Ahead of his first meet-and-greet with Filipinos fans online on July 11, this Korean superstar sits down with this writer on a one-on-one
I told Hyun Bin when I had the chance to speak to him on Zoom that, in fact, Crash Landing on You was what I would consider my ticket to the world of K-drama. Prior to it, my Korean film exposure was limited to fantasy, thrillers, and horror or, particularly, zombie films like Train to Busan and Kingdom.
But Crash Landing on You, fondly called CLOY, was such a big hit when it was released in late 2019 and early 2020 and no fewer than 10 of my friends urged me to give it a try, saying it was such a joy of which I must not deprive myself. So I did and, indeed, it got me started, a key that has unlocked the door for me to a world of immersive storytelling, themes as familiar as they are inquisitive and introspective, practical yet evocative cinematography, lots of comic relief, beautiful actors, and Korea’s day-to-day life and cultural gems, from food to scenery, even fashion.
That Hyun Bin, born Kim Tae-pyung, is among the biggest names in the Korean film industry that has the swept the world off its feet says a lot. To be a Korean star is a big thing, so big it can be overwhelming, especially now that the whole world is watching. But from our conversation, he seemed to be unfazed by the demands of stardom, able to draw the line between his life and his career, and savvy enough to remove himself from the version his global audience is in love with.
To Hyun Bin, his success is a product of diligence. It’s nice to see someone so popular to the point he is deified chalk it up not to privilege or a birthright or to destiny or even luck but to hard work, which is more possible for everyone else. The Korean superstar is also the face of Bench, the endorser for Bench menswear, which is perfect because the target demographic—young people with dreams as big as their lifestyles are casual, relaxed, and unpretentious—does need this kind of encouragement and philosophical basis for self-fulfilment.
Ben Chan, the visionary behind Bench, who chooses his endorsers and ambassadors very carefully, has seen the inspirational potential of Hyun Bin from the get-go. “Hyun Bin is both a great actor and a good person, a combination that makes him an ideal face for Bench,” says Ben. “His good looks of course helps in making our clothes look good as well.”
But good looks, as it appears, are the least of Hyun Bin’s star qualities. His first film, Shower, completed in 2002, was a project shelved for lack of funding, but it only took him a year to bounce back, debuting in the TV series Bodyguard in 2003 and then coming out immediately in two other shows, the comedy Nonstop 4 and the quirky drama Ireland, before landing a role in the rom-com My Name Is Kim Sam Soon in 2005, which gained him wide acclaim. From many of his films, such as Late Autumn and Rampant, he has garnered critical acclaim, as well as nominations and awards, such as the grand prize for TV at the Baeksang Arts Awards in 2011, which he won for his role in Secret Garden and, the latest, the daesang (grand prize) at the 2020 APAN Star Awards for his role as Ri Jung-hyuk, the North Korean officer in CLOY.
Here’s a snippet of my conversation on Zoom with Hyun Bin.
Personally, my key to K-drama was Crash Landing on You, which I only got to watch after the pandemic struck. I would say that in the Philippines CLOY was when you became a phenomenal figure, known even to those who aren’t K-drama fanatics. What do you love best about your role in in CLOY?
First of all, I want to thank all the Filipino viewers of CLOY, who started to pay more attention to K-dramas through CLOY. As for the character Ri Jeong Hyeok, I think his innocence, seriousness, and the actions he does to sacrifice for his loved ones are what the viewers loved about him.
I mentioned in a press conference in Korea that I hope this drama crash lands on a lot of people and give excitement, warmth, and comfort to the viewers until the end. Looking at how so many people enjoyed it and still talk about it until now, I think it has successfully landed.
How do you prepare for roles, apart from studying the script?
The first thing I do is read the script and do whatever is visibly necessary. For example, for the character Ri Jeong Hyeok, he had to have a North Korean accent, so I had to practice that. Also, he is from a powerful family so, appearance-wise, I thought it would look good for him to have a perfect soldier fit so I worked out. I also try to cope with the validity of the character’s words and actions. I ask myself, “Why did he do this?” “Why did he say this?” By asking these questions repeatedly, I get into character.
‘If I get to go to the Philippines, I want to eat local food and go to the beach and relax.’
What is your physical regimen and what is your grooming repertoire like?
On my days off, I try to work out as much as possible by going to the gym. I also take vitamin supplements and try to eat a healthy, balanced meal. Aside from that, I try to get enough sleep.
Of all that you know about the Philippines, what are you most keen to discover, explore, or experience? If you can come to Manila right now, what would be the first thing you would do?
I think it would be better for you to let me know! If I get to go to the Philippines, I want to eat local food and go to the beach and relax.
Your Filipino fans would be more than happy to hear from you. What have you got to say to your legions of fans in the Philippines?
I was able to communicate with you through Bench. I hope I will be able to meet you next time face-to-face and not through a camera like this. Also, I shot two projects after CLOY, so through those films, I should be able to meet you soon. I’m going to continue showing myself to you through other projects, so I hope you stay healthy until then.
Watch out for Hyun Bin’s new projects, a sequel to the 2017 film Confidential Assignment, in which again he will play a North Korean, this time as a detective, and the crime thriller The Point Men, in which he will play a National Intelligence Service agent.
Bench also has many projects and appearances lined up for the superactor and Bench endorser, such as his first meet-and-greet online on July 11, 2021. To join, check out https://bit.ly/hyunbinonline or https://bit.ly/hbmechanics. Stay updated by following @benchtm on Instagram.