Talk about army service
■ Accept our congratulations on completing two years of military service as a social worker. How did you spend your time when you were in the army?
I used to work in a medical center: I took care of the patients’nutritionand also provided support in medical care for the activity of the elderly. I also took care of those people whose life is coming to an end. I got a valuable life experience which I never had during the acting life. The system of life values not of an actor but of a “person JungIl Woo” has undergone tremendous changes. It was an incredibly wonderful period of time for me. I think there won’t be another chance like this in my life; it was a very valuable period.
■ Has anything changed, have you learned anything new during your army service?
These two years have given me a new life experience. Prior to that, for almost 10 years of acting life, being the actor I met a limited number of people, so my life experience was also limited. During service, I came into contact with the zeal and life values of younger fellows aged 10 years and older. They gave me an incredible motivation for different things and served as a lesson. For two years I took the bus or the subway and noticed something that I had never seen before, and I also felt that my horizons were expanding with an increase in the number of not-actors-friends.
■ On the bus and train, people around you might have noticed that this is Jung Il Woo?
When I took the bus, I put on a mask. The nearby people mostly were in their smartphones, while others didn’t show curiosity, so they couldn’t really notice me (he laughs).
■ Did you get fan support while being in the army?
I’m very grateful to my fans for these two years in the army. I got a huge number of electronic and usual letters from my Korean and Japanese fans, including those whose content was like a diary: ‘This day I did this…’ I looked forward to the arrival of new letters to read them gradually.
■ What did you do for yourself personally at this time?
I mainly studied English, went hiking on weekends. I used to have fun with my guys we got along well with at the medical center, and also met with friends from secondary and high school whom I hadn’t seen for a long time. Lee Min Ho, Kim Bum and I had a great time: we went out cafes and talked about work.
■ Before you were enrolled in the military service you had said you wanted to learn English, hadn’t you?
Yes, all these two years I have been studying English. Now I have reached a level at which I can freely communicate and express my will.
■ Have you watched any movies and doramas in the last two years?
Yes, I have, because I love movies. I also went to the theater especially at the concerts of classical music when famous performers came to Korea. I often went to the art galleries and museums, enjoying art and culture.
■ While watching a movie or a performance, didn’t you want to do something like that?
Honestly, didn’t even think about it. But the deepest impressions on me were made by the doramas Forest of Secrets and My Mister. I’m very glad the actors who played in the film My Mister this time are filming with me in the dorama Haechi. It’ll be my return to the cinema.
The talk that the Cinderella and Four Knights dorama shown on the dTV channel for the month was in the first place in popularity and ranked the third for the year
■ Dorama Cinderella and Four Knights shown on dTV in June became very popular. It was the first time when the Korean dorama took the first place among all genres, and this is your merit, Jung Il Woo. Tell me something about the dorama Cinderella and Four Knights for those who have already looked and those who are only going to watch.
The most important point in this drama is that all four knights have completely different characters and each one expresses love and builds human relationships differently. I think this is interesting. It was a piece of work shortly before the army. I participated in the shooting, thinking that the younger generation should like it. While serving in the army, I found out that Japanese teenagers loved this film very much and was incredibly happy.
■ Do you keep in touch with the actors from this film?
We have a good relationship with Ahn Jae Hyun, we are the same age. We go to have dinner together, to drink. I still keep in touch with him.
■ Is there something Ji Woon looks like you or is different from you?
I am a bit gentler and warmer person than Ji Woon (laughing) but I think the common thing in us is that Ji Woon and I are both sincere.
■ Have you watched Japanese doramas or movies?
Frankly speaking, when I was a high school student, before I became an actor, I really enjoyed watching Japanese doramas and movies! My favorite work was the Tokyo Tower, and recently I watched the anime I Want to Eat your Pancreas and was incredibly emotionally moved. I almost cried. There are other animes that I like too.
■ Would you like to star in Japanese films?
Of course! I always tell the staffs to let me know as soon as there is an interesting plot.
■ Is there something you want to do in Japan, to go somewhere?
All the time I thought when I finished army serving, I would definitely like to go to the Fuji-Rock music festival. And I really want to go there. If I have time this summer, I would like to go there.
Talk about dorama Haechi beginning in February and return to work
■ Tell us about your return to work and the Haechi dorama, which will be shown in February
The decisive factor in my participation in the Haechi dorama was a strong story from screenwriter Kim Yi-Young, who wrote scripts for such doramas as Dong Yi, Yi San – King Jeong Jo and others, and that I could work with a great film crew and the director Lee Young Suk who shot The Return of Iljimae, so I made decision without hesitation.
