[W Korea March 2017 Interview Part 1] The Unpredictable Actor Yoo Ah In
This is Yoo Ah In’s special interview with ‘W’ magazine, March 2017 issue. He became the twin cover for ‘W’ Korea’s 12th anniversary special issue with Song Hye Kyo.
We divide the interview into 3 parts. Here’s part 1, translated by our Sassy Translator of the Yoo Ah In International Fans Community and edited by our dear Korean friend Passerby 😀
[Man We Love Part 1]
We had a dream-like time with the unpredictable actor Yoo Ah In. And we encountered Song Hye Kyo and had a relaxing break [from work and stress] with her.
Now that I’m not anxious when it comes to my career, and because I have enough self-confidence, I think that I’ve become free. One day, and unexpectedly, I will do a romantic comedy or an action piece. I think that I can do anything now.
Q: Recently, I was told that you have been remodeling your house. What do you think is the most important aspect at your place?
Yoo Ah In: It’s the theater room. I spend the longest time watching movies with my friends there, and I sleep there a lot too.
Q: What kind of movies do you mainly watch? And do you and your friends recommend good movies to each other?
Yoo Ah In: The choice initiative always falls on me. Nowadays, instead of watching thought-provoking movies, I am rather dipping into the popular entertaining ones. Although there was a time when I, like the hipsters my age, tried to see/search for movies that has intellect, reason, and insight, but right now, I rather have more questions about “what’s a good movie?”. If someone is watching a movie just to kill time for two hours, a slapstick film that has stuff being broken and smashed/destroyed and which helps pass the time is indeed a good movie.
Q: Does that mean that your taste in movies has changed?
Yoo Ah In: It rather seems that the idea of ‘taste constitutes identity’ itself is gradually disappearing in me. I guess I’ve already gone through the stage of building my self-esteem, concentrating on my own taste and preferences, and telling people about my style/taste. Nowadays, I’m kind of thinking more about my own usefulness and functions. I am interested in openly accepting my various roles: as a human being, someone’s friend, a member of this society, and how I’m going to carry out these roles. I will not be held back anymore by my previously established self-identity.
Q: You mean that you used to have an established idea about what type of a person you actually are?
Yoo Ah In: “Your route is a little different. You are a free non-mainstream guy”– I’ve been told these words all the time. If I truly were that person [if I truly became the persona people ascribed to me], I would have formed a constraining/frame-like idea of “where and how far I will go from this point” about myself. Now that I’m not anxious when it comes to my career, and because I have enough self-confidence, I think that I’ve become free [from that frame/I’m not locked within that frame anymore]. Within the world called “the film industry”, I became more open. I became able to look for any urges that I have, and to find out what type of newness the people want to see in me. One day, and unexpectedly, I will do a romantic comedy or an action piece. I think that I can do anything (now).
Q: These sound like words spoken by a person who has been enlightened [who has realized far too many things about himself or the truth of the world]. Is that so?
Yoo Ah In: I don’t have much desire for anything these days. Just as I was looking at the clothes piled up in the closet, I talked to myself, “Did I really need all of these stuff that badly?”
Q: What about your urge for acting?
Yoo Ah In: That’s the only urge that I have. I do have an urge for acting. Even in everyday life, and when I am with my friends, I enjoy doing ‘situation comedy’ stuff or role play for fun.
Q: That’s an enormous waste of your talent! [T/N: the journalist thinks that it’s a waste of his massive talents to be doing comedy skits with his friends at home, instead of doing it in a movie or a drama]
Yoo Ah In: I’m at home doing nothing at all. And as I’m literally just passing time as a ‘useless/idle man’, I felt like I’m shriveling. It’s that time with the military enlistment being ahead of me, me re-taking the physical examination [many times], getting ill, and how difficult it is for me to do activities outside. And even though I’m going through such a time, I kind of feel guilty [towards myself] for being idle like that. So I think that I had to allow myself to do all of that. [T/N: by ‘that’ he means: him trying to kill time during his non-working months by doing goofy skits with his friends]
Q: Do you tend to be strict on yourself?
