One of the phrases that can define Korean cinema may be ‘excessive masculinity.’ Think about the two movies of the two maestros who lifted Korean films to the global stage. Park Chanwook’s Oldboy (2003) and Bong Joonho’s Memories of Murder (2003) are the films that explode high-testosterone masculinity on screen. Since then, Korean films have become an exhibition hall of excessive masculinity. Naturally, the male actors who were loved and praised by the film industry and viewers could not ignore this trend of masculinity. However, times change, and the type of masculinity people want changes as well. In this regard, Park Bogum, a young actor who has shot to the stardom fast, is a fascinating case.
Park rose to fame as soon as he played the role of a genius go player in the TV drama Reply 1988 (2015), which tells a story of the youth living in Seoul in 1988. After that, the actor achieved another success by playing the role of the crown prince in the TV historical drama Love in the Moonlight (2016), set in the Joseon Dynasty. Then he played the title role in Encounter (2018) opposite K-wave star Song Hyekyo. It means that Park Bogum grew into a leading actor representing the Korean drama world in just three years.
What is interesting is that Park Bogum has opened a whole new world completely different from his predecessors. He does not exude the excess masculinity that Korean films and dramas often require from male actors. Park is either a shy boy who is hesitant to say, “I love you”, or a young boyfriend who embraces a woman without any rough attitude. Even in countless television commercials, he smiles brightly and winks at you while lying in bed with lovely gestures. This innocent image instantly induced commercial success, which can be considered the reaction of Korean cinema after consuming so many ‘tough guys.’
Of course, Park Bogum cannot be categorized just as an actor like fresh milk. His face is like a blank canvas that can change in so many ways. With his advance into the film world by appearing in Chinatown (2015), a type of experimental genre featuring female protagonists, Park Bogum’s new film is Director Lee Yongjoo’s sci-fi Seobok. Park plays a cloned human created by manipulating genes. Without his innocent face, this film couldn’t have been born. Park Bogum is one of the coolest MacGuffin in Korean cinema now. Kim Dohoon