Rookie actresses torn between 'nude and success'

There is a rising trend in the Korean film industry to cast new actresses alongside senior actors in R-rated films

A rising number of Korean films are starring new actresses who are ready for anything - not least, complete nude exposure and lovemaking scenes.

The trend was heralded by the immense success of the hit movie Eungyo (2012), an R-rated romance starring star actor Park Hae-il and a completely new face, Kim Go-eun. The rookie actress played the 17-year-old schoolgirl Eungyo who inspires love in an old, revered author.

Kim, a nobody before starring in Eungyo, became a Cinderella overnight, nabbing nine new actress awards. Since then, there has been a constant production of R-rated films starring rookie heroines. Then came Obsessed (2014) and Scarlet Innocence (2014), with the similar formula as Eungyo. These two R-rated films cast top male actors and young, unknown actresses who fall in love against social norms.

Obsessed casts actor Song Seung-hun and rookie actress Im Ji-yeon as the general and nurse of the same military camp. Both married, the two fall in passionate love that results in a tragic end. Similarly, Scarlet Innocence stars top actor Jung Woo-sung and rookie actress Esom. While both films failed to achieve success, the two actresses gained instant fame. Im, for instance, won several new actress awards for the role.

The Korean film scene is expecting the launch of three more R-rated films this year, which all cast new actresses who will play the lead or supporting roles that include sex scenes. The Age of Innocence, The Treacherous Courtier and A Man and A Woman are holding on to the "nude rookie actress" formula, and will launch this year.

Star actor-filmmaker Ha Jung-woo's next film, Agassi (working title), will also stick to this nude-rookie formula. The movie's director, Park Chan-wook, even vowed to cast new face actresses who are up to "any" nude acting.

The "rookies going nude" trend is caused by star actresses' unwillingness to expose their nudity in films, fearing that it will deteriorate the reputation of both the movie and themselves. They also fear that the nude acting can mislead viewers into thinking that the actresses intend to cover up their poor acting skills with sex scenes.

"Most actresses agree that nude scenes should be allowed in and for the movies," local media outlet Sports DongA reported, citing a movie expert. "But nude acting can bring a harsher review of that film, not to mention that it can bring down their reputation as actors."

But the Korean movie industry offers few opportunities to the new faces, except the parts with nude exposure, the report said, citing undisclosed agency members.

"Almost all commercial movies that seek new actresses involve nude exposure," an emerging actress told Sports DongA under the condition of anonymity.

"(The filmmakers) often complain that they cannot find excellent rookies, but the truth is, there is no environment to produce diverse acting talents," she added.