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09/26/2016 HYU News > General


The Ryu Brothers

Always keeping second place


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In the movie industry around the world, there are countless artists with great minds. Among them, one of the most famous family directors in Hollywood are the Coen brothers. Likewise, Korea also has brothers that have taken over Chungmuro (the  Korean version of Hollywood) - the Ryu brothers. 

Ryu Seung-wan and Ryu Seung-beom are brothers but what makes them so special is that the older brother, Seung-wan, is a director while the younger brother, Seung-beom, is an actor. Not many brothers in the movie industry have such corresponding roles. The story that lays behind their success is so realistic that it is worth taking a look into their lives.

Career and Achievements

Ryu Seung-wan, the director, has won various awards from 1998 starting with Busan International Short Film Festival Excellence Award to Paeksang Arts Awards for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Feature Film in 2016. So far, he has been bestowed with 28 big awards from different film awarding institutions. Not many would realize what this would mean for directors. Many of the awards won by director Ryu is from renowned film festivals, which proves that he has a unique perspective in the field of film, although he has never studied film at university or at any other academic institution. From an early age, Seung-wan developed a hobby of watching movies all day during weekends, and started directing later on when he attained his first camera in high school. This eventually led to his success in independent Korean films.

Ryu Seung-wan, a Korean film director
(Courtesy of Pennstudio)

The younger brother, Ryu Seung-beom, who hadn’t thought of being an actor at first, has won 10 awards in his acting career. Considering his period of inactivity in the last few years, the number of awards that he has won shows that he has become one of the most loved actors in Korea. After his debut, he starred in 33 different movies, 4 television shows and 13 commercial films during the last 16 years. What made Seung-beom so reputable on screen was the ability to play the “bully character” so much more realistically than other actors.

Achievement of Dreams

There had been many misfortunes with the Ryu brothers. Their parents passed away when Seung-wan was in middle school and Seung-beom in primary school. They were raised by their grandmother and because they were so poor, they had to receive state-held rice to live on. Director Ryu could not go to university, and Seung-beom dropped out of high school. In the year 1999, their life in the movie industry officially started by receiving an award from the Seoul Independent Film Festival. With this as a starting point, they have started filming a full-length film, which was Die Bad (2000). In this film, director Ryu himself had to appear on screen due to lack of funds.

Ryu Seung-beom, a Korean actor
(Courtesy of New Balance Lifestyle)

During an interview with Cine21, director Ryu professed that he used to have much insecurity regarding the fact that he didn't go to university, but now it is the motivation that gets him going and trying harder than those who did. In the interview, he stated that the "Ryu brothers’  life philosophy is to be in second place forever rather than relishing a short period of being in first place. If you're lacking something, that flaw can be the driving force to hold on to your work forever." The Ryu brothers have appreciation and respect for one another, which is well known in the film industry.

Works of Ryu Brothers

The Ryu brothers started to gain spotlight in their movie career together through Arahan Jangpung Daejakjeon (2004). Many of their films have been appreciated by the audience since then. Up until now, they have worked together in the same movie eight times. Most of the movies that the Ryu brothers have produced used to be action-based but as time goes on, their movies are focusing more on mirroring and criticizing Korean society as it is now. 

The Unjust, produced in 2010, is one of their most beloved works among the diverse films that the Ryu brothers have made together. It is about backdoor deals involving a prosecutor, a detective, and a supporter in trying to capture a suspect who has committed a serial murder.  The storyline, the performance of the actors and the camera techniques melt into the movie harmoniously, that many critiques and viewers have praised the movie highly. 

The Net (2016) which is about to hit the box office in October, has Ryu Seung-beom starring as the main character. This latest movie is special in the sense that actor Ryu is returning to the screens after spending three years of personal time. The movie is about a North Korean fisherman, Cheol-woo (played by Ryu), whose boat gets caught in a net and crosses the Northern Limit Line near South Korea by accident. In order to get back to where his family is awaiting, he must fight his way through different ideologies of North and South Korea.

With growing interest in Korean culture by a multitude of foreigners, the Korean movie industry is something that falls behind the hype of the Korean Wave relative to K-pop or K-dramas. With this in mind, it could be possible that with the Ryu brothers actively participating in the movie scenes, the Korean movie industry could pave the way for better prospects. 

Seung-Jun Kim

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