Yoo Ah In | "Today is more precious to me than whatever I might be doing in 10 years"
"It doesn't matter what my ending, as a person, ends up being. It won't be so much an ending as it will just one moment, I think. If I can't turn back time anyway, I would like to have had a fun life." It takes more energy to live in the present moment than it does to live for the future. But Yoo Ah In lives in the moment. He laughs often, and he also speaks passionately and at great length. In every moment, he is thinking and asking questions, and before he blames others he questions himself. It's obvious to hope that this vivid and fierce firework will not fade away for a long time. Because for Yoo Ah In, who calls himself 'the most normal being,' this is not an impossible existence. As an actor, of course; but also certainly as a human being.
Q. What kind of person were you about 10 years ago, before you started acting?
YAI: I think I was similar to who I am now. I was normal and didn't have much to offer and didn't stick out among the 40 or 50 other kids in class, but when I dig into my memories and look at my past, I can't help but think that people have an innate nature that doesn't change easily. (Laughter) I happened to see an essay I wrote for an ethics class when I was about 14. The topic was 'This is how I'm going to make my dream come true,' but I had written not 'This is what I'm going to be,' but 'I think it is our duty, as people, to find true happiness.' At the time, that's the only thing I could think about, and compared to the outside world, school was a very stable and small society. Of course, I didn't actually like school that much. (Laughter)
"I can protect the roots of my heart, so I am not ashamed"
Q. What did you dislike so much [about school]?
YAI: Because it is full of things that [shouldn't be] so certain. Even though I hadn't had any choice in any of the things that happened to me, everything happened as if it was so obvious [that it should be that way]. Of course, it's mandatory to get an education so my mother sent me to school, and if she hadn't that would have been a whole other thing. (Laughter) But I don't think schools teach their students how to think or reason at all. [T/N: Keep in mind YAI is only talking about the Korean school system, which may be very different from that of your own country]. I also think about this when I write. If the writings on my mini-hompy are first and foremost for myself, then my Twitter is first and foremost for mutual communication. But I don't write [on my mini-hompy and Twitter] in order to search for the right answer. Even if I was searching for the 'right answer,' I don't think it's something that people should wish was easy to find [or understand]. I wish people wouldn't glance at a piece of writing that is about somebody's life and, without even five minutes of thought, write "It's hard. I don't get it. Please explain it simply." Would it be interesting if you could see the answer immediately? Words may be easy to write down and share with others, but that doesn't mean they are trivial. So if you are somebody who has come to take an interest in me and has taken the trouble to find [my mini-hompy or Twitter,] I would like it if, rather than easily finding the answer and arriving at a conclusion, you were able to find your own [personal] answer through my writings. Because the most important individual to every person is him or herself.
Q. So in any case, do you think you haven't strayed too far from the person you hoped you would be when you dreamt of your future at age 14?
YAI: Haha, yes. It doesn't matter what kind of work I'm doing; I am very satisfied because the most fundamental foundation I had in my heart back then has stayed with me until now. I don't mean that I have something better than others, or that I'm richer than they are; what I mean is that I am satisfied because I'm able to protect the deepest roots of my heart, and because of that I'm not ashamed. In ten years, even if I am earning millions and am a famous actor in all of Asia, if that first fundamental layer is empty, I will be ashamed. Of course, when I say things like this, people respond with, "Hey, first make those millions, and then you can talk. The 'first layer,' what the--!" (Laughter)
Q. Then what kind of person would you like to be in ten years? Is there anything that vaguely comes to mind?
YAI: Hmm, I might not exist then. But if I do still exist……if I could just be a person who would not be ashamed in turning back and facing my 25-year-old self, I think I would be a truly impressive person. I would like to be a 35-year-old adult I so desperately need now; somebody who could show one [possible] path to younger actors who will take roads similar to my own.
"It is important for me to have my own space"
Q. You once said that an interview without mutual understanding or appearing on a TV show and being forced to do things you don't want to do makes you feel ill. Everyone has to do things they don't want to at some point in life, but I think that there are certain people who are uniquely sensitive and are hurt and have an especially difficult time when they are confronted with this problem. Have you become more immune to this as you've gotten older, or is it the same as ever?
YAI: It's as difficult as ever. But when I was a [rookie actor] kid with no power and I rebelled against the logic of "What is this arrogance, you should do as you're told," now there are people who see me [react as I always have] and take it as, "You think you're pretty famous now, huh?" As if I have lost my 'original mindset.' I was like this from the start. (Laughter) It's inevitable that this would be the point I clashed with my management the most. My current company thankfully accepts me as I am, and I think we have found many areas of common ground where we want to continue working as equal partners. To be honest, I think that's another thing that you can only get once you've become 'famous.' I'm not saying I'm famous--it's just that in the process of working on this one drama, I felt that my company came to a deeper and broader understanding of me than they ever had before. (Laughter)
Q. On that point, of the things that <Sungkyunkwan Scandal> has given the actor Yoo Ah In, one might be a great deal of freedom from reality.
