This man! I’m totally in love with Ji Sung’s performance in Protect the Boss, and his recent guest appearance on the new SBS talk show, Healing Camp, made me enamored with Ji Sung, the man behind the camera.
EPISODE 3: Broadcast on August 1, 2011.
Healing Camp is an outdoor talk show hosted by Lee Kyung Kyu (Qualifications of Men), Kim Je Dong (Night After Night), and actress Han Hye Jin (Thorn Birds, Jejoongwon).
As they introduce today’s guest, Ji Sung comes running out, jumping a good 3-4 feet into the air, pumping his fist, and shouting, “Yahoo!” Han Hye Jin, who is under the same management agency, runs to greet him.
In the first segment of the show, while soaking his feet in a bucket of water, the guest is given the opportunity to praise himself.
Ji Sung’s first self-praise: “I’m well-mannered!”
Because both his parents were educators, Ji Sung explains that they were very strict with him about having good manners. Since he was young, he called his parents “eomoni” (mother) and “abeoji” (father), as opposed to the more casual “umma” (mom) and “appa” (dad).
As a child, he gasped from shock when he went over to his friend’s house and heard his friend speaking to his parents with banmal (casual speech), when he had always used respective speech to his own parents. Lee Kyung Kyu comments that his family sounds like one from a sageuk. And he reacts with greater shock when Ji Sung explains that he used to kneel in front of his dad when his father spoke.
Ji Sung reenacts his father cleaning his cue stick and turning around to face him, and the intimidation he felt. As he explains, the music from The Godfather plays in the background. LOL.
In response to Kim Je Dong’s question on whether his father ever spanked/hit him, Ji Sung answers, “Of course.” But then afraid of putting his father in too negative light, he adds, “Out of love.”
Lee Kyung Kyu: Is your father also good looking?
Ji Sung: Of course! Because he’s my father.
After retiring from his job as a principal, Ji Sung’s father ran for a superintendent position. For the election campaign, his father placed Ji Sung’s photo next to his own on his campaign poster. Unfortunately, his father still lost the election.
Ji Sung’s second self-praise: “Since returning from military service, I’ve gained more confidence in acting.”
He went to the military when he was 30 years old, and so most of his army colleagues were 10 years his junior. His fellow celebrity colleagues in the military included actors Hong Kyung In (King Gwanggaeto the Great), Lee Min Woo (The Princess’s Man), Yoon Kye Sang (Best Love), and Park Gwang Hyun (Pink Lipstick). Right below them were singers Moon Hee Jun and Kim Bum Soo.
When in the military, all the celebrities on TV seemed like people from a different world from them. So celebrities in the military avoid watching TV entertainment shows out of envy for their civilian colleagues.
Ji Sung made a cameo in a movie with Kwon Sang Woo and Song Seung Hun when he was first discharged from the army. Although they’re his friends, when Ji Sung saw them again on set, he felt nervous like he was encountering celebrities for the first time and needed to get their autographs.
Like a typical Korean man, Ji Sung keeps remembering more things he wants to talk about regarding his army duty. Kim Je Dong asks if Ji Sung perhaps wants to redo his military service. Ji Sung: “Ehhh, well, if it’s for the good of the country! (laughs)”
The second segment of the show is about getting to know yourself by how you are portrayed to others.
In this segment, the guest can also have the food of his choice. Ji Sung’s pick – ramen!
When Ji Sung first made his debut in the drama KAIST (1999), he had weighed 85 kg. He believed that a man should have a good physique, but when he actually appeared on TV, he realized that the TV made him look not like someone with a good physique, but just fat.
The next manager he met suggested that Ji Sung do two things: 1) change his name, and 2) lose some weight.
He made his debut using his real name, Kwak Tae Geun, but started using a stage name, Ji Sung. At first, his full stage name was Chae Ji Sung, but they decided to drop the “Chae.”
