Coming to America
Published: February 8, 2013
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Luckily, pop star PSY, famed for his hit "Gangnam Style," isn't the only export from Korea to arrive on these shores.
At Dickson City martial arts dojo Karate USA, 802 Main St., the latest member of the teaching staff is something of a celebrity in Asia, and among Americans who enjoy Korean- and Hong Kong-made action films.
Grandmaster Won Jin Kim, known as the "Scorpion King," has spent most of his adult life as a martial arts director and actor in Korea and China. He starred in "Operation Scorpio" and directed the "My Wife is Gangster" series.
He will teach a two-hour special seminar at Karate USA on Saturday, Feb. 9, noon to 2 p.m. The seminar will consist of kum sul and kum hyung sword techniques and bong sul and bong hyung staff techniques. Admission is $50. Call 307-5425 to register.
Kim Won-Jin was born in the 1960s into a family of martial artists. He was still a young student when he began to imitate the moves he saw in martial arts movies and TV shows - especially those of his hero Bruce Lee - and even began creating his own variations.
"I saw one of his movies and fell in love with his style," he said a YouTube interview. "Because of Bruce Lee, I entered the action movie industry."
He began working as a stuntman. For the next 10 years he did stunts and small roles whenever he got the chance and eventually graduated to larger roles in movies such as "The Kung Fu Kids" and "Dragon-Tiger-Mouse."
His big chance came when he was cast as the bad guy in the Hong Kong-made movie "Operation Scorpio." It was a huge hit in Asia and his career took off.
Won-Jin (he dropped the "Kim" for his stage name) did a few more movies and spent five more years going back and forth between Hong Kong and Seoul, but the grind became too much for him and he returned to Korea, settled down to start a family. He has spent the last few years training, teaching - he works with stuntman, actors and athletes - and also working as a choreographer.
Karate USA's Master Eric Kovaleski has brought Asian martial arts stars to the U.S. in the past, but unlike those previous visitors, Won-Jin is beginning a new chapter in his life, settling in Northeastern Pennsylvania. He will teach all of Kovaleski's students and is seeking acting roles here in the U.S. as well.
"It such an honor and privilege to have such a great marital artist here," Kovaleski said. "I feel like a white belt all over again and the students love him."