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Gong Yoo (공유)

Updated: Oct 8, 2023

gong yoo, gong yoo kdrama, gong you actor, squid game

When a mysterious, six-foot-tall salesman accosts a loveable loser in the first episode of "Squid Game" and starts slapping him—yes, slapping him hard—for losing out on the "ddakji" game, one could hear a collective gasp from the awestruck populace. Was it the amused eyes? The sultry baritone? The faintly sadistic expression? Or was it the cracking sound of the numerous slaps he landed on poor Seong Gi-hun's face that made millions of women (and men!) arch their eyebrows, bite their lower lips, and admit that they, too, wanted to know who this ridiculously attractive man in an immaculate suit was? Whatever it was, it only took three minutes of screen time in the biggest Netflix show on the planet to turn unsuspecting viewers into legions of new (and quite thirsty) Gong Yoo fans.

gong yoo, kdrama, squid game, lee jung jae
Let's hope he's back in season 2!

Despite the uneventful food posts on his brand-new IG account and his rather low profile for a Korean superstar, one has to wonder if Gong Yoo is truly unaware of his charisma and incredible sex appeal. He may be soft-spoken and wise in interviews—self-deprecating, even—but nothing can distract from the sheer masculinity and raw intensity that seems to ooze out of every tanned pore. Yet, to his credit, the man refuses to simply be an object of desire: Gong Yoo also has the acting talent to match and a keen eye for projects that go beyond winning at the box office.

His "Coffee Prince" (2007) broke barriers in LGBTQ and gender stigmas way before it was considered popular to do so. The show, which also starred Yoon Eun-hye, explored themes of gender identity and love in a coffee shop setting. Gong Yoo's nuanced performance as the coffee shop owner who falls in love with a girl disguised as a boy captivated viewers and earned him a special place in the hearts of fans.

His "Silenced" (2011) literally changed Korean laws. "Silenced" is a film that centers around a school for hearing-impaired children where the teacher (Gong Yoo) becomes aware of a horrifying truth. The film exposes a pervasive culture of abuse and sexual exploitation of the students by the very people entrusted with their care. "Silenced" shed light on a dark chapter in South Korea's history and ignited discussions about child abuse, corruption, and the importance of advocacy for vulnerable populations. It prompted real-life legal reforms and a renewed commitment to protecting the rights of the disabled.

In 2016, his "Goblin" ushered in the remarkable K-drama renaissance. Portraying the titular immortal goblin, Kim Shin, Gong Yoo's performance was nothing short of magical. The series, written by Kim Eun-sook, became a cultural phenomenon, blending fantasy, romance, and historical elements into a captivating narrative.

In the same year as "Goblin" was his "Train to Busan," a blockbuster that put Korea solidly on the genre cinema map. Directed by Yeon Sang-ho, the film became a global sensation, earning critical acclaim for its intense action sequences and celebration of the zombie zeitgeist. Gong Yoo played the role of Seok-woo, a father trying to protect his daughter during a zombie outbreak, showcasing his ability to excel in high-octane cinematic experiences.

In 2020, Gong Yoo continued to impress in the historical espionage thriller "The Age of Shadows" by Kim Jee-woon. Set during the Japanese occupation of Korea, the film showcased Gong Yoo's acting prowess in a complex and morally ambiguous role. "The Age of Shadows" was South Korea's official entry for the Best Foreign Language Film category at the 89th Academy Awards.

Lately, even his turns in "Seo Bok" and "The Silent Sea" were his conscious contributions to pushing Korean sci-fi. In "Seo Bok," Gong Yoo plays a former intelligence agent who needs to guarantee the safe transport of a human clone named "Seo Bok" (Park Bo-gum). In Netflix's big-budget space romp, "Silent Sea," Gong Yoo plays Han Yun-jae, a soldier of a space agency who leads a team to travel to the moon. Danger awaits, of course.

Be it melodrama, zombie fests, sci-fi, or controversial subjects, Gong Yoo’s performances as an actor in high-stakes settings are always dependably entertaining and exciting. After all, he is no mere actor; Gong Yoo is every bit a political force as he is a celebrity and a refreshingly responsible one at that.

gong yoo kdrama actor
From Korea Herald

As we have insisted before, Gong Yoo is very fine wine on the tongue: inhaled in order to appreciate the details of his perpetually tousled hair, the kind eyes, and the buttery voice… and then exhaled so we can step back to study the merits of his talent and body of work. It is a tricky thing to pull off—striking a balance between the commercial and the artistic—but Gong Yoo is the rare actor who has done this substantially and successfully for over a decade.

And like fine wine, he will simply get gloriously better with age.

gong yoo kdrama
From Korea JoongAng Daily

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