Korean Actor Spotlight: Choi Min-Shik

Choi Min-Shik was born April 27, 1962.  At 48 years old, Choi Min-Shik is considered among the very top ranks of Korean actors. Choi honed his skills early by participating in theater work.  Choi’s early film roles were in  Kuro Arirang (1989) and the hailed Our Twisted Hero (Urideului ilgeuleojin yeongung, 1992) . During Mid-90s, he continued to take on theater roles as well participating in  several Korean dramas, including 1994’s 82 episode Seoul’s Moon with Han Suk-Kyu.

In 1997, Choi made his return to film. He starred 1997  as a tough-talking police investigator in Song Neung-han’s No. 3. His success in film would continue to gain traction as he was cast in on of the most successful Korean films to date, Shiri/Swiri (1999) alongside Han Suk-Kyu once again. His portrayal of a North Korean agent garnered him tremendous praise.

A Note About Shiri/Swiri

The movie was released under the name Shiri outside of South Korea; inside Korea, the title was spelled Swiri. The name refers to Coreoleuciscus splendidus, a fish found in Korean fresh-water streams. At one point Park has a monologue wherein he describes how the waters from both North and South Korea flow freely together, and how the fish can be found in either water without knowing which it belongs to. This ties into the film’s ambitions to be the first major-release film to directly address the still-thorny issue of Korean reunification.

The film would later serve as the basis for the successful drama series Iris, starring Lee Byung-hun and Kim Tae-hee.

Choi’s success did not stop with Shiri. He followed it with Shakespearean performances on stage and movies such as the 2001 melodrama Failan opposite Hong Kong actress is Cecilia Cheung, wife of actor, singer Nicholas Tse. In Failan, he plays a third-rate gangster who dreams of returning home and changing his life. This was the first movie I saw starring Choi Min-Shik. It struck a powerful chord with me, and I cried bitterly at it’s ending. Choi Min-Suk is powerful, raw and at times irascible; then at other times he is childlike, fresh, and absorbed of a bold ignition that kicks off this urgency to seize life by the reins and run with it whether the outcome is elation or disastrous. He makes you feel alive, visceral and exposed to powerful themes – whether redemptive, shameful, or manic.

To date, Choi’s greatest role has been as the revenge seeking Oh Dae su in Park Chan-Wook’s Old Boy.  If you want to see palpable rage, madness, and determination – watch Choi unravel in Old Boy. I think no other actor can come close to his acting brilliance (ok, that might be a statement I might regret being such a big Song Kang-ho fan; Choi does gritty like none other).

But, really – see for yourself. 🙂

Film Recommendations

He excels in his roles, but I want to list the ones I hold dear to my heart. However, you don’t have to limit yourself just to these. 🙂

  • Failan
  • Old Boy
  • Shiri
  • The Quiet Family
  • Crying Fist
  • Chihwaseon
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2 thoughts on “Korean Actor Spotlight: Choi Min-Shik

  1. I’m glad someone else likes actors that aren’t just pretty faces too 😉 My net was out of sots last night so i couldn’t do a post for the blogathon … but i will tonight 😉

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