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When the Korean remake of John Woo’s seminal, genre-defining shoot’em up, “A Better Tomorrow” rolls out in multiplexes all over Korea during next month’s Chuseok holiday, don’t expect a faithful update.

Song Hye-sung, director of such searing melodramas as the critically acclaimed “Failan” and “Rikidozan,” says that the focus of his version was the dramatic portrayal of loyalty, family, friendship, and the always popular theme of male bonding.

“When I decided to get on board the project, I watched the original film again and although it was still the exhilarating action picture it was when I first saw it as a university student in the ‘80s, there was something lacking and that was drama,” Song said during the film’s official unveiling on Wednesday in Seoul.

“So I decided that would be the driving force of our remake because I would like audiences to expect our film to be not just an action film but a dramatic film.”

Song quickly added “people are talking about the film as if it’s going to be this big action spectacular but what they will get is a strong dramatic film that also happens to have action. The action is just an incentive. The drama in the film is the driving force. The scenes not involving gunfire aren’t an intermission in between action sequences.”

The remake stars Joo Jin-mo, Song Seung-hun, Kim Kang-woo, and Jo Han-sun with a plot that, for the most part, retains the basic framework of John Woo’s 1986 original, according to the film’s producers.

Like the original, the main focus of the story involves the contemptuous relationship between two brothers ― on the opposite sides of the law.

Kim Hyeok (Joo) is an illegal weapons dealer, while his brother, Cheol (Kim), is a rookie detective assigned to take his brother’s operation down. Both share a tragic past as defectors from the North.

Meanwhile, Song Seung-hun has the unenviable task of taking on the role that Chow Yun-fat made famous. He plays Lee Young-choon, the hot-headed life-long friend of Hyeok who ends up penniless after being betrayed by a fellow crime syndicate member in Jung Tae-min (Jo).

According to director Song, it was three years ago that producers first approached him with the prospect of remaking the film that made international stars out of Chow Yun-fat and the late Leslie Cheung.

It was a tall order for Song to take on as he had never helmed an action picture before. So at first, the notion of taking the project seemed a little too tall.

“At the time I flat out refused,” Song said.

“A large part of my refusal to get on board was because the original was such an iconic film that defined a specific era. At the same time, however, the gravity of the project pulled me in and I thought even if I got blasted by fans of the original, I thought I could do it justice if it was done right.”

The film’s four leading men, too, felt the weight of pressure on their shoulders in following some tough acts.

On stepping into the shoes of veteran Hong Kong actor Ti Lung’s role for the remake, Joo Jin-mo said he was a fan of John Woo’s original as a teenager but avoided seeing it again when he agreed to star in the film.

Kim Kang-woo (from left), Song Seung-hun, Joo Jin-mo, and Jo Han-sun pose for photographers during the official unveiling of their new film “Invincible,” a remake of John
Woo’s 1986 action classic “A Better Tomorrow.”

“I stayed away from watching it before shooting began because I was fearful that if I did revisit the film, I would end up emulating the performance from the original,” Joo said.

“My character in this reboot is a complete overhaul and a reinterpretation. I’d like to watch the original now that we’re done filming and compare.”

Kim Gang-woo, who plays the role the late Cantonese pop star and actor Leslie Cheung played echoed Joo’s sentiments of describing the Korean remake as more of a reboot than a remake.

“The weight of pressure to deliver a film on par with such a famous film was lifted when we saw the final cut,” Kim said.

“The characters in our version carry added dimensions that are revealed in layers that show various emotions at play which was lacking in the original. Because of that, we were able to gain even more confidence that we made a good film.”

With the release of the original, the film’s director John Woo pioneered a new form of stylized action.

It was chock full of meticulously choreographed, operatic gunplay that thrilled audiences like never before.

It featured Hong Kong soap opera star Chow Yun-fat, virtually unknown in the West, brandishing a pair of guns clad in a sleek black Armani trench coat, rocking Ray-Ban aviator shades, topped with a toothpick in mouth.

The image he created instantly shot the lanky leading man into superstardom, becoming the iconic figurehead of the fabled golden-era of Hong Kong action cinema in the 1980s.

The Korean production, made with a modest budget of 10 billion won ($8.4 million), was filmed in China, Thailand, and Japan with Busan as the film’s main setting.

