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Cho Seung-woo (조승우)

Star in a film called The Classic, and become one yourself. That pretty much sums up Cho Seung-woo’s long career not only in the film and TV industry but in musical theater as well. The reason for his career’s longevity? A clear message, no matter the media. In a 2018 interview, he told Korea JoongAng Daily, “I have a solid standard for deciding which film to star in. I don’t like the kind of works that simply follows the trend. I usually avoid works that merely look fancy on the outside.”

GwenchaNoona | Actor Profile: Cho Seung-woo

Photo from HanCinema

Birthday: March 28, 1980

A childhood steeped in musicality is responsible for setting this Renaissance man up for the enviable body of work he has made thus far. His 2003 role in the melodrama film The Classic garnered some attention. Still, it was not until 2005 that he truly broke out as a special needs runner in the 2005 hit Marathon. At only 26 years old, he won his first Baeksang, Grand Bell, and even his first China’s Hundred Flowers award as a foreign actor. The following year, he starred alongside another k-drama classic, Kim Hye-soo, to make Tazza: The High Rollers, which is still one of the biggest Korean blockbusters of all time.

After his military service in 2010, he returned to the theater. He sparked a renaissance in the stagnating Korean stage industry by headlining the Jekyll and Hyde musical and allayed fears about his “unjustifiably high” performer’s salary by selling out all his performances 15 minutes after tickets went on sale. Until today, Cho Seung-woo's name on the marquee is enough to sell out tickets in less than an hour.

Even more success awaited him when he returned to film, with hits such as Perfect Game. He has also met success as the lead of the stage musicals Zorro, Doctor Zhivago, Hedwig, and Sweeney Todd. He then went on to make the political film Inside Men, which also met resounding box office success. All these platitudes and awards paved the way for him to star in 2017’s Stranger, and in predictable Cho Seung-woo style, took home the Baeksang Best Actor award for the role, while the drama itself won the highest award (Daesang) in the same night.

All of Cho Seung-woo’s performances—whether on camera or on stage—have met so much success that he has remained in the Top 30 List of most influential Koreans in pop culture for four years. For someone who still admits to deep stage fright and unease with cameras, it is nothing short of amazing that he has managed to carve out such a multi-awarded career. But battling this dilemma is part of the work demanded from all true artists, and only in his 40s, Cho Seung-woo has only ever won in big ways. This classic is only just getting started.

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