The Korea Herald


Actors involved in past controversies return first via streaming service originals

By Lee Yoon-seo

Published : May 19, 2024 - 16:48

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Bae Sung-woo participates in a press conference held for Netflix original series Bae Sung-woo participates in a press conference held for Netflix original series "The 8 Show" in Jung-gu, Seoul, May 10. (Yonhap)

South Korean actors who have been involved in controversies or facing charges are returning to the screen via streaming services, where they face less scrutiny and regulations.

These comebacks can serve as tests to gauge the timing of their official comebacks, according to critics, Sunday.

Actor Bae Sung-woo, who has been suspended from appearing on broadcast channels such as KBS and MBC for driving under the influence in November 2020, appears on the Netflix original series "The 8 Show," released Friday, Since the incident, which resulted in a fine of 7 million won ($5,170), he appeared in two movies last year, one filmed before the incident and one with a minimal appearance. But the latest Netflix show filmed in the second half of 2022 marks his first gig as a main cast member since the incident.

In the 8-part thriller series, Bae takes on the role of a contestant residing on the first floor, an individual with a disability who goes to great lengths to earn money. "The 8 Show" narrates the story of eight participants who must stay trapped inside a building with eight floors to earn money.

Regarding the social backlash surrounding his appearance on the Netflix series, Bae made an official apology during a press conference held on May 10.

"This work was made with the sweat and effort of many people, including the director, actors and production team," said Bae.

"I participated in the work with a heavy heart, fearing that my presence might be a nuisance but hoping that I wasn't too much of a burden," the 51-year-old actor said.

The official cast of The official cast of "Squid Game Season 2," with Choi Seung-hyun (back row, far left) (Netflix Korea's Instagram account)

Choi Seung-hyun, popularly known as T.O.P from the K-pop boy band Big Bang, is also slated to make his acting comeback with "Squid Game Season 2" during the fourth quarter.

The series will mark his return to the screen after seven years, after he was sentenced to 10 months in prison following a conviction for marijuana use in 2017. In the series, Choi reportedly plays the role of a retired singer.

Yoo Ah-in also recently made a "comeback" of sorts with Netflix's original series "Goodbye Earth," released on April 26.

The actor faced charges for alleged illegal drug use last October and has not appeared in any projects since. However, the drama series, which had finished shooting before the allegations were made, was released without removing the actor's part.

Experts said such comebacks of actors via streaming services, instead of Korean broadcasters, cannot be termed "official comebacks," due to the different nature of streaming service channels.

"With terrestrial television, the audience doesn't have a choice in what they are watching. You end up watching (content) you don't want to see just by flipping through channels," said Jung Duk-hyun, a columnist and pop culture critic.

"In the case of streaming service channels, you have many options to choose from, such as which streaming service to subscribe to and what to watch within that service," Jung said, arguing that "Therefore, it can't really be called the official return of the actor just because content featuring them was released on a streaming service."

Jung said the broadcasters have their own "fundamental rules for banning actors" who have been charged, convicted or been involved in a controversy, but since streaming services don't have such rules, actors can use them to gauge the timing of their "official comeback."

"When some content is released via streaming services and there is lingering discomfort about it, it suggests that perhaps more time for self-reflection is needed for the actor," he said.