And as for his weight, he lost 13 kg in 3 weeks by not eating, and just working out. (So unhealthy!) But one day, he was eating a salad and his manager was eating ramen right next to him. After the manager was done eating, there was some soup left and Ji Sung grabbed the bowl to have some of the soup. But before he could have a single sip, the manager smacked the bowl from his hands.
He was so pissed – all he wanted was to try a bite of that ramen! And so he didn’t speak to his manager for the next two days.
Ji Sung laments about the expectation that male leads always have to have a great body with a six-pack abs. So he’s currently filming Protect the Boss, and the character he plays is funny, playful, and cute. He firmly declared to others that for the sake of his character, he refuses to diet for this new role. He smiles like a little boy as he explains that he is eating to his heart’s content these days.
It’s hard for actors not to be concerned about their physique, and it is especially true for Ji Sung because he easily gains weight. He loves ramen, but he is forced to avoid it. As soon as any of his drama ends, he goes right back to eating whatever he wants, such as eating ramen right before going to sleep. It’s his greatest “healing food.”
Ji Sung has his own way of cooking ramen. He mixes ramen from two different brands, one that is spicy and another that is seafood flavored. As he takes a lick of the ramen soup powder, he smiles, “Just the sight of the ramen powder makes me happy.”
And how did his ramen turn out? Oops, he added too much water! The MCs decide to just play along that Ji Sung’s ramen turned out absolutely delicious!
As the MCs eat first, Ji Sung starts getting scared that they’ll finish all the ramen and not leave any for him. He slowly starts to ask, “Why are you eating it all?”
While the guest eats, the hosts read comments left by viewers on reasons why they like or hate Ji Sung. Before they can even start, Ji Sung is already busy taking a bite of the ramen. He wasn’t kidding when he said he loves ramen.
He gets ready to take his second bite, when Kim Je Dong reads the reason why one person said he doesn’t like Ji Sung. “Ji Sung is a good actor, but he doesn’t have many hit movies or dramas.”
Upon hearing the comment, Ji Sung stops eating and says, “Oh, I really can’t swallow the food.” He tries to explain that whatever the ratings may be, all his past works are precious to him. But he admits that as soon as he heard the comment, his brain went, “Huh? I don’t have any hit dramas?”
Ji Sung takes another bite of the ramen, but this time, Han Hye Jin reads a viewer’s comment on why he likes Ji Sung. “Ji Sung changes his image with every new project, so I like that he seems like a quality actor.” Upon hearing this new comment, Ji Sung’s face brightens up and he can’t hide his happiness.
Next is another reason why a different viewer doesn’t like Ji Sung. “Ji Sung has such a pretty face, I don’t like that he looks like a 기생오라비.”* (Note: 기생오라비 is a derogatory way to describe a pretty boy by comparing him to a gisaeng.)
Ji Sung acknowledges that it’s true and that he hears that comment often. He explains that his face perhaps lacks the depth that makes a good actor.
Han Hye Jin reads a compliment this time, as one viewer shares she likes how Ji Sung seems to be a good on-screen kisser.
Ji Sung had a kissing scene in all his past projects, but he was asked to choose the most memorable one. He picks his kiss with Kim Min Jung in New Heart. In the scene, Kim Min Jung’s character was awaiting result from a HIV test and Ji Sung’s character kisses her to show that he won’t avoid her.
Ji Sung says he envies veteran actors who do kissing scenes well because they’re able to convey the subtle feelings of that moment when the characters first realize they’re in love with each other. Even when their eyes meet in the middle of eating ramen…
Personally, he thinks the male actors should show their chiseled jaw in the kissing scenes.
The MCs ask Ji Sung and Han Hye Jin to demonstrate a kissing scene.
Han Hye Jin: With me?
Ji Sung: Then who do I do it with? Do I kiss the air by myself?
And so they demonstrate…
They’re eating ramen, and their eyes meet. He grabs the back of her neck and approaches her for a kiss, never forgetting to position his jaw to face the camera.
Still another viewer shares that she likes how Ji Sung’s smile makes her heart flutter.
The hosts ask him to demonstrate such a smile.
And afterwards, this is his reaction to himself.
