The term “overnight star” is often a misnomer; we believe a person to have just suddenly appeared and entranced the public conscience –one second they don’t don’t exist, the next they’re everywhere — but the reality behind that is years and years of hard toil right in our very midst. And such is the case with actor Park Ki-woong. His tremendous turn as the the second lead-cum-antagonist in 2012’s hit drama Gaksital propelled him to stardom, also netting him his first acting award. And now, along with Kim Soo-hyun and our last Seoulbeats Spotlight subject Lee Hyun-woo, he will be starring in the anticipated spy film Secretly, Greatly (also known as Covertly, Grandly) which comes out in South Korea this week.

However, Park Ki-woong has been acting for many years prior to signing on to Gaksital

Park had been working in entertainment for a couple of years (like in this K2 MV back in 2004) but what caught people’s attention at first was this cellphone CF. His slick moves here were a winner for both him and the company, and would have very well started a trend in clubs.

Park managed to break into films, beginning with 2005 schoolyard action-comedy Art of FightingPark’s first lead film role, which he has also claimed as his most memorable role, came in 2007 with rom-com My Tutor Friend 2, where he played the impromptu Korean tutor to a Korean-japanese girl (played by Flower Boy Ramyun ShopLee Chung-ah). Park also took on an antagonist role around this time as well, portraying the creepy student Suk-min in horror flick Someone Behind You (released in the US as Voices as part of the After Dark Horrorfest III Film Festival in 2009). Both films were panned by critics, but they gave an indication of Park’s range, as well as our first taste of his execution of darker material.

20130605_seoulbeats_parkkiwoong_gaksital3Park Ki-woong would not make another film until 2011; but in the meantime, his attention turned to television. He was seen in Drama CityLove and Marriage and Seoul Warrior Story it wasn’t until 2009 that he was critically recognised, with his performance as the autistic Ahn Kyung-tae in award-winning thriller The Slingshot (also known as Story of a Man). The praise elated him, but didn’t necessarily elevate his career, with middling dramas like Goo Hye-sun starrer The Musical and, most recently, Full House Take 2, joining his other lacklustre projects.

But then came Gaksital. The drama was beloved by many, not least for Park’s dark turn as Kimura Shunji. The transformation from innocent music teacher to not even hesitating to physically torture others was as convincing as it was horrifying, though the transformation from protagonist Kang-to‘s best friend to his mortal enemy was more heart-wrenching. The drama reaffirmed the praise from The Slingshot and Park’s acting talent, especially his proficiency in villainy. They say it takes a good guy to play a bad guy, and this rings true for Park. Though baby-faced, or perhaps because he is, his villainous roles are the most memorable, something which the actor himself has noted, but has refused to let define him, choosing different roles.

So, what next for Park Ki-woong? Sadly for fans, he has set his enlistment date for October this year, meaning that there will not be many, if any, projects to look forward to for the next two years. Park may involve himself in something in the intermittent months, but otherwise, we’ve got quite a wait. Luckily for us, though, Park’s career is full to brimming with projects to suit just about everyone’s taste: and that right there is Park Ki-woong’s biggest strength and asset. I’ve referred to his range earlier in this piece; but ultimately, it is how he has actually shown us that range that is his winning quality.  He hasn’t picked the best projects, but you cannot deny that they are very varied; as such, it’s not easy to type-cast him. Aside from the films and dramas mentioned above, there are a plethora of other projects as well as interviews, music videos (most recently in Younha’s), CFs, press conferences and other appearances (as expected for a man working for so long), so I think it’s safe to say that we’ll have enough to keep us busy until his discharge.

Readers, tell us your thoughts on Park Ki-woong! Do you have a favourite role or appearance by him? And why does he appeal to you?

(After Dark HorrorfestArirangThe Korea Times, Korean Movie Database, KBS, Youtube[1][2][3])