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[Herald Interview] Kim Go-eun aimed to perfect portrayal of Korean shamans in 'Exhuma'

By Lee Yoon-seo

Published : Feb. 27, 2024 - 15:17

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Kim Go-eun (BH Entertainment) Kim Go-eun (BH Entertainment)

South Korean actor Kim Go-eun said she aimed to perfect her performance of a Korean traditional shaman in "Exhuma," an occult flick directed by Jang Jae-hyun.

Jang popularized the occult genre in Korea with hit occult mystery movies such as "The Priest" and "Svaha: The Sixth Finger."

"Exhuma" unfolds as a group of exorcists, an undertaker and a feng shui specialist relocate a tomb. In the movie, Kim plays the role of Hwa-rim, a young shaman who is assigned to perform "gut," or a Korean shaman ritual.

"I have been a fan of director Jang ever since I watched his short film 'The 12th Assistant Priest,' which is connected to the stories told in 'The Priests,'" said Kim, during an interview with reporters in Seoul on Monday.

"I watch a lot of occult movies because I enjoy them, and I thought 'The Priests' marked the genuine beginning of the popularization of occult-genre movies in Korea. I developed a respect for Jang, for pioneering the occult genre in the Korean cinematic industry. So, when the offer came for me to play a role in 'Exhuma,' I was thrilled," said Kim.

Kim recently garnered attention with her performance of a "daesal gut," or a type of shaman ritual with animal sacrifice to chase away evil spirits, in "Exhuma."

According to Kim, the daesal gut scene was key to making Hwa-rim a credible character, as she leads the story with other characters, such as feng shui specialist Sang-deok (Choi Min-sik) and her assistant Bong-gil (Lee Do-hyun).

"I thought that for the audience to believe and follow along with Hwa-rim's story, Hwa-rim needed to exude a strong aura of professionalism," said Kim.

"In order to play the (daesal gut) scene, I went to see actual daesal gut. I heard that daesal gut is something even experienced shamans struggle with. So I visited shamans and immersed myself in their daily lives, spending time with them and learning whenever possible," said Kim.

"In Korea, gut is said to soothe the soul. That's the Korean sentiment. Gut is about resolving grievances and soothing spirits. (...) Therefore, I approached (daesal gut) with the feeling that shamans perform it with all their might," added Kim.

"When chanting the scriptures, I did it with a sense of comforting the spirits' grievances, and did it with a thought that I could cry for the spirits, if necessary," she said.

"Also, when shooting the scenes involving shaman rituals, I confirmed all my movements with the shamans. I received messages, calls, and video calls about how to move my hands when chanting the scriptures. I also asked whether I could make trivial movements like shaking or having my body tremble when preparing to perform gut," she added. The answer was "Yes."

Kim said "Exhuma" is concerned mainly with how humans live their lives.

"It's a movie that deals with human life. Of course, the film is an occult movie and ghosts do appear. But I think 'Exhuma' has its foundation in telling the story of the ways people live and how people can find comfort," said Kim.

A scene from A scene from "Exhuma," starring Kim Go-eun (Showbox)