Over the last couple of years, I’ve been posting more and more about Hollywood and the western media’s expansion into South Korea. Netflix, in particular, has a robust Korean content library, with new drama series debuting almost weekly on their platform, as they continue to invest in co-productions with Korean content creators who are finding audiences beyond their borders and beyond East Asia. Korean dramas are super popular in India and in Turkey and the Middle East, and even though there’s not much coverage about it in North American media, Korean entertainment is a growing asset for Netflix’s subscription retention and major players in the industry are definitely paying attention.
Back in October I wrote about Apple’s series adaption of Min Jin Lee’s Pachinko, currently in production, with Lee Min-ho in one of the roles. Lee Min-ho is VERY popular not just in Korea but throughout Asia, he’s starred in some of the most obsessed-over drama series, and it’s inconceivable that Apple wouldn’t have done all that research into how bankable he is and what this series will potentially do for their subscriber base.
So, again, my point is that Hollywood, in general, has its eyes on South Korea. And now Marvel, one of the most powerful studios in Hollywood, has reportedly cast another big Korean star for one of its most highly anticipated projects: The Marvels, which is the sequel to Captain Marvel, starring Brie Larson. As first reported by Korean media, Park Seo Jun has been offered a role in the movie and will be going to the US later this year to join the cast. I know nothing about potential storylines so I hit up Sarah, our resident Marvel expert, for some insight. Here’s how she replied:
“They've done a good job of sitting on the plot so I have no idea who you could be playing. It's wide open. This will probably tie into the secret invasion show, though, so the probability of a shape-shifting alien is always on the table.”
I’ve mentioned Park Seo Jun before – most recently in connection to now Oscar winner Youn Yuh-jung because he’s starred in two seasons of her reality show, Youn’s Kitchen and Youn’s Stay. At the time, I wrote that if you needed a North American equivalent for him, even though it’s impossible to make true comparisons, it would be Jake Gyllenhaal. If you’ve seen Parasite, you might recognise him as the character who provides the catalyst for the mess that unfolds – he’s the friend who comes over to visit Choi Woo-shik and asks him to take over as tutor for his student, which is how the Kim family gets into the home (and basement) of the Park family.
PSJ is a pretty big deal in Korea, huge in the Philippines and Indonesia, and basically anywhere in the world where Korean entertainment is a force (as established earlier in this post). I’ve watched almost all of his dramas (my favourite of his, if you need a recommendation, is Fight For My Way – and for those of you who are about to say Itaewon Class, I get it but I thought the first half of the series was better than the second half when the story kinda fell apart) and he has the range. He can do comedy, he can be your swoony romantic lead, he can play your everyday everyman, and he can do action. Now, evidently, he’s going Hollywood, and not just Hollywood, but MARVEL Hollywood. Which is a whole other level.
Even though this is Hollywood, though, and they don’t give stars from other territories the respect that they should, I can’t imagine this will be a small role. Not with PSJ’s profile – and not after, hopefully, the lessons learned in the last decade. You’ll recall, for example, in trying to attract the Chinese market, Wang Xueqi and Fan Bingbing were cast in Iron Man 3, with very little screen time in the version that was screened in western markets. This is tokenisation, and they may not have eaten a lot of sh-t for it then, but if they try it again now, especially since they’re putting so much energy into a lead Asian superhero in Shang-Chi, they’re not going to get away with it. And I’m not sure Park Seo Jun would be down for it either.
After all, it’s not like PSJ has to lower himself to come into this opportunity. Like, for sure, for sure, for any actor, no matter where they’re from, Marvel is a big get. At the same time, as established, the Korean entertainment industry is really coming into its own power. BTS has proved that they shouldn’t be seen as underdogs. In Park Seo Jun’s case, his power isn’t just in scripted media, but he’s also quite influential on YouTube, the first Korean actor to have Gold Play status on the platform. Considering all of this, then, this should be a significant part.
As for whether or not it’s legit, since it hasn’t been reported by any of the Hollywood trades yet, when Korean outlets asked his agency, the response was “No comment”. In my experience, this is unusual where Korean media is concerned. Typically, when actor’s representatives in South Korean are asked about casting reports, their agencies give more detail than what usually happens in North America and they more often than not confirm that “X has received an offer and is considering it”. The fact that they’re not commenting at all says to me that the Marvel Secrecy Enforcers are all over it and will announce in their own time.
You will note in some of the reporting about PSJ that his name is spelled “Park Seo Joon”. I’m using “Park Seo Jun” because that’s how his YouTube refers to him and he manages that through his own team. Curious to see, then, once Marvel makes it official, how his name will be styled. In the meantime, attached, here’s Park Seo Jun at the press conference for his series What’s Wrong With Secretary Kim in 2018, which was a pretty derivative rich man falls in love with his assistant story, but which was enormously popular to the point of obsession for a lot of K-drama fans. As you can see, he’s really, really handsome. And he had really, really great hair on that show.