By Lee Hyo-won
Actor Ko Soo
returns to the screen after a five-year hiatus in the melodramatic thriller "Baekyahaeng" ("White Night
") opposite top stars Son Ye-jin
and Han Seok-Kyu
"I suppose it was a short yet long period of time", said Ko about being off the public radar during a promotional event for the movie in Seoul, Wednesday, before its release in theaters next month. The 31-year-old, who had been a sweetheart among fans for popular TV soap roles ("Green Rose
", SBS 2005), appeared in the play "The Return of Mr. Um" after completing his two-year mandatory military service.
"I read the script for `White Night
' and was completely absorbed by the intriguing storyline", he said.
The film, based on the best-selling Japanese mystery novel of the same name ("Byakuyako" in Japanese) by Keigo Higashino, begins with a murder. When a man is brutally killed not long after being released from prison, detective Dong-su (Han) looks back into a homicide case that occurred 14 years ago and immediately senses that the murder victim's son (Ko) is involved with the recent killing.
Meanwhile, Si-yeong (Lee Min-jeong
), assistant to a young chaebol head, is asked to do a background check on her boss' fianc?e Mi-ho (Son) who seems too perfect to be true. Mi-ho's mother had been the prime suspect in the case 14 years ago, and Si-yeong soon notices a mysterious man (Ko) who lingers by Mi-ho's side like a shadow.
Newcomer director Park Shin-woo
said that he was deeply impressed by the original Japanese novel and was inspired to write the script. "I sent a copy of the script to the author and he said it was well adapted for a movie, that it was superb. This was very encouraging for a first time filmmaker", he said.
Putting together such an impressive cast was exciting, said Park. The director revealed that he was actually study buddies with Son back in Daegu.
"We hung out as part of a high school study group and we all went to eat rice cakes afterward. The director was more like a talkative older sister than a brother", said the 27-year-old actress, adding that she was surprised to reunite with him 10 years later.
"Son was like a younger sister and I never imagined she'd become an actress. She was very quiet back then. I've seen her onscreen and thought she was very talented because she pulled off characters that were so different from how she was like in real person", said the director.
Son was the only actress to be offered the part. "It is extremely flattering to be the only one considered. The project is like destiny for me", she said.
Han, on the other hand, said he initially turned down the role of the detective. The 44-year-old did not feel confident about having to pull off a 50-year-old.
"I wished I would have been 10 years older, so I refused the part. But the director wrote me a handwritten letter explaining why he had to use me for the partů When I met him I was convinced by his sincerity, and I thought perhaps I wasn't challenging myself enough as an actor", said Han.
The movie was much-talked about in the local film industry even before the star-studded cast was finalized. For the first time in South Korea, animatics were employed in the pre-production process. A "rough draft" of the film was made through a two-hour long, computer graphics and animation-rendered images.
The project is also attracting attention for being produced by director Kang Woo-seok
("Public Enemy Returns"
"Frankly I'm not a big fan of works based on Japanese comic books or novels. But I read this story and thought the cultural values and sentiments were very relatable", said Kang. "I've never held a promotional press event for own directorial pieces but I came here because I really believe in this project and our young director who helmed it.
"It's meaningful that we are adapting a bestselling Japanese novel here in Korea before Japan, and I hope that fans of the novel in Japan will enjoy the movie version. I also hope this will revitalize hallyu (Korean wave) content", he said.