Joo and Song later spoke of the difficulties they experienced shooting key action sequences.

“The most difficult time I had while shooting was on location in Thailand for a scene which required me to run through a puddle of water that seemed like it had been there for about 100 years,” Joo joked.

“We ended up shooting that scene longer than everyone had anticipated and by the end of the day I had to be treated for a skin infection from being exposed to that puddle. The staff also got infected and had to be treated.”

For Song, it was negotiating a jump from a three-story building, landing on top of a car, and rolling off onto the jagged asphalt that was the most difficult.

“Our stunt coordinator asked if I wanted to have a go at it but I was quite fearful of doing it myself. I really wanted my stunt double to do it for me,” Song said.

“But when I turned to director Song for approval of my decision, he was quite adamant that I needed to do it myself.”

credit:  Song Woong-ki (



Actor So Ji-sub carries late actor Park Yong-ha’s portrait and mortuary tablet to Park’s burial site at Bundang Memorial Park in Gyeonggi Province, South Korea on July 2, 2010. [Han Youn-jong/Asia Economic Daily]

Singer and actor Park Yong-ha has been laid to rest at a private funeral attended by close family and friends.

The remains of the late star, who was cremated around noon on Friday, arrived at Bundang Memorial Park in Gyeonggi Province located south of Korea’s capital of Seoul.

Actor So Ji-sub, carrying Park’s portrait in his hands, led a procession of family and friends toward the burial site where song “STARS,” from Park’s last album, was being played in the background for the Buddhist ceremony.

Park’s parents were not present for the service however — Park’s father, diagnosed with late-stage stomach cancer and his mother, who had previously lost consciousness over the shock of losing her son, had attended Park’s coffin rites yesterday in wheelchairs.

Among the mourners were many of Park’s celebrity friends including Park Hyo-shin, Kim Won-joon, Kim Hyun-joo, Kim Min-jung and Kim Moo-yeol.

Actress Park Si-yeon, who had starred in Park Hyo-shin’s music video with the late Park, sobbed out loud crouched down, unable to contain the grief of losing her close friend.

Ryu Si-won, who arrived at the cemetery just as the service was wrapping up, also shed tears as he bid farewell to Park whom he had described as being “like a younger brother.”

Ryu had been set to stay in Japan till next week to take part in concerts and racing competitions but he pushed back the events and flew into Korea today morning.

“We trust that Park Yong-ha will always shine by our side… We will no longer be able to see him but we promise we will always stand by you and love you for a long time,” an official at Park’s agency said.

Numerous Korean celebrities had paid a visit to Park’s wake service for the past two days including Lee Byung-hun, Bae Yong-joon, Choi Ji-woo, Kim Ha-neul, Kim Bum, Yoon Eun-hye, CNBLUE, Eugene, Gummy, Kangta, Kim Jin-pyo, Lyn, Psy, Song Seung-heon and U-Know Yunho.

So Ji-sub was present throughout the three-day wake service and up until the burial ceremony, often seen sobbing over the sudden and unexpected loss of his best friend.

Best known for his role in Asia as Sang-hyuk in the smash hit TV series “Winter Sonata” (KBS2, 2002), Park had led an active acting career in Korea since his debut in 2004, last starring in drama “The Slingshot” and film “The Scam” last year.

He had also branched out to singing, which was particularly successful in Japan. He won an award at Japan’s Golden Disk Award for four years straight starting in 2005, making him the first Korean to win and award at the event and the first to win four times in a row.

His music career in Japan continued to flourish even after he set up his own agency YONA Entertainment in 2008 — his fifth full-length album “STARS” released in June this year reached No. 16 on the prestigious Oricon weekly chart.

He had kicked off a three-month long 16-city tour on June 19 to promote “STARS” when during a brief visit to Korea to check up on his ailing father, Park committed suicide by hanging himself from the cord of his camcorder charger early on Wednesday. His mother found him dead in his apartment around 5:30 a.m.

Sources close to Park said he recently had been having a very hard time juggling his career, his company and family problems.

Although many suspected that Park had been suffering from depression and severe stress, local police ruled his death as “a suicide taken on impulse” after drinking the previous night and claimed there were no emotional or financial issues involved.



President of Beijing Huajia University and Korean star Jang Nara [JNdivertisseme]

Hallyu star Jang Nara has been appointed an associate professor at a university in Beijing, according to her agency on Friday.

