Korea’s young style icon, actor Yoo Ah In
Actor Yoo Ah In + Style
This year, the public’s overflowing fervor for Yoo Ah In was rightly explosive. Every single word of the script he spit out during the drama, the expressions of laughter and tears he showed, and the words he wrote and submitted through his mini-hompy were all captured and actively consumed on the stage of the Internet. What is it about this young man that has captured the attention of so many?
Feature Editor: Lee Ki Won | Fashion Editor: Lee Kwang Hoon
Yoo Ah In was the unique actor in whom the image of youth was vivid. Instead of being dragged by something, it was the feeling that he was saying even if he takes a bit of a circuitous route, he wants to find his own road. During one of this year’s top dramas, <Sungkyunkwan Scandal>, this image ascended to its summit. Yoo Ah In’s role of ‘Guh-roh’ was a paradoxical character who earned authority the more he threw it away. In reality, Yoo Ah In is not very different.
Though he is an actor, he communicates directly through personal media, and he actively converses with the general public through his Twitter and mini-hompy. Rather than shutting himself inside the glass room of celebrity, he breaks that mold and directly converses with his fans and influences them, too. It is a presence that was never seen from the ghostly existence of stars of the past. If the word “style” may, beyond its trivial meaning of wearing clothes well, be used also to describe the influential power of leading trends, then this man is definitely a style icon of the new generation. Though it is hard to believe, Yoo Ah In has only just passed the middle point of his 20s. It has been quite a long time since we have been this curious about an actor’s future.
Q. It’s like you’ve become a star overnight. What does it feel like?
YAI: I know what a star is. But I have tried to rise above the word of popularity, and to be honest, because I have detached myself from it, I feel extremely awkward when I hear things like that. It’s also interesting because I’ve realized that the thing I tried to keep at such a distance was something I need for my work. I don’t think of myself as a star, yet. I simply know very well where I am, and where I must go.
Q. What has changed the most in the last few years?
YAI: My past self was severely obsessive-compulsive, and I shut myself up inside a hard shell. But when I think about it now, I think that was a time I very much needed. Now I’ve become much more flexible. But it is still hard to wear the same clothes and speak the same way and put on the same pose [that I do normally] when I’m in front of the camera.
Q. Are you someone who can’t be fake on broadcasts?
YAI: Of course I can act like a sly fox, but wouldn’t that be so uninteresting? I’m also a member of the general public, and when I see something like that I get so fed up with it.
Q. Unlike other stars, you don’t seem like you’re hanging up in the air. It feels like one of your feet is firmly planted on the ground. Nor does it feel like you are normally too worried about protecting your image.
YAI: I think a great deal about my image. Having said that, I’m not in constant fear over making small mistakes. I think about the very large image that the name Yoo Ah In could elicit. I want to form a very large and free image. I think it’s possible if I keep a true heart and don’t act stupidly.
Q. I feel like your way of strongly throwing out words might often cause you to be misunderstood.
YAI: I have been misunderstood for a long time now, and it’s still happening. (Laughter) It’s the lot of all individuals to see just a part of someone, judge it, and label it, so I don’t pay attention to whether or not they do that to me. Because all of the people who are showing me love now misunderstood me at first. (Laughter)
Q. The first word that comes to people’s minds when describing you has quickly become ‘youth.’
YAI: I had vaguely thought that when I reached about twenty-five years old it would be nice if I had that kind of image, and now that I think it has, I’m happy. Now I want to play a bit freely within that. Because to get to this point. Wasn’t easy.
Q. You use literary language. And you are picky about word choice. It seems that you want to express your thoughts very precisely.
YAI: That’s right. It’s extremely important to use precise vocabulary. Even when you’re saying the same thing in a different way, each word has its own nuance. I really hate it when I definitely said something one way, but it’s printed in different words with the same meaning. Words are used to transmit information, but they can also draw a kind of a picture. What I’m saying is that word choice alone can completely change the image of the conversation. So I become even more careful when I do interviews.
Q. It seems like your personality is one that can’t leave yourself alone.
YAI: I had this thought yesterday. After finishing the project I was resting for the first time in a long while, but I couldn’t stand it. After resting for about two weeks, the time I stayed in the house seemed so lonely. After thinking about it, it was during times I was in an uncomfortable state that I kept pushing myself out from the inside. I couldn’t stand being so comfortable. Honestly, rather than a state of happiness, I would rather be in a state that seeks peace and happiness. When happiness actually comes and finds me, I can’t endure it.
Q. What kind of person grabs your interest?
YAI: Someone who has a great deal of their own, but someone who isn’t constrained by that. Those kinds of people become my friends. I have a lot of older friends around me, but if someone is too uptight, they won’t be able to understand my cockiness. They need to be open-minded. I’m truly happy because I have friends like that.
Q. Sometimes it seems like you are excessively confident, and sometimes it seems like you want to run away somewhere.
YAI: It’s true that I have confidence to the point of being rude. I very realistically think that I could die tomorrow, or I could be ruined. So if I have the thought that I have to do this now, today, then whatever beginnings come my way, I think I can do it confidently. Literally, I am prepared to die. I don’t like feeling afraid of the things I have to do today because I’m thinking about the enormous future. Thinking of this moment as security against future or past traps is…stupid, I think.
Q. There are actors to whom interviews can be harmful, but I think that’s particularly true for you.
YAI: Interviews can also be used for image making. But when I meet people who seriously write down every word I say, I gain strength.
Q. It seems like you’re saying, take a proper look at who I really am.
YAI: Exactly. Actors are always seen with one eye covered. The appearance that the general public sees cannot help but be packaged. If it’s inevitable, then I think it would be good if that packaging was very transparent. So that the inside material can be shown clearly, but as coolly and beautifully as possible.
Q. Does it have to be beautiful and cool?
YAI: Of course. A while ago, someone asked me this. ‘Why do you try to act cool?’ So I answered, ‘I have to, so that you can see me.’
Q. Aren’t you afraid of revealing too much of yourself? If you reveal the floor [T/N: as in, everything of himself], the public will turn their backs to you very quickly.
YAI: It’s true that I worry a bit about that. But if we’re talking about my state right now, I still have a great deal of things to show. (Laughter) Of course, I know well where my own floor is, so at some point I suppose I will become uneasy. But if the floor is revealed, then I will again start digging like crazy. I can broaden it. Because that’s the only way to continue growing.
After the interview, I said this to Yoo Ah In. That it would have been much better if I could have interviewed him not as a winner of the A-Awards, but just as an actor, that it was regretful. I meant it genuinely. I don’t think Yoo Ah In is so good-looking you’ll faint, or that he’s an actor who acts well. I simply think that he is capable of becoming a completely new mold of actor. Yoo Ah In does not leave himself alone. He continually searches deeper within himself, and bothers himself. Rather than worrying about tomorrow, he worries about how to make the present moment catch fire completely. This is the reason why the word ‘youth’ is supremely suited to him. Yoo Ah In may indeed be the kind of person who can never become what we so easily call an ‘adult.’ That’s why I’m happy.
In 2003, he debuted through <Banolim>, which was a youth drama that was a cradle for many future stars. From those days, he received attention for his already-clear facial angles and the challenging character he played. Despite his delicate looks at the time, his self-awareness shone strongly, and it seemed that if he was provoked the wrong way, he would suddenly explode. The unique instability you can only have in youth is the biggest reason Yoo Ah In’s existence could be differentiated from the endless numbers of kkotminams. Following this, he gradually made his face known by coming and going in the movies <Boys of Tomorrow> and <Antique>, as well as dramas <Strongest Chilwoo> and <April Kiss>, and in 2010 he took on the role of ‘Guh-roh’ in <Sungkyunkwan Scandal> and has become a top star who is true to the name.
3 To actor Yoo Ah In, who has only just undergone his coming-of-age day, the awards ceremonies must have seemed novel; with an excited expression, he craned his neck this way and that.
The (women’s) screams, which had suddenly become many times stronger, accompanied Yoo Ah In as he energetically hopped onto the stage. Yoo Ah In’s way of speaking is to bluntly mix informal speech even when talking to a person he met for the first time. But strangely, it doesn’t feel arrogant or cocky at all. It is certain that I am not the only one who is deeply curious to see how the strange mixture of confidence, curiosity, and a posture that is opened to the world will turn out.
Whatever your personal opinions on <Sungkyunkwan Scandal>, one of the biggest dramas of 2010, there probably be no disagreement that young actor Yoo Ah In has emerged as a new style of leader in the Republic of Korea.
Sources: DC Inside (One | Two) (I had to make the scans much, much smaller in order to make them fit the dimensions of our page, so if you want HQ pictures make sure to click on the source links!!)
Translated by jaeshinah