VMAN 51 COVER STAR: PARK BO GUM
The strikingly talented actor and musician is continuing to ride the Korean Wave (한류) to international superstardom
Born in Seoul, South Korea, Park Bo Gum (whose given name means “precious sword”) submitted videos of himself singing and playing piano as a teen to talent agencies nationwide. Now, the star has one of the most famous faces not only in his home country but the world.
The self-taped recordings jettisoned a musically inclined Bo Gum, perhaps unexpectedly, into the realm of acting. He had his breakout role in the Korean television series Reply 1988 (2015-2016), in which he played a genius of the more than the 2,500-year-old abstract strategy board game ‘Baduk’ (perhaps the oldest board game still played today). As a nod to his character, Choi Taek, South Ko- rean audiences began referring to Bo Gum as the “nation’s younger brother.”
“One of the most appealing aspects in my line of work is that acting helps us realize and acknowledge the perspective of others that we normally wouldn’t have the opportunity to understand before.” —Park Bo Gum
From that point onward, Bo Gum’s list of successes feels longer than a phone book. From starring in Love in the Moonlight (2016) which solidified his status as a bonafide star, going on to take roles in blockbuster films and TV shows ranging from horror (Hello Monster) and drama (Encounter) to comedy (Runway Cop), created what’s been dubbed by the Korean Business Research Institute as the “Park Bo Gum Effect” (any product he touches flies off the shelf), become the face of French luxury brand CELINE, released a Japanese album called Blue Bird, and even served in the South Korean military—where he received his license as a hairdresser.
Next, Bo Gum is working to break through in Hollywood, where American audiences are increasingly anticipating stars from the ever-rising “Korean Wave,” a reference to the growing popularity of South Korean pop culture worldwide—which is really more of a tsunami.
“I always thought that the culture of heung (‘흥,’ joy), han (‘한,’ deep resentment), and jeong (‘정,’ affection) were emotions that are difficult to translate into other languages, but I realized that real emotions are communicated through our hearts and feelings instead of words.” —Park Bo Gum
VMAN spoke with Bo Gum about his career thus far, as well as what one of the world’s most productive men does during his time off.
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