On fame and a love for streetfood: Kim Soo Hyun returns to Manila

Published June 11, 2022, 9:40 PM

by Carol RH Malasig

Photos by Noel Pabalate

I had a brief chat with a fellow journalist before the press conference started. “He’s the one who did it for me,” I said as we talked about how we got into K-drama. “Oh gosh, me too,” she said as we agreed on how My Love from Another Star is still our number one favorite after all these years. All because of Kim Soo Hyun.

He’s a great actor, no doubt about that but there’s just something about his charm and personality that shines through in every character he plays, be it an alien stuck on Earth for hundreds of years, a troubled psychiatric nurse, a melancholic king, or even a thief. 

Now a model for leading clothing brand Bench, Kim Soo Hyun came back to Manila to meet his Filipino fans over the weekend. Kim’s schedule was packed, the moment he arrived. Fans were at the airport to greet him and were treated to a moment where Kim had to take off his jacket due to the humidity, eliciting screams from the crowd. This, we found out during the press event, was due to the heat and humidity in Manila as well as the warmth from his Filipino fans. Who knew there would come a time we’d be thankful for the unbearable humidity here in the Philippines?

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He faced the press a day before the fan meet where he gave pretty candid answers, often showing his funnier side. Decked in Bench from head to toe, he admitted that being the brand’s ambassador is something that truly fits his personality. “In my personal time, I prefer very comfortable and casual clothes. Also like this,” Kim said, referring to his chic yet very comfortable outfit featuring dark denim. “I also prefer wearing all black.”

Well, calling me a worldwide actor kind of embarrasses me but thank you, I will do better. The duty as an actor filming a project sometimes hurts me and makes me sick. And sometimes it becomes the strength. —Kim Soo Hyun

Fans who wish to look as young and fresh as Kim only need to visit a Bench store. “From the airport, on the way in the car, I was able to see billboards of Bench,” Kim said. “If you dress exactly the same as the [models in the] billboards, you will look great.”

During a one-on-one interview, Kim also shared how thankful he was to the clothing brand for bringing him closer to Filipinos. “​​The bench brand itself is very powerful here. And as I know it’s also very friendly to a lot of people here so maybe this opportunity can also make me be more approachable to people here. Okay, saying that made me looking so ambitious,” he said with a laugh. “And of course, I thank bench a lot.”

Staying grounded

Kim has an expressive face and his emotions definitely come through, making people who don’t even speak Korean somehow understand how he’s feeling. He looks at people intently, truly listening and really giving answers openly. It’s hard to be engaging when there’s a language barrier but Kim Soo Hyun transcends all that.

When asked how he feels about being known globally, Kim got shy. “Well, calling me a worldwide actor kind of embarrasses me but thank you, I will do better,” he said as he looked down with a bashful smile. “The duty as an actor filming a project sometimes hurts me and makes me sick. And sometimes it becomes the strength.”

No doubt fame has its challenges and after a decade and a half in the industry, Kim feels much more adjusted to the highs and lows of the career he chose. “It’s been 15 years that I’ve stayed in this industry and I think I am somehow adapted to this life. So this life is now a part of me, and I am currently living well.”

There’s something refreshing about one so successful but doesn’t take oneself too seriously. When asked how he keeps himself grounded, he gave a hearty, almost embarrassed laugh. “It’s an honor that you look at me as a grounded guy or a humble guy,” he said as I pressed on to ask why he seems to be shy about his own success. “Oh, there are a lot of great people in this world.”

More to explore

This isn’t Kim’s first time in the Philippines. The actor shared how while it would be interesting to see the beaches of  Palawan and other tourist spots in the country, he’s also highly interested in everyday Filipino culture. His previous visit back when he was much younger brought him to historic Malate and gave him a chance to experience our street food. Quite the adventurous foodie, he shared fond memories of chicharon and how he’d love to try some of our street barbecue. We hope he’s ready for some betamax.

He was even impressed with the local malls, which seem to have almost everything. “I remember going to SM Mall, and there’s everything at SM Malls. So it kind of makes me reminisce those moments. Maybe I could go back to that time when I visit there again.”

If – like most of his fans – you’ve been waiting for him to come back on screen, we may have to wait a little longer to find out where we’ll be watching him next. “Actually, there’s nothing certain for now, but we’re reviewing a lot of scripts,” he said. “I’ll try my best to give you a good news as soon as possible.” We waited for him through military service and it took a couple of years for him to return to Manila. If there’s one thing that’s sure with Kim Soo Hyun, is that he’s always worth the wait.