Among a crowd of model-turned actors, Sung Jun has caught the eyes of the public and critics merely two years since his television debut in the critically acclaimed KBS short drama “White Christmas” (2011). He recently ended his KBS fantasy drama “Kang Chi, the Beginning” which also features Lee Seung-gi and Suzy.
The award-winning rookie actor’s next move is social film “PLUTO,” released just a week ago, which shed lights onto the cold aspect of the Korean education system and the brutality that the high school students endure to enter college.
Critics praised Sung Jun for his depiction of character Yujin Taylor, saying it was perfect for him. Sung Jun was in perfect synced with Yujin Taylor who is an intelligent student but suffers anxiety because of the impossible competition that the society puts him into.
TenAsia sat down with the actor to talk about his journey from being a high school student to actor.
Q: How was your entrance examination for high school?
Sung Jun: I was preparing to take on arts so I was really busy working on my arts skills and school work. They say that going to college in Korea is like war and hell so everyone does their best. Although the film “PLUTO” pungently depicts on what everyone including myself went through, it still gives you a good idea of the general mood and atmosphere. That doesn’t mean that I think there’s something wrong with Korea. It’s just a characteristic of our country.
Q: In the film, your character Yujin Taylor is Korean-American and you spoke English really well. Are you a fluent English speaker?
Sung Jun: (Laughs) Well, I do understand English. But people who study in English-speaking countries write good essays while for me, it’s not like I can pick outstanding vocabulary when I write them.
Q: So you’re similar to Yujin Taylor.
Sung Jun: Uhm… I wasn’t really bright when it came to my studies. But I was better at English. Yujin Taylor was Korean-American, while I studied in the U.K so the pronunciation was hard to do.
Q. In the movie, Yujin Taylor’s family is very rich. So if you studied in the U.K. when you were young, it feels like your family would have somewhat been like that too.
Sung Jun: My father worked hard. We weren’t extremely rich or anything but I lived a comfortable life. I didn’t get a lot of pressure from my dad and I think he was always supportive of what I wanted to do.
Q: Yujin Taylor was such perfect character for you and you did a great job depicting him. What did you want to accomplish through this character?
Sung Jun: I focused on one thing and that was ‘anxiety.’ I wanted to open up the character with anxiety because that is the source of his violence even though at times he’s conservative. So I watched a lot of graphic and violent films and listened to deep stimulating music to get into my character.
Q: I heard that you got the role of Yujin Taylor without auditioning for it. What came to mind when you got the script?
Sung Jun: The script was extremely difficult and there were so many parts I didn’t get. My character was difficult to understand especially through text. He was difficult to understand or hard to picture. So no matter what it took, I tried to have the things he had because I felt that would somewhat help me out.
Q: What did you think about your film “PLUTO” after watching it?
Sung Jun: Because I act in the film, I’m wasn’t able to see the whole picture. I only saw the film through the perspective of Yujin. I only saw how my acting was. And I felt stifled (pounds his heart).
Q: The film touches on the issue of the entrance examination. What do you think high school students should gain from this film?
Sung Jun: I hope that they will acquire what my dad taught me. Do whatever makes you happy and that is what comes first. But on the other hand, I believe that the film touches on an unpleasant reality that everyone in Korea has no choice but to go through. So why not accept reality but find what makes you happy within it. I hope that they will be able to release their stress through the film and find their own ways of coping with reality.
Q: What is your way of coping with your reality?
Sung Jun: I try to stay laid back and keep myself from feeling like I’m in a hurry. Though in reality, it’s easier said than done. But I want to have a big heart for the long run. Even though the path I am taking right now is the roundabout route, I’ll take it if it is what makes me happy. This way of thinking is my strong suit and I pretty much stick to my words.
Q: “PLUTO” was previously rated PG-18 and later on re-rated to PG-15.
Sung Jun: At first, I couldn’t understand why it was rated PG-18. There aren’t any bloody scenes. But the atmosphere was haunting and hardcore. So in the minds of the viewers, the film was brutal. But students have to watch this film so when it was re-rated as PG 15, I was relieved. Students who have watched the film will have a lot going on in their minds. The film reasons with students and talks about the inevitable reality but tells them what not to do.
Q: What was it like trying to become a model? Competition is fierce for that too, right?
Sung Jun: I was really lucky compared to other models because it happened for me pretty easily. It’s not like I went through intense competition, taking on one audition after another, to be a model because I had been a model since I was in high school so it wasn’t that difficult. But it was in high school that I really wanted to be a model. So mentally I was stressed out.
Q: How did you come to take interest in being a model?
Sung Jun: I was simply fond of clothes and fashion from when I was young. I would watch a designer’s show and always thought of being a model which was a big motivation. I liked dressing up and I wanted to look fashionable.
