10 Korean actors who made it in Hollywood
Once you start watching Korean dramas, it’s natural to wish that you could find your favorite actors and actresses everywhere. Fans of Secret Garden’s Ha Ji Won were thrilled when she recently signed a contract with a Hollywood agency. Fortunately, she isn’t the only Korean star to make it big in Hollywood. Here are ten other Korean actors and actresses who have starred in big productions.
Note: Not all of them were born and raised in Korea, but everyone on the list was born to Korean parents and speaks at least some level of Korean. For the sake of consistency, we used the Hollywood versions of all names, with family names last instead of first, though some of these actors use both.
Rain won over the hearts of Kdrama fans in shows like Full House, but he’s focused more on his action persona with his two big Hollywood films, Speed Racer (2008) and Ninja Assassin (2009). He was the first Korean actor to win an MTV Movie Award (for “Biggest Badass Star” in Ninja Assassin), but, most importantly, he once beat TV host Stephen Colbert in a dance-off:
Interestingly enough, American-born Daniel Henney had his first big break in a Korean drama (My Lovely Sam Soon)—where he only spoke English. He has since learned more Korean, but, let’s be honest, we would watch him no matter what language he was speaking. The handsome half-Korean star later went on to land roles in action blockbusters like X-Men Origins: Wolverine and The Last Stand.
Controversial comedienne Margaret Cho grew up in San Francisco as the daughter of Korean immigrants, and while she doesn’t speak fluent Korean, she can still understand it fluently to this day. Bonus: She is on record confessing to a love of K-pop!
As Glenn Rhee on The Walking Dead, Steven Yeun plays what might be the only character we don’t want to get eaten by zombies. What people may not know about this relative newcomer is that he was born in Seoul and is absolutely adorable when he speaks his Korean/English mix (Konglish?) on camera. Can we vote to have him play some guy who lived abroad in america for yeas on some Kdrama?
5.Yoon Jin Kim
Yoon Jin Kim had a solid body of Korean work before breaking onto American television in the massive hit Lost. In her role as Kwon Sun Hwa, she was able to put her natural Korean skills to good use.
6.Daniel Dae Kim
Yoon Jin Kim's costar on Lost, Daniel Dae Kim was also born in Korea, though he moved to the United States at the age of 2. In spite of his early move, his was still able to harness his Korean language skills in the role of Kwon Jin Soo on Lost. He currently stars on Hawaii Five-0, where Daniel Henney and Will Yun Lee have also played minor characters.
Doona Bae had starred in several Korean films and Kdramas, including God of Study, before she took on about fifty bajillion roles in last year’s massively ambitious Wachowski/Tom Twyker film Cloud Atlas. If she wasn’t on the Hollywood radar before, she sure is now!
Sung Kang is probably best known for his role as Han, easily the coolest member of the gang, in the Fast and the Furious franchise. While his parents left Korea before his birth, he does speak some basic Korean, and he has often spoken out about the limited roles for Asian and Asian-American actors in Hollywood.
9.Will Yun Lee
From compiling this list, I’ve learned that apparently Hawaii Five-0 and Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine movies are great places to look for Korean actors. Aside from these more recent roles, one of his earliest parts was the character of Colonel Moon in the James Bond movie Die Another Day (Remember him? Ole Diamond Face?). In an interview, Will Yun Lee said that he especially enjoyed that role because it allowed him to speak Korean. Awww.
10..Byung Hyun Lee
Saving the best for last! This man was made to be an action star. I mean, he plays the intensely awesome Korean equivalent of Jack Bauer in Iris, and then this summer, he played a major role in not one, but two major Hollywood sequels (Red 2 and G.I. Joe: Retaliation). And that’s just scratching the tip of the iceberg. Oh, and did I mention that he has his own action figure?
Who is your favorite Korean actor in Hollywood? Which Kdrama stars would you like to see in crossover roles? Comment below!
Vivi is an unapologetic Korean drama addict and blogger. She blogs with her Kdrama best friend Coco at Kdrama Fighting! In her free time, she likes to bring her commentary to the DramaFever crowd.