Big Tiger, who has protected Korean cinema for 20 years. Undercover boss is roaring silently

Jeong Mansik

With his strong jawline, sparkling eyes, and imposing appearance, actor Jeong Mansik’s first impression is overwhelming. Due to his strong image that daunts the opponent, Jeong used to play detectives, gangsters, and villains in films and TV series. In short, it is a kind of ‘image casting.’ The term ‘image casting’ usually means ‘casting an actor that matches the appearance of a character,’ but it is a great strength that the first impressions of a character and an actor fit perfectly. Without having to explain the character in detail, the mere appearance of the actor vividly brings the character to life.

When Jeong Mansik appeared in Breathless (2009), directed by Yang Ikjune, who became an icon of the Korean independent film industry, rumors spread among the audience. They said the moneylender in the film, who stubbornly wears a fancy T-shirt and swears harshly all the time, couldn’t be a real actor but a guy who did it for a living. This kind of medal-like heroic episode belongs to actors who are good at acting in the Korean film industry. Is there a better compliment for an actor than the remark ‘You’ve totally got me’? Jeong Mansik receives that kind of compliment a lot. However, he’s not the actor who stays in an image where the audience ‘looks as it is revealed.’

He is a ‘stage person.’ Even before appearing in films and TV series, Jeong already showed his presence on the theatrical stage. After winning the Best Actor at the Seoul Theater Festival in 2004, his next stage naturally led to films and TV series. He appeared in short films from 2001, and his filmography has been filled with more than 40 feature films and 25 TV series for 20 years since he appeared in his first commercial film She’s On Duty in 2005. Almost every actor who participates in the ‘Korean Actors 200’ campaign has met him in films and TV series, sometimes as a fearful enemy and sometimes a reliable friend. In the meantime, the public and film directors have realized how colorful spectrums Jeong Mansik’s first impression can have.

Director Ryu Seungwan’s The Unjust melts Jeong Mansik’s strong impression into an ordinary citizen character. With a tiger-like face, he becomes a gentle sheep in front of the arrogant and bossy young prosecutor who seeks power. The toughness of life meets Jeong Mansik’s strong image, and it amplifies irony. However, the character in Director Kim Sungsoo’s Asura: The City of Madness (2016) seems to be in the same vein but totally different. Again, Jeong’s role was a prosecution investigation officer, but the character was very violent and villainous. With big eyes, Jeong speaks softly smiling, but he gives you a more terrifying sense of fear than meeting a tiger in the mountains. In The Tiger (2015), where he collaborated with Choi Minsik, Jeong Mansik played a tiger hunter and exuded a more coercive presence than a tiger. The irony of killing or being killed is revealed by Jeong Mansik’s blazing eyes. As he has done for the past 20 years, his silent roar will resonate in Korean films. Park Hyeeun