Her agency announced in a press release that Jang received a letter of appointment from the president of Beijing Huajia University at a press conference in front of 100 media reporters, held at the Beijing International Convention Center on June 30.

“Acting is a form of study which is aimed at developing one’s attributes rather than teaching something. Each generation has different forms of expressions so wouldn’t there be a need for young professors too?” Jang was quoted as saying at the event.

Jang made her debut in the entertainment industry as a singer, releasing her first album “The First Story” in 2001. The album spawned several hit songs including “Burying My Face In Tears” and “April Story,” selling over 250,000 copies.

She then became a household name with the success of her second album “Sweet Dream” (2002) which sold over 400,000 copies.

Jang also made an impressive crossover into acting, starring in several hit dramas and films including the popular sitcom “Non Stop 2” (MBC, 2001) and “Successful Story of a Bright Girl” (SBS, 2002).

She will be filming a Chinese drama about medicine and the follow-up to “My Bratty Princess” in the fall.



Korean actor Lee Min-ho [Lee’s official Twitter page]

Korean actor Lee Min-ho has set up an official Twitter account after falling victim to a Twitter impersonator last March.

The actor announced on his Cyworld mini-hompy board Thursday afternoon that he had created his own account ( on Twitter, a popular social networking and micro-blogging service.

Lee made his first Twitter entry, saying “I want to ride a bike” along with a photo of himself riding a bicycle in a commercial.

He then ‘followed’ actor Jung Sung-hwa, his co-star in the recent MBC TV series “Personal Taste,” and ‘tweeted’ to Jung, “I made a Twitter account too. Teach me.”

The actor also visited the Twitter page for filmmaker Park Kwang-choon, who directed Lee in films “She’s On Duty” (2005) and “Our School E.T.” (2007), and wrote “Director Park, it’s me Lee Min-ho. The one you went to before was fake.”

Last March, Lee’s agency Starhaus Entertainment warned fans that a fake Twitter account had been opened up under the actor’s name and had over 70,000 followers at the time. The agency was even seeking to take action to protect the actor’s fans.

As of July 2, the number of followers on the fake account currently stands at 88,573 compared to 8,282 on Lee’s official page.

The 23-year-old actor became a household name in Korea and throughout Asia last year with the success of KBS drama “Boys Over Flowers,” co-starring actress Ku Hye-sun and singer Kim Hyun-joong of SS501.

In “Taste”, he played a man pretending to be gay in order to move in with a female roommate, played by Korean actress Son Ye-jin.



Chief investigator Kwak Jeong-hee at Gangnam Police Station gives a briefing on singer and actor Park Yong-ha’s death on June 30, 2010 in Seoul, South Korea.

Police have officially announced suicide is the cause of singer and actor Park Yong-ha’s death. Park was 32.

Chief investigator Kwak Jeong-hee at Gangnam Police Station gave a briefing on Wednesday afternoon, declaring that Park died of suffocation early in the day after hanging himself from the cord of his camcorder’s charger that he had hung to the top of his bedpost.

Kwak however, dismissed reports claiming that Park took his life from depression or problems he had related to taking sleeping pills for 14 years. “We were able to confirm that he had recently taken some pills although we do not know if it was after he got home last night. Nevertheless, it is unrelated to the cause of his death,” Kwak explained.

Police were also unable to find any indications of financial or health related issues nor discover a memorandum on his recent thoughts or a suicide note.

However, for the past few days Park had confessed to his acquaintances that “both work and life are tough,” asking to talk again after he had organized his thoughts.

Also, upon arriving at home past midnight after yesterday after drinking, Park had apologized to his father, close to tears, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I should be the one in pain, not you.” Park’s father has been diagnosed with late-stage stomach cancer and Park, a devoted son, was in agony over his father’s illness.

Kwak added that the actor had taken sleeping pills on several occasions after finding difficulty in falling asleep from having to juggle his business as the CEO of his own agency YONA Entertainment, creating new businesses and pursuing his singing and acting career.

“Based on the testimonies, we are assuming that Park committed suicide on impulse after drinking from stress over his father’s illness, his business and entertainment career,” Kwak stated.

Park was discovered by his mother at 5:30 a.m. at his house today after he had taken his life. Police presume Park died around 3:00 a.m.

Park, who debuted as an actor in 1994, gained popularity throughout Asia after appearing in “Winter Sonata”, a drama that first started the Hallyu craze, alongside top actors Bae Yong-joon and Choi Ji-woo.

He also led a successful singing career in Japan where he placed several albums within the top 10 ranks of the Oricon charts and won four consecutive Japan Gold Disc Awards.

Most recently, he had been set to star in the small screen adaptation of legendary Hong Kong pic “Comrades, Almost a Love Story,” across actress Yoon Eun-hye.

He was on a brief visit to Korea this week while on a three-month long 16-city tour in Japan starting last week.

Below are excerpts from the Q&A session of the police briefing.

Q: Had he drank a lot when he took his life?
A: He was under the influence of alcohol when he returned home after midnight on the night of his death. According to his father, he did not drink a lot but a little.

Q: Did you carry out an autopsy?
A: The family of the deceased do not want one. This means that they too do not have any questions over the cause of his death.

Q: Why did his mother open the door to his room at such an early hour?
A: His mother goes to sleep early and Park often went home late. So it is his mother’s habit to open the door to her son’s room early. She had opened the door early today too.

Q: Was he under a lot of stress over his father’s illness?
A: Investigation showed that Park treated his parents well and was the type who is affectionate. He had told his acquaintances many times that he is extremely distressed about the process of his father’s fight against the disease.

Q: He was said to have taken sleeping pills over an extended period of time.
A: It was never stated that he took them for an extended period. It has not been confirmed whether he took sleeping pills on May 30 but he did take a few recently. But it has nothing to do with the cause of his death. The cause of his death is suffocation.

Q: Did he not have any financial issues?
A: We do not investigate into one’s financial standing when dealing with a death.

Q: Are you sure there was no will?
A: We looked at the notebooks and belongings in his room but we could not find anything which could be considered a will.

Q: Was he suffering from depression?
A: There was no indication either that he had health issues or was suffering from depression.

Q: What about love issues?
A: Nobody has said he had such issues.

Q: Has the case been closed?
A: We handed over the case to prosecutors regarding his body we did not carry out an autopsy on. We have also handed over the body to the family of the bereaved and the case has been closed.

Q: Did you investigate into his phone call records?
A: We got hold of his mobile phone but he had deleted records of his calls. I think he did it himself. The text messages were still there.

Q: Why did he come to Korea when he’s on tour?
A: He visited because of his father’s illness.

Reporter : Ko Jae-wan star@
Editor : Jessica Kim jesskim@
<ⓒ10Asia All rights reserved>


Korean actress Kim Ha-neul [Asia Economic Daily]

Korean actress Kim Ha-neul, who has been in Japan since last weekend, will be rushing back to Korea upon hearing of actor Park Yong-ha’s sudden death earlier this morning.

The actress, who held a sold-out fan meeting in Japan over the weekend, had other schedules planned for the week.

“She decided to cancel the rest of her plans in Japan and rush back,” an official at agency J. One Plus Entertainment told Asia Economic Daily over the phone on Wednesday.

“She was so shocked that she could not say anything. I think his death is harder for her to accept because Park Yong-ha was a bright and cheerful person,” the official added.

Kim and Park had starred together in the hit TV series “On Air” (SBS, 2008).

The official added that many fellow actors, including So Ji-sub, are heartbroken over the news of Park, who was found dead in his apartment around 5:30 a.m. He had hanged himself on the cord of his camcorder charger.

Kim will be arriving in Seoul later this afternoon.

Reporter : Park So-yoen muse@
Editor : Lynn Kim lynn2878@


Park Yong-ha, a Korean actor and singer, was found dead at his home in Seoul early Wednesday morning in what appeared to be a suicide, police said.

Park’s body was found at his home in Nonhyun-dong, southern Seoul, at around 5:30 a.m. by his mother, police said, noting that he appeared to have hanged himself. No suicide note has been found.

According to his family, Park said “I’m sorry. I’m sorry,” last night after massaging his father, who is terminally ill with stomach cancer.

His family and acquaintances said Park had been severely distressed by his father’s disease.

The 33-year-old actor and singer, who debuted in 1997, is widely known across Asia for his role in the 2002 hit drama series “Winter Sonata,” and has also released song albums.