Yoo Ah In: Sometimes it feels like I’m marching off to stay one step ahead of my life [T/N: he places so much pressure on himself. He always wants to be better than before, and better than now, ethically and mentally]. There are moments when that could be too much/overwhelming to me. I think that there’s a thin line between trying to be a good person and trying to be praised by someone to the extent of being anxious and wary of others’ feelings. For instance, if you look at the entertainment industry, you will find one person whose whole body radiates ‘Please love me’ [entertainers who are desperate for people’s approval], and there’s that tiger-like person who walks his way slowly [walks his path slowly and confidently like a tiger]. I’m not going to judge the different approaches for achieving a better life. It would be conceited to push such standards so that one could establish or argue his own uniqueness. [T/N: he would never judge or criticize others just to prove that he’s better by comparison. He thinks that doing that is rather conceited]
Q: Do you worry about being proud of yourself?
Yoo Ah In: Eventually, it’s within the nature of us all to have that aspect. The desire to be applauded, to earn a lot of money, and to reach higher places quickly. I think that the person who has the virtue of humility is the one who is more superior. In this country, this city, my age, and the world in which I work, it’s a must to have this virtue, especially for young actors. Taken that into account, I have that side in me in a way that could be described as terribly destructive/extreme [T/N: Yoo Ah In thinks that his humility on the other hand is rather extreme]. When I watch videos like The Making Of “Sado” (The Throne), I can’t listen calmly to the director’s compliments on my acting. I get shy to the extent that I shudder with embarrassment.
If I thought that I had the answers to all of my inner concerns and questions, if I thought that I’ve reached a conclusion, I will certainly become arrogant and conceited. So I have to live my life being careful all the time. And as always, and also in the future, I will do my best to live without bowing my head to anyone.
Q: I think that moral superiority is not a bad thing. Reason is: it yields the power to make you a better person.
Yoo Ah In: Although I feel suffocated by the world a lot, I’m still only at the phase of asking questions. If I thought that I had the answers to all of my inner concerns and questions, if I thought that I’ve reached a conclusion [regarding the world], I will certainly become arrogant and conceited. So I have to live my life being careful all the time. And as always, and also in the future, I will do my best to live without bowing my head [to anyone]. While watching the whole picture, I want to have a proper understanding of my position [in the community], and to live my life fulfilling my necessary/required role. I want to utilize myself better. It seems that I’m constantly asking the question of whether I am strong enough or upright enough to stand against the unfairness that exists in the world and do something about it the righteous way. I’m always trying to enforce that type of discipline in myself [T/N: by ‘discipline’ he means: being a good person, defending those who are facing injustice]. Of course, if I talk about this, there will be surely someone who will say “go enlist in the army!” (laugh). [T/N: he means people who would comment on his philosophical views angrily: “shut up and enlist in the army first!”]
Q: All people live their lives looking for an answer, rather than claiming to know everything. But if it’s not within the realm of likes and dislikes, if it is the case of finding an answer to what’s right or wrong, doesn’t that mean that the answer might exist?
Yoo Ah In: Nowadays, I even end up recalling the role of the things that are not right. For example, although Trump’s many statements are shockingly wrong, I think that he does have his role in the world [T/N: he thinks that U.S president Donald Trump plays the role of “things that are wrong in our world”. Trump’s role would be doing wrong with his new position, and as a result, people will be motivated to do something about it, to think and resist]. Perhaps this will be an opportunity for us to re-confirm the many progressive and fundamental values that people used to take for granted, and to be united for that cause.
Q: Immediately after confirming that Park Geun Hye was elected president, I remember that you wrote in your SNS: “now that you [Park] have already been elected as a president, I wish that you do well [for this country]”. That was such a grown and mature attitude.
Yoo Ah In: I meant it sincerely. Just because the candidate that I didn’t support got elected, should I wish her to make mistakes and not do well? Just to prove that I was right? That will only make the monster more monstrous. I was born in Daegu and grew up among people who support the conservative party [the ruling party to which Park Geun-hye belongs] unconditionally. The many questions/doubts I had back then made me what I am today. Had it [Daegu] been a reasonable and logical environment, I might not have been interested in politics at all.
Q: First the fact that you were born and raised in a conservative area, and then you becoming interested in the politics of the liberal party later. Afterwards, you mentioned the role of ‘things that are not right’. Your point of view seems to resemble Hegel’s view of history; that the world progresses by passing through the process of ‘thesis-antithesis-synthesis’.
[T/N: Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (August 27, 1770 – November 14, 1831) was a German philosopher and an important figure of German idealism. The triad thesis-antithesis-synthesis is often used to describe Hegelian thought. The relation between the three abstract terms of the triad is summarized in the following way in the Encyclopedia of Sciences and Religions:
“(1) a beginning proposition called a thesis, (2) a negation of that thesis called the antithesis, and (3) a synthesis whereby the two conflicting ideas are reconciled to form a new proposition.”