Q: From a model, you then moved on to being an actor.
Sung Jun: When I was cast in my TV debut drama “White Christmas,” I was about to leave for France to be in the Paris Collection. As a model, I really wanted to reach the peak of my career but then, I thought to myself that a model isn’t something you can do for the rest of your life. Also, a drama is a completely different field from modeling and you don’t get opportunities to do it all the time. So I took my chances because a part of me wanted to do it as well. The script was amazing. I think I’d have a lot of fun reading it even now and my character was really cool.
Q: Were your parents not against you being a model or actor?
Sung Jun: They weren’t happy about it. But they are the type of people who choose happiness over wealth. And say I should do what I want to do, which may seem irresponsible things for parents to say. But unlike Yujin Talyor’s parents, my parents never pressured me and they always supported my decisions. They’re not happy about it and have their prejudices against actors. And I too, know that this is a very hard job to do. But I think they support and trust me because they know that I know it. They also know I’m not taking this lightly.
Q: You’ve had to compete big three times during your life (high school, model, actor). Is there anything extreme that you’ve done to do well? In the movie, your character Yujin Taylor did everything he could to be victorious.
Sung Jun: I don’t have a particular way of getting things done. But when I’m into something, I just do that. But Yujin Taylor does one thing (click his fingers) after another really well. As for me, I cling onto one thing, like the method for acting. Yujin’s a genius and I’m not. So I worked really hard rather than there being something in particular I do. I try to watch more and learn more. I try to absorb in as much as I can.
Q: How do you want to live as an actor?
Sung Jun: Frankly, I aim to be a good actor who actually does a good job. And I want to keep doing well until the end so that I have no regrets. I know that things won’t always turn out well but I want to stay positive with a good attitude. To be honest, I haven’t been in the acting scene for long but I feel that I have changed. I feel like I’m being chased and that makes it hard for me to have a big heart. I’m worried about my tight schedule, the military and I eventually have to get married. This is not the person I am. So I sooth myself by spending time alone and telling myself, “Its going to be okay, it’s okay.”
Q: Do you spend much time trying to fix your flaws?
Sung Jun: Yes, I do. Because if I look only for what I’m good at doing, I take less risks which is poisonous for us actors because we need to take on diverse characters. I recently finished shooting drama “Kang Chi, the Beginning.” I hesitated to do it at first but it was a new experience for me and I learned a lot from it.
Q: Being in a historical drama must have been a tough for a rookie actor like you.
Sung Jun: At first, I didn’t really get the vocalization in historical dramas. No one speaks in a low, heavy voice. Still, I think I could have done better. I learned a lot from the drama. I also like natural and realistic acting – as if I was talking in a daily conversation. That also requires vocal practice.
Q: “Kang Chi, the Beginning” was a breakout role for you. Do you notice that people recognize you?
Sung Jun: Sometimes? Oh! I was in New York the other day and the people knew who I was. They said that they saw me in dramas and so on. It was surprising because they were Caucasians. So I tried to act in a civil way wherever I went.
Q: What do you think is the difference between films and dramas?
Sung Jun: Well… In films, you have more free time to relax and you get a lot of snacks (laughs)s And, you can try this and that out, while in dramas, you can’t because everything is so hectic. In a drama, everything is about ‘I have to get it done!’ while with a film, it’s more of what ‘I will do.’
Q: Do you still do Muay Thai?
Sung Jun: (Laughs) No! I don’t know why people still write about that. It was a one-time thing. I only took it for a short period of time to build up my physique.
Q: You were a member of a band in tvN’s “Shut Up Flower Boy Band” (2012) and I heard that you sang in a fan meeting in Japan. Are you interested in becoming a singer-actor like Lee Seung-gi and Suzy?
Sung Jun: Absolutely not! (Shakes his head) I don’t think that’s my field of work. I really like music and it is fun but unless you’re really gifted, you shouldn’t do it. Some people are just made for it but I’m not. (Pause) But, maybeeeeee.. if I have time and a chance to sing in the future, I might do it. You never know.
Q: What kind of music do you enjoy listening to?
Sung Jun: I listen to hip-hop because it’s really in these days. I like the sound. From when I was young, I listened to jazz, classical music, rock and electronic. I also listen to really trendy songs. I go back and forth, listening to old music as well as young music.
Q: Are you planning to hold a fan meeting in Japan again?
Sung Jun: Yes, soon. But I haven’t decided on an exact date yet.
Q: Is there another country you want to go to for a fan meeting?
Sung Jun: Uhm… New York? Well, it’s not a vacation so I want to go a country where a lot of my fans are.
source: 10asia 1, 2