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Thursday, October 16, 2014

Korean actor Lee Min-ho’s life on the A-list

Change of course: Lee Min-ho aspired to be a professional football player as a child. However, an injury squashed that dream. He then found his new calling in acting in high school.
Change of course: Lee Min-ho aspired to be a professional football player as a child. However, an injury squashed that dream. He then found his new calling in acting in high school.

More than just a pretty face, Korean actor Lee Min-ho exudes quiet wisdom as he contemplates his life on the Hallyu A-list.
It's a sunny and humid Sunday afternoon, and Korean actor Lee Min-ho is in one of Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre’s colossal exhibition halls addressing a crowd of over 700 adoring fans at an exclusive meet-and-greet event.

Although, the invite-only affair – which is hosted by Osim Malaysia – does come across more like a rock concert than a fan meet, what with the early queue just to get into the venue and the cacophony of screams within once the doors open.

Anyeonghaesayo, my name is Lee Min-ho,” the Seoul native humbly greets fans to another round of extended screams from the largely female audience.

The introduction is just a matter of formality really. There’s no doubt that everyone in the room probably know who Lee is. After the release of the wildly popular drama series Boys Over Flowers in 2009, the actor shot to stardom throughout Asia; becoming one of the torch-bearers of the Hallyu craze.

If Brad Pitt is a household name in Hollywood, then Lee is the Korean wave equivalent. The 27-year-old hasn’t let fame get to his head though, ever thankful to the fans who have supported him throughout his career.

“I landed a little late last night, but I’m very grateful to see my fans greeting me at the airport. I’m really happy to meet them through this event,” says Lee, who looks dapper in an all-black ensemble.
It is Lee’s third time on Malaysian shores. And as local conversation convention goes, he talks about food when he recalls his previous experiences here.

“Every time I’m here, I am served many helpings of satay and nasi lemak. I presume all of you can cook nasi lemak yourself here?” he innocently asks the crowd.

Of course, even if the women in the audience couldn’t, chances are they would have agreed with a resounding, “Yes”.

Lee Min-ho once again assumed the role of a rich kid who falls for a poor girl in 2010's high school drama The Heirs.
The actor once again assumed the role of a rich kid who falls for a poor girl in 2013’s high school drama The Heirs 
With his bright eyes, porcelain smooth skin, long toned legs and lanky physique (he stands at 1.87m), Lee fits the bill of a gush-worthy heartthrob that’s sure to set many hearts aflutter.

And that sort of begs the question: Does his good looks force him to work harder to prove his worth as an actor? The query garners a hearty boyish laugh from Lee.

“In terms of how looks play on an actor, I think that’s one of the things that is quite critical in an acting career. If it’s something that comes from me, my good looks that is, then I’m very willing to use that part of myself in my career,” he offers during a special interview arranged by Osim.

“There are definitely more pros than cons when it comes to how an actor’s appearance works on his acting and so far, it’s been a positive trait for me. Well, not because I’m handsome or anything, but in that it helps me portray my roles better on screen,” he adds.

Impresssive portfolio

Born in Heukseok-dong, a neighbourhood in Dongjak-gu, Seoul, Lee aspired to become a professional football player as a child. However, an injury during elementary school squashed that dream.

It was during his second year in high school that he finally found a new calling in acting and modelling.

Since then, the man has appeared in numerous drama series, with the latest one being The Heirs. The drama which featured a large ensemble cast, was broadcasted over 13 countries in addition to its native South Korea.

2012's 'Faith' saw Lee Min-ho pairing with Kim Hee-sun in the fantasy-historical-medical television series.
2012’s Faith saw Lee paired with Kim Hee-sun in the fantasy-historical medical television series.
The roles he’s taken too, are commendably varied. From a young architect mistaken for a gay man (Personal Preference) to a vengeful guy who falls for a presidential bodyguard (City Hunter), Lee has been smart with the projects he takes on.

With an impressive portfolio, the fear of being a one-hit wonder once the frenzy of Boys Over Flowers dies down was never really a pressing concern for him.

“I don’t think it’s a matter of living up to the success of that drama. The South Korean entertainment industry works in a way that there’s a maximum of two to three productions that an actor or actress can be involved in a year.

“Given the constraints, we really want to make the most out of the opportunities that we’re given. We really want to do well and it’s not only a matter of success. It also has to be a meaningful project that can help us grow as actors,” he says.

“I do have the pressure to want to do better, and I want to do well. But sometimes, it does not necessarily come with success as well,” he adds after a brief pause.

In his breakout role in Boys Over Flowers, Lee Min-ho plays Gu Jun-pyo, a rich brat who ultimately falls for a poor girl whom he bullies at school.
In his breakout role in 2009’s Boys Over Flowers, Lee Min-ho plays Gu Junpyo, a rich brat who ultimately falls for a poor girl whom he bullies at school.
Lee is appearing next in the upcoming noir action film Gangnam Blues that’s scheduled for release later this year. He is playing a man who gets caught up in the power struggles during the real estate craze in 1970s Gangnam district. The movie marks the actor’s first leading role on the big screen.
“For dramas, there has to be a wow factor that excites the viewers every week. But with movies, we have a little bit more time to make the production more complete. This allows me the opportunity to delve deeper into my emotions,” he offers.

In person, Lee exudes an easygoing demeanour that’s in direct contrast to the relatively uptight disposition of the representatives from his entertainment agency who has accompanied him on this interview.

In retrospect, the strict limits and restrictions imposed – from the deterrence of photography during the course of this interview to the vetting of questions – are probably necessary. Showbusiness, after all, can be equal parts actual talent and hard work and equal parts smoke and mirrors.
To date, Lee’s public image has been relatively spotless. The only major heart-stopping headline was in 2006 when a serious car accident left him bedridden for a long while.

In an interview with China’s Sina News, Lee opens up about that particular experience.
“For many people, the age of 20 is when they first reach adulthood and it’s a time full of ideals and dreams. But when I was 20, a lot of misfortune came along. I spent a year in the hospital and couldn’t move, and I was forced to think a lot,” he says.

That being said, the man takes the good and the bad in his stride, choosing to focus on the future instead of dwelling on past mishaps. Ultimately he’s in pursuit of family life. In past interviews, Lee has expressed wishes to have a daughter with the love of his life.

But when it comes to his future children hypothetically following his footsteps, Lee remains realistic about the competitiveness of the republic’s entertainment industry.

“For my daughter, I hope I’ll be able to make the decision whether or not she’ll be able to make it through in the industry,” the actor says as he casts a careful look at one of his agency’s representatives.

“If I feel that she probably won’t be able to make it, I’ll try to find something that she can be better at and enjoy doing as well,” he offers.

Lee has certainly come a long way from the minor roles in television dramas when he first started out. He reveals that he’s more involved with the direction of the productions that he’s a part of these days.

Although he admits that he enjoyed the minimal responsibilities in his career’s earlier days, he cherishes the opportunity to express himself more to the audience in his current position.
“Was there a particular life lesson I wish I knew earlier on in my career? Well, not anything in particular because there’s no way that we can go back in time. I think I tried my best in every position that I was in, even back then.”

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