Psychologists often say that when it comes to love, opposites attract. But the rule may not apply to actor Cho Seung-woo
and actress Kang Hye-jung
, often dubbed as the "twin-like sweethearts" of Chungmuro, Korea's tinseltown.
As Cannes Grand Prize-winning director Park Chan-wook
once said in an interview with a local movie magazine, the two young sweethearts greatly resemble each other when it comes to their acting careers.
By strictly keeping to the principle, "Be actors, not celebrities", Jo an
d Kang managed to sweep up more than 5 million audiences each, in the two major box-office hits of 2005, "Running Boy" - "Marathon" and "Welcome to Dongmakgol", respectively.
Unlike many young actors and actresses, Jo an
d Kang did not rely on their "pretty faces" or the so-called "star-making system", in becoming the rising stars of Chungmuro.
Now regarded as the two most promising actors of the Korean screen, Jo an
d Kang are also building up a solid powerbase as a pair.
While revealing their relationship to the public last year, Jo said Kang was not only a girlfriend, but also a trustworthy supporter to help him secure his career goals of becoming a "real" actor.
Although Jo an
d Kang are both attractive enough, and are still in their early 20s, they did not use their good looks or overrated publicity to grasp immediate fame.
The "grungy" roles that the two landed in their past movies are what most young stars of their age would gladly avoid. And for this, directors regard both Jo an
d Kang as reliable actors and crave the chance to work with them.
In "Running Boy" - "Marathon", Jo played the role of an autistic man while Kang acted as a mad girl in Welcome to Dongmakgol.
With no renowned directors or popular leading actors, no one had presumed the two movies would be box-office hits. But Jo an
d Kang proved that renowned directors and popular actors could no longer automatically lure audiences to the cinema, and that only well-made movies with hardworking actors leads to the success of a movie.
Both Jo an
d Kang took ample time and effort to achieve their goals. Rather than relying on their management agencies to make them hot celebrities, they chose to build up their acting skills first by testing themselves in difficult roles.
J, 25, made his debut as Mong-ryong, a young pansori-singing son of a local governor in the world renowned director Im Kwon-teak's 2000 film "Chunhyang".
With his successful debut, and his prince-like delicate features, Jo could have chosen to become Korea's heartthrob by taking roles of "Prince Charming" in chick-flicks.
But Jo chose instead to broaden the scope of his acting by taking versatile roles not just in movies but also in plays and musicals. Cho's choice made people praise him as an impressive actor rather than a typical celebrity with a pretty face.
Director Chung Yoon-chul
of "Running Boy" - "Marathon" said in an interview that Jo was "not like a trendy young star but more like an old man who knows what he should expect in his life".
"What I trust the most about Jo, is that he knows his delicate appearance could both be a merit and a demerit to his acting career, and he tries to overcome the demerits by taking all kinds of different roles", Chung added.
Kang, 23, made her debut in a TV drama, in which she did not receive much of a warm welcome by viewers, possibly because Kang does not have a typical doll-like face.
Realizing her narrow chance of success in the standardized TV world, Kang chose to broaden her scope of acting by taking bold and daring roles in movies.
In director Park Chan-wook
's 2003 "Old Boy" which won the Grand Prize of the Jury at the Cannes Film Festival, Gang played a daughter who becomes a victim of incest with her own father.
With this role, Kang succeeded in leaving a strong image to audiences, and soon she was regarded as a starlet of Chungmuro. From then on, Gang has been forming a solid grounding in domestic films by taking diverse roles.
Director Bae Jong
of Welcome to Dongmakgol said, "Kang is a rare actress who is clever enough to know when to step forward and when to step back".
d Kang are more loved by the public for their openness in revealing their relationship unlike other furtive celebrity couples. The two also keep to the policy never to use their relationship as a tool to sweep up public interest, seldom exposing their dating scenes or private lives to the public.
d Kang recently announced that they would be appearing together in a new movie "Lizard".
In Hollywood, movies with real celebrity couples often left pitiful box-office records and poor audience response.
Should the movie escape the bad omen and be another hit, Jo an
d Kang will once again prove the power of love, bringing another major wave to the nation's movie land.
By Shin Hae-in