Actor Lee Joon-ki
possesses a mysterious charm that makes it hard to know whether to describe him as an innocent boy or an enchanting temptress.
Such a unique quality landed the 25-year-old actor two diverse roles - a beautiful Joseon Dynasty clown in the movie "The King and the Clown
" and an incorrigible playboy in the SBS primetime drama "My Girl".
Although he is now regarded as a powerful rising star amid the success of the movie and the drama, Lee is still reluctant to allow himself the title of "actor".
"I am afraid to recklessly describe myself as an actor, as acting is something that I still need to completely master", Lee said in a recent interview with a monthly movie magazine. "I'm happy enough that people are beginning to acknowledge me as a new face with potential".
Despite his modesty, Lee has been enthusiastically praised for his acting in both roles and is now considered to be a promising actor. In "The King and the Clown
", which swept up more than 1 million viewers within its first week of release, Lee succeeds in bringing out sexual ambiguity in the role of a beautiful yet sorrowful clown.
Based on an acclaimed play titled "Yi", the film deals with the historical story of Yeonsan, a tyrant king of the Joseon Dynasty, his favorite court jester Gong-gil played by Lee, and the clown leader Jang-seong played by actor Gam Woo-sung.
As the film contains many scenes with a variety of traditional performances from street opera to the acrobatic, rope and mask dances performed by clowns, Lee had to train for several months.
"The role is not simply of a man with feminine characteristics, so I strived to let the opposites coexist in the character", Lee said at the preview of the movie last month.
Clown Gong-gil is a peculiar character who does not reveal his ambitions or feelings like other characters in the movie who fill the screen with their complicated desires.
Movie critics say that Lee gave viewers room to breathe and think for themselves while the story of the other characters unfolds rapidly, as he excellently turned Gong-gil into a mysterious and gentle character.
"I was so deeply absorbed in the character that I lived as Gong-gil the whole time", Lee said. "I feel as though I learned about the meaning of life through him".
However absorbed in the character he was, Lee suddenly turned into a completely different character of an irritable playboy in the drama "My Girl", which currently enjoys a viewer rating of over 20 percent.
He plays Jeong-woo, a playboy who rarely gives his heart to women, but falls hopelessly in love with the heroine who happens to be attracted to his best friend.
Amid the tangled romance, Lee turns Jeong-woo into an attractive romanticist with his trademark woeful eyes.
Such acting skill has developed since he began to dream of becoming an actor when he was in high school.
Rebelling against his parents who were opposed to their son taking a "fickle" career, Lee left his home in Busan after graduating high school and moved to Seoul.
Realizing that he needed proper lessons to grasp acting, Lee worked more than 10 hours a day taking various part-time jobs, to earn the tuition fees for the Seoul Institute of Arts where he majored in filmmaking.
Lee appeared in a TV commercial in 2001, and began his acting career through the movie "Hotel Venus (2004)", a Korean and Japanese joint production.
With his heart set on the sole goal of becoming a "real actor", Lee is expected to become one of the biggest breakthrough stars this year.
The year 2006 - the year of dog according to the Chinese zodiac - has a special meaning for the ambitious actor who happened to be born in 1982, also the year of dog.
But hard work remains ahead as Lee must broaden the scope of his acting and Break Out
of his current effeminate image.
By Shin Hae-in