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Kevin Woo’s Comedy Short ‘Seoul Switch’ Reflects His K-Pop Journey

Kevin Woo couldn’t resist the opportunity to portray dual characters in the short film Seoul Switch. The storyline resonated so deeply with him that upon reading the screenplay, he felt it mirrored his own life experiences. In the film, Woo, a bilingual singer-actor, embodies both a Korean American visiting Seoul and a k-pop star. Born and raised in California, Woo is well-acquainted with the life of a k-pop star in Korea.

“After reading the screenplay, I was immediately captivated by how much it mirrored my own life experience as a Korean American k-pop idol,” said Woo.

The plot of Seoul Switch shares similarities with classic stories like The Prince and the Pauper and Freaky Friday. Moon, a weary k-pop idol, and DJ, a self-proclaimed “loser” from Ohio, accidentally meet in Seoul and contemplate switching lives. Moon desires a break from his obsessive female fans, while DJ relishes the newfound attention he’s receiving in Seoul. While Moon claims to possess the “most beautiful face in Korea,” DJ’s confidence skyrockets when he’s mistaken for Moon. DJ, lacking self-assurance, receives lessons in k-pop swagger from Moon, who knows how to transform an ordinary person into an idol. Meanwhile, Moon yearns for a taste of normalcy.

Despite the comedic premise, Woo, a former member of the k-pop group U-KISS, is no stranger to the k-pop dream and the strenuous training it entails. Discovered at 15, he moved to South Korea, where he performed with U-KISS from 2008 to 2017, eventually launching a successful solo career in Korea and Japan. In 2022, Woo performed in the New York City-based musical KPOP: The Musical, which caught the attention of filmmaker Liann Kaye.

“When I saw KPOP: The Musical on Broadway, I found the one man who could answer all of my burning questions,” said Kaye.

Kaye had written a script about a Korean American switching lives with a k-pop star but needed insights from someone with firsthand experience. She couldn’t imagine a more fitting choice than Woo to portray both an American kid with poor posture and an overconfident Korean steeped in years of rigorous training in voice, dance, and modeling. She sent him the screenplay, and Woo was instantly on board.

“It was an instant yes for me,” said Woo. “Before filming, we spent countless hours shaping both characters based on my personal experiences, adding depth and authenticity to an already beautifully written script. Liann’s willingness to collaborate and refine cultural details was invaluable. She asked questions that gave me a new perspective on my own story.”

Merging Woo’s portrayals was no easy feat. His characters spend most of the short together, requiring Woo to switch hair, makeup, and costumes after each take. He also had to alter accents and mannerisms. For DJ, Woo had to shed his voice and muscle memory built over years.

“As I embodied both characters throughout the shoot, there were times when I was confused as to who I was playing at the moment,” he said. “We used cutting-edge technology to seamlessly blend both characters in one frame. A robotic camera rig captured each shot with the same movement and speed every take. In-ear pieces allowed me to hear my previous recorded voice, enabling me to act alongside myself against a green screen. Long story short, Liann invested countless hours into the final product. We not only achieved our goals but exceeded our expectations.”

For Woo, the film not only brings the vibrant world of k-pop to life but also touches on themes like masculinity and mental health. He hopes for more opportunities to delve deeper into these subjects.

“We look forward to expanding our proof of concept into a full-length feature film,” he said. “We can’t wait to share our unique story with the world on the big screen.”

Seoul Switch will be showcased at several film festivals, including a screening on July 18 at the Korean Cultural Center as part of the New York Asian Film Festival. It’s part of a series spotlighting Korean diasporic short films with unorthodox characters making bold life changes. The film will also feature in the Asian American International Film Festival lineup in August, a celebration of independent Asian, Asian diaspora, and Pacific Islander cinema. Additionally, it will be part of the Greenpoint Film Festival in August, known for its eclectic and innovative selections.

Seoul Switch has already won several awards, including Best Narrative Short at the DisOrient Film Festival, Best Short Film at the Incheon Short Film Festival, and Best Actor and Best Editing at the Hollywood Shortsfest. It also screened at Short Shorts Asia, Asia’s largest short film festival, and the Bentonville Film Festival, curated by Geena Davis.

“It is an honor to have Seoul Switch recognized by such prestigious festivals,” said Kaye, who also directed The Blessing and Electable. “This film is a labor of love, and I’m thrilled that its message is resonating with audiences in New York and beyond.”

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