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Season of double roles…

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One actor, two characters

The 2018 season of Korean dramas features several dramas in which one actor plays two character roles.

More often than not the characters are related as in the Good Witch. In this drama, Lee Da Hae plays twin sisters, Cha Do Hee and Cha Sun Hee. The two identical twins are not only by divided by personalities but also by ambition. Cha Do Hee, scared by her family’s misfortune, becomes not only ambitious but also greedy.

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Meanwhile her meeker twin, Sun Hee, finds herself continuously being taken advantage of by her husband and co-workers. When Da Hae becomes hospitalized, Sun Hee impersonates her so Da Hee won’t lose her job. In the process of impersonating Da Hae, Sun Hee learns how to stand up for herself and create a new life even as Da Hae learns her greed fails her.

Another doppelgänger, and entirely different, theme is Switch. In this drama, Jang Keun Suk plays the dual role of Baek Joon Su and Sa Do Chan. Although the two look identical, they are both unrelated and completely different in personality. Beak Joon Su graduated from a prestigious university and went on to become a Prosecutor. He absolutely believes in the strict letter of law and doing everything by the book. But his serious, somewhat introverted, personality prevents him from developing many personal relationships among his co-workers and occasionally hinders him from achieving his goal. Sa Do Chan, on the other hand, possesses an entirely different personality and mindset. He’s extroverted, playful, devious, and employs his genius level intelligence to outwit his opponents.

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Although Do Chan studied to become a prosecutor, a personal event prevented him from taking the final exam. Instead he used his knowledge of the law to scam crooks and corrupt officials. When Baek Joon Su becomes seriously injured in a set-up auto accident, Prosecutor Oh Ha Ra deviously enlists Sa Do Chan to fill in for Baek Joon Su to solve a major drug, murder and graft case involving several government officials.

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But a new double role theme comes with the drama Wok of Love. Lee Mi Sook plays the dual role of Jin Jung Hye, the privileged wife of a bank CEO charged with fraud and mother of the female lead, Dan Sae Woo (Jung Ryeo Won).

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In addition, Lee plays an old woman peddler who watches over the life and doings of the third leading character, Doo Chil Seong, played by Jang Hyuk. Chil Seong, an ex-gang leader, befriends and becomes partners with Seo Poong in his restaurant start-up while helping Seo Poong thwart his nemeses.

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What makes Lee Mi Sook’s dual role interesting is that, opposed to other dual character roles, her two characters in Wok of Love look and act nothing alike. Jin Jung Hye, while suddenly poor, remains a glamorous, beautiful woman while her unnamed older woman character is anything but glamorous.

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The older woman’s face shows several age caused brown spots; her hair is grayed and in disarray; and not a few of her teeth are blacked out. She is, by all appearances, a total mess! Still, somehow, she commands respect from Chil Seong, his gang of thugs, and eventually Dan Sae Woo and Seo Poong.

Nevertheless, this old woman plays a pivotal role in bringing all three of the important characters together and helping them solve their most pressing, immediate problems. Only later in the drama is it revealed that she is the mother of Chil Seong.

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Regardless, what makes Lee Mi Sook’s double character role in Wok of Love unique from all other doppelgänger roles this season is her playing two entirely different characters from highly divergent social classes and appearances. One from wealth while the other from apparent extreme poverty. Yet, Lee pulls off the dual roles with exceptional dexterity and believability.

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Lee Min Sook’s resume spans almost four decades in both film and drama as she continues to work almost non-stop. Moreover, she’s won the MBC Drama Awards Best actress for Money Flower, the MBC Drama Awards Golden Actress for Miss Korea/Shining Romance/Rosy Lovers, and the KBS Drama Awards for You Are the Best.

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Written by Valerie Curl

June 16, 2018 at 6:26 PM

It’s said there’s nothing new in this world…

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Korean Drama: What’s the Matter with Secretary Kim

There’s no question I’m a fan of Korean actor Jang Keun Suk. I’ve watched all of his dramas and films dating back to his early years as far as the internet permits. Even in his adolescent roles, he exhibited outstanding ability as an actor, whether the project required comedy or serious drama.

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So, what does Jang Keun Suk have to do with Secretary Kim?

Allow me to explain. The male lead in Secretary Kim is a self-centered, intelligent, ego-centric, handsome chaebol. When he looks in the mirror, he can’t help but admire himself. He sees himself as someone superior to almost all other men. Moreover, he literally cannot fathom anyone, especially a woman, rejecting him.

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Thus, when his long time secretary, whom he completely relies upon, tells him she’s resigning, he sets out to change her mind, even though he’s utterly clueless regarding other people’s emotions and feelings.

Although she explains in detail why she’s resigning, he is incapable of understanding because he’s so oblivious to what makes other people tick. Thus, each time she refuses to succumb to his wishes, he grows more and more frustrated. He even resorts to an offer of marriage that she promptly, and in detail, refuses. Unwilling and emotionally unable to accept her decision, he resorts, in secret, to having her complete questionnaire of her likes, dislikes and wishes. Using that gleaned information, he tricks her into an evening date. But again, although both their emotions are changing, she still refuses to succumb to him.

