O Yeong-su is a South Korean actor. He is known to have starred in more than 200 theater productions. He gained worldwide fame after he appeared in the lead role of ‘O Il-nam’ in the Netflix survival series ‘Squid Game ‘ (2021).
O Yeong-su was born as ‘O Se-kang’ National Theater Company Digital Archive on Thursday, October 19, 1944 (age 77 years; as of 2021), in Kaepung County, Gyeonggi, Japanese Korea (present-day Kaepung District, Kaesong, North Hwanghae, North Korea). His zodiac sign is Libra. When the 38th parallel was formed, his family escaped to South Korea. They settled in Paju-si of the Gyeonggi Province, South Korea, where he grew up. After Korean War, his family suffered a lot. As a result, he was forced to earn a living while studying. He did his graduation in theater and film from Dongguk University, Seoul, South Korea. O Yeong-su – Daum
Height (approx.): 5′ 9″
Eye Color: Black
Hair Color: Salt & Pepper
Parents & Siblings
His father died at the hands of communist forces on 25 June 1950 when North Korea invaded South Korea borders, causing Korean War. During the time, he also lost one of his older brothers, who was abducted by the army. His mother used to go to the market to do earn, which helped with the financial struggles of the family. He was born third out of four sons and one daughter of his parents. All of his siblings passed away due to a disease.
Wife & Children
He dated a banker named Mo Kang, who was thirteen years younger than him, for two years before joining the National Theater Company of Korea. Mo Kang’s mother was opposed to their marriage because of their age difference and also because he was a playboy. It was after he joined the National Theater Company that he was able to convince his parents-in-law to get married to Mo Kang. At age forty-three, in 1987, he got married to Mo Kang. He has a daughter who manages his acting career.
In 1967, he started his career as a part of a theater troupe named ‘Gwangjang.’ He made his debut with the play ‘Naj Gong-won Sanchaeg’ in 1968. He then worked in theater companies Seongjwa (from 1970 for some time) and Yeo-in. In 1987-2010, he was a part of the ‘Jayu’ theater troupe of the National Theater Company of Korea, where he worked with actors like Jang Min-ho, the South Korean actor and voice actor whom he considers his idol. Some of his theater credits include Geu Yeoja Salamjabne (1978), Baeg-yangseom-ui Yogmang (1980), La Mandragola (1993), Ppigojigo Ppigojigo (1997), King Lear (2010), The Tempest (2014), Fathers and Sons (2015), Galmaegi (2016), and King Lear (2017).
According to him, by 2013, he had appeared in more than 200 theater productions.
In 1965, he made his film debut with the South Korean film ‘The Sea Village’ in an uncredited role.
He went on to play uncredited roles in the South Korean films Mrs Hwa-seon (1968), and Elevator (1986), Flower Blooms Even on a Windy Day (1987). His first credited role is that of a character named ‘No Shinbu’ in the 1998 South Korean film ‘The Soul Guardians.’
In 2002, he appeared in the South Korean film ‘A Little Monk’ as a Temple Master, an elderly monk living with a little monk and a teen monk in a quiet and secluded mountain temple. The film chronicles the life of the three monks and how the little monk finds his mother in a wealthy widow mourning the death of her late son.
In 2003, he appeared in the South Korean film ‘Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… and Spring’ as ‘Noseu-nim.’ He was widely appreciated for his performance in the film.
In 2015, he appeared in the South Korean short film ‘Invite’ as ‘Kangjig.’
In 1981, he made his television debut with the South Korean series ‘The First Republic’ as ‘military prosecuter.’
He acted in minor roles in the Kdramas Jeon-u (1983), Buk-euro Gan Yeobae-u (1986), Jeon-won-ilgi (1988), and The Fairy Of Shampoo (1988), Angel’s Choice (1989), and Kim Goo (1995). In 2006, he played the main role of grandfather in the Kdrama ‘Dal-ui Jedan.’
He then only played the role of a monk in the Kdramas Queen Seondeok (2009), The Return of Iljimae (2009), God of War (2012).
In 2021, he appeared in the Netflix survival drama TV series ‘Squid Game,’ which was streamed on and distributed by Netflix. Written and directed by South Korean filmmaker Hwang Dong-hyuk, the series is based on a contest, consisting of children’s games, in which 456 players participate to win prize money of ₩45.6 billion; the losers face the death penalty. He played the lead role of ‘Oh Il-nam’ (numbered 001), an elderly man with a brain tumor who enters the game, preferring to die in the game than die in the outside world. Other main roles in the series were played by Lee Jung-jae, Park Hae-soo, Jung Ho-yeon, Wi Ha-joon, Heo Sung-tae, Anupam Tripathi, and Kim Joo-ryoung. The series was a huge hit globally as it become Netflix’s most-watched series at its launch. The series is also the first South Korean drama to top Netflix’s top ten weekly most-watched TV show charts globally.
