Korean voice actress stars in Japanese animation
by Lee Min-a
August 17, 2005 ㅡ There tends to be a feeling of unexplained excitement and even a hint of triumph when Koreans cheer about South Korean television dramas gaining growing popularity outside the country ― particularly in Japan.
So when a Korean voice actress won the main role in one of the most popular Japanese animation films, Koreans here were particularly pleased.
Some newspapers pointed out that "Japan's best voice actor was a Korean," while others compared Park Ro-mi, the third-generation Korean-Japanese voice actress, to BoA, a Korean teen sensation who is currently conquering the Tokyo billboard charts.
Ms. Park won the main role in "Full Metal Alchemist," an animation film that remains true to its comic book origins and drew 700,000 viewers across Japan last month.
The same movie was released on DVD in Korea last week, and Ms. Park visited Seoul to promote the film. She had to answer questions about how she viewed "being the first and best voice actress as a Korean in Japan."
"I am not sure if I am the first Korean voice actor in Japan," she replied. "I am Korean, but I was born and raised in Japan. I just try not to discriminate against myself by limiting myself to being either a Korean or a Japanese."
Ms. Park, 33, also famous for starring in the popular Japanese cartoon series "Digimon" and "Pocket Monster," said her grandfather had settled in Japan. Her father, who was born and raised in Japan, met a Korean woman in Seoul while he was studying in Korea. She became Ms. Park's mother.
She said her father named her Ro-mi, which is not a Japanese name, but a neutral-sounding name her father thought could be easily pronounced by Koreans, Japanese and English speakers.
Ms. Park began her career as a theater actress. But she was cast as a voice actor when Yoshiyuki Tomino, creator of "Turn ‘A' Gundam," a famous robot animation, came to watch her perform. He liked her voice and suggested she try voice acting.
"On stage, you are talking to someone you see," Ms. Park said. "But voice acting is different. You have to be creative and imagine a lot to voice act.
"That's the attractive point about this job," she said.
Ms. Park was wearing a long black dress and a pair of scarlet high heels, looking very feminine on the day of her press conference, but her voice was rather low.
"That is why I usually play young male characters," she said. "Because of my husky voice, some people think that I am a male voice actor."
In "Full Metal Alchemist," Ms. Park plays Edward Elric, a boy who becomes a powerful alchemist with magical powers as he fights enemies. She is the only Korean voice actor in this Japanese film.
The animation film portrays the adventures that two brothers, Edward and Alphonse Elric, go through after they lose their mother. The two try to bring her back from the dead, using forbidden alchemy. But they end up losing parts of their bodies as the price of their efforts.
Edward uses his mechanical arms to perform alchemy while Alphonse helps his brother, wearing a suit of armor, in which he becomes trapped. The film contains violence and some nudity.