The entertainment world is buzzing as three leading celebrities -- Zo In-sung, Kang Dong-won and Hyun Bin -- have all just returned from their mandatory military service. Movie, drama and commercial film producers are already competing fiercely to get hold of them, and consequently their value is rising even further.
The stars reportedly received scripts for movies or TV dramas three to six months before each of them were discharged. Hyun Bin is said to have received dozens of movie and drama offers, and rumors are circulating that he has already signed five to six advertising deals, with more under discussion.
"Hyun Bin has very short hair now, so he needs some time to let it grow out," his agency said. "He is likely to appear in a drama or film in the latter half of next year at the earliest. For now, he'll just start off by holding an Asian fan meeting prior to his drama 'Secret Garden' being aired in Japan early next year."
Kang Dong-won completed his military service in November and chose "Nameless Gangster" director Yoon Jong-bin's new film as his comeback project. The movie, which still lacks an official title, revolves around a gang of bandits in the Chosun Dynasty and is due to begin shooting early next year.
Kang's agency said he has decided to appear in two movies and is discussing other projects. "Given that a movie takes about a year from shooting to release, his schedule for the next two years is set," it said.
Zo In-sung, who has only appeared in TV commercials since he was released from his military duty in May last year, will return to TV screens with a drama that is scheduled to air in February.
Industry insiders say that actors generally get paid less after they return from the army, but the three heartthrobs are expected to command their previous fees or even higher.
They are known to get W500 million (US$1=W1,075) per film, W80 million per episode of a TV drama and W800 million for a bundle of two TV commercials on a one-year contract.
"As far as I know, Zo is getting W100 million per episode for his new drama, which is W20 million more than before," a drama production CEO said. Meanwhile, a staffer at advertising agency Cheil Worldwide said the three are being offered W50 million to W100 million more than before they entered the army for some TV commercials.
But it remains to be seen whether they will be as competitive as they were in their heydays as they have left show business for two years and are now in their 30s.
"I think their star power has waned while they were in the military. These days, Kim Soo-hyun, Song Joong-ki, Yu A-in and Park Yoo-chun are rising stars, and people regard the quality of a film or drama as more important than a star's popularity," a production CEO pointed out.
However, Oh Se-kang, deputy director of SBS' drama department, said, "As TV commercials in which they appeared were aired for more than a year, even after they joined the army, viewers haven't lost touch with them. There are not many A-list actors in their early 30s, so they're still very valuable."
Popular culture critic Jeong Duk-hyun said, "Returning from military service can give actors a good chance to change their personas and take on different roles."