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[Herald Interview] Song Joong-ki crafts his own kind of North Korean defector in 'My Name is Loh Kiwan'

By Kim Da-sol

Published : March 8, 2024 - 14:18

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Song Joong-ki (Netflix) Song Joong-ki (Netflix)

Song Joong-ki, whose Netflix original film "My Name is Loh Kiwan” ranked 3rd on Netflix's non-English chart this week, said he was hesitant to play the character of North Korean defector Loh Ki-wan when he first received the script for the movie seven years ago.

“I initially turned down the offer to play Loh Ki-wan seven years ago, because Ki-wan and Marie’s love affair didn't resonate with me. I told the production company that I didn’t think it was right for me to do it when I could not empathize with the character," Song told reporters during an interview in Seoul on Wednesday.

“I thought love for Ki-wan was like a luxury. He arrived in another country by selling his dead mother’s body. He is a refugee who must survive, like the man in ‘The Reverent,’” he added.

Song went on to shoot “The Battleship Island” (2017), and it was in the summer of 2022, just as the shooting of “Reborn Rich” (2022) was nearing its end, that he was again approached with the script.

“I got a call from someone at Netflix to go over the script again. Then I thought okay, maybe it’s a good thing that Netflix picked up this project because it has its niche energy and a certain mood (in its storylines),” he said.

While the overall story hadn't changed from seven years ago, Song said some details had been changed, including several aspects of Marie's character and personality. Quoting director Kim Hee-jin's words to him, Song said Ki-wan became more “hot-minded,” with a more passionate and determined nature.

“I’m sure that there is a gap in the way I looked at Ki-wan and the way the director had written him. In the process of bridging the gap, Ki-wan became a more passionate person who desperately wants to find a reason to be happy,” he said.

Song added that an extra scene was created after discussions with director Kim. In that scene, Ki-wan, in bed with Marie, contemplates his right to be happy and wants to find a justifiable reason to stay in a warm, safe place.

“I appreciate how director Kim listened to what I said and because she is also a good writer, she is very skilled in writing lines that reflect the character’s feelings,” he said.

“My Name is Loh Kiwan” (Netflix) “My Name is Loh Kiwan” (Netflix)

Seeking to strike a balance between filming for movies and dramas, Song said that his next project will be a drama, one preferably related to horror -- a genre the actor has become more interested in lately. Song recently released two films in a row -- “Hopeless” and “My Name is Loh Kiwan.”

“Because dramas and movies bring me two different types of joy in acting, I now want to do a drama as my next project. But because I want an experience different genres, horror is on my to-do list. That’s why I’m excited for the latest box office hit ‘Exhuma,’ which I knew would have a good reception here,” Song said.

“My Name is Loh Kiwan” is currently available on Netflix.