How does this notion apply to Yoo Ah In’s story on how he developed his political consciousness?
① Yoo Ah In’s beginning thesis is: he was born and raised in a very politically conservative area.
② Yoo Ah In’s antithesis (negation of that thesis): he didn’t agree with the political views in his environment. He had many doubts, and many questions.
③ Yoo Ah In’s synthesis (his new proposition that was created via the conflict between number (1) and number (2)): the collision of being born in a conservative city along with having doubts about this politically irrational environment resulted in making Yoo Ah In the man that he is now. He became interested in politics. Moreover, he became supportive of the liberal party, a stark contrast to his original environment.]
Yoo Ah In: I want to live an adventurous life. And I want the people of the liberal camp to be progressive even in the methods through which they pursue their own beliefs and values. It doesn’t seem strange to me if anyone progressive joins that political party in order to change the conservative party. When I look at some of internet activities by the extreme supporters of the candidate Moon Jae In [T/N: Moon Jae In was the presidential candidate who ran in opposition to Park Geun Hye in 2012. He represented the liberal Democratic United Party. He is now the most promising and popular candidate for the presidential election of this year], I get the impression that they resemble [in the negative online activities aspect] the other side, whom they criticize, more and more [T/N: it’s like when someone becomes monstrous as he’s fighting against a monster. Yoo Ah In is being critical about the extreme self-righteousness of the liberal party]. When celebrities talk politics, many people curse them out. And many of my friends have no interest in politics. In that case [when I’m with my friends who aren’t into politics and don’t want me to talk politics with them], I say my point of view like this: “The water you drink now, the shampoo you use, the house you live in and the public transportation you use… All of these things are connected with law, regulation, and politics. Wonderful youth is not only about living the moment with great energy”. And although I, of course, don’t have great achievements in that regard [although I might not be super successful with spreading political awareness among youth], at least I hope there will be many back and forth discussions to make the world a better place. I wish that the thoughts of people, in all their diversity, flow in the world rationally and healthily and infiltrate each other.
— 유아인 (@seeksik) January 11, 2017
Q: Recently, you posted a video of Meryl Streep’s speech at the Golden Globe Awards on your SNS. She spoke about the diverse ethnicities of Hollywood actors. She mentioned the national backdrop (in the US right now). It was also about calling out Trump, criticizing his nasty behavior when he imitated a disabled reporter. Which part did you relate to the most?
Yoo Ah In: Of course I related to the story about diversity. It was also the whole atmosphere and air that made me naturally want to share such a content. Celebrities can become the megaphones and spokespeople of this era. These days, aren’t there other things that celebrities can tell us other than what clothes have recently came out, and what hair styles are currently in fashion? [T/N: he means to say: it’s always acceptable for celebrities to tell and inspire the people about what clothes and hairstyles they should wear. So, why isn’t acceptable for them to speak their minds on more serious stuff?]. However, I am a person who can live without having to worry about gas prices. But if I were to be locked inside my house, which is warm and comfortable, I indeed wonder if I would care for the world?! Many celebrities don’t seem to live like that already [there are many celebrities who care about the community and not confined by the comfort of their life]. [T/N: Yoo Ah In is trying to say: although he lives comfortably and doesn’t have to worry about prices going up and down, he doesn’t confine himself to his rather comfortable life style. He goes outside his comfy world and knows how Korean people live their lives, and what things they have to deal with. Yoo Ah In also notes there are many Korean celebrities who are interested in social problems, and who try to be a voice for the people]. The awards ceremonies in our country are said to be stiff/formal and boring. And that’s because Koreans’ tolerance for ‘people who have something different to offer’/’people with different output’ is very low. And when someone stands out [among the rest] just a little bit, they make it so hard for that person. When I watch dramas nowadays, I see all of the actors have milky white skin. And it’s because of the demand to erase all blemishes. People want the actors/actresses to look like mannequins on TV, with no wrinkles or pores, and we can’t only blame them for that [we can’t only blame the people for demanding unrealistic measures for looks]. The flow of the society itself doesn’t break the frame of standardized life. It’s completely immersed into the safe zone [T/N: we can’t blame the people, because holding fixed ideals is so integrated into the roots of our society. Those ideals are hard to be shaken]. I’m an artist, and I’m also a person who wants to shake people’s consciousness. So I worry about such things.
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