Park Jung-min’s many talents : The ‘Sunset in My Hometown’ star wrote raps for his latest role
Park, 31, first caught the attention of audiences in his debut feature, “Bleak Night” (2011), where he played a friend of an attention-seeking high school bully. Despite the recognition, however, luck wasn’t on his side, as it took Park the next five years to start appearing in mainstream films.
When he was on the brink of giving up on his career, he was offered a role in director Lee Joon-ik’s “DongJu: The Portrait of a Poet” (2016), a movie about poet Yun Dong-ju (1917-45). He played Yun’s cousin Song Mong-gyu, who wrote about their agony and resistance of Japanese rule (1910-45).
Since “DongJu,” the actor has played both small and big roles in big-budget films like the fantasy comedy flick “Psychokinesis” (2017) and the heartwarming family drama “Keys to the Heart” (2017). He has also been cast in the upcoming mystery thriller “Sabaha” (working title) alongside Lee Jung-jae, and will reunite with “Bleak Night” director Yoon Seong-hyeon and its co-star Lee Je-hoon in a thriller tentatively titled “Hunting Time.” Park has also been confirmed to appear in the third installment of “Tazza.”
Co-starring with Kim Go-eun of the hit drama “Guardian: The Lonely and Great God” (2016-17), Park’s latest film tells the story of unknown rapper Hak-su (Park) from Byeonsan, North Jeolla, who hates his hometown and resents his gangster father for mistreating him and his mother.
After his mother passes away from cancer, Hak-su leaves for Seoul to become a rapper, without much success. Despite his desire to stay as far away from his hometown as possible, Hak-su is forced to return to Byeonsan for the first time in almost a decade after getting a phone call from an old friend named Seon-mi (Kim), who tells him of his father’s critical health condition.
With the help of rapper Yankie, Park practiced rapping for a year, and wrote the lyrics for the songs that appear in the film himself. A soundtrack containing the nine songs from the movie was released last week.
Though their situations differed, Park could easily sympathize with Hak-su in that he also desired to become an actor despite the fact that others around him tried to dissuade him from doing so.
“Just like Hak-su dreamed of becoming a rapper, I - who was an exemplary student - wanted to become an actor,” said Park. “Though the director did not set me as the model [for the character], Hak-su somehow turns out to resemble me quite a lot.”
To discuss his role in the movie and more, Park sat for an interview with the Korea JoongAng Daily in central Seoul last week. The following are edited excerpts.
Q. Lee Joon-ik said he offered you the role after seeing you rap while doing karaoke at a party after a screening of “DongJu.” How long have you been interested in rap?
A. When I was in my teens, I fell in love with first generation hip hop artists like Drunken Tiger and 1TYM. I was simply mesmerized by their coolness. But when I entered my 20s, I started to pay more attention to lyrics. I remember crying when I heard lyrics that I could deeply sympathize with.
Enjoying rap and writing rap lyrics for a role in a movie must be a completely different experience. What were you most concerned about while writing lyrics as Hak-su?
I did my best to deliver the situation and the psychological state of Hak-su. I couldn’t get all the information about Hak-su based on the script I received. So I had to imagine the kind of life he has lived, which actually helped me immerse myself into the role. My imagination also affected the set. For example, I wrote a lyric about a picture of a smiling mother at home. After hearing the lyric, the art director actually placed a picture inside Hak-su’s home.
The movie is about a struggling young person. How would you define youth?
That is very difficult to say. I’m still in my youth, so I’m very careful about defining what it is. But personally, my 20s were very intense. I spent my time and energy very inefficiently, but that is a personal experience. I can’t generalize what being young is.
Since you are the lead character in the movie, you must have felt pressure. How was the experience?
There were so many difficult things. I had to work on rapping, acting and [tap] dancing [for the final scene]. The pressure all came down from the responsibility I felt as the [biggest] lead character. I didn’t want to impose any harm on the movie. On set, the lead actor usually encourages other people. But since I was emotionally sensitive at the time, I couldn’t fully pull off that role. I wanted to encourage people more, but I lacked time and strength.
The stunningly beautiful sunset leaves a long-lasting feeling even after the credits roll. The director said he didn’t add any CGI to the view. How was it in real life?
It was the most beautiful sunset I had ever seen in my entire life. It was not only visually stimulating, but stirred up all five senses. The smell of the sea, a touch of wind and the rustling reeds made the entire mood very lonely and magical. The sunset looked majestic, pretty and sad all at the same time. Its full charm couldn’t be fully captured in photos.
Many of your fellow actors describe you as an extremely hard-working person. Since you were an exemplary student with good grades, your hard work is perhaps derived from your habit of doing everything with the utmost effort.
Yes, that is totally true. It’s like a compulsion. I feel unsettled if I don’t practice enough to the point I feel satisfied. So I just keep on practicing until I feel less concerned.
Other than being an actor, rapper and a dancer, you are also a talented writer. You published your witty book of essays, “Usable Human” two years ago. Are you planning on publishing another book?
No. I’m an actor, and I believe things are more open to celebrities whatever he or she does due to the public awareness. There are people who write day and night in order to publish a book, and I don’t want to give them the impression that I can get an easy pass just because of my job. Before publishing “Usable Human” I felt quite hesitant, but decided to publish it because it was a collection of essays I had contributed [to a magazine]. I thought it could be a good gift for readers who had followed my writing. But if I do publish a book, I will publish it under a different name that nobody can recognize.
BY JIN MIN-JI [firstname.lastname@example.org]