Publication Details

Yecies, B, Reading Korean stardom: number 3 and the reel, real and star transformation of Song Kang-ho, in Baek, M (ed), Number Three, New Korean Cinema Series,Seoul, Korea, Yonsei Institute of Media Arts, 2004, 34-61.


This article focuses on Number Three and attempts to provide a window of understanding of Song Kang-Ho and the development of his artistry, which became crystallized in the early part of his filmmography. Number Three is an important film because Song Kang-Ho’s recognition and popularity began to spread after his performance in it. However, to date, few scholars have methodically explored and analyzed the transformation of his persona. Over the last seven years Song has appeared in some the most popular films as well as on the covers of numerous issues of Cine21 and Filml.O, two of Korea’s largest film magazines. At least three recent films end with a close-up of Song looking into the camera and, thus, at us in the audience and inward to society: The Foul King (Dir. Kim Jee-Woon, 2000); Y.M.C.A. Baseball Team (Dir. Kim Hyun-Seok, 2002); and Memories of Murder (Dir. Bong Joon-Ho, 2003). Song Kang-Ho is literally one of the more prominent faces of modern Korean cinema. At the same time, his face possibly has come to represent the larger contemporary Korean society. Trains, busses, billboards and shop windows all over urban and rural Korea are littered with a variety of Mr. Song’s product endorsements, ranging from the national lottery (Lotto) to traditional Korean alcohol (Baekseju). The obvious point is that Song is ubiquitous in Korea and so is his face. Song’s face represents the maturity and vitality of contemporary Korean cinema. At the same time, he has emerged to represent new tropes or images of manhood in contemporary Korean cinema.

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Yonsei University