‘Role Model’

March 21, 2014

Talent agencies tapping into models for next Kim Woo-bin, Lee Jong-suk

Kim Woo-bin

Kim Woo-bin

By Park Jin-hai

Seoul Fashion Week, which opened Friday, is the most coveted event not only for the fashion industry but also talent agencies looking for the next Kim Woo-bin and Lee Jong-suk, the successful models-turned actors.

Although it is nothing new for models to break onto the small and big screens, for the last couple of years an increasing number is coming to prominence in TV dramas and films. They include Kim Woo-bin, Lee Jong-suk, Sung Jun and Ahn Jae-hyeon.
Their slim physiques and fashion sense are helping them lead a new trend in the entertainment business.

“Some 10 years ago, for male actors, 170 to 175 centimeters were considered ideal, since it fits within the camera angle nicely. That has changed. Now it seems like the taller you are, the more chances you have to land a leading role,” said an entertainment business insider.

“There was a time we saw a lot of K-pop singers-turned actors/actresses on the screen. In terms of business, the images those stars are selling tended to be consumed too fast, since viewers see them everywhere in the music shows and dramas.”

People in the entertainment business said that models are different from K-pop singers because they are “fresh” to viewers. Moreover, since the model industry places more value on individuality, models tend not to go under plastic surgery, keeping their natural looks, they say.

Lee Jong-suk

Lee Jong-suk

Kim Woo-bin, 24, is just a case in point. The rebellious teenager image he showed in the drama “School 2013” left a strong impression on viewers. Due to the success of the recent drama “The Heirs,” he has leaped to global stardom.

But he has hit the runway for numerous fashion shows big and small, and has established his reputation in the industry. He received the New Star Award at the Asia Model Festival Awards in 2013.

“From the traditional point of view, I am not handsome. When the head of my agency first saw me he said that I have face that people of future, not today, might like,” Kim said in a previous interview with the Korea Times.

With that one-of-a-kind image and charisma, in a recent vote by Chinese music and entertainment site Kugou.com he became one of the five most popular Korean actors in China, following Lee Min-ho, co-star of “The Heirs,” Kim Soo-hyun of “My Love From the Star,” Jang Keun-suk and Lee Jong-suk.

Kim has been on his first Asian fan meetings since last month and the latest one took place in Taiwan. During the two-day event, four major Taiwanese dailies, including the United Daily News, Liberty Times and The China Times, ran stories about his visit for three days. The United Daily News called him “God in Asia.”

Lee Jong-suk, 24, is a model-actor who rose to the stardom over a couple of years. At the age of 15, he stood on the Seoul Collection catwalks, becoming the youngest male model in 2005. During those years he worked as a model, he was praised by many as a model who had the image of a boy and a grown man coexisting inside him.

Sung Jun

Sung Jun

Following last year’s “School 2013,” he starred in a series of movies and dramas last year including “Hot Young Bloods,” “No Breathing,” and “I Hear Your Voice.” He has been having a good time, placing his drams and films high on the viewership ratings.

Although not as big as those two, others are rising fast in hopes of becoming the next Kim and Lee. Former model Sung Jun was cast in the drama “Gu Family Book” last year in a supporting role, and this year he starred in the drama “I Need Romance 3.”

Recently, former model Ahn Jae-hyeon is emerging as up-and-coming star. Ahn, better known for his role as the brother of Chun Song- i in the recently ended “My Love From the Star,” is a veteran model, who received the New Star Award in 2009 as well as the Fashion Model Award in 2013 at the Asia Model Festival Awards.

Due to the former models’ strong presence in drams and films, now the runways have become a new recruiting site for aspiring talent.

YG Entertainment made a strategic partnership with a model management company, K PLUS, last month, while another model, Esteem, signed a memorandum of understanding with HB Entertainment and Namoo Actors last year.

“Local models have enormous growth potential as much as K-pop and hallyu dramas. Through the partnership and investment, I want to secure a pool of talented models and diversify YG’s global businesses,” said Yang Min-suk, CEO of YG Entertainment upon the signing.