Perhaps a person with a good knowledge of Korean TV Dramas such as “MAY QUEEN” would admit, rightly, how good an actor this young fellow is but maybe never more so than in Kim Ki Duk’s recent film, “MOEBIUS”. The truth is that with all his previous roles as evidence, as well as a superbly non-dialogued one in the aforementioned film, it’s fair to say that this boy-come-guy is not simply a ‘now you see him, then you don’t’ actor. In fact, already with a ‘Best Actor’ award or two under his belt, I dare say we’ll see him in so much more in the years to come.
In light of that fact, we won’t introduce him as a ‘JUVENILE OFFENDER’ but instead as the young adult he truly is, Mr Seo Young-ju.
Thanks to the Terracotta Far East Film Festival, we had the immense pleasure of being seated around a small table awaiting this teenager’s answers to the many questions we had.
So, with his accomplice beside him and wonderful translator, Jeongeun alongside to complete the picture, we were all ready to begin.
Note: ‘Massive’ thanks and praise must be given to the Korean Class Massive for transcribing this in-depth interview.
The following group interview took place on May 30th 2014, prior to the Terracotta Far East Film Festival 2014 UK special screening of ‘Moebius’ and Q&A with actor Seo Young-ju.
SumGyeoJin Gem: How did Kim Ki Duk approach you and why did decide to accept this role in Moebius? Because Kim Ki Duk is known for making quite controversial film.
Seo Young-ju: Kim Ki Duk watched Juvenile Offender which I was a lead in, and sent me a script. At first I was scared of how I could deliver the role but then I thought I would regret it later if I did not accept it.
Dr. Colette Balmain: The part you had to play was very challenging given that you were 15 at the time. I wonder how to dealt with the challenges of being in a film that has very controversial matters, and also in a film with no dialogue at all.
Seo Young-ju: Looking back I didn’t really understand the script, but the director helped me scene by scene giving me a better understanding the role.
easternKicks: Since you started acting when you were 10, what do you feel about missing out on some life experiences due to you having to play roles because of your busy acting career. What kind of things to you think you miss by being a busy actor and what things do you learn from acting that you wouldn’t have learnt if you were a regular teenager?
Seo Young-ju: It was hard playing the role in Moebius but I was very focused so I forgot about the reality so I can be more relaxed in a way. I miss playing and studying with my friends at school, but I don’t regret acting in films. However now I feel like my teen life if disappearing quickly.
MiniMiniMovies: You mentioned Juvenile Offender, I wondered how that film came about. Had you seen director Kang Yi Kwan’s films before, have you seen Sa Kwa? Or had he approached you through something else.
Seo Young-ju: I have not seen Sa Kwa, but I auditioned for the role in Juvenile Offender and the director loved the drama I was in before.
Korean Class Massive: What kind of acting roles would you like to be known for? While watching films, have you seen a role that you really wanted to try?
Seo Young-ju: I don’t really want to be remembered as an actor for a specific role. I want the audience to remember because when I’m crying, they could be crying, when I smile they could be smiling. I want to be a person who can deliver those kinds of emotional roles.
SumGyeoJin Gem: You acted in dramas and films, I was wondering is there a different atmosphere when filming? In Golden Rainbow you acted with other young actors which could have been quite joyous, whereas in Moebius it must have been quite intense. How was the atmosphere different on set?
Seo Young-ju: When shooting dramas the process of filming is so fast but the film with Kim Ki Duk has been very slow. So it’s kind of different but in a way he really shoots films fast and in an intense way. I don’t really know what I’m saying. Actually we finished filming for Moebius in one week.
Dr. Colette Balmain: What was it like working with Kim Ki Duk and what was it like on set?
Seo Young-ju: The filming process was so fast so there wasn’t really any time to feel the atmosphere.
easternKicks: I’d like to talk about the latest drama you just finished filming, 18 Years. In this drama you play a young man that makes bad choices because he has no other choices to make. I find the resonance in Moebius and Juvenile Offender where your characters make bad choices sometimes crazy and wrong because that’s how life led them to act. Is there something about this kind of character that you find interesting and attracts you to take this kind of role?
