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[Herald Interview] Jung Woo-sung discusses presidential role in ‘Steel Rain 2: Summit’

Actor Jung Woo-sung (Lotte Entertainment)
Actor Jung Woo-sung (Lotte Entertainment)

In sequels we often see the original cast reappear, taking up the same roles and continuing with the next chapter of the story. In other cases, a new cast may be chosen to show a different side of the same universe.

But rarely do the same actors reappear as completely new characters. This was the case for veteran actor Jung Woo-sung, who plays a fictitious South Korean president in the upcoming action flick “Steel Rain 2: Summit,” having portrayed a North Korean special agent in its 2017 predecessor.

“Both films have the Korean Peninsula as their ‘main character.’ That’s how the two films could become a series, and I thought it was a very creative approach. This way, even if there comes a threequel to the set and I or Kwak Do-won (who also appeared in both films) do not star in it, the series will still be able to continue its story,” Jung said during a joint interview with the local media held in Seoul on Monday.

“The extension of characters, and their correlation that continues into the sequel was interesting,” Jung said. “For example, both characters in the first film were named ‘Chul-woo.’ This signifies that even if the two characters swap roles, the situation will not be much different. They are just two people who are a part of the divided peninsula, and we have to look at the film from that point of view.”

Likewise, Jung and Kwak have switched sides in the upcoming movie. Where Jung takes up the role of South Korean President Han Kyung-jae in the sequel, Kwak, who played a South Korean government official in the original, appears as the North Korean regime’s chief of security.

As director Yang Woo-suk explained previously, his intention was to show that even if the actors changed sides, the situation on the peninsula would not change: “The problem is not something the two Koreas can solve as it is not something we have started ourselves.”

“Steel Rain 2: Summit” (Lotte Entertainment)
“Steel Rain 2: Summit” (Lotte Entertainment)

Jung, who has been acting for some 26 years, seemed exceptionally calm and cautious in choosing his words during the promotional events leading up to the film’s release. During the press conference following the film’s premiere last Thursday, Jung even came close to tears when asked his thoughts about the film.

“I was emotionally immersed with President Han. Complicated feelings all came rushing through as I thought about our reality, the past and the history of the Koreans, including those who were victimized. Koreans have seen enough misfortune, but for some reason, this misfortune has naturally become a part of our lives,” said Jung.

Jung said he did not reference President Moon Jae-in or any former South Korean president in constructing his character, but rather focused on the emotions that arose inside of him.

“President Han has a strong will for peace, and I imagined that the fundamental value of such a character would lie in sympathy for his people, living in this unfortunate land,” Jung said.

The actor said the entertaining methods that Yang, the director, employs in conveying his serious message were another reason he chose to star in the sequel.

“Steel Rain 2: Summit” (Lotte Entertainment)
“Steel Rain 2: Summit” (Lotte Entertainment)

“The scenes inside the captain’s cabin with the three leaders locked up -- it felt like a skit satirizing the situation, like an episode from a comic show like ‘Saturday Night Live.’ It was a new challenge as an actor,” Jung said.

In reading the script for the first time, while he could clearly imagine what the submarine action scene -- with gunfire exchanged and explosions taking place in and out of the vessel -- would be like just from the written lines, he also became curious about how it would be realized on the screen.

Faced with a blockbuster action film that asks serious questions about the divided peninsula, some people may doubt the authenticity of the message the film is trying to send. However, the 47-year-old actor said the film is, in essence, an entertainment flick that can perhaps attune our thoughts to the reality that we have been oblivious to -- and, at least for that moment, make us think about what we can do as a member of society.

“I hope the audience can enjoy the film, but at the same time take something for themselves to think about. This may be the submarine action for some people, or the characters for others, and for some people, it may be the question the film throws.”

"Steel Rain 2: Summit" hits local theaters on Wednesday.

By Choi Ji-won (