Which Korean Stars Have the Greatest Pulling Power?

Who is the actor in Chungmuro today who can mobilize the greatest number of fans? And just how many tickets can be sold on the basis of that actor's name alone? We asked a group of 12 producers and PR execs that know actors' commercial value best who in Korea can "open" a movie and ranked the top 20 according to the result. It is the fourth survey of its kind and covers any actor who starred in at least one major film.

Top Stars

Song Kang-ho ranked first on the star power list among all actors and actresses. He is thought to have enough gravity to bring at least 1.28 million to the theaters, beating out last year's winner Jang Dong-gun (1.15 million). Proving his worth again this year in the lead of "The Host", Korea's greatest box office success, Song already landed the top spot in 2003. Of 12 experts that took part in the survey, 10 pointed to Song as the actor with the greatest ability to open a film. He ranked second last year.

Amongst women, perennial favorite Lee Young-ae came first with an estimated opening power of some 900,000 viewers. In the last three surveys, the actress came third. Topping the list despite the fact that she has not appeared in a film since last year's "Sympathy for Lady Vengeance" is an additional feat. The failure of films starring last year's no. 1 and 2, Moon Geun-young ("Love Me Not") and Jun Ji-hyun ("Daisy"), to live up to audience expectations also played a role in Lee's rise to the top.

Familiar Faces

Among those trailing the two were a galaxy of stars in their 30s who managed to improve their standing, led by Jeon Do-yeon (second), Uhm Jung-hwa (ninth), Kim Hye-soo (11th) in the women's category, and Hwang Jung-min (eighth) and Lee Byung-hun (ninth) in the men's. Of particular note is Kim Hye-soo, unable even to make the top 20 last year following a string of appearances in box office disappointments and overall lack of good luck. She soared to 11th this time around after she landed a part that seemed perfect for her in "Tazza: The High Rollers". In a year when competition was especially fierce, their ranking shows the tried and true commercial value of such stars.

Rising Stars

The biggest surprise was Jo In-sung. Not even included on the list last year, his performance in "A Dirty Carnival" brought him recognition as an actor and the fifth spot on the list. Nos. 3 to 5 on the list Cho Seung-woo, Gang Dong-won and Jo In-sung look like the glue that will hold Chungmuro together. Hyun Bin (16th) and Lee Joon-gi (19th) also garnered plaudits for their parts this year. There were no new female stars on the list, but Song Hye-kyo (14th), Choi Kang-hee (19th) and Go Hyun-jung (20) were all either in their first film or part of hits that brought them new recognition as actors.

Endangered Species

The two stars whose draw dwindled the most this year were kwon Sang-woo and Kang Hye-jung. No. 3 last year, Kwon was not part of any box office successes this year, and found himself amid a swirl of rumors that cost him 10 spots on the list. Rising like a comet last year, Kang Hye-jung was in the flop "Love Phobia", which sent her plummeting again from fifth to 18th.
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