Seo Young-ju: I think I’m driven to those dark roles where you are hurt by somebody. I think other people can’t do that sort of role easily whereas I find it easier to do that role. And the drama will be on TV soon.
MiniMiniMovies: Before you did your feature film in 2008, did you do commercials or stage acting, something along those lines?
Seo Young-ju: I haven’t done much commercials or stage acting before that. but I have been playing as extras and supporting roles, and I was really interested in acting after that sort of experience and I had an audition and I got the role in the first drama and that led to my career.
Korean Class Massive: You’ve already won some ‘Best Actor’ awards for your role in Juvenile Offender, what was it like winning these titles at such a young age? Do you feel any added pressure now?
Seo Young-ju: When I received the award I felt so much pressure and thought to myself why can’t I deliver such great performance even though I got it. But I think the award meant I needed to do my best more, I think that’s what it means.
SumGyeoJin Gem: Is there any actors that you look up to and would like to work with in the near future?
Seo Young-ju: I admire Kim Yun Seok who was in The Chaser. I was a child actor in The Thieves and when I saw his acting I was awed by his aura. And personally when I met him he was so lovely and gentle and whenever I see his acting I feel the role is delivered very well.
Dr. Colette Balmain: What other directors, Korean or US directors, would you like to work with in the future?
Seo Young-ju: If an opportunity comes I would definitely do it, if the director and the script is great.
easternKicks: You worked as the young version of many famous actors in dramas and films. Including your first drama which was with Lee Joon Gi who is very popular now due to his latest drama Two Weeks. What was it like working with these actors and having to act as their younger versions? And what was your relationship with Lee Joon Gi and if you think you would have another chance to work with him
Seo Young-ju: I don’t contact them anymore. On the set we talk with the older actors about how my role as a child actor can be played in order to carry the timeline on. But after that we don’t talk.
MiniMiniMovies: When you were a child actor working with adult actors and other child actors did you ever learn anything from those of a similar age or was it more from the adults?
Seo Young-ju: I didn’t learn anything really, but I think I learnt how to wait on the set.
Korean Class Massive: You’ve acted in both films and dramas, which one would you prefer to do in the future? Do you find easier to perform in films or in dramas?
Seo Young-ju: I prefer acting in films and I’m sure I will work in films more in the future.
SumGyeoJin Gem: Where do you see yourself in 5 years time in your acting career?
Seo Young-ju: 5 years?… I’ll be different definitely and I want to be a cooler actor.
easternKicks: You have worked in films with different genres. Your first movie was a period gay romance, Juvenile Offender and Moebius are more thrillers, and in dramas you have some romantic comedies as well. What type of genre do you think you will continue working on, also what genres would you like to try?
Seo Young-ju: I played a role in a romantic comedy but my role was always dark and hurt by somebody so I don’t feel like I played in a romantic comedy properly so I want to play in one during my teenage years.
easternKicks: Dream High 3?
Seo Young-ju: Haha good.
MiniMiniMovies: Working with non-dialogue like in Moebius, did it put you off or is it somehow easier?
Seo Young-ju: I want to act again with non-dialogue films. I watched Moebius for the first time at Venice Festival and I wasn’t really satisfied with my performance so I want to try again.
Dr. Colette Balmain: I think you’re being a bit hard on yourself, I think your performance in Moebius was extremely good and authentic.
Seo Young-ju: Thank you.
easternKicks: In your movies you act very mature for your age. Do you have the feeling that when you go to casting that the roles come to you more because you have this maturity that you gain throughout the years in the industry and as a person.
SumGyeoJin Gem: How do you select scripts? What kind of criteria are you looking for in order to take on a particular role?
