Actor Song Joongki hopes to weather the ever-growing hurricane of Hallyu stardom with wisdom
It’s a challenge trying to find a crack in the pristine public image of actor Song Joongki, who has arguably been enjoying the most explosive pan-Asian popularity ever witnessed by an actor since last year’s hit drama series “Descendants of the Sun”.
In his numerous interviews, Song has been modest yet firm-footed in his opinions. His self-descriptions are humble and his assertions rooted in a belief in justice. It doesn’t help that Song has taken on another dashing, heroic role in Ryoo Seungwan’s war film “The Battleship Island”.
The 31-year-old actor is at the centre of another media whirlwind – his upcoming October marriage to actress Song Hyekyo, who co-starred in “Descendants”.
“I never wanted to get married late,” Song says in an interview with the Korea Herald in Palpandong, Seoul.
The actor has nothing but praise for his intended, saying he learned from her professionally during the “Descendants” shoot and later as a person during moments in their relationship.
“She’s a very thoughtful person,” he says, also describing the veteran actress as his senior when it comes to Hallyu fame.
“Every part of our lives is being talked about. I’m only human and there are times when I have my concerns. But I think we can deal with [the media] wisely.”
The two are in the midst of “happily preparing” for their wedding, Song says. “Nothing is for certain of course, but I’ll probably be thinking about my next project after the wedding. Nothing is in the works right now.”
His most recent role is Park Mooyoung, an elite soldier of the Korean Liberation Army and an agent with the US Office of Strategic Services.
In the film, Park infiltrates Japan’s Hashima Island, where hundreds of Koreans have been taken captive and are forced into slave labour in coal mines, to rescue a key independence movement figure.
The character is propelled by a sense of compassion for the down-trodden, Song says.
“At first, he’s a soldier whose duty is to follow orders and complete his mission, and that’s it.
“But he’s later moved by the plight of the people on the island. His motivation changes as the movie progresses. He later feels he has a duty to save the Korean people.”
The strong sense of responsibility could be a trait Song shares with the character. As an actor whose following has expanded overseas, taking on the sensitive subject of Korean-Japanese history could have presented a dilemma; but Song cited the socially accepted notions of “common sense” in his decision to speak out against the historical contentions surrounding Hashima Island.
“People ask me if I was concerned about foreign fans’ responses before deciding to do this movie. Of course I pay attention to fans’ responses. I’ve reached a point in my career where one photo of me is uploaded on the internet and all of Asia sees it.
“But I believed that [what the film shows] was just. It’s the right thing to do, which is why I think I wasn’t afraid. It was a small expression of my beliefs.”
The history of Japanese oppression of the Korean people is still worthy of righteous anger, Song stresses.
“If you’re someone with common sense, it’s only fitting that you’re angered by these events.”
On a more day-today basis, Song describes himself as a social creature – he finds no stress in spending lengthy amounts of time engaging in group activities. “I think that’s why I was able to adjust so well to life in the military,” he says.
The stories from his school years also reveal someone participating actively in school organisations. He was student council vice president in high school, and an active member of an association of university students’ broadcasting system while majoring in business administration at Sungkyunkwan University.
Song says the thoughts and opinions of his contemporaries are important to him.
“I go to the theatres a lot to see the movies I’m in,” he says. “Sometimes, I am sitting right next to someone, so close that I can hear their breathing. It’s fun to see that I’m on the screen and they don’t know I’m right next to them.”
Song says he takes mental notes of which points in the film evoke the collective sighs, gasps and laughter from the audience. “After the movie, when people go out talking among themselves, I can hear everything. Sometimes even the bad things.”