If you follow the Korean entertainment world and you enjoy watching drama, you’re likely to have heard of Im Chang-jung. The Gyeonggi-born singer is a major star in Korea, where people often refer to him as ‘the original multi entertainer’ because of the fact he has been active in the film, music and entertainment worlds. As well as acting and performing as a singer-songwriter, Im Chang-jung has performed musical theatre.
In a nutshell, the man is truly talented, with a discography spanning more than 20 years and a cabinet packed full of awards for both his music and his work in front of the cameras. Below is a look at some of the fine work Chang-jung’s has done once the cameras have started to roll. First up is the memorable TV drama series ‘Ji Woon-soo’s Stroke of Luck’.
Ji Woon-soo’s Stroke of Luck
This charming series was the work of director Oh Sang-hoon and writer Lee Kyoung-Mi, and it was broadcast from 21 April to 24 June 2012, on Saturdays and Sundays at 6.50 pm. The series was Im Chang-jung’s first outing on the silver screen in 21 years and he played an average white-collar worker, Ji Woon-soo, whose numbers come up on the lottery. In that respect, his story could be classed as similar to Hurley’s in the popular TV drama Lost. However, Ji Woon-soo’s lucky numbers result in a very different set of circumstances. His lucky lottery win transforms his character from an unhappy but unambitious office worker into a character with real attitude, laughing and counting his money in an open briefcase on the table. On the other hand, Hurley’s ‘lucky numbers’ result in eternal bad luck – clearly two very different ways of displaying lucky numbers in TV shows – however, they proved to be equally entertaining.
He starred alongside See Young-hee, known for her work in Korean thriller ‘The Chaser’, Young-hee played his on-screen wife in the drama. His other major co-star was TV actress Lee Se Eun, she has starred in series such as ‘Bodyguard’ and ‘The King of Legend’ and is also renowned for her big screen work in the South Korean horror ‘Bunshinsaba’
If the Sun Rises in the West
‘If the Sun Rises in the West’ is an endearing, inspirational romantic comedy and marked Lee Eun’s commercial debut as a director. The film came out in 1998 and sees Im Chang-jung star as Beom-Soo, a traffic control officer who dreams of becoming a baseball umpire. While he’s out on duty, he encounters Hyun-joo (played by Ko So-young), who has crashed her car into a tree. Instead of fining her, he offers her driving lessons and the two fall in love over the course of the movie until she goes overseas
Fast forward to three years later and Beom-Soo has achieved his dream and is out there making his professional debut. He realises that the actress and rising star Yoo Ha-rin is actually his former love, Hyun-joo. The two are reunited on the basketball pitch, but this time he has a fight on his hands for her affections. She has appeared in a series of adverts and the president of the advertising company, Ji-min, is interested in her. She rejects him, however, and it’s Beom-Soo who gets the girl when she steps onto the field to throw the first ball of the season at the opening game. The two enjoy a passionate embrace in the middle of the field.
Despite a lack of awards, both audiences and critics received ‘If the Sun Rises in the West’ warmly, with some even comparing it to ‘Notting Hill’. The film has also enjoyed favourable reviews on the IMDB website.
Sex Is Zero
‘Sex Is Zero’ came out in 2002, a time when Korean cinema was really flourishing. This American Pie-style gross-out, sex comedy was a big hit with the nation, despite the fact that ‘American Pie’ itself bombed badly at the Korean box office. This time, Im Chang-jung stars as student Eun-shik, who returns from military service to go to university and study law. He falls in love with roommate Eun-hyo (played by Ha-Ji Won, famous for her work in period drama ‘Hwang Jini’ and the drama ‘Secret Garden’) and a series of embarrassing encounters follows, much to the entertainment of the Korean audience.
As the movie progresses, it takes a serious twist; namely, when Eun-hyo becomes pregnant by one of Eun-shik’s other roommates, Sang-ok. The father-to-be doesn’t want to hear of becomng a father and Eun-shik is the one who supports Eun-hyo when she goes through the trauma of an abortion. Sang-ok gets his come-uppance in the form of a punch in the face by Eun-shik towards the end of the film. The film’s success saw a sequel come out in 2007 and it featured most of the original cast, including Im Chang-jung.
Released in 2012, ‘Traffickers’ is a somewhat gruesome Korean crime thriller about the passengers on board a ferry for China, all on there for different reasons. Im Chang-jun stars as Young-gyu, a black market dealer who goes straight but then returns to his delincuency one last time when he discovers his girlfriend has turned to a local organ broker to help address the costs of her father’s surgery. Unfortunately, the broker relies on black market dealers such as Young-gyu and before he knows it, he has reunited his smuggling gang and they’re pursuing their usual modus operandi: boarding the ferry, kidnapping passengers, removing their organs and then disposing of the bodies.
The film’s subject may have been gruesome, but the film earned itself some fans. Im Chang-jung received a Top Excellence Award in the 2012 Korean Culture and Entertainment Awards. His performance in the film was one of the most famous of his silver screen appearances.
Im Chang-jung has had a phenomenal career to date and shows no signs of running out of steam since his first movie appearance in 1990. That was in the South Korean war drama ‘North Korean Partisan in South Korea’, which was based on the experiences of a war correspondent during the Korean War. From there, he’s gone from strength to strength. His most recent on-screen appearance has been a cameo this year in the TV series ‘Dazzling’. He played a swindler. Who knows what his next project will be?