K-pop idols help Discovery Channel find ‘Hallyuwood’ documentary

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“I didn’t want to just make a documentary about, ‘Look how popular everyone is, and let’s just show screaming fans in Europe for Super Junior’ and things like that.” Sean Richard said in a phone interview with hellokpop.

Sean Richard, a Korean actor known for his roles in Athena: Goddess of War, Jejungwon and Feast for the Gods, has directed a documentary, which aims to show the Korean wave or Hallyu in a more direct and intimate light.

The documentary will show not only the good sides but also provide interpretive criticism and foresight on the stars of the “Hallyuwood”.

Korean wave: what makes it popular?

Hallyu has reached lots of countries across the globe. Korean Pop, according to Sean, has something that “celebrates teenagehood, energy and style, which is the kind of a voice for Asia right now”. The perfect balance between the Western and Asian style combined with the “addictive melodies, really spot on performance, which comes from years of training” creates what we know now as K-pop.

It’s difficult to compare the Korean Wave to Hollywood however as Sean explains, “Hollywood is a very mature industry, it’s been around and very developed over a long time, while Korea has just come into to this new age of Hallyu within the last 15 years”.

It’s also interesting to note that when Sean visited the show Superstar K, he discovered that young people in Korea saw that becoming a singer in Korea “does not just mean being a national star anymore, it potentially means becoming an international star.  Those dreams did not exist before the Korean Wave”.

More than a decade ago, when the group H.O.T was starting to become popular overseas, music companies took the opportunity to train artists with the mentality of possibly promoting them internationally. And now, we see those ex-trainees as artists onstage. Koreans are proud of them representing their country abroad.

As to whether there are problems or barriers to penetrating the West, Sean optimistically said, “I wouldn’t say there are problems, I just think these things take time… We’ve already had actors. We’ve had Yunjin Kim, who is a really popular film actress in Korea, she was on Lost.  We have Lee Byung Hun, who’s in G.I. Joe, and he’s coming out with G.I. Joe 2 and he’s filming Red 2 right now.  We’ve got BIGBANG, Super Junior, Girls’ Generation and 2NE1. They’re doing concerts. They’re doing world tours literally throughout the world.” 

Sean also acknowledged PSY’s success with Gangnam Style. He said,

“It’s just amazing now. The word Gangnam is a district in Seoul.  Now, a district of Seoul is world famous. That’s amazing to me… I was watching him on the MTV American Music Awards where he closed with MC Hammer, and I was just thinking, he has done what actually a lot of even American singers want to do.  And that’s pretty amazing, his words are not even English, and you have the entire audience just like doing the dance with him… What he’s doing is transcending culture lines and that’s a beautiful thing that’s what music is supposed to do.  It’s great that that’s coming out of Korea.”

Sean also expressed his hope for PSY and other Korean artists to keep doing good. No matter what language, “as long as the music’s good, then people will know that, and they’ll feel that I think.”

Korea Next: Finding Hallyuwood

Conceptualized in June 2012, Discovery Channel green-lit the documentary Finding Hallyuwood, one of the episodes of Korea Next. The project was worked on for five months. It aims to answer the following questions:

Why is the Korean Wave happening? What is it about right now? What is Korea doing right now? What things have happened to Korea that have put it in a position that it’s now creating this content that foreign audiences really love? 

In Sean’s opinion, the Korean wave is what it is right now because of how fast Korea moves. “They’re always catching these new trends, and they refine and commercialize these ideas and these things that work, and they make them better.” He said.

Going deep into the history of Korea from almost 60 years ago, according to Superstar K judge Yoon Mi-Rae, the country has experienced a “kind of pain that people of all generations in Korea tap into, whether they know it not”. He proudly states however that this is not a bad thing because Korea has “risen above, taken advantage of this difficult history and now, it’s actually sharing a very important art and entertainment with the rest of the world.”

From watching the documentary, the audience will feel like an insider as they hear from the people behind the Korean wave. He said, “those things are all things that I definitely didn’t know before I made the documentary.  It was a really good chance for me to learn as well, as an artist here.”

Celebrities featured

Lots of celebrities and artists from different companies are featured in the documentary. Siwon Choi of Super Junior shared to Sean how his training and influences were in 2003. Siwon shared, “When I was in training the most popular song was Justin Timberlake’s Like I Love You”.

He also said that as he watched the artist he liked, he “eventually keep getting drawn to the artist’s work and then some of that became his own style eventually.” Interestingly, the two artists also took a picture on Twitter and both of them monitored the number of retweets the post got.

Celebrities like Lee Hyung Hun, Park Yong Woo, Han Chae Young, Tiger JK, Yoon Mirae and B.A.P were also featured. Film director Kim Sung Soo and Boys Over Flowers‘ creator, Song Byung Joon from Group 8 also shared their insights in the show.

Sean Richard as an actor and director

Finding Hallyuwood is Sean’s first directing project. As someone experienced in acting and used to entertaining the audience, he was able to use his instinctive skill in determining which parts are good or bad and in coming up with the emotional rhythm of the film.

Given the chance to direct again in the future, he’ll devote more time in studying and preparation. Meanwhile, he’s looking forward to using his experience behind the camera when he goes back to acting.

According to the star, “Acting is my first love, it will always be, and directing is just a part of this creative process that I never tried.  And after trying it, I realized it’s a different form of expression with a different kind of fulfillment… it’s a different feeling, being the creator and being the actor.”                                                                                                    

A foresight of the Korean wave 

After finishing the production for 5 months, Sean concludes through his discoveries that there is something very special in Korea right now that will not make it go away. The country is “always reinventing itself and finding new things to show”. Years from now, the wave may be in different form but it will still be Korean.

It gives not one conclusion as to why the Korean Wave is what it is now. The audience, more than just getting information, will be able to have insights on “different people taking different things from K-pop” as well as “feel the energy of what’s going on in Korea right now”.

I’m very optimistic that Korea’s future could be as bright as the reign that Hollywood has had on the world.  I think it just takes time, these things just take time.  And then later we’ll see where this Korean Wave will go… In the future, the Korean Wave might not be always K-Pop, or might not always be Korean drama, but it will definitely be something else, that will continue it on.  Because they always find something new. Sean Richard said.

Korea Next premieres on Discovery Channel Korea on December 16 at 10PM. Watch the official video here.

Sources: Image – siwon407, seanrich84, BIGBANG, SMTOWN, PSY, irisathena; Video – ibuzzkorea

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