The Best Stuntman

The article was published in the «Russian Koreans» May 2007 issue.

Mr Jung Doo-hong, S.Korean actor, stuntman and martial arts director. His name can be found in a great deal of action movies shot during the last seventeen years.

He was born in 1966 in Chungcheong village, in a big and very poor family. The youngest child, weak and unhealthy. The kids of his age dreamed of entering the institute, building their prominent future. It was already clear that the promises of President Park Jeong-hui will come true. But Jung-father barely payed his son’s school education. The money were often lacking for eating. “You won’t do anything. Won’t enter anywhere. I’ll get you from the school”.

It’s hard to predict the future of the boy were in not for the beginning of the taekwondo courses in the neighborhood. Doo-hong was going to the high school at that time. Of course the teacher’s lessons couldn’t be payed but the masters allowed him to attend the gym. His zeal was noticed by Master Lee Gak-soo so Doo-hong became his pupil. “This is the main man for me. Nothing would be possible without him. I even entered the institute by his money”.

Majoring in martial arts, winning at the competitions, participation in the hapkido team performing abroad... Could a son of a poor peasant hope for such a success? Inspired, he starts to dream about something more. To make his personal input in life. About adventures and deeds. Where can we find them in these days? Jung Doo-hong starts to go in for cinema. Hiding from Lee Gak-soo he tries to become an actor.

In the world of cinema

One of the peculiarities of Korean cinema is the absence of real action actors. “We have no artists who act in action movies, but they can't be called action-actors like Jet Lee or Jackie Chan. But Jung Doo-hong can be called so. He could have success at Western audience”, says Kim Sung-soo (“Musa”, “Restless”) replying to my question about why Mr. Jung has no roles suggested.

Dream came true: Starring in a movie

Meanwhile, in those years young fighter interested movie directors only as a stuntman. And stuntmen were second-rate in public opinion.

Another man would came back to where he was valued high but Mr. Jung remained. “It was very hard” - described he for me the beginning of his work - “we were not considered human beings, not to say actors. So I decided to become the best stuntman, whom you cannot look at condescendingly”

Only two years after the participation in the first movie ("Son of the General" of Lim Gwon-Taek), Mr. Jung becomes martial arts director (musul kamdok). Other stuntmen become to group around him. So the SAS - Seoul Action School was born. During all the 15 years of its existence Mr. Jung fights for some rights for its members, at least some insurance. It is still not very high. But nowadays young stuntmen talk about their profession with pride. But the words of their teacher are still full of bitterness: "Many go away. Some because they lack money for normal food and they get ill. Other - very talented stuntman  - breaks one and the same joint and the doctor tells him: one more time and he won’t be able to walk. Some perished... I always feel my guilt for them ".

"People consider me a strong man but actually my body is broken. The back, legs, joints - all went bad. When I act or do the stunts I make an injection first, to soften my muscles. Doctors cannot understand how I can go on. But this is my life"...


One year ago we wrote about the participation of  Mr. Jung in the Russian movie “Mongol” by S.Bodrov. Unfortunately, this contract was canceled.

The work on “Mongol” stretched for two years and when Mr. Jung was told about further schedule it so happened that his future time was already occupied with another project. “It’s a pity. We prepared many unique stunts for this movie. I have no offence for Russians. We had good relations with Bodrov”.

I managed to contact the “Mongol” shooting team too. Producer Anton Melnik kindly agreed to describe his impressions from the short cooperation with Mr. Jung.

“The relations between Russia and Korea are weak enought so we didn’t know much about Jung Doo-hong before meeting with him. We knew that he was the martial art director  of “Musa”. So that is the same Middle Ages, same horses and Mongols. A big battle pictures, crowd scene fights. That suited us.

When we met it became clear that Jung Doo-hong and Bodrov had coincident meanings about the main task of the fights. Both wanted to see not just a senseless free-for-all but the fight with its plot and tasks for each character. Take for example the first fight where Dchingis-han saves his wife. He has no task just to kill everybody around him. His only goal is to kill those who stand on his way to his spouse.

Bodrov and Jung Doo-hong need not just a dozen of stunts - throw him above the shoulder , pierce this so and that so.. It is important for them to understand the philosophy, the music of fight, this tempo and distinction from other fights. So we aimed at shooting of each episode as a separatae piece of art.

Jung Doo-hongs attitute to work was wery thoughtfull and creative. If we make movie only from fight episodes then Jung Doo-hong would be its director. He tries to do his own unique style with its stunts, movements, sense of rhythm,  that express his philosophy.

It is a pleasure to work with him. Before him we worked with a Hongkong stunt director Nickie Lee. There it is another style. Like that of Jackie Chan. Fight as a comics. But Jung Do-hong’s is a realism like in Russian cinema”.

Beginning of cooperation?

Of course it’s a pity that the work in “Mongol” was not possible. But now Mr. Jung has negotiations with Russian stuntmen-horsmen about joint shootings in China. And Park Hyuk-soo, a S.Korean actor working in Russia and studying in actor’s institute writes a script about the adventures of S.Koreans in Moscow. According to preliminary agreement Mr. Jung will act and be the martial art director for that movie.

Mrs. Kseniya Hmelnickaya.

"Russian Koreans" monthly .

May 2007 .