Han Hye Jin says that Ji Sung seems like the type who would have a lot of aegyo (act cute) in front of his girlfriend. Ji Sung acknowledges that he does. For example, he puffs air into his cheeks.
Another viewer says Ji Sung seems like he’d sing to his girlfriend over the phone. Ji Sung again acknowledges that he does at night before going to bed. At first, he sang passionately, but he later started to think that singing thus might not sound too good over the phone. So instead, he changed his tactic and started singing more softly when singing to her over the phone.
Any special events he did for his girlfriend?
On his girlfriend’s birthday, he set off fireworks in front of her house so that she could see them from her balcony. He worked on it with his manager, but it was difficult because they had to make sure to get it done before it was too late lest they receive complaints from the neighbors.
He said his girlfriend was touched as she watched the two men run away after the fireworks went off, in fear that the police would arrive.
Another viewer shares that she doesn’t like Ji Sung’s stage name. That, in addition to Lee Kyung Kyu’s earlier comment that the name “Ji Sung” sounds countrified, makes Ji Sung wonder whether he should change his stage name again.
Night has arrived. They begin with Ji Sung singing, and when he’s done, a herd of ducks passes by. Ji Sung jokes that he’s close to ducks and growing up, his nickname was “Duck” because of his name KWAK Tae Geun. Kwak, quack, kwak, quack…
Ji Sung’s original dream was to be a baseball player. In order to be a baseball player, he needed to transfer to a school with a baseball team. He gathered his courage to tell his dad that he wanted to be a baseball player.
His dad, who wanted his son to become a teacher, dropped what he was doing and hit Ji Sung. Since then, he never shared with his dad about his dream and gave up on being a baseball player out of fear for his dad.
In his sophomore year of high school, his father bought him a VCR. The first movie Ji Sung rented was Rain Man. Watching Dustin Hoffman play an autistic man, Ji Sung at first thought Dustin Hoffman truly had autism. When he learned that it was pure acting, it left such a big impression on him that he decided he wanted to become an actor as well.
Ji Sung applied to become a theater major in college, while lying to his dad that he was applying for economic or political science major. However, he ended up failing all his college admissions.
One day, his uncle decided to give him a hand and introduced him to a drama producer for MBC. Ji Sung thought this would be his big break, but when he went to see the producer, he just simply wished him good luck and told him to work hard.
The producer told Ji Sung to let him know if he could be of help, and Ji Sung made one request – to help him gain access to the broadcasting station. The drama department office was on the third floor of the building, and at the entrance, they used to lay out all the different drama scripts for the managers and actors to pick up. Ji Sung used to steal each of the script and sneak into the filming set. In the dark, he secretly watched the actors as they acted, comparing their acting to what was written in the script.
Back then, he just had blind faith that he would be joining them one day. His dream was not to become a star, but he just simply wanted to act. Just watching the actors as they act brought him great happiness.
One day he was watching the first episode of KAIST on TV, and he decided that that’s the drama he wants to be in. He watched as the ending credit rolled by, and took note of the name of the drama’s production company.
Ji Sung called 411 and found out their phone number. When a secretary picked up his call, he asked her what he needed to do to be in the drama. She laughed, but told him that they will be holding an audition for a character that will be making a short appearance in a later episode and told him to stop by if he was interested.
When he went to the audition, everyone else who was auditioning were people he saw on TV. He felt discouraged, and considered just going back home. But there, he met the famous scriptwriter, Song Ji Na (Story of a Man, Legend, KAIST, Sandglass). He bravely told her that he would like to be in the drama as a new character and even suggested one for her.
Scriptwriter Song took interest in Ji Sung and actually did create a new character designed for him. Ji Sung finally made his acting debut.
His next big opportunity came with All In. He heard a rumor that they were having a difficult time casting for the second male lead. Many actors did not want to act alongside Lee Byun Hun, afraid that they would be compared.