YAI: Yes, having that is very important to me. When I was around 21-years-old, the word I spoke of most often was not 'youth' but 'freedom.' Before I was 20, in the three years during which I came up to Seoul and worked and lived, I had such a complete lack of freedom that afterward, I did everything I could to find it. I think that for people who are out working in society, freedom originates from how much they are able to exercise control over what's inside them. If I could only control five out of ten things inside me before <SKKS>, now I think I can control six. That is the freedom of having control over one more thing that is important to me.
Q. If the freedom to be yourself--that time and space--is important to you, then what does the house you're living in right now mean to you?
YAI: The house itself is a normal house. What's important is not what kind of house it is, but just the fact that I have my own space. I get bored of the same space so I move once per year. It's really a nuisance. (Laughter) Something that's different from the past is that now, my friends come by often and sometimes they stay for a few days. Whereas in the past, I had to be completely alone to do my own thing, now I can do my own thing even when I'm with other people. It's small, but I think I've become at least that comfortable around people I'm close with.
Q. You once said that you had conflicts with your dad when you were young because he was strict, and that he opposed your acting. As time has passed, have you been able to understand one another a bit more, by any chance?
YAI: For most sons, a father is an uncomfortable presence. What's worse is that in a Kyungsando family, [we use short and blunt sentences in dialect like] "You eat? Let's sleep;" (laughter) and in a relationship where you have to use formal speech [T/N: the son uses formal speech to his father; the father speaks informally to his son], it's [even more] difficult. But we have been able to show each other more of ourselves and understand one another better. I am a kid who has experienced all the family troubles anyone else has, and now [that I have come to this point], I think I am able to forgive and accept my father.
"Expressions of extreme love…I feel like going crazy"
Q. Among the writings you left on your mini-hompy, a story about an ajumma who ran the neighborhood convenience store remained in my memory. You wrote that you couldn't happily receive her kindness and good wishes, and that you regretted this the day that store closed down. It made me think that you are a person who is still awkward when regarding people who are unconditionally nice to you or praise you as a celebrity.
YAI: Yes, it drives me crazy. (Laughter) There's more of that now because many people have been watching our drama these days, and I don't think I can stand it! Of course, as an actor and celebrity there is a part of me that is happy and proud. When the ajummas who run restaurants come over and say, "Please sign this for me. My daughter is a fan," I am really happy and thankful. But anything more than that makes me uncomfortable. (Sigh) I wish people wouldn't say, "Ah In-ssi, you're so cool/good-looking," but just kept it at "I enjoyed [your drama/movie]." When I hear things like, "When the girls get together, you're all they talk about," I feel like dying! I don't know how to reply, and saying "thank you" is also weird--am I supposed to be more brazen and say, "Yes, wasn't I great?" Anyway…I don't know how to cope with more extreme expressions very well. For me, it's not just as an actor; in love, too, I'm the kind of kid who feels a bit uneasy with those kinds of expressions, even with a girlfriend, which is why I think…I feel a bit awkward.
Q. It's possible that such discomfort will only increase in the future.
YAI: I'm not saying I want my private life to be respected, because I'm the kind of kid who will protect my private life even if [those boundaries] aren't respected. It's my private life, so whether or not others respect that… (Laughter) Actually, I move around in public quite easily, and I go around Myungdong without wearing a hat [to hide my face], but these days I've been wondering if acting that way might not actually make things more uncomfortable. I wish it was easier. But the fact that I even had the opportunity to say this is in itself something I'm thankful and happy for.
Q. This is the last question. In the movie <Boys of Tomorrow>, Jongdae asks Ki Soo (played by Kim Byung Seok), "What do you think of when you imagine the furthest future?" What is the furthest future that Ah In-ssi can think of?
YAI: As [my character's] hyung said, I really think it's 'tomorrow.' I always think it's possible I will cease existing at any moment. At one point in my life, I was completely consumed by those kinds of thoughts every single day. It wasn't, 'I want to die;' it was just--It's okay if I fall asleep like this and don't wake up tomorrow. There was a time I lived thinking, 'Even if I don't make it until tomorrow and never see this world again, it won't be a particularly awful or sad thing.' I was in despair. In any case, I safely made it through that time and I'm still alive. (Laughter) Once I made it past that, I opened my eyes and realized that even though the world is still here today, there is no guarantee I will exist tomorrow. That's why today--this very moment--is the most precious; and the fact that I am here, doing this now, is more important to me than whatever I might be doing 10 years from now. It was only after enduring those times…that I came to realize that.
Original Source: 10Asia
Translations: Jaeshinah @ Soompi
This is the last part of the interview. I hope you guys have enjoyed reading it as much as I have =D