They were global stars even before Hallyu 2.0, the second wave of South Korean culture, swept the world amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Ahead of the premiere of their upcoming sci-fi series The Silent Sea on Netflix, South Korean powerhouse performers Bae Doona and Gong Yoo are hopeful that streamers will help more “stories and creators” from the country to be discovered by the world.
While Gong said it is an exciting time to be “a working actor” when Korean shows and movies are making a mark globally, Bae pointed out that the success of the country’s entertainment industry is not a bolt out of the blue.
“It is definitely something that I am very happy about as a Korean actor and I am really intrigued that I am able to experience this as it unfolds as a currently active actor in Korea,” Gong, who created quite a stir with his cameo in Netflix’s Squid Game, said in response to a question by PTI in an international Zoom roundtable from Seoul.
Best known to drama fans for his romantic hero outings in Coffee Prince and Guardian: The Lonely and Great God, Gong attributed the popularity of K-content to the explosion of streamers.
“As long as you have a television screen or a streamer, we are living in an era where we can connect and enjoy any content from any place around the world very easily,” the 42-year-old actor, who has a global fan following courtesy his roles in the 2016 zombie thriller Train to Busan and 2011’s gritty crime drama Silenced, added.
“I am extremely happy that a lot of the K-content is receiving so much love globally, including Squid Game and Hellbound, and I dare say and hope that if we remain humble, we will be able to see the trend continue for quite some time,” Gong said through the help of an interpreter.
Bae, who is already a Netflix favourite post hit shows like Sense8 and Kingdom, said South Korea is a cinema-loving country receptive to many international films and now the tide is turning.
“I wouldn’t say that it’s something that happened out of nowhere or out of the blue that Korean films and entertainment are loved by the world and are noticed by the world. Korea is a country that truly loves cinema,” she told PTI as she commented on the rise of Korean content around the world.
Bae, also 42, first became a global sensation with her role in the thriller Sympathy for Mr Vengeance in 2002, followed by Bong Joon-ho’s monster film The Host in 2006.
The actor, who later collaborated with the Wachowskis on sci-fi drama movies Cloud Atlas and Jupiter Ascending, is confident that the popularity of Korean shows and movies is here to stay.
Citing the examples of widely acclaimed and award-winning titles Parasite and Minari, she said, “The way these are doing so well and are so loved by the global audiences, one might think that it’s a very sudden phenomenon.
“But I would say that we have always had these amazing and talented creators and films. It’s just that the streamers, OTT services and the changing media environment have provided a platform for them to be showcased and found by the world more widely.”
Bae hopes The Silent Sea, which premieres globally on Netflix on December 24, also becomes popular like the previous shows from South Korea.
“What we are seeing now is that the stories and creators that we have had for a long time are now being found out and being showcased to the world and I’m glad that many people can enjoy them,” she added.
The Silent Sea, written by Park Eun-kyo and directed by Choi Hang-yong from his 2014 short film, follows a story of elite scientists who set off for the moon to retrieve some unknown samples from an abandoned research station.
Bae portrays the role of astrobiologist Doctor Song Ji-an who joins the team, determined to uncover the truth behind an accident at the now-abandoned Balhae Base research station on the moon.
Describing her role in the show as a “layered” one, the actor said her character is someone who is tough from the outside but a soft person in reality who carries “a great deal of hurt within her”.
“It is almost like she needs to wear a tough armour on the outside because she’s so vulnerable on the inside,” she added.
Gong plays Han Yun-jae, the exploration team leader who must carry out a crucial mission with limited information. For Yun-jae, the safety of his team members is paramount.
Speaking about his experience of working on the show, the actor said the team leaned into a lot of technical support to ensure a realistic portrayal, be it creating a set or the surface of the moon.
The show also features Lee Joon, Kim Sun-young and Lee Mu-saeng. It is produced by actor Jung Woo-sung’s Artist Studio.
During a virtual press conference on Wednesday, actor Lee Joon quipped that shooting for the show was not challenging as there was a lot of dancing involved off camera.
“I don’t think I ever had this much fun on set, we were dancing a lot. It was almost like we were in a Bollywood movie even while wearing the very heavy spacesuit and the backpacks.
“Unfortunately, we don’t show off any of our moves in the series. But when the cameras were not rolling, the whole crew.. we were really dancing a lot and we had such a blast,” he added.