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(Yonhap Interview) Actor Ha Jung-woo competes against himself in year-end box office race

2017/12/15 14:44

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By Shim Sun-ah

SEOUL, Dec. 15 (Yonhap) -- The biggest rival of actor Ha Jung-woo in the Christmas season box office race may be himself. One of the most sought-after movie stars in Korea, Ha put his name on two of this month's three most-anticipated new releases -- "Along with the Gods: The Two Worlds", "1987: When the Day Comes", and "Steel Rain."

   The first two films had a press screening and conference earlier this week ahead of their releases on Dec. 20 and a week later.

"After two press events in a row, I was really tired physically and mentally. It was like running in two Olympics finals straight," Ha said during an interview with Yonhap News Agency at a Seoul cafe on Thursday. "That's because I had to recollect where I started with the production staff of two different films and the time I spent with them at an interval of one day as Gang-rim of 'Gods' and Prosecutor Choi of '1987'."


This photo released by Lotte Entertainment shows actor Ha Jung-woo. (Yonhap) This photo released by Lotte Entertainment shows actor Ha Jung-woo. (Yonhap)

Still, the 39-year-old actor said that he is "very glad" and "thankful" to see the rare phenomenon in his 14 years of acting.

"Along with the Gods: The Two Worlds" is the first installment of the two-part series based on a famous webtoon series of the same title. Ha takes the role of Gang-rim, the leader of three death angels and lawyer who takes a mission to defend righteous dead men when they are tried in seven hells for 49 days after death. Ju Ji-hoon and Kim Hyang-gi play the two other angels -- Haewonmaek and Deok-chun.

In "1987," Ha's character is Prosecutor Choi, inspired by a real-life figure with the same surname who took an important role in unearthing the truth about the torture death of student activist Park Jong-chul. The film depicts how the death sparked nationwide pro-democracy protests that undermined the iron-fisted rule of the Chun Doo-hwan government.

Ha said "Along with the Gods" is just like its director Kim Yong-hwa for being "emotional."

   The veteran director is best known for the smash hit movies "200 Pound Beauty" (2006) and "Take Off" (2009). He also directed "Oh! Brothers" (2003) and the VFX-heavy action "Mr. Go" (2013).

"He is a very emotional and softhearted person and had an unusual childhood. There appears to be common ground in his movies -- that is his longing for parents and family values. I think he always want to tell the importance of what he has lived without through his films."

   In the same way, "Gods" is rich with emotion, he went on saying, "They are expressed, comforted and forgiven in relationships with Ja-hong, his younger brother Su-hong and their mother. Some people may criticize the film for being too emotional or a tearjerker, but don't agree. I think that's how his early life has shaped him."

This photo released by Lotte Entertainment shows actor Ha Jung-woo. (Yonhap) This photo released by Lotte Entertainment shows actor Ha Jung-woo. (Yonhap)

The first part revolves around the story of Kim Ja-hong (played by Cha Tae-hyun), a firefighter who sacrificed his life to pull a young girl out of a fire-engulfed building, and his younger brother and self-devoted deaf mother. Gang-rim is confident at first that Ja-hong deserves reincarnation because he is an uncommonly good person but falls into confusion after his past wrongdoings are unveiled one after another.

Ha is known for being one of the most prolific actors in the local film industry, appearing in one or two movies every year. The actor also directed two films -- "Fasten Your Seatbelt" in 2013 and "Chronicle of a Blood Merchant" in 2014 -- and currently leads Perfect Storm, a film studio.

Of the seven hells shown in the movie -- namely those of murder, indolence, untruth, injustice, betrayal, obstruction of moral laws of family relationships -- he said he himself will probably not be able to pass all the hells safely but the indolence hell. "I think I'm diligent," he said, smiling brightly.

Ha said his challenge would continue after the release of the "Gods" and "1987."

   "I recently found an interesting story, so I'm going to hire a writer to begin working on the script for the new feature. It's not decided yet when to begin shooting, but I'm going to have sufficient time to fully review the script for my third directorial work."