We can find the hidden “voice” anywhere these days in animations, films, television programs, and even in video games. The people behind the scenes are voice actors. Often referred to as voice artists, they are the people who provide voices for any where there needs to be a “voice.” The job is usually known as doing voice-overs in dubbed foreign language films, radio, television commercials, and audio dramas.
▲ Kang Soo Jin (KBS Voice), a voice actor. Photographed by Choi Ji Won
Usually, voice actors are regarded as people behind the scene since their existence is not well recognized in public. In a breezy fall day at the main building of Korea Broadcasting System (KBS) in Yeouido, The Granite Tower (GT) was able to meet Kang Soo Jin (48, Seoul), a renowned voice actor in Korea who has played an active part in the field of voice acting for over 25 years.
Becoming a voice actor was not originally Kang’s dream. He was just a normal student majoring in entertainment in broadcasting, who enjoyed listening to the radio drama, which was popular in the 1970s and 1980s. When it was time to choose his career, he came upon a chance to try out for an open recruitment audition in voice acting at KBS, and finally ended up joining as a voice actor of KBS.
Usually, after being recruited, a voice actor spends two years in a specific company and then becomes a freelancer. He believes that a voice actor’s job is in between an announcer and an actor; it is important for them to act well with a clear delivery and good voice.
Recording sessions usually take two times longer than the running time of the film or the animation, and there are many types of recording sessions for voice actors. Sometimes, every character is recorded separately, then edited and mixed together later by a sound engineer.
Another type of recording session, which is the most common method, is done by dubbing the voices during post-production, when the animation or the film is already completed. This is perhaps the most difficult of all for an actor because it requires a lot of precision for voice actors during dubbing to match realistic lip flaps.
Kang is an expert when it comes to dubbing. For animations, he played the main role in famous animation works such as “Detective Conan,” “Slam Dunk,” and “One Piece.” Also, for foreign films, he dubbed Leonardo DiCaprio’s roles. “Revivifying the original characters’ voices is tremendous fun,” Kang said, “but it is not easy.” “The responsibility of doing all the voices for Leonardo DiCaprio was a burden for me since I had to keep up with the original voice; but it was surely an intense experience.”
Since his voice is a prime tool, the most important factor for him while acting, Kang takes good care of not only his voice but also his health in general by exercising regularly. He believes that being in shape and being in a fine condition is a crucial factor to maintain a pleasant voice.
One of the difficulties Kang has as a voice actor is that his personal emotions sometimes go against the character’s feelings while recording. “It is hard for me to hide my own emotions while acting. For example, it is a challenge when I have to act a joyful and delightful character while I am struggling with my problems or hardships,” Kang said.
However, he admits that the pleasure of being a voice actor outweighs all the difficulties. That is, voice actors are seen as mysterious and attractive to the public since their face is not known like other actors.
When asked what it means to be a good voice actor, Kang said, “I would define a good voice actor as an actor having good acting skills with unique individuality that can stand out from other voices.” He added, “It may seem that just a good charming voice is important to become a good voice actor; but the fact is peoples’ preference on a charming voice changes over time, and it is rather important to have proficient acting skills and a unique tone of voice in order to create truly original character voices.”
Kang explained that voice acting is real acting, not just “making funny voices.” He noted, “We all have anger; we have love; we have all sorts of emotions. Being an actor, you have to capture your own feelings, and with your skills for voice-changing, you can insert that wonderful human quality that you have into that character.”
One of the current trends in the Korean voice acting industry is to cast major movie stars or singers to voice animated characters. These stars not only demand huge salaries, but also take work away from the core group of voice actors. “The production company casts well-known celebrities for promotion and a big marketing plus, not paying great attention to the quality of acting. It is a problem when they completely ignore the regular voice actor,” Kang criticized.
He also explained the problem in the status of Korea’s voice acting industry. People are showing attention to the voice actor, yet, unlike Japan, Korea currently does not have a firm agent system established. He said this is why the voice actor’s role is somewhat underestimated in the public eye. With a bit of optimism, he further suggested that there should be agencies that manage the voice actor’s careers systematically.
When asked about his ultimate goal as a voice actor, Kang said with an ambitious tone, “My goal is to become a voice actor playing a role in Hallyu, the Korean Wave. I want to act as an original character in a Korean animation which can be famous world-wide, well-known animations like ‘One Piece.’ I would like to be known for an original character that people around the world would remember.”
Voxography (list of voice acting by a voice actor) of Kang Soo Jin