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Jung Woo-sung strives to act 'like water' in historical drama, 12.12: THE DAY

Nov 22, 2023
  • Source by Yonhap
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"I just tried to fully depict a man who stays true to himself"


At first, Jung Woo-sung hesitated to take on the role of Lee Tae-shin, a man of principle who risks everything to stand up against a military coup in the new historical drama "12.12: The Day."


The character was only partially inspired by a real-life military officer, and the actor thought the setup could confuse moviegoers who are well aware of what happened on the fateful day.


"I was at a loss in the beginning, as I didn't know how to flesh out the fictional character who squares up against a real person," Jung said during an interview with a group of reporters in Seoul on Tuesday.


The film, set to premiere Wednesday, revisits the fateful nine hours of a military coup on Dec. 12, 1979, that plunged South Korea's already chaotic political situation into further disarray.


During the hours, a gang of military figures, led by Chun Doo-kwang (Hwang Jung-min), stages a military coup to gain control of the Army amid a political vacuum following the assassination of military dictator Park Chung-hee and the subsequent imposition of martial law.



Actor Jung Woo-sung is seen in this photo provided by Plus M Entertainment on Nov. 21, 2023. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap) 



Jung plays the Capital Defense Commander Lee, who fights almost a lone battle against Chun and incompetent military figures who ignore their duty to the people and follow Chun for personal greed.


"Tae-shin just tries to do his job, which is to protect the nation. But he soon finds himself helpless, with no magical solution for the chaos surrounding him," he said.


"I felt like standing alone in thick fog, looking for a direction," the veteran actor, with more than 40 television and film credits over the past 30 years, said of the challenges on set.


Director Kim Sung-su suggested Jung "act like water" in contrast to the fire-like Doo-kwang character who makes a slew of decisions driven only by greed and a lust for power.


"You know how water is transparent, tranquil and flexible," the actor said. "I tried to portray Tae-shin as a man with a calm and sensible demeanor."



A poster of "12.12: The Day" is seen in this image provided by Plus M Entertainment on Nov. 21, 2023. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap) 



It is Jung's fifth film with director Kim, including his first (and breakout) film "Beat" in 1997 and the second one, "City of the Rising Sun," in 1999, co-starring "Squid Game" star Lee Jung-jae.


"I have a love-and-hate relationship with the director," he said with a laugh, before adding, "He is actually the best director and the best colleague I've worked with who taught me about films and how to work on the set."


The film explores "human nature" through all the chaotic events and is "not about a winner or a loser, as we all know how the story ends," he said.


"I just tried to fully depict a man who stays true to himself and does his best to overcome the obstacles however difficult they might be."




A scene of "12.12: The Day" is seen in this image provided by Plus M Entertainment on Nov. 21, 2023. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap) 



The versatile actor has worked almost non-stop in the past few years, appearing in a number of films and even playing a cameo in some of them.


In July last year, he made his directorial debut with "A Man of Reason," which had its world premiere at the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival.


Although he's been tempted to take a break from his busy schedule, he said being an actor is like walking "on the journey to finding myself," a journey that won't end as long as he lives.


"All the experiences of the past 30 years have made me who I am now," Jung said. "Come to think of it, feeling excited about working on the set has not changed a bit. In that sense, I feel very lucky that I love what I do."

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