Socialphobia, played the role of popular BJ Yangge, leaving a strong impression by deftly portraying a person who can never be liked. Since then, he has established himself as a trusted actor by making back-to-back hits with Reply 1988, Little Forest, A Taxi Driver, Believer, and Money.


The Unforgiven �” Ha Jung Woo

Credit: Chungeoram

The Unforgiven was the hottest topic in the 2005 Busan International Film Festival. This was director Yoon Jong Bin’s debut film, and Ha Jung Woo realistically portrayed Tae Jung, a sergeant near the end of his army service, drawing keen attention. Since then, the two showed off their loyalty to each other by joining hands for 3 more films, The Moonlight Of Seoul, Nameless Gangster: Rules of Time, and KUNDO: Age of the Rampant. Ha also planned on starring in Yoon’s first drama Suriname, but the production was postponed indefinitely due to COVID-19.


Bleak Night �” Lee Je Hoon and Park Jung Min

Credit: Filament Pictures, CJ CGV

Director Yoon Sung Hyun’s feature debut film Bleak Night depicts a story surrounding the suicide of a high school student. It was invited to the 15th Busan International Film Festival in 2010 and won the New Currents Award, drawing enthusiastic responses from the audience. Lee Je Hoon and Park Jung Min quickly emerged as rising stars with their outstanding emotional performances. The two actors have joined director Yoon’s second feature film, Time to Hunt, which was released through Netflix earlier this year, and are continuing their busy careers.


The King of Jokgu �” Ahn Jae Hong

Credit: KT&G sangsangmadang, Golden Fish

The King of Jokgu, which shows the excitement of Jokgu, made its debut at the 18th Busan International Film Festival in 2013 and successfully broke the stereotype of independent films being difficult and received great love. Ahn led the movie’s popularity with his natural portrayal of Hong Man Sub is a 24-year-old college student who falls in love with jokgu.


Set Me Free �” Choi Woo Shik

Credit: Filament Pictures

Invited to the 19th Busan International Film Festival in 2014, Set Me Free depicts the story of a 17-year-old boy who leaves home and stays at the group home. Choi Woo Shik took on the role of Yeong Jae and perfectly digested a character who resents his family and doesn’t want to be separated from his foster family. With his passionate performances, Choi was honored to be the first recipient of the “Actor of the Year Award,” which was first established that year.


Jane – Koo Kyo Hwan

Credit: at9 Film, CGV ART HOUSE

Jane is a movie that told the story of a runaway girl So Hyun and a transgender woman named Jane in dreamlike pictures. Koo Kyo Hwan played transgender Jane and created a unique character that has never been in Korean movies before, and won the Actor/Actress of the Year Awards with his co-star Lee Min Ji at the 21st Busan International Film Festival in 2016. Koo, who mostly worked on independent films, recently drew attention with his first commercial film Peninsula and also confirmed his appearance in Netflix original series D.P.


Han Gong-ju �” Chun Woo Hee

Credit: movie COLLAGE

Based on the true story of the gang rape of a middle school girl by high school students, director Lee Soo Jin’s feature debut film Han Gong-ju revolves around Gong Ju, who had experienced a terrible incident, trying hard to return to her daily life. It was invited to the 18th Busan International Film Festival in 2013 and drew huge attention. Chun Woo Hee’s sincere acting, which carefully expressed the emotions of a person who had experienced a terrible incident, received rave reviews. She won the Best Leading Actress at the Blue Dragon Film Award, which was an unprecedented event for an independent film, and has been continuing her busy schedule.

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