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Bringing this back to Jang Keun Suk, the lead character in Secretary Kim, played by Park Seo-Joon, is an absolute riff on the character Jang Keun Suk played in Bel Ami (aka Beautiful Man). His poses, his walk, his smile…everything…are perfect copies of Jang Keun Suk’s characterization of Dokgo Ma-Te in the early episodes of Bel Ami.

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While watching the first four episodes of Secretary Kim, I found myself not only grinning at Park Seo-Joon’s characterization of Lee Yeong Joon but also wondering if he watched Jang Keun Suk in Bel Ami to model his character.

 

 

It’s said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. I think that may well be the case with Lee Yeong Joon, whether Park Seo-Joon meant it or not.

Written by Valerie Curl

June 14, 2018 at 9:39 PM

Jang Keun Suk – The Ultimate Entertainer

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I’ve just finished watching Jang Keun Suk’s Endless Summer concert in Osaka. Held on July 19, at Osaka-Jo Hall, the concert was broadcast live by the Japanese paid cable station TBS to subscribers.

All I can say is Great Heavens! Jang Keun Suk really has become the ultimate showman & entertainer. He now rivals all the best from musical history, regardless of the country of origin. I was utter amazed at his extraordinary showmanship, his ability to connect with his audience, and the way he draws his audience in. I’ve watched many great singers perform before an audience – and Jang Keun Suk equals the best in the industry, including Tony Bennett who has often been hailed as the ultimate songster and entertainer before live audiences.

Jang, who is also an well known Korean Wave (Hallyu) actor with more 25 years in the acting profession, has always had the ability to connect with his audience. That is part of his appeal. When he decided to sing professionally, he chose to do so in Japan while doing all his acting in Korea. To connect with his Japanese audience, he first began by studying the language and the culture. He is not a standard entertainer who arrives, sings and leaves the stage. He talks to his audience, tells them stories, asks them questions, and often teases them. As a result, his concerts sell out with minutes. He has performed at Tokyo’s largest venue, the Tokyo Dome, to a sold out crowd of over 40K people.

The last couple of years he’s chosen to keep his concert venues down to around 10 thousand or fewer people to create a more intimate atmosphere…but even so the venue, like Osaka’s Castle Hall, is enormous. Viewers in upper seats virtually need opera glasses to see him. Fortunately, the entire show can be seen on large monitor screens behind the stage.

Having watched via video many if not most of his concerts, I can honestly say that Endless Summer in Osaka is his best concert yet. I thought his previous concert for his album, Monochrome, was his best. And it was to date. He had mastered his breathing and learned how to use his diaphragm to control his voice better while being physically active on stage. But everything about this new one is so much better. His voice is absolutely stunning!!! Utterly perfect. Each and every note on is on key, regardless of whether he’s standing still or dancing or bouncing around.

Often in his early live concerts, he had trouble reaching the higher notes of his older Korean Kdrama songs. His unique baritone voice, even with it wide range, struggled to reach the higher tenor notes, causing his voice to crack and go off key. However, thanks to his hard work and much vocal training, he’s been able master those songs for live performances. In addition, I noticed that many of those songs had been rearranged ever so slightly so he doesn’t have to stretch quite as much to hit those difficult high notes. The changes are extremely subtle and do nothing alter the mood or melody of the songs but suit his baritone voice so much better.

Adding to his unique personality is his ability to sing and converse in Korean, Japanese and English as he seeks to connect on a personal level with his audience. He even recorded two songs in Mandarin although he doesn’t speak the language. Moreover, he has this unique ability to set the tone and atmosphere for each concert that makes his concert goes want it to continue long after the time limit has expired. By comparison, Korean groups like Big Band and others that receive so much media attention, particularly in the US, are mediocre neophytes. Jang Keun Suk’s singing ability and his stage performances and presence far exceeds any Korean group in the current media spotlight. His ability to charm an audience is well known throughout Asia where he literally has millions of SNS fans. But lesser known is that he has created a fan base that extends across the globe to nearly every country.

He’s always had a unique charisma that drew his audience to him, regardless of how youthful and inexperienced he was. As a highly regarded experienced actor turned singer, he always grasped the necessity of understanding and interpreting the lyrics of a song. No matter how naturally talented a singer may be, if he or she cannot convey the emotions inherent in the lyrics to the audience, that singer will fail to become a great artist. Jang Keun Suk’s years of acting experience lent itself to his ability to put over a song in a way that his audience experiences and empathizes with the lyrics. Only truly talented singers are capable of this ability.

While watching the video of this concert, I kept thinking about what an extraordinary performer he’s become in just last few years. His singing is among the best I’ve ever heard and his acting, as noted in his latest Kdrama “Jackpot, the Royal Gambler” would likely win him an Oscar in the States.

To be quite honest, this young man is really far too good and far too talented to be just well known in Asia.

I’m not a fan girl by any means. In all of my decades of living, I’ve never written about or cared much about any singer or actor. But I do appreciate and respect a superior talent when I see it, especially a superior talent which is significantly under-represented in the vast media market.

Here are a couple songs from the Osaka Endless Summer concert. But you’s have to see the entire concert to understand why I praise him so highly.

Written by Valerie Curl

September 6, 2016 at 7:18 PM

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