Actor Park Bo-gum wins 'older' women's hearts

June Kang, Oct. 24, 2016, 9:31 a.m.

Part of the job of being a handsome actor is to have a fan base consisting mainly of members of the opposite gender. Park Bo-gum, the 23-year-old star of the recently ended TV series "Love in the Moonlight," is basking in that glory more than ever and enjoying a phenomenon shared by few others in the industry, with a following of women not only in their 20s and 30s, but also in their 60s and 70s.

Last Wednesday, Park and other members of the cast of "Love in the Moonlight" made a special appearance in downtown Seoul to sign autographs for 200 fans who were chosen in a contest. The actual turnout was estimated at some 5,000.

There amidst the throng was an unmistakable number of gray-haired women who were waiting patiently on the steps and grounds of Gyeongbok Palace to get a glimpse of their beloved "Crown Prince Lee Yeong." They stretched their necks and scurried from one place to another as their younger counterparts shrieked with joy at the arrival of the cast.

Park portrayed a young and mischievous crown prince who falls in love with a woman disguised as a eunuch. In his endearing character, the "mothers" and "grandmothers" who watched the series saw the manifestation of the son they always wished they had. His traditional attire and conservative manners as a Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) prince probably added to his charm.

In that respect, Park's popularity is of a different kind from that of Song Joong-ki, the 31-year-old star of the hugely popular TV series "Descendants of the Sun" that ran early this year. Song played a relentlessly romantic but manly Army captain whom many women perceived as their ideal boyfriend.

The "Park Bo-gum syndrome" is closer in kind to the overwhelming popularity of actor Bae Yong-joon. Bae, who starred in the 2004 hit drama "Winter Sonata," gained an enormous following of Japanese housewives in their 50s through 80s who confessed to finding consolation in his gentle and romantic character. They made numerous trips to South Korea to visit sites related to the drama and the actor.

Park's popularity has also translated into more business.

"He's firmly established himself as a lead actor through this drama," said Seung Byeong-wook, a senior official at Park's management agency Blossom Entertainment. "We're getting more than three times as many requests as before for his appearance in dramas."

Park shot 14 commercials after he gained fame through the hit series "Reply 1988" early this year. He already has several more scheduled for the coming months. The actor also plans to travel and shoot a photo album in Europe and the Americas before the end of the year and hold fan meetings across Asia.

"He's lost so much weight during the filming and is almost on the verge of collapse," Seung said. "He'll take a rest for now and choose his next piece in the first half of next year."

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