Conscription in South Korea has existed since 1957 and it is compulsory for male citizens between the ages of 18 and 35 to perform military service. As a rule, everything that is obligatory does not generate passion towards it. Thus, most men do national service out of obligation, but Hyun Bin is not most men.
He volunteered to serve in the Marine Corps, considered the toughest branch of the Korean military. With a 4:1 competition ratio, Hyun placed in the top 5% of applicants, eventually becoming one of the top 16 snipers in his cohort of 720 Navy recruits.
Seeing that the Korean armed forces suddenly had a bona fide celebrity and a military hero in the making, they originally planned to hand him over to public relations, but intense public scrutiny and Hyun’s own desire to serve his country as a True Soldier saw him assigned to the literal front lines of Baengnyeong Island, near the northern boundary line and Yeonpyeong, the site of a November 2010 artillery engagement between North and South Korean forces.
By the time of his release in 2012, the actor had won the Secretary of Defense Award and the Commandant of the Marine Corps Commendation for being an exemplary soldier.
It is often said that real life can be stranger than fiction. In Hyun’s case, it seems his role as the heroic Captain Ri Jeong Hyu in Crash landing on you ‒ the third-highest rated Korean drama in cable TV history and the show that cemented its credentials among South Korean A-List celebrities ‒ is closer to its real character than viewers might think.
A humanitarian and animal lover, Hyun secretly donated 200 million won to the Community Chest of Korea to help fight the COVID-19 outbreak. A member of the “Honor Society”, a group of major private donors, for his many donations to different causes, Hyun has continuously supported projects of organizations such as Save the Children, Community Chest of Korea and international relief NGOs.
The taciturn actor is reminiscent of Captain Ri, a man of few words exemplified by great deed and moral duty. Ri exemplifies, demonstrating qualities like servant leadership, humility, selfless selflessness, valuing women, and devotion to the welfare of those he cares about.
While he was already a superstar in Korea in 2005 for the romantic comedy series My beautiful Sam Soon, Hyun Bin’s filmography is proof of his determination not to be swayed by fame or money. His dramatic turn in the 2009 low-budget independent film I am happy was an opportunity he described to GQ as “having a lot of curiosity, it wouldn’t come to fruition if there weren’t opportunities.
Those chances found me at a favorable time, so I think I just took my shots. Hyun said, “If I went back in time with the mindset I have now, the productions I participate in might change, because it depends on when I read the script. The inspiration you get from a book changes depending on when you read it, doesn’t it? I think I made what I thought were the best choices for me at that time.
Crash landing on you, which aired on Netflix, propelled it to international fame, garnering favorable reactions not only in Asia but around the world. “Daniel Henney’s friends in America told him to make sure to take a picture with me,” Hyun recalled in an interview with W Korea.
After Crash landing on you, fans in Japan, China, the United States and France are full of praise for you. It’s been a while since the series ended, but it continues to captivate viewers around the world on Netflix, what do you think?
I realized that thanks to over-the-top (OTT) platforms like Netflix, the whole world is watching and sympathizing with us. It seems true that works produced in Korea influence the world in a different way than before. Not only Crash landing on youbut also squid gamemovies such as minari and Parasite, and in the musical genre, BTS… I have the impression that nationality and cultural background are gradually but surely accepted by others. I’m just grateful for that. But on the other hand, I also feel a weight on my shoulders, especially when I receive unexpected fan letters from all over the world.
I am curious to know what is written in these letters…
Usually it’s about how much my fans sympathized with my drama and enjoyed it. About How They Started Watching Other Korean Dramas After Watching Crash landing on you, how they want to visit Korea when the situation improves, and how they want to meet me in person at a fan meeting. (Laughs)
It has been almost 20 years since non stop 4you have acted in many critical films and productions, including Secret garden, Hyde Jekyll, meand Memories of the Alhambra; I am happywas a film that greatly influenced your acting career… If we go back to the characters and stories that were “Hyun Bin-ised”, which of your characters were you most influenced by, both physically and mentally?
I get asked this question so many times. Who was the most memorable character? Including prep time, from filming to previews, it takes almost a year to reflect and meditate on the character. As short as it is, I can’t let my character down for at least six months. So it’s hard to pick one out of all the characters I’ve had such a strong bond with.
But right now, if I have to choose just one (laughs), it’s Im Cheol-ryung from Confidential assignment. I just finished filming season 2 last summer. I would say that’s the character that currently occupies most of my head.
Your upcoming film The leading men does not follow the point of view of the abductees, but the point of view of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the National Intelligence Service, which must rescue them. I’ve heard that the key to the film is to maintain a neutral view of the Taliban hostage for the audience, while taking a subtle stance in favor of the negotiators. What did you have in mind while playing Dae-sik, the employee of the National Intelligence Service?
Dae-sik is a long-time NIS operative in the Middle East. I wanted Dae-sik to be portrayed as a very different person from the Foreign Ministry employee who came from Korea to negotiate. I focused on thinking about how Dae-sik would support the Foreign Ministry workers’ negotiation.
In the opinion of the public, Hyun Bin is an actor on the lookout for good scenarios.
For me, the most important consideration when choosing a role is the story and how well I can convey that story in relation to the other actors. Even though it’s a show that I really want to do, and I don’t know if that’s the right expression, but even though I think it’s a good show, it wouldn’t make sense if I fails to express my character properly. So, from a certain point in my life, I started to wonder if I could do well in a series compared to other actors.
Is there a scenario or a story for which you feel a particular attraction?
Watching the script carefully, the topic that touches my heart seems to differ depending on the time and situation when I read the script. When social situations are as tough as these days and everyone is struggling, I think I want to show the opposite of what’s going on, so the audience can forget about it all and at least enjoy their time in watching the show.
Do you have your own method of analyzing lines or stage directions?
Let me give you an example: “very viciously” for staging. Vicious language used to condemn my opponent, the vicious attitude I act in doing so, and vicious gestures that could be violent; this unique phrase requires multiple layers of vicious play. To be able to really express yourself “viciously” in this situation is to consider all the possibilities of what could cause “wickedness” in this situation, and then coordinate all of these things with my opposing actor and my director during rehearsals. live.
We still remember the irresistible Kim Joo-won of the 2010s Secret garden. There were mothers who followed the show who wanted their sons to dress more like Hyun Bin. Is this your fashion heritage?
(Laughs) Kim Joo-won from Secret garden and the real Hyun Bin are actually quite different. On the show, Joo-won prefers unique styles, while I prefer something simpler and more comfortable. But when I need to dress impeccably, I’m ready to show off a new look without hesitation.
Hyun Bin was named official ambassador for Italian luxury brand Loro Piana in September 2021. The house saw Hyun Bin as a natural choice to represent it, seeing his interest in humanitarian and environmental issues as aligned with his own values.
(Images: Loro Piana)
This article was first published on Augustman Singapore.