While Juri may be the first Korean character in the STREET FIGHTER series, she’s not the first Korean fighting game character. Let’s take a look at some of the characters who’ve paved the way for her.
In order to properly gauge their awesomeness, we’ll be measuring them on a scale of 1 through 5 Plates of Kimchi.
● RAIN (Mortal Kombat)
Originating in MORTAL KOMBAT 3, Rain was just supposed to be a prank from the developers. Though he appeared as a purple ninja (get it?) in the intro sequence, he was nowhere to be found in the actual game. And since all inside jokes in the MORTAL KOMBAT world have to be beaten to death, he was developed into an actual playable character and placed into ULTIMATE MORTAL KOMBAT 3.
Alright, I have no idea whether the Rain character is actually Korean. Since the MORTAL KOMBAT universe is full of vaguely Asiatic characters, I doubt anyone really knows. And to be honest, Mileena almost took this spot, since she was once played by an actress who’s married to a Korean guy. But really, how do you say no to Rain?
RATING: Since I only wanted an excuse to post a photo of the Korean pop sensation Rain, the MORTAL KOMBAT Rain only earns one Plate of Kimchi.
● CHANG KOEHAN & CHOI BOUNGE (King of Fighters)
Chang Koehan was a violent criminal in Korea who used his massive strength to commit crimes and routinely break out of jail. Choi Bounge was a creepy stalker who loved to use his Freddy Kruger-esque claws to cut human flesh. Eventually, Chang and Choi were “recruited” by Kim Kaphwan to become members of Team Korea in the King of Fighters tournament.
Though they often hatch schemes to escape from Kim’s custody, these plans always end in (hilarious) failure. Eventually, Kim’s attempts to reform the duo pan out and they learn to appreciate the company of their friends in Team Korea. By the time KING OF FIGHTERS XI rolls around, they are no longer playable characters and serve as pure comic relief.
RATING: Though I appreciate the fact that they’ve reformed their criminal ways, they lose points for meeting the standard Korean stereotypes of being enormously fat and dressing like Freddy Kruger. So they only earn two Plates of Kimchi.
● HWOARANG (Tekken)
Here is a list of things that Hwoarang likes: tae kwon do, rock and roll, ditching the mandatory Korean military service, jumping motorcycles through windows, and kicking dudes in the face.
In the TEKKEN story, Hwoarang enters the Tekken Tournament in order to avenge the death of his master, Baek Doo San. Except later he finds out that Baek Doo San was just in a coma, but is totally better now. Hwoarang also finally beats his rival Jin Kazama in a one-on-one fight. Except Jin then turns into the Devil (Jin) and beats Hwoarang into a coma.
RATING: Hwoarang earns a ton of points for his love of kicking dudes in the face. Unfortunately, he loses some points for being beaten into a coma by the Devil (Jin). But hey, it was the Devil (Jin), so he still earns three Plates of Kimchi.
● SEONG MI-NA (Soul Calibur)
Seong Mi-Na’s story is stupidly complicated, so here’s the Cliff Notes version: The daughter of a martial arts master, Seung Mi-Na wanted to fight Japanese pirates that were invading Korea, but was prevented from joining the coast guard (really?) because of her gender. In order to prove her worth, she decided to search the globe for the legendary Soul Blade. Meanwhile, her husband-to-be constantly chases after her and tries to bring her home. She uses a Zanbatou (a long pole with a blade on one end) to beat the hell out of fools. Nevin has a crush on her.
Seong Mi-Na is awesome because her character eschews the standard tropes for Asian women. Instead of standing by passively, she decides to learn secret kung fu from random drunken masters. Unfortunately, someone forgot to tell this to the SOUL CALIBUR character artists. The picture you see above is one of the only images where she’s not depicted like some kind of old timey Korean hooker. Let’s try to do better with SOUL CALIBUR 5, Namco.
RATING: Seong Mi-Na the only character that will get Nevin to play SOUL CALIBUR. For that alone, she earns an awesome four Plates of Kimchi.
● KIM KAPHWAN (King of Fighters)
Though the King of Fighters series (and the general family of SNK fighters) has provided us with a prodigious number of Korean characters, Kim Kaphwan stands heads and shoulders above them all.
Kim is the Tae Kwon Do champion OF THE WORLD. He’s also a national hero in Korea and so well respected that the authorities are willing to give him custody of two hardened criminals without a moment’s hesitation. His belief in Justice (with a capital “J”!) is so powerful that he actually manages to reform these criminals and turn them into total softies. And in KING OF FIGHTERS XI, Team Fatal Fury kicks out a champion pro wrestler with the face of an eagle in order to make room for Kim!
RATING: Kim Kapwhan is so badass that even his two kids are total ass-kickers! Other than the Mishima clan in TEKKEN, I can’t think of another series where the progeny of existing characters became playable fighters. For continuing the legacy of awesome Korean fighting game characters, Kim Kaphwan earns five Plates of Kimchi.
Honorable Mention: MINH YOUNG KIM (Gears of War)
A gear who served during the Locust-Human War, Lieutenant Minh Young Kim led the mission to rescue Marcus Fenix from Jacinto Maximum Security Prison. Then he died. Well, at least we know there are still Koreans in the future or space or wherever the hell GEARS OF WAR takes place.
I know that GEARS OF WAR isn’t a fighting game, but I really just wanted to highlight the fact that Lieutenant Minh Young Kim looks exactly like professional wrestler Kurt Angle:
Normally, I’d be upset with the casting of a white actor in an Asian role, but I’m totally OK with this (as long as he doesn’t get prosthetic slanty eyes). Get on it, Hollywood!