Seo Young-ju: I don’t think I have the eyes to choose good scripts yet. But when I like a script I audition for it.
Korean Class Massive: You started acting at the age of 10, what motivated you to become an actor? If not acting, what you your dream job be?
Seo Young-ju: I enjoyed acting so much that it motivated me to start playing as extras and supporting roles in films and dramas. If I wasn’t acting, I would want to perform in the musical theatre.
SumGyeoJin Gem: During filming, do you ever have the time to de-stress? What do you normally do before you go on set?
Seo Young-ju: I think I just read scripts over and over again.
Dr. Colette Balmain: What was working he Kim Ki Duk like and would you work with him again?
Seo Young-ju: It was a great experience with him, if there was another chance I would go for it.
easternKicks: When you read the script for Moebius, is there something in the Korean culture that made you used to the feeling that the character had after the castration that led him to evolve that way in the film?
Seo Young-ju: I can’t recall anything more shocking in my mind.
easternKicks: So all your training led to this performance letting you feel what the character was feeling. How do you work when you have to interpret the character? Do you imagine the emotion, or in this case was it possible to try to relive the same experience.
Seo Young-ju: The other actors are so focused on set so it led me to keep focused on the script and on my role.
easternKicks: Do you get any advise from them or is it just the director?
Seo Young-ju: Cho Jae Hyun, who played the father, used to say I know how you feel about playing this role, don’t take it personally when you act. He explained how I would feel in my role in Moebius, that helped me a lot.
SumGyeoJin Gem: When you acted in Moebius, I’m sure it’s quite shocking when acting certain scenes. When you’re offset, where there times when you had nightmares of being in that situation?
Seo Young-ju: We shot the film in 1 week so there wasn’t much time for nightmares. We were all so tired so we just went to sleep and the week passed by very quickly.
Korean Class Massive: Do you see yourself directing films in the future?
Seo Young-ju: I would want to be a director one day.
easternKicks: Is there any upcoming projects you can tell us about?
Seo Young-ju: There are no projects I have signed but there is one we are discussing at the moment.
MiniMiniMovies: This isn’t really film related but, is there anything in particular you plan to do while staying in London?
Seo Young-ju: I want to go and see a lot of musicals, I watched Billy Elliot last night. I want to feel the difference between Korea and UK so I’m going to walk around a lot.
Korean Class Massive: Do you prefer supporting or leading roles?
Seo Young-ju: Of course the leading roles.
SumGyeoJin Gem: Do you feel that as the main character you you experience a heavy responsibility compared to as a supporting actor?
Seo Young-ju: It’s true that I feel more responsibility when doing the lead role. But other actors who are older that me always help me so it’s alright.
easternKicks: You work on TV dramas which are inherently more commercial but in the beginning you also worked on period action with bigger budgets. But Kim Ki Duk is more of a different area with independent cinema and with more edgy subjects. In which direction do you see yourself spending your time in? In the future do you see yourself working in international films?
Seo Young-ju: If I’m good at English then I would definitely try international films. Naturally I love Indie films which has a voice, but I want to do commercial too.
SumGyeoJin Gem: If you were given the opportunity to not be in acting, what would you do, within your teenage years?
Seo Young-ju: I love sports so I would love to play football.
SumGyeoJin Gem: Any particular team?
Seo Young-ju: Real Madrid.
On behalf of everyone involved, I’d sincerely like to thank Terracotta Distribution and the Terracotta Far East Film Festival for allowing us all to interview actor Seo Young-ju at such length.
The interview took place at the Opium Bar and Grill in London on May 30th 2014, prior to the Terracotta Far East Film Festival 2014 UK special screening of “Moebius (뫼비우스)” and Q&A with actor Seo Young-ju.
Being a group interview, including Mini Mini Movies, I’d also like to give thanks to the following:
Also present at the interview was Dr Colette Bailman, whom can also be found writing at:
Finally, MMM’s review of “MOEBIUS” can be found here: