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아시아경제 최신 기획이슈

"President" bids greetings to movie-goers

최종수정 2009.09.23 14:53 기사입력 2009.09.23 14:48

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The director and cast of "Good Morning President" [Chae Ki-won/10Asia]

How many people in Korea have laughed heartily over a president before? Considering Korea’s political circumstances, it really is not easy to come up with cheerful experiences when it comes to presidents. But even those of you who have been cynical or frustrated with politics would think differently upon meeting the three presidents in the movie “Good Morning President”.

Kim Jeong-ho, played by Lee Soon-jae, is a humanistic president who agonizes over whether to donate his lottery winnings to the people as promised versus his desire to secure a comfortable life for his latter days. Cha Ji-wook, played by Jang Dong-gun, is an unprecedentedly handsome and unmarried president. And Han Kyung-ja, played by Ko Doo-sim, is the first female president of Korea.

What these three very colorful presidents share is their pleasantness. In our neighboring country, a black President has been elected, in a country father away, a female one has already been chosen. But in Korea’s obsolete, unchanging political reality, it may never be possible to meet such types of presidents. Thus, it was only by fulfilling a fantasy that the movie “President” could satisfy the public’s desire.

The following is from the press conference held on Tuesday at CGV Multiplex with the three presidents played by Lee, Jang and Ko as we have never seen them before and Han Chae-young and Lim Ha-ryong who play characters close to the presidents.

Actor Jang Dong-gun [Chae Ki-won/10Asia]
Q: It is not easy for actors to play the role of presidents and those people who surround them. Could each of you introduce your characters?
Han Chae-young (Han): Kim Hee-young is a very innocent and pure person so it was a fun and new experience for me. She is the daughter of Lee Soon-jae[‘s character], Jang Dong-gun’s first love and the spokeswoman for Go Doo-shim.
Lee Soon-jae (Lee): I played Kim Jeong-ho, the first and the oldest president in the movie. He became president after fighting for democratization and his biggest political agenda is to integrate the people who have split up over various conflicts. But in contrast to his big political scale as a president, he personally is cowardly and shameless like no other. (laugh) The movie focused a lot on his personal life.
Jang Dong-gun (Jang DG): I played the youngest president, Cha Ji-wook. He is strong-lined when it comes to politics and diplomacy and is a charismatic president with firm principles, but he is actually indecisive and simple-minded. I played a humanistic president who becomes shy in front of his first love.
Ko Doo-sim (Ko): I always wear raggedy clothes and play mom roles but this time I got to play an attractive president. There has never been a female president in (our) history, so I decided to take on the role with big ideas because it is a very special role. It was incredibly enjoyable working with director Jang Jin to achieve his intentions for the film. But I realized once again that the job of a president is both special and difficult.
Lim Ha-ryong (Lim): Choi Chang-myun is a man who lucked out in meeting a good wife and gets to be the male version of the First Lady. He loves drinking and hanging out with friends so he has a hard time adjusting to his life in the Blue House. We shot a lot of cool scenes, like dancing the waltz. I think the movie came out great. (laugh)
Q: The president has not been a common main character in Korean movies. You wrote the script, so you must have something to say about presidents.
Jang Jin (Jang): Nobody would write the script, so I had to write it myself. (laugh) For a long time, I thought it would be fun to tell a story about a person whose job was being a president. I thought I could really tell an interesting story with this character especially in Korea where a common noun like 'president' gives off feelings of much pressure and distance. Watching the movie, I think you'll be able to take a liking toward that very type of president we haven’t had before, or even respect them for some unknown reason. I thought it was a good commercial subject.

Actress Han Chae-young [Chae Ki-won/10Asia]
Q: Does the movie contain the political view of the director because it is about a president?
Jang: I think I can talk more strongly about that once the movie opens. (laugh) But I didn’t intend to advocate certain political parties with this movie. I just wanted to make a strictly commercial movie that people would enjoy watching. But then I would also be lying if I said a director under the age 40 makes a film about a president and has absolutely no political agenda. However, I did not confront or reflect that opinion in the movie. People of a similar disposition would naturally sympathize with me and even if they don’t, the movie is one you can laugh and enjoy while watching.

Q: Were there any difficulties in playing the role of presidents we have never seen before?
Lee: I was very cautious at first because it was a story about a president. When I was young, it was taboo to talk about presidents, so I felt that we are now living in better times. I was also exhilarated by the fact that such times have come where we can seriously do a political drama. But it was incredibly fun because it was a story that focused more on the president’s personal life than political issues. The authority and the role of a president are severe, but as an individual he is just another human being. So isn’t it more meaningful to show the audience that a president is a human being just like us, rather than something so distant from the people?
Jang DG: Playing President Cha Ji-wook, I had more fear about doing comedy, which I had never done before, than the playing the role of a president. But thanks to the director, I was able to enjoy doing it. It felt refreshing and fun to play a character who talks in standard Korean. (laugh) Really, I hadn't felt so much sheer fun out of acting for a while. The atmosphere on set was so great that I wondered if work was allowed so much fun.
Ko: It was great to be offered the part of a female president, and I said I would do it on the spot. (laugh) The director told me that it wasn’t about the unique job of being a president but more about the president as a person. And so I played the part thinking that people would like it if I put in the humanity of Ko Doo-sim into the role.

