Korean pop starlet BoA is just lookin' for a lil' American love...
As prideful as Koreans are about their own country, they—like most non-European peoples—look to America as the ultimate barometer of pop-culture success. They might not fuck with U.S. cars, clothes or beef, but Koreans do respect the American entertainment industry. So, having already conquered China, Japan and SE Asia, Korean entertainers are now attempting to break the U.S. market. Starting with Rain's role in last year's Speed Racer and continuing on with the singer BoA's U.S. debut this month, the Korean invasion of America has begun.
The actress Kim Yun-jin of Lost was probably the first Korean native star to make a cultural impact in the U.S., but she's a small part of a huge ensemble cast. The rest of these cross-continent hopefuls are feeling the true Korean immigrant experience: They leave home with everything and arrive here with nothing, working their way up from the bottom. It's assimilate or die. But will they succeed? We've assessed the chances of five Korean entertainers who aspire to become U.S. stars...
NAME: BoA, singer
WHY SHE WILL: The 22-year-old singer, a Korean star since age 13, has the "exotic" looks and dance moves that could attract the Britney Spears crowd (i.e., young girls, gay dudes and dirty old men). Her self-titled English-language debut just landed at 142 on Billboard. Hey, at least she sold more than Capone-N-Noreaga!
WHY SHE WON'T: The album's bland dance-electro-pop might work under a strobelite in a Long Island club, but on its own? Not so much. Plus, BoA's pained Engrish makes lines like "I could eat you up alive" sound silly, not sexy.
VIDEO: BoA, "Eat You Up"
CLICK NEXT TO SEE MORE KOREAN STARS ON THE RISE!
NAME: SE7EN, singer
WHY HE WILL: The "Korean Justin Timberlake" has won nine Korean Grammys and is undeniably good at singing and dancing, if male R&B is your thing (we see you!). His upcoming U.S. debut album features production from Rodney Jerkins and cameos from Three-6-Mafia. He also speaks the best English of the aspiring Korean pop stars.
WHY HE WON'T: His just-released debut single, "Girls," would've sounded decent...in 2002. Everything about it, from the fake Hype video to the Lil' Kim cameo, feels dated and unoriginal. (Seriously, Lil' Kim? Just about anybody—Cassie, Christina Milian, your sister, a lamp pole—would have generated more sexual chemistry.) Koreans can get away with aping fading U.S. music trends at home, but here, it's not gonna work. Hopefully, the music gets better.
VIDEO: Se7en feat. Lil Kim, "Girls"
NAME: JEON JI-HYUN, actress (a.k.a. Gianna Jun)
WHY SHE WILL: Her breakout performance in My Sassy Girl (2001) rocketed her to idol status throughout Korea, and her model-esque face and frame didn't hurt either. Newly christened "Gianna," the actress makes her English-language debut in the forthcoming Blood: The Last Vampire (this summer in Europe, next year in the U.S.).
WHY SHE WON'T: The trailer for her flick looks promising on some popcorn shit, but the real test will be if she can escape the kung-fu/sword-fighting/ass-kicking genre (rappers:hood flicks::Asian stars:hiyah!!! movies). Somebody write her into an American rom-com, stat!
TRAILER: Blood: The Last Vampire (2009)
NAME: RAIN, actor/singer (a.k.a. Bi)
WHY HE WILL: He already tried the music thing, even getting Diddy to join him onstage during a 2006 concert in NYC. All that led to was a brief spell of American press (and a hilarious Colbert bit) but not much else. Now trying to make it as an actor, Rain appeared in the dreadful Speed Racer (2008) and stars in the upcoming Ninja Assassin opposite Naomie Harris and the homie Sung Kang.
WHY HE WON'T: It's hard out here for an Asian male actor, especially one who doesn't speak fluent English. Unless he's content with playing either ninjas or "Dry Cleaner's Son," he's gonna have a tough time breaking into that John Cho territory.
INTERVIEW/TRAILER: Speed Racer premiere
NAME: BAE SEUL-KI, actress
WHY SHE WILL: The super-cute singer/TV personality was a fixture on Korean variety shows before attempting to make it as an English-language star. Her upcoming German-produced film, Finale, is about the mafias of Korea and Italy warring while the two countries face each other in World Cup 2002. We all know how that one turned out...
WHY SHE WON'T: From the looks of the trailer, she holds her own in what appears to be a cool movie. Still, she definitely needs to work on her English if she wants to really make it.
TRAILER: Finale (2010)
NAME: LEE BYUNG-HUN, actor
WHY HE WILL: He's like the Leo DiCaprio of Korea, equally comfortable playing the love interest in chick flicks and the embattled tough guy in action movies. He is the man behind Storm Shadow in this summer's G.I. Joe and also has a supporting role in the very weird-looking international thriller I Come With the Rain, starring Josh Hartnett.
WHY HE WON'T: We highly doubt Storm Shadow will take off his mask too much. Regardless, this dude is pushing 40 and is a real G across the entire continent of Asia. We don't think he's sweatin' it too much...
TRAILER: G.I. Joe (2009)