In the late 1970s, he played voice roles in educational broadcasting. In 2008, he appeared in the advertisement for LG Electronics Cyon Wine. In 2015, he appeared in the SK Telecom Let’s Be Strange Campaign’s Episode 18, ‘the relationship that grows as we stay,’ with the South Korean actor Ahn Gil-gang and South Korean actor and singer Kim Seol-hyun.
In 2021, he narrated the TV documentary ‘Documentary 3 Days,’ which was broadcast on KBS2.
Awards & Honors
- Baeksang Arts Awards for Best Actor (Theater) for ‘Pigojigo Pigojigo’ in 1994
- Dong-A Theatre Awards for Best Actor for Crime on Goat Island in 1979
- National Theater Association Of Korea – Best Actor Award for ‘Abi’ in 2000
- Seoul Theater Festival – Best Actor Award for ‘Jangpan’ in 2006
- Order of Cultural Merit (Hwagwan, 5th Class) (South Korea) in 2019
- After the Korean War was over, his family lived in underground houses. Later, his grandfather, who lived in Haeju, Gwanghae Province, North Korea, began taking care of his family.
- His great-grandfather was a member of a Goeul, an administrative division ruled by a chief appointed by the central government (especially during the Joseon Dynasty). His family still has a lot of land in Haeju, and he owns the documents of the land.
- O Young-su is actually his stage name, which he started using when he began acting in theaters because acting was not appreciated at that time.
- He finished his military training at the age of 23. After returning from military service, he went to a theater with his friend who worked in a theater company, and he was amused at how the audience reacted to the actor on stage. He decided to work in the theater and began by taking all the work from cleaning to pasting posters.
- As of 2021, he resides in Wirye New Town in Seongnam-si, Gyeonggi Province, South Korea.
- In November 2019, when he was performing in the play ‘Nobu in-ui Bangmun’ at Arko Arts Theater in Seoul, Hwang Dong-hyuk approached him to appear in Squid Game. The director had admired him since he saw him in the film ‘Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… and Spring’ and even desired to cast him in his film ‘The Fortress’ (2017). Yeong-su refused the offer as he had a tight schedule.
- After playing monk roles in various films and television series, he was named the ‘professional actor for monks.’ In an interview, he said,
I did a lot of Buddhist dramas. That’s why I got to take on the role of a monk in movies and dramas. It’s true that when I play the role of a monk, I feel comfortable and intimate. I never went to a monk for advice when I was playing the role of a monk. It is only on the stage of theatre that the world finds its way. The same is true of religious teaching.”
- He considers the theater and voice actor Jang Min-ho his mentor as he taught him the essence of acting. He also considers Kim Jeong-ok his mentor because he instilled the spirit of theater in him. He says that he admired Jang because he acted till the age of 85, something he wished to do.
- In 2021, he was offered to do an advertisement Kkanbu Chicken, but he refused it, saying he just wanted to focus on acting.
- After Squid Game became popular, all of the Squid Game actors began gaining a massive following on Instagram. Soon, the news spread that O Yeong-su had opened an Instagram account. The account gained a huge following in no time, even Lee Jung-jae, Jung Ho-yeon, Park Hae-soo, Lee Yu-mi, Wi Ha-joon followed and shared the account. Much to fans’ dismay, the account turned out to be fake, and it was created by a fan.
- After his appearance in Squid Game, there were reports of him telling he was a Vietnam War veteran (from October 1966 to November 1967). There was a post on an online community, showing a photo of Corporal Oh Young-su with the 1966-1967 Powell Commemorative Album of the Army 9th Division (White Horse Unit). Later, upon confirmation, it was found that he never participated in the Vietnam War.
- In an interview, he said that he wanted to play ‘Doctor Faustus’ in the play ‘Doctor Faustus.’ He had once played ‘Doctor Faustus’ when he was in his mid-30s. He said that he was young when he played it, and he went unconscious during the play. In an interview, he said,
There was no voice, and in one word, I was dying. I was sorry to everyone. I wanted to cry. In the end, I lost consciousness for about 20 seconds during the monologue scene while holding the globe. I won’t forget it.
- When he was young, he preferred to act in theater plays than in movies or dramas because it was a popular belief at that time that actors lose their essence once they act in movies or dramas.
- In 2010, he suffered from angina pectoris due to which he underwent angioplasty. In 2018, he suffered acute pneumonia and was on the verge of death, but his health improved a lot after recovery.
- He plays Go online whenever he has time. He is a 6th dan player in the game. He says that the game helped his brain from resting.
- In an interview, he said that when reunification happens, he wishes his life to end the place where his grandfather lived in Haeju.
- As a child, he was good at calligraphy, which was influenced by his grandfather, head of the Seodang Order.