The filming has just started, and we’re already in excellent relations with Kwon Yul, A Ra and senior Lee Kyung Young, who has become our leader. This is why I take pleasure in shooting.
This time I play a role that is a bit similar to the roles I have already played but it’ll be a story about Prince Yeoning (Lee Geum) before he became the king. I think Japanese fans will enjoy it too.
■ You have starred so much in historical dramas, tell me, what exactly is it worth highlighting in dorama Haechi?
I think that there have already been a number of stories about King Yeong Jo but there was not much about Prince Yeoning before his coronation. I can show this character from the side no one knew him from. This is what I would like to point out. Historical facts are woven into the script. Among the characters that existed in real life, original characters were masterfully added. So please wait.
■ While serving in the army, did you somehow prepare for a role in the Haechi dorama?
Honestly, I got the script half a year ago and was worried about different things regarding this work. I spent a lot of time talking to the screenwriter and director about the role of my character. I am seriously worried about the character I play, and doing this, I change the acting a little.
■ Say a few words to fans looking forward to this dorama
The broadcast will begin on February 11 in Korea. The entire film crew has united into one whole and is passionate about filming with maximum effort and enthusiasm, so please wait. I hope that everyone in Japan will be able to see this dorama right away. I hope you will like it.
About the actor
■ In October it was the 12th anniversary since your debut. Has anything changed during this time?
Diligence towards work has gradually changed. Earlier, when I played roles, I thought: ‘I have to shine!’ Now I wonder what I can do in order to do my job even better. I think that the more roles you play, the harder it is.
It’s really hard to create a new role, a new character sincerely every time. Nevertheless, I believe that this is the most magical edge in the profession of an actor.
■ Is there anything you would like to do in the future besides acting?
In addition to the work of the actor, I became the public relations representative of the National Museum of Korea. I decided to participate in this in order to acquaint many fans, including Japanese ones, with Korean culture.
Now I’m also the creative director of the magazine.
As editor-in-chief, I’m going to share my opinion and value system with my fans. I think I can show the different facets of Jung Il Woo not only as an actor. The magazine will feature various headings about culture, art, travel, fine dining, etc., as well as something about Korea and much more. I’m sure that you’ll be able to see this magazine in Japan soon, the issue is planned for March and I hope you’ll like it.
■ You are the PR representative for the National Museum of Korea. Do you have a favorite museum?
When I travel, I definitely go to the museum of the country I visit.
I visited the Kyoto National Museum; I also like the Metropolitan Museum in New York.
The museum is a great place and you shouldn’t tell anyone that you go to the museum. Just go there and you’ll find peace of mind because it’s very interesting to look at works of art and try to determine the author’s idea. I’m madly in love with pictures and, as soon as I go there, it becomes incredibly calm in my heart. I always liked Picasso and someone loves modern art more than classical.
As the PR representative of the National Museum of Korea, I first visited it after renovation (renewal). It was very cool. I’d like all those who come to Korea from Japan to visit it. I think you’ll have special memories of this.
■ What role would you like to play in the future? What actor would you like to be?
In the future, after working in the Haechi dorama, I hope to play in a modern dorama. I’d like to play in a crime detective, thriller. Until now, I’ve played many roles of bright characters, so I’d like to try to show a new side of myself and play a dark, terrible role.
Looking back at my acting job, I understand that it would be great to feel like an actor of such a plan. I don’t think that I want to be the same actor as before. I want to change under the new realities of work. I want to be such an actor.
■ What do you think, do fans expect you to have a Cinderella and Four Knights style romcom?
Of course, in the future I’d like to play such a thing but with the addition of some new vision, I think I’d like to try to perform various scenes.
■ You must be pretty busy but what would you like to do if you had a long vacation?
Recently, I really loved to walk, so I would like to go hiking. I heard that in Japan there are many hiking routes that one can use. It would be great to do it in Japan or in Korea or in some other country. At the time of the walk you want to slowly heal from fatigue accumulated from a busy life. I used to love to go to remote places but lately it may be some small neighboring town. I started to like to choose the direction of the walk by myself, feeling the terrain on which I am walking, so my style of travel changes little by little.
■ What are your plans for the upcoming meeting with Japanese fans?
I always try to hold my fan meetings in different ways. Next time in Japan, I’d like to do something special. I thought about it a bit and I’d like to travel with the fans to Okinawa or Sapporo for 2 days overnight.
I’ve already been to Tokyo 50 times (he laughs), I’ve also been to Kyoto and Osaka but I haven’t been to Okinawa or Sapporo, so I’d like to go there with my fans. From February I’ll work a lot on the Haechi dorama and after that I’ll prepare something that everyone will like.