Learn More About Korean Film Director and ‘Bad Guys 2’ Actor Yang Ik-june

Learn More About Yang Ik-june!

Yang Ik-june was born on October 19, 1975. He’s a South Korean actor and film director, best known for the 2009 film Breathless, which he wrote, directed, edited, and starred in. This movie got a lot of recognition, both nationally and internationally. The movie showed him to be one of the most prominent figures in the industry.

Yang Ik-june: Profile and Career

Name Yang Ik-june/Yang Ik-joon (양익준)
Born October 19, 1975 
Seoul, South Korea
Other names Yang Ik-joon
Occupation Actor, film director, screenwriter, film editor
Agent Prain TPC


Born in Seoul in 1975, Yang graduated from the Department of Entertainment & Acting at the Kongju Communication Arts College. After his discharge from his military service, Yang Ik-june studied theatre, training at the Actor’s 21 Academy before delving into the film industry.

Over the next six years he starred in 30 short films, and won the Best Actor award at the Mise-en-scène Short Film Festival for the 2005 short film Ooh, You Make Me Sick. In 2005, he directed his first short film, Always Behind You, which earned him the Audience Award at the Seoul Independent Short Film Festival. He also played minor roles in more than ten mainstream films, such as Les FormidablesMaundy Thursday, and Viva! Love.

But it was Breathless, his semi-autobiographical feature directorial debut in which he also played the lead role, that catapulted Yang into star director status. Breathless was selected for the Asian Cinema Fund, which provided post-production support, and the low-budget film had its world premiere at the 2008 Busan International Film Festival.

Yang then starred in a supporting role in the 2010 comedy/road movie Looking for My Wife (also known as Runaway from Home). In 2011, he was a voice actor for The King of Pigs, an adult, animated film about violence and bullying. He also directed the short films Departure and Immature that same year. Immature was funded by the Jeonju International Film Festival and released as part of the omnibus A Time to Love.

Another short film, Shibata & Nagao, was a comedy inspired by actor’s workshops and co-produced with Japan. It won the Best Korean Short Film Award at the Asiana International Short Film Festival in 2012. Yang made his television acting debut in the melodrama The Innocent Man, imbuing his supporting role as a small-time thug with an air of menace.

In 2013, he was among four celebrities who directed a short film using a Samsung Galaxy S4 with the theme, “Meet a Life Companion”; his short,, Dance Together, focused on a Japanese woman who encounters someone new through a cell phone, after experiencing the pain of a parting.

Breathless Success

Breathless was one of the many international premieres this year at the International Film Festival Rotterdam. The film made a strong showing, walking away with one of the three Tiger Awards for best film by a newcomer.

That “newcomer” was Yang Ik-June, who not only directed this movie, but also produced it, wrote it, and cast himself in the main role. Having been an actor in South-Korea for the past ten years in films as No Manners and Maundy Thursday, Breathless is indeed his first feature-length effort. Nothing in “Breathless” points towards it being the work of a new director, but you can spot his roots as an actor. This is very much an actor’s film: character-driven, rather than story- or spectacle-driven.

Breathless is also a relentless and brutal look at domestic abuse, with Yang Ik-June’s character cursing and punching everyone who happens to exist.

Breathless vividly depicts domestic violence and abusive language, but nobody can really call the film brutal. Breathless is Yang Ik-June’s debut film, and is based, he says, on his direct and indirect experiences.

“Since I was in the second year in middle school, I drank alcohol and smoked, and I even sniffed glue. I didn’t want to stay at home, so I was always wandering around in the streets,” he said. But that wayward youth laid the groundwork for Breathless

“I’ve been in the film industry since the age of 26, but I didn’t have any dream or plan,” Yang says. But his first short film, Always Behind You, won an audience award at the Seoul Independent Film Festival in 2005, and that was when he started to get the attention of the film world.  “Everything I learned about directing came from watching directors work while I was acting,” said Yang Ik-June.

At the end of the interview, Yang Ik-June said, “I feel as if I’m in puberty right now. I get so easily influenced by anything.” Breathless contained everything he accumulated in his rollercoaster life, and that’s probably why the film is so intense.

The film proceeded to receive much critical acclaim, winning 23 prizes in the international film festival circuit, including a Tiger Award at Rotterdam. Upon its theater release in Korea, the film performed better than expected at the box office with 130,000 admissions, a rare accomplishment for an independent film.