So once again, Ji Sung went to the production company himself. The director asked him what he was doing here. Ji Sung replied that he really wanted the role. The director looked hard at him, and finally replied, “Okay, it’s yours.” The rest of the production crew, including the assistant directors, expressed shock, wondering why they waited this long only to cast someone like him. The director of All In later revealed that he decided to give Ji Sung the role because he appeared manly.
Ji Sung believes that when you want something, you must go for it yourself. Opportunities don’t come by just by waiting around.
Screenwriter Song Ji Na was the person who helped Ji Sung have more confidence in his looks. He used to hate his square jaw, but she was the one who told him that she likes his jaw.
When starting out, new actors get severely scolded for poor acting. Ji Sung was no different. He was so stiff acting out his role in KAIST that the assistant director had to stop him to ask what he was doing. Ji Sung replied, “Acting?”
Eventually, he had to do 10 takes over and over again for the same scene. The camera director and the rest of the crew got angry. Ji Sung even heard someone say, “Who casted him?” They all decided to take a 10 minute break and left the set. The lights turned off, and he sat alone in the dark.
A costar, Kim Jung Hyun (King Gwanggaeto the Great, Giant), came over and consoled him that it’s okay. But at that, tears started to stream down Ji Sung’s eyes.
He ran to the bathroom to cry. But he couldn’t cry freely because he was afraid that the tears would stain his face, and he would anger the makeup artist if he had to ask her to redo his face. Instead, Ji Sung held on to the toilet and positioned his face to face down so that the tears would drip down vertically.
Han Hye Jin agrees, and explains that when she’s having a hard time and need to cry, she also does the same thing.
Kim Je Dong can’t hide his fascination at this strange world of actors.
Ji Sung shares his story of when he first hosted the live music show program, Music Camp. Because of the loud audience, he couldn’t hear anything of what his co-host was saying or even his own voice. His hands were shaking while holding the microphone.
At the end, he announced the first place winner for the week. It was finally time for the hosts to saying their closing statements, and as he waved goodbye, he realized that the winner’s trophy was still in his hands. It turned out that he forgot to give the trophy to the winner.
As for his father, Ji Sung had still kept it a secret from him that he became an actor. One day his dad called and asked if he was on TV. Ji Sung lied and told him no. But about two weeks later, his dad saw with his own eyes his son on TV and called again. He was enraged, and threatened to come to the TV station himself to come get his son.
The next day, Ji Sung warned the assistant director that his dad may come over and cause havoc. But his dad did not end up showing up.
Ji Sung’s father finally accepted his son’s career when Ji Sung got a leading role.
Now his dad is so proud of him, and when they go out in the public together, he likes to point to Ji Sung and ask others, “Don’t you know him?” And when others recognize him, his dad smiles pleased.
One day when Ji Sung went back to his hometown, his dad had him come to the school where he was a principal at, cancelled classes, and had Ji Sung sign autographs for all 1000 students at the school.
His parents went though a very difficult divorce when Ji Sung was 20 years old. But whereas he ran away from it all when he left home for college, his sister had to bear the brunt of watching their parents divorce. Even now, he feels guilty towards his sister in this aspect. He hated that his entire family had to split like this, and so his unmarried younger sister currently lives with him.
The final segment of the show is where the guest receives a letter from a mysterious person.
Ji Sung’s letter was from his mother. She writes to her son about how proud and thankful she is for him. And then he pauses and laughs as he reads, “Oh right. You often complain about your height, but you’re still taller than some of my favorite actors, including Kimura Takuya and Yamada Takayuki. Being short doesn’t mean that your acting falls short. Even if you’re not tall like a giant, Ji Sung, you’re perfectly handsome.”
And then Ji Sung pauses again seeing what his mom writes next and exclaims, “Mother!”
She writes, “Can’t you do something about that cigarette?” She continues, “I trust that you’ll quit before long.”
Once done reading, Ji Sung says there truly is no gift greater than a letter. But why did she have to bring up about his height in the letter?!
The MCs confess that they’ve been completely taken in by Ji Sung’s charm and frankness during this interview. And well, I was too.