Actors Moon Jong-won, Yoon Gong-joo, Lee Jun-ki, Son Hyun-jung, Kim Da-hyun, Joo Ji-hoon
Joo Ji Hoon and Lee Jun Ki attended a press conference for their upcoming musical “Voyage of Life.” This is the second military-produced play after 2008’s “Mine”, which starred Kangta and Yang Dong Gun. Lee plays a South Korean soldier Hae Gang, and Joo is the North Korean soldier Jung Min. Naturally, they clash over their ideologies. Rounding out the trio is Kim Da Hyun, who plays Davis, and he offers another perspective to the war. The musical is set in 1950, when the United Nations Allied Forces are forced into retreat by the Chinese military. They aboard the ship ‘Meredith’ along with 14,000 refugees. It is on this ship that Hae Gang and Jung Min meet.
The following is the interview from the press conference. The actors present even sang from the musical during the event. The article noted how musical productions are appearing more frequently, especially since more celebrities are going off to the army. Well – if you have the resources, might as well use them for marketing, eh?
Q: You are producing another military musical after making one in 2008. What is your intention of producing this musical?
Chief Director Yoon Ho-jin (Yoon): This year is the 60th anniversary of the outbreak of the Korean War. I just wanted to show the many people who had helped us over the years, that the Republic of Korea which was a land in ruins, has grown this much.
Lieutenant Major Lee Young-no: Last year, I saw a photo exhibition at Cheonggye Square by Doctor Ahn Jae-cheol and it was about the hard times during the Korean War. I was able to decide on doing this musical production with his help. The battle of the Jangjin Reservoir was one of the most intense, cruelest and the most noteworthy battles. The veteran soldiers of the Korean War are currently passing the age of eighty, on average. We don’t know how many of them will be alive by the time we reach the seventieth anniversary. I want to. I want to say thank-you to them while informing teenagers who don’t know the war about the spirit of sacrifice.
Q: Lee Jun-ki, you are doing your first musical debut in the army. Now that you have done a musical, how do you feel about it?
Lee Jun-ki (Lee): I am well aware that “Voyage of Life” has a positive meaning behind it. But I thought a lot about what meaning it should hold for me as I do it. I think it will be a meaningful experience if is about repaying [the veterans], like a tribute performance, and the audience learns how noble their sacrifice is. I have gained a sense of duty [about doing the show].
Q: For Joo Ji-hoon, you starred in “Don Juan” and this is your second musical. You play the role of Jung-min, who is a villain.
Joo Ji-hoon (Joo): He is described in the story as a villain, but Jung-min and Hae-gang just have ideological conflict and there is no scene where they hate people. In that respect, my character is someone who has to save humanity elements in the story and show why fellow countrymen have to fight each other. As an actor playing the role, I don’t think that my character is a bad guy. I think I am the nicest one. (laugh)
Q: Your characters have conflicts in the plot, but how do you feel about each other?
Joo: That is the hardest question. (laugh) Lee Jun-ki and I are of the same age and we met for the first time in the military. I thought Lee Jun-ki would have a hard time because he was the last to join the musical. But although he has the lowest rank, he has such a great personality and is so outgoing that he always sets the tone in group surroundings. He gets along well with people around him, unlike his demure image.
Lee: I think it would have been great if we had met in comfortable surroundings outside the military. (laugh) And Joo Ji-hoon became a first-class private today. It was consoling that he was a second-class private like me, but this morning he came with his first-class rank. I was very depressed in the morning. But first-class private Joo Ji-hoon has a kind heart.
Q: You have attended many press conference outside the military, but it must feel different standing here as a military officer.
Lee: The lower rank will go first. (laugh) When I was doing press conferences outside, I felt comfortable and threw jokes around without making any adjustments. But now that I am a military officer, I think I feel a little more nervous and stiff. I don’t use the so-called “military speech” but I am disappointed because I feel like a solider at heart. But as a military officer, I feel a sense of duty about doing a production that will be a commemoration for the country.
Joo: I am using casual speech because I have to explain about the musical and the character, but this is actually more uncomfortable. But like Jun-ki, I feel satisfied that I can take part in something like this as a military officer. I can carry out the responsibility that every Korean man has to carry out and also use my talents with this great opportunity. I am grateful that I am assigned a task which I can do better at.
Q: In the case of Kim Da-hyun, you already have lots of experience in musicals outside. What does it mean for you to take part in a musical production as a military officer?
Kim Da-hyun (Kim): I will given the title of corporal next month. I have been serving in the military for about eleven months now and I started to get incredible thirsty for performing after about six months. I missed the stage and I wanted to be on stage. So it was lucky for me that there was an opportunity like this.
Q: I am actually curious why you chose to cast Joo Ji-hoon, who was caught up in a scandal? [Joo had made headlines in April 2009 when he was charged with using illegal drugs, including ecstasy and ketamine. He pleaded guilty and was later sentenced to six months of jail with one year of probation plus 120 hours of community service and a fine of KRW 360,000 won.]
Lieutenant Major Lee Young-no: As of last June, private Joo Ji-hoon has rid himself of all the burden that had been put on his shoulders. Right now, he is working faithfully as a member of the military personnel. Before meeting him for this musical production, I had only known him as an actor who had appeared in “Goong” and “The Lucifer.” But after meeting him, I thought that he clicked well with the character. And we needed the so-called “star casting” because this was going to be presented outside the military, and I thought it would be all right under the societal atmosphere.
Q: “Voyage of Life” is like your comeback to the stage.
Joo: I cannot say that this is my comeback production when there are so many people who are working hard in their places right now. I could cause trouble for some forty soldiers [working in the musical]. I am talking comfortably because I am where I am [at a press conference] but I would rather you look at me as one of the military officers rather than an actor. I am participating in something for the country as a military officer.
Q: How do the actresses feel about doing rehearsals surrounded by many male actors?
Yoon Gong-joo: I am happier than ever going to rehearsal rooms. My heart breaks when they tell me not to come anywhere besides the rehearsal room. (laugh) I am inspired by the overflowing passion of young soldiers, and I think their positive energy is affecting me as well. And these days I often hear the compliment, “Noona [a term used by males when referring to older females], you are pretty.” (laugh)
Son Hyun-jung: When I first heard that it was a military musical, I just thought there would be many soldiers but I didn’t think there would be this many. I like that seven actresses are here like a flower. We really are being treated like princesses. (laugh)
Q: Chief Director Yoon Ho-jin has often adapted real-life historic incidents into musical productions, as in “The Last Empress” and “Hero.” How will “Voyage of Life” be remembered?
Yoon: It is most interesting when we meet a story that is alive around us or when we meet history, rather than hearing about a fictional one. Digging up an old story and reviving it is also something that is enjoyable, so I am always interested in history. Korea is the first country on the face of the earth which was wiped out completely from the war and became miraculously rich and powerful in just sixty years. I am working with a good subject theme but there are still many disappointments. It takes a considerable amount of time to create a good original musical, and “Voyage of Life” is not something that has been completed but something we have to keep improving in the future. I hope that someday it will be a production which can tour and give performance in all the countries that had fought during the Korean War.