A Serious Man for a Serious Job: Shin Ha-Gyun


Shin Ha-gyun is known as a man of few words in the Korean film industry. The reticent actor plays a speechless killer in his new film “No Mercy for the Rude,” to be released on Aug. 24. Shin says only a single word during the entire two-hour movie. An actor for 10 years, Shin has been praised by his contemporaries for his skill in playing contradictory characters: innocent but frightening, or both angelic and evil. By the same token, he has starred in both art-house movies like “Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance” and “Save the Green Planet” and big hits such as “Joint Security Area”, “Welcome to Dongmakgol” and “The Big Scene,” which attracted audiences of more than 16 million combined, showing his innocent smile while hiding his lunatic eyes.

“There have been many killer movies, but this one caught my eye because it wasn’t typical,” he says about the new movie. “It’s extravagant but not shallow… well, it’s like a joke that makes people think about something serious.” In interview, he is almost as laconic as his parts. Shin’s character in the movie was born with a short tongue and stopped speaking when he grew up because he was bullied about it. After seeing a quack who tells him that an operation costing W100 million (US$1=W959) can completely cure his condition, he becomes a contract killer.

Shin takes viewers by surprise with his perfect absorption in any character he plays, but in reality he seems so ordinary that few who see him on the big screen would recognize him. “I usually jog along the Jungrangcheon stream near my place, but no one has recognized me so far,” he says.

Shin is not only reticent but very shy and says he never spoke out in front of others when he was a child. The reason he enjoys his life as an actor, he says, is that he can communicate with others through movies. Enrolling at the Seoul Institute of the Arts in 1993, he says, “What I like about acting is that I can express what I understand not in words but by other means. When I think that I make others feel just what I felt, I’m happy.”

A lighthearted request for any funny anecdotes from the set brings an unexpected chill to the atmosphere. “These questions always embarrass me,” he says. “You may think of me as rather arrogant, but when I act, I only focus on my job, so how could such things happen?”

Aug 21, 2006

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