A newly released Korean movie, 나의 절친 악당들 (Intimate Enemies), directed by Im Sang-soo, portrays a Blasian couple (in supporting roles), a first for Korean cinema. Sam Okyere, a Ghanaian expat living in Korea, plays Yakubu, an African worker who is married to a Korean wife, Jung-sook, played by Korean actress, Ryu Hyeon-kyeong. In the promotional photo shown above, they also have a Blasian child who is played by Egypt Yuna Collier, a Blasian kid (Korean and African American), however she is not listed in the credits.
See this prior post, Asian and Black Couples in the Movies, to see a listing of other feature films worldwide depicting Blasian couples.
Intimate Enemies is a fun comedic action thriller. This is the story of a man and a woman who decide to take revenge on corrupt corporations after having discovered a bag full of money at an accident site, while the mobster who lost the money pursues them. Ryoo Seung-bum and Go Joon-hee, star in the leading roles.
Sam Okyere has been active in Korea television and K-dramas since 2013 and is probably best known in Korea as a cast member of the Korean talk show, Non-Summit, which features a panel of non-Korean men, living in Korea, who debate on various topics and Korean culture, through the eyes of a foreigner. Sam is fluent in the Korean language and first moved to Korea in 2009 as a Korean government scholar pursuing a degree in computer engineering. While pursuing his education, Sam decided to diversify his experiences and ventured into acting and modeling. Korean TV has opened doors to foreigners as a way to get them involved in Korean culture and to learn what they can from the outside world. These days it is not uncommon to see non-Koreans, mainly in supporting roles in K-dramas or Korean variety shows and Sam has appeared in several. Sam is also the Honorary Ambassador of Seaweed for Wando, Korea, the largest seaweed producing city in Korea.
In a recent Seoul press call for the Intimate Enemies movie, director Im Sang-soo said, “Sam Okyere is on par with Will Smith in terms of his comedic acting skills.” High accolades for this 24-year-old, who says that Koreans often say that he looks like Will Smith, even though Sam admits the two don’t really look alike. Sam is scheduled to appear in additional Korean movies – this guy is going places. Keep an eye on Sam!
While being the first to portray a Blasian couple in a mainstream Korean movie, Sam is not the first Black to appear in Korean movies. In 2010, Abu-Bonsrah Kwaku Dad, also a Ghanaian studying at a Korean university, played the role of a friend of the main character in the movie, 초능력자 (Haunters).
Ryu Hyeon-kyeong, age 32, made her acting debut in 1996 at age 12 as the younger counterpart of the protagonist in the SBS TV series Oxtail Soup. In 2010, Ryu drew wide attention with her supporting roles in the erotic period drama, 방자전 (The Servant), and the romantic comedies 시라노; 연애조작단 (Cyrano Agency) and 째째한 로맨스 (Petty Romance). She was also named the Best Supporting Actress at the 6th University Film Festival of Korea in 2010. This led to leading roles for Ryu in 마마 (Mama) in 2011, 두 번의 결혼식과 한 번의 장례식 (Two Weddings and a Funeral) in 2012, and 앵두야 연애하자 (Miss Cherry’s Love Puzzle) in 2013. Ryu has also directed short films, as well as two music videos for the singer Jung-in.
Prior to her acting career, Ryu Hyeon-kyeong had aspirations of becoming a rapper. After she began her acting career, she attended a signing event for the Korean hip-hop group Jinusean. The manager for Jinusean, who also worked for popular music label YG Entertainment, was at the signing event and saw her signing along to the group’s songs. He offered to sign her to YG Entertainment as a singer, however Hyeon-kyeong turned down the offer due to her acting career.
Child star, Egypt Yuna Collier, age 5, is best known for playing in K-pop artist Michelle Lee’s highly acclaimed music video, Without You. Michelle Lee is also a Korean and African American Blasian and her video, Without You, metaphorically depicts her challenges growing up as a biracial kid in Korea’s mostly homogeneous society. Egypt plays the role of young Michelle Lee in the moving music video.
Finally, Korean film director, Im Sang-Soo, has been involved with making Korean movies since 1994. Many of Im’s film projects have created controversy, including his directorial debut in 1998 with 처녀들의 저녁식사 (Girl’s Night Out). This drama about three women in Korea, caused much controversy upon release due to the frank and sexually driven dialogue in the film. His first directed movie to top the Korean box office was 바람난 가족 (A Good Lawyer’s Wife), which despite it’s very suggestive movie poster, received several awards at various worldwide film festivals. One of his most controversial movies was 그때 그사람들 (The President’s Last Bang), which depicted the fictional assassination of a former Korean President by his close friend and Korean Intelligence Agency director. This led to a lawsuit by the former Korean President’s family and involvement with various Korean courts. Im has twice been invited to compete at the Cannes Film Festival, with 하녀 (The Housemaid) in 2010 and 돈의 맛 (The Taste of Money) in 2012. At the press call for Intimate Enemies, Im said, “I wanted to create an uplifting film with rebellious young characters to encourage the current generation of young people who are depressed and have little energy,” referring to current unemployment rates for young Koreans, which are now at a 12-year high.
Fair or not, 98% racially homogeneous Korea has often been criticized for xenophobic and racist treatment of foreigners and people of color. However, this ground breaking portrayal of a Blasian family in a mainstream Korean film by a well known Korean director is a step in the right direction. A huge kudos to director, Im Sang-soo, and everyone attached to this movie. Well done!!!
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