Actress Ko Doo-sim [Chae Ki-won/10Asia]
Q: Cha Ji-wook is the first unmarried president. But in Korea, it is hard to be single. Jang Dong-gun has also been single for a long time. If you were elected President, would you have a separate pledge for the single population?
Jang DG: I used to think that I enjoyed being single, but these days I am getting tired of it. But it’s not like I can create a policy to match up all the singles. (laugh) There are a lot of people who are past their marrying age but there’s nothing we can do about them not being able to meet their partners. For those people who choose to be single, maybe I can think of some ways to provide better for their elder years or ways to lessen their loneliness. But as far as national competitiveness is concerned, I don’t want to openly promote being single. (laugh)

Q: Like you said, it’s been a while since you appeared in a movie looking neat. And you fall in love during the movie. What is your ideal woman?
Jang DG: Fans have not seen me dressed neatly in a suit since the TV series “All About Eve”, almost nine years ago. I know very well that the fans want to see me like this, so maybe they'll be able to quench that thirst through this movie. My idea of an ideal woman keeps changing, but these days I think I would like a woman who is like a friend that wants to share many stories with me.

Actor Lim Ha-ryong [Chae Ki-won/10Asia]
Q: You are called one of the original pretty faced actors and now you play a pretty faced president. Is there a pretty-face actor that you consider your rival these days?
Jang DG: I think I’m reaching the age where I feel apologetic about being called pretty faced. (laugh) People put that adjective next to my name symbolically and it feels good, but now I feel like I want a different adjective before my name. And there are so many great looking young actors these days but for even they have less and less time to simply feel good about being called pretty faces. When you pass a certain point, shouldn't you be trying to earn a different label?

Q: There was an article about you being called “ah-jjeo-shii (i.e. means “old man” in Korean)” from Han Chae-young. How did feel to be called “ah-jjeo-shii”?
Jang DG: I’m convincing myself that I’ve reached the age where I need to accept that word. (laugh) It is also important who calls you “ah-jjeo-shii” and when I read that article, I thought Han forgot her own age as well so I reminded her. (laugh)
Han: In that article, it said that Jang got angry when he got called “ah-jjeo-shii”. But it wasn’t like that. It’s just that it was so comfortable to be around him, enough to call him “ah-jjeo-shii”. At first, he felt so distant because he is so perfect he turned out to be someone you can be comfortable to be with.

Actor Lee Soon-jae [Chae Ki-won/10Asia]
Q: In the film, President Kim Jeong-ho wins the lottery and is conflicted by it. Have you ever bought lottery tickets and what would you do if you won a large amount of money?
Lee: I really have no luck in winning things, so I have never bought a lottery ticket. I used to think such winnings and luck could not exist but that’s how important money is. Especially when you hold a position like a president, you have to have to integrity not to mention bear no profit from the job you hold. And for the president that I played, it is not easy to give up 24.4 billion won after he won the lotto. And it’s harder for him because he is poor. He even passes out because of it. (laugh) Personally, if I won 24.4 billion won, I think would keep the 20 billion and give away 4.4 to charity.

Q: Was there any external political pressure or government cooperation in making a movie about a president and the Blue House?
Jang: Of course we had no cooperation. I didn’t really want it because I knew there wouldn’t be any. (laugh) It’s not like we are living in times where we would receive external pressure for making satires about the president. But if such things were to really happen, I think I would do some crazy marketing about it, like climb onto the Han River bridge. I would be grateful if they tried to get to me [like that]. (laugh) But I’m not really worried because such things are not likely to happen. Rather, I felt uncomfortable about having to let go of some people in certain other incidents this year while I was making the movie. It’s a relief to open the movie with the pleasant title “Good Morning” and not “Goodbye”.

Director Jang Jin [Chae Ki-won/10Asia]
Q: Any last words for the audience who will soon watch “Good Morning President”?
Jang: Like I’ve said again and again, I keep repeating this so people won't watch the movie focusing on the wrong thing. This is a laughable and enjoyable movie from beginning to end. And after watching, it is a film that will make you become more open to and gain pleasant feelings toward certain parties that you weren’t so comfortable with. I hope everyone enjoys watching it.

Editor : Lee Ji-Hye seven@10asia.co.kr
Photographer : Chae ki-won ten@10asia.co.kr
Editor : Lynn Kim lynn2878@asiae.co.kr
<ⓒ10Asia All rights reserved>


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