Netflix Korea’s award-winning TV series “Squid Game” (2021) has done more than just put Korea at the forefront of the global entertainment scene: some of the stars who have become international celebrities, such as Lee Jung-jae, Oh Young-soo and Kim Joo-ryeong, also put their alma mater, Dongguk University, on the world college map.
But these stars are far from the only ones – or even the first – to represent Dongguk University. Cho Yeo-jeong from 2019 award-winning film “Parasite”, Jun Ji-hyun from 2012 film “The Thieves” and 2013 TV drama “My Love from The Star” and Shin Min-ah from 2021 TV drama “Hometown Cha Cha Cha” all graduated from the school. K-pop celebrities like Girls Generation’s Yoon-ah, Apink’s Son Na-eun, and former Wonder Girls member Sunmi also graduated from Dongguk. .
Even now, students on campus can meet famous actors like Jin Ji-hee, from SBS drama “Penthouse” (2020-21), walking to class or Jungwoo from girl group Bvndit, who just enrolled in the first year this year, talk to classmates. Aspiring artists, like actor Lee Kyeong-min of “The Uncanny Counter” (2020-21) on OCN, can also be found on campus.
“I wanted to study on campus where so many top actors have studied and trained,” Lee said of his thoughts as he applied to the school. He is now a senior just waiting for the day when he himself can call the school his alma mater.
While on his school break after completing his freshman year, Lee signed with a management agency and was later cast in a role on “The Uncanny Counter”, through which he made his official acting debut. Since then, the opportunities keep coming.
“The university has a very analytical approach to acting in general,” Lee said. “If you had to move your body one way or another, there always had to be a reason why you did it. Classes teach you to pay attention to the smallest details.
Dongguk University, established in 1906, introduced its theater major for aspiring artists in 1960. Stemming from this major, the university now has a comprehensive theater department dedicated to education and training budding artists. Its film and digital department, which also falls under the college of arts along with the theater department, has also caught the eye of those who still want to be part of the production, but behind the camera. The Graduate School of Culture and Arts is also gaining popularity, especially among international students who want to earn their postgraduate degree in Korea.
Of the 1,018 students enrolled either in the cinema and digital department or in the theater department, international students in the theater department represent 3.3%, or 34 students, and 5.1%, or 154 students, in the cinema department. and digital. The majority of international students come from China and Taiwan, with 86 in the theater department and 130 in the film and digital department. Other students come from about 20 different countries and regions, including Vietnam, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Italy, Japan, Thailand, the Netherlands, Nepal, Germany, Bangladesh, Australia, Austria, Indonesia, Chile and Canada.
“Before, many students who came to Korea to attend school ran Korean celebrity fan clubs in their own countries,” said Professor Tcha Sung-jai of the university’s film and digital department.
Chen Yu, now a student at Dongguk University, first dreamed of coming to Korea to study after becoming a fan of SM Entertainment’s boy band EXO. She wanted to work in a field where she could work on projects for her favorite K-pop stars. Even back home in China, she worked as a part-time photographer whenever local singers held live performances, hoping one day to have the chance to take professional photos of Korean stars. Her distant dream of coming to Korea became more concrete when she started going through schools to get her undergraduate degree two years ago. She wanted to focus on directing music videos, so she chose to apply to the Film and Digital Department of Dongguk University.
“Based on my research, this school seems to be at the top of the field I’m interested in,” Chen said. “So many teachers have experience working in production companies so they can give hands-on lessons, and the school provides all the necessary facilities and equipment for students to get involved in video productions.
“Of course, being a K-pop fan wasn’t the only thing that made me want to come here, but it really inspired me to want to come to Korea when I was younger.”
To better adapt to campus life, Chen chose to take special courses open only to international students. These classes are taught in Korean, but the academic staff makes the conference more accessible for those who are not yet fluent in Korean. While she took all the classes for foreigners last semester, this semester she decided to mix it up with regular classes and her Korean skills improved.
“We strive to help international students mingle well with Korean students inside and outside the classroom so they can be reliable partners to work with, even years after graduation. of their studies,” Professor Tcha said. “Since there is no longer a line separating films from television series thanks to the over-the-top [OTT] platforms, we invite these international students to share content trends in their home countries in class so that Dongguk students can have a more accurate perspective when it comes to planning what content to create.
In class, students make everything from scratch. They write the proposal to raise funds to set up their creative work, then plan who they will choose to play the roles and how long they will film and edit. Through this process, students prepare for the real work environment. And doing a small production themselves helps prepare them for productions of any size, even for the currently trendy OTT platforms.
“I think Korea is known as one of the best countries when it comes to content production,” Tcha said, explaining why international talents choose Korean school for their education. “And since the school focuses on hands-on experiences in its classes, many potential students are interested in coming here for all the experiences they can use immediately when they get a job at a production company.”
Liao Chia Hsuan, a Taiwanese graduate student, focuses on strategic planning for the production of visual content, such as dramas or movies, to be broadcast on OTT platforms and in offline theaters.
“In addition to learning how to create content, I learned which distribution channels to use for different types of content and how to make certain content appealing to consumers,” Liao said. “The hands-on lessons the professors offer in the classroom have helped me stay on top of new and changing trends in the entertainment industry.”
To keep up with trends seen in popular Korean shows and for some extra spending money for her life in Seoul, she also works as a part-time translator for entertainment shows, which she found through other Taiwanese international students studying in Korea. She works with an agency based in Taiwan which entrusts her with Korean productions to be translated into Chinese. She worked on the hit reality show “One Night Two Days” on KBS and other dramas like “Again My Life” (2022) on SBS.
BY LEE SUN-MIN [firstname.lastname@example.org]