Last month, Park was cast as the leading role for a Korean television drama, which is a remake of the popular 1996 Hong Kong film, “Comrades,

Almost a Love Story.” The shooting was set to begin in July. [Yonhap]



Korean actress Kim Ha-neul performing at her fan meeting held in Tokyo, Japan on June 26, 2010. [J. One Plus Entertainment]

Hallyu star Kim Ha-neul has successfully wrapped up her first-ever solo fan meeting in Japan over the weekend, according to her agency J. One Plus Entertainment on Wednesday.

J. One Plus explained in a press release that the actress held a fan event titled “Kim Ha-neul’s Love Letter,” which was hosted by Yamaha A&R and held at Tokyo’s Ginza Yamaha Hall on June 26. Tickets for the event are said to have sold out in 15 minutes after going on sale on the Internet last month.

“Entertainment industry officials in Japan have completely fallen for Kim Ha-neul’s chameleon-like charms,” an official at J. One Plus was quoted as saying. “We believe she will be easily loved in the Japanese market and we will carefully look over all the offers we receive.”

The actress, who flew into Japan Haneda Airport last Friday, was mobbed by hundreds of fans who showed up at the airport and conducted exclusive interviews with seven local media outlets including Asahi TV.

The following day, before the fan meeting, Kim held a press conference which was attended by some 100 major media outlets.

During the fan meeting, Kim told the host she “was so nervous that [she] could not get any sleep” the previous night. She entertained fans with details about her family, her debut years and anecdotes from shooting “My Girlfriend Is An Agent,” “On Air,” and “Road No.1.”

She also performed two songs, “First Love” by Korean singer Lee So-ra and “Goodbye Day” by Japanese singer Yui, and handed out logo-imprinted umbrellas, hats and badges to fans as a gift.

Unlike most promotional events of male Hallyu stars which are usually attended by middle-aged women, Kim’s fan meeting attracted many women in their twenties and male fans as well.

Kim, 32, has enjoyed steady popularity in Korea since her debut in 1996. She has starred in numerous hit TV dramas and movies, including SBS TV series “On Air” last year and hit film “My Tutor Friend” in 2003 with fellow Hallyu star Kwon Sang-woo.

Her most recent comedy action pic “My Girlfriend is an Agent”, co-starring actor Kang Ji-hwan, placed her onto stardom throughout several countries in Asia including Vietnam, Singapore and Hong Kong.

She currently stars in MBC’s war drama “Road No.1” alongside actors So Ji-sub and Yoon Kye-sang.

Hallyu star Kim Ha-neul shakes hands with a fan at her fan meeting held in Tokyo, Japan on June 26, 2010. [J. One Plus Entertainment]



Han Hyo-joo‘s fans sent her gifts, because they were worried about her health.

They sent bug bite medicine, snacks, and red ginseng.

She thanked her fans and told them to be careful of the hot weather.

Han looks so cute in her pictures!… ( Korean )

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Kim Nam-gil in a scene from TV series “Bad Boy” [SBS]

Korean actor Kim Nam-gil, who is currently starring in SBS TV series “Bad Boy,” has been notified to enlist in the army by July 15, as part of fulfilling the country’s mandatory two-year military service.

“It is true that Kim Nam-gil received a draft notice for July 15,” an official at the show’s production company Good Story said in a phone call with Asia Economic Daily on Tuesday. “But he is in the middle of shooting the drama… We cannot say that he will be going to the military on July 15 no matter what.”

The official further explained that broadcaster SBS and Good Story are trying to delay his military entrance date until the shooting for “Bad Boy” wraps up.

The 20-episode Wednesday/Thursday evening drama, which premiered on May 26, is scheduled to run until the last week of July.

Recently, actor Lee Jun-ki tried to defer his military entrance date as well, in order to finish up shooting for film “Grand Prix” and upcoming blockbuster TV series “Faith.” He eventually pulled out from both projects when he was unable to do so and entered the army on May 3.

Kim, 29, made his debut in 2003 and has appeared in notable dramas such as “Be Strong Geum Soon” (MBC, 2005), “Goodbye Solo” (KBS2, 2006) and “Lovers” (SBS, 2006).

He became a household name last year playing the role of Bidam in MBC’s historical drama “Queen Seon-deok” alongside top Korean actress Ko Hyun-jung.