[Interview] Song Seung Hun is Sad about the Negative Views on Korean Wave
The star with dark skin first sighed in regret. He then continued to speak up about the Korean wave sweeping across the world, and the reality hidden behind it. This hallyu star is named Song Seung Hun, and he has been on the scene for almost 18 years.
Song Seung Hun’s interview was originally supposed to be about how he feels about the conclusion of MBC’s Dr. Jin and his plans for the future.
However, he seemed to think otherwise, as he used the opportunity to talk about his thoughts on the Korean wave and the sad environment Korean productions have to bear.
Song Seung Hun up close
The hallyu star’s face was tan. He had to film outside in the sun in temperatures that reached highs of 35 degrees Celsius, and because Dr. Jin is a traditional drama it wasn’t like he could find a cool building to walk into. This was how Dr. Jin was completed, and the actor showed he was both relieved and sad that the drama was going to be over.
At first, it was to be a meeting with a good-looking actor. He, however, started to touch on the sad realities of production and the negative views on the Korean wave. He wasn’t just an actor acting for his own benefit; he showed he holds responsibility as a hallyu star.
It was a meaningful piece for you, as it was even your first traditional piece. How do you feel now that it’s over?
“It feels great (Laugh). It was the most physically straining piece I’ve ever worked on. Because it was set in the Joseon Period, I had to wear wigs and costumes that had me sweating. The other actors and the staff also had to bear with a lot.”
Does the drama hold any special meaning for you?
“It was my first traditional piece, so I felt the pressure. I always believed that traditional pieces would be boring and not fun, but through this opportunity I learned it could be attractive through the historical facts hidden in the piece and my meetings with the characters. I broke down the prejudice and fear I held toward traditional pieces with Dr. Jin. If I get the chance, I want to try acting in a real factual period piece.”
You acted alongside many actors, such as Lee Bum Soo, Kim Jae Joong and Park Min Young.
“I met [Lee] Bum Soo hyung (big brother) through a film 10 years ago. We continued to keep in touch, but the Bum Soo hyung I met again as an actor was a completely different person. He had gained an energy and strength during the 10 years we had been apart. In the case of [Kim] Jae Joong, we talked a lot about concerns as actors and singers, and I always thought Miss [Park] Min Young would be bright, but I found that she acts in a really smart way.”
How was the Korean ‘Dr. Jin’ differentiated from the Japanese original?
“The Japanese version has Dr. Jin meet a man named Ryoma, and in the Korean version he meets Heungseon Daewongun, so the basic frames are the same. In the Japanese version, however, the romantic parts were downplayed, while we tried to liven that up. The Korean version was also different in that we mixed in a parallel theory with Park Min Young playing two characters. Of course, it sparked some debate.”
Your competition with ‘A Gentleman’s Dignity’ made issues also.
“In viewership ratings, we definitely lost, but like in the Olympics, we can’t only praise those who get medals and blame those that didn’t when they all worked so hard. We lost in viewership ratings, but our cast, staff and writers all worked hard in a bad environment. I believe it’s a drama that we won’t be embarrassed to talk about.”
There were also issues on your battle with Jang Dong Gun.
“I’m honored and thankful to even be compared to [Jang] Dong Gun sunbae (senior). I wasn’t burdened by that because he’s a sunbae and actor I like. Rather than concentrate on the competition, I concentrated more on the realities of drama production.”
What are the realities of drama production?
“I hope they become friendlier for actors and staff. It feels like we’re all rushing too much. From the fifth episode, we had to shoot two episodes in a week. If the episode was to air at 10 p.m., we continued filming until 6 p.m. on the same day. It will be hard for foreigners to understand what it’s like. Still, I’m awed at how Korean people get through those absurd schedules.”
Song Seung Hun is a hallyu star. Do you think any new responsibilities come with that title?
“In the past, we would make content for Korean audiences and that was it, but in the last five or 10 years, the age of Korean cultural content has come, with our dramas going overseas. Korean dramas and K-Pop have become stronger than those from Japan. It’s a great opportunity and everyone should be proud, but I’m sad that some keep denying it.”
What do you mean when you say they’re denying it?
“Some say that the Korean wave is a bubble and that it’ll die down soon, but after leading it for 10 years we’ve made it into a culture of its own. Still, people say that it’s a bubble and don’t look on it with kind eyes. It’s a big deal when people from overseas listen to K-Pop or watch Korean dramas and come to Korea, but some don’t know how precious they are. We need to take this across Asia and the world, but I’m sad this is happening.”
You’ve just finished filming Dr. Jin. Do you have any new goals?
“Marriage (Laugh). It’s important to be a great actor and to try to go to Hollywood, but I honestly just want to build a happy family with my loving wife. It won’t be easy, but if I start to love someone I think I’ll choose to marry her without any hesitation. My ideal type is a woman that I can talk to like a friend, and I want to have more than two children.”
Do you want to play any specific types of roles as an actor?
“I don’t think I’ve ever acted in roles that I′ve been able to throw my all into, like psychopaths or murderers. I want to try a role I can completely throw myself into.”
What do you aim for as an actor?
“I want to gain more experience and cut short all the controversies about my acting skills. Even in Hollywood, some actors that used to be famous for their looks become skilled actors as they gain more experience. I also believe that the day will come if I continue to fit myself into my roles. I’ll have to work hard to make such controversies die down.”
Photo credit: Storm S Company