Joo Ji Hoon : The prince is a part of him

The prince is a part of him Korean heart-throb Joo Jin Hoon had to work hard to fit the role of a brooding crown prince in Princess Hours. Now, he finds the character hard to shake off HIS friends call him Black Hole, or ‘beul raek hol’ in Korean. It’s an odd nickname for a heart-throb. But what it really refers to is the bottomless pit of adoration into which all the girls fall after watching him. Since starring as a brooding Korean crown prince in the mega popular manga-adapted drama Princess Hours in January, Joo Ji Hoon has been the object of endless swooning in Asia. It’s not only teenage girls who scream at his public appearances, but their mothers and aunties too. But fans of the manga had protested when his name was first announced for the role late last year. Their reason: He was an unknown actor. Although he was a top-rated fashion model for two years, Ji Hoon, 24, had not earned any acting chops or taken up any leading role. But director Hwang In Roi argued that he has a ‘reserved, elegant, pure’ charisma that is suitable for the role of a crown prince who marries a high school girl (Yoon Eun Hye). Still, a leading role is no easy task for a rookie. But Ji Hoon worked hard to polish his acting skills. He was apparently working under so much pressure that he had nightmares every day. He even gained 8kg in a month because ‘everyone at the audition said I look too model-like’. The 1.87m-tall chap was later asked by the director to lose 5kg till he dropped to 72kg. Filming was tough and he got scolded a lot. But ‘with hardship also came joy and happiness’, he admitted. In fact, he was so immersed in his character that he was unable to take himself out of it even after filming ended. He told The Chosun Ilbo in April: ‘I don’t know when it started, but I haven’t been able to tell whether I’m Shin (the crown prince) or Joo Ji Hoon. ‘I’ve said during interviews before the filming started that our personalities are very different; I’m more cheerful and jolly. ‘But after filming ended, I was still inside Shin’s character… I felt terrible, but it’s not something you can shake off so easily.’ Perhaps that would explain why Ji Hoon vanished after filming wrapped up – to rediscover himself. Despite being bombarded with over 20 new scripts, he committed only to endorsement deals and fashion magazine spreads. Last month when he finally re-emerged – from his own black hole, maybe – to shoot a biscuit commercial, fans and media alike went amok. HOTTEST NEWBIE After all, he is arguably the hottest newbie in Korea this year, alongside the androgynous Lee Joon Ki (King And The Clown). But with fame and fortune comes media scrutiny. Ji Hoon was romantically linked with his Princess Hours co-star Eun Hye, especially after they flew to Bali to shoot a commercial. Both have denied the rumours, citing the ‘just-friends’ excuse. Pictures of Ji Hoon’s ex-girlfriend also surfaced on the Internet, together with talk that he was so heartbroken after their break up, he drank himself into a stupor every night. The affable actor later confirmed the story during a TV programme, adding that they dated for three years before splitting in 2003. To ‘forget the pain’, he would drink three to five bottles of shoju every night, he said. He has been single since. All this is thanks to his captivating alter ego, Shin. ‘Shin is a part of my life, and even though he will soon become something of the past, he did turn a new chapter in my life. I’m lucky to have met him.’ On his sudden rise to fame, Ji Hoon said everything felt ‘miraculous’ but he has yet to come to terms with it. ‘The only difference between now and then is that when I type my name on the Internet, I’d find many reports about me.’ Apparently, his parents are pleased to see him progress from catwalk to television. ‘When I was modelling, my parents would worry about me because they didn’t know what I was doing. ‘Now, they can see me on TV and they’d rave about me to our neighbours. They’ve become happier, and I feel like I’ve done my part as a son.’ But, as an actor, the humble Ji Hoon admitted he still has a long way to go. ‘This drama did not receive rave reviews because I acted well in it. But I will continue to work hard, hoping that one day I will earn praise (so) that it’s my acting that brings success to a piece of work.’

First flak, then rave reviews WHEN it debuted in Korea, Princess Hours attracted plenty of flak for its inexperienced main cast of two singers and a model. But soon detractors became fans of the fairytale romantic comedy set in a fictional royal family. Ex-model Joo Ji Hoon plays crown prince Shin, who marries a feisty girl from his high school (former Baby Vox member Yoon Eun Hye) because of a pact made by their grandfathers. Kim Jung Hoon of boy band UN enters the picture as Shin’s cousin who aims to snatch the throne, while Song Ji Hyo, who made her mark in the horror flick Wishing Stairs, plays Shin’s jealous ex-girlfriend. The love story sent ratings soaring above 30 per cent in Korea, and a sequel featuring a whole new cast is being planned for early next year. In Singapore, a staggering 25,000 copies of the VCD and DVD have been sold in two months, said its distributor, Innoform Media. It will debut tonight at 7pm on Channel U. A big fan of the serial is student Joey Fung, 20, who has watched it more than 10 times. ‘Everything is just perfect – the love story, the brightly-coloured costumes and the beautiful backdrop. ‘It’s not like the typical Korean melodrama, you won’t cry but you’d laugh yourself silly.’ Added operations manager Tan Wei Wei, 31: ‘I’m charmed by Joo Ji Hoon’s character. He’s so reserved and yet so mature, and he has flamingo legs that are prettier than a woman’s legs. ‘I love the scene in which she loses her shoe and he puts it back on for her. It’s so Cinderella!’ Given the overwhelming success, the drama’s four lead actors also became hot favourites with advertisers and producers. Cutesy Eun Hye, 22, who earned praise for her bubbly portrayal of the reluctant princess, quickly accepted a new role as a city babe who is forced to live in the countryside. However, the drama, Man In The Vineyard, failed to hit high ratings. Ji Hyo, 25, sparked a debate recently when she joined the cast of the top-rated period drama, Ju Mong, playing the titular warrior’s first wife. GOOD IN PERIOD COSTUMES Some criticised her unconvincing acting, while others commented that she looked good in period costumes. Meanwhile, boyish Jung Hoon, 26, has released a solo album and visited Japan, China and Taiwan to promote Princess Hours. He seems to be the most keen to break into the regional market – to the point of learning both Japanese and Mandarin. During a recent interview with China Entertainment Television, he shared anecdotes about himself and his three co-stars. He said Ji Hoon was the NG (no good take) king, while Eun Hye would always trip over things, and Ji Hyo was the vainest of them all. As for himself, Jung Hoon revealed that he loved steamboat and had a bad habit of biting his fingernails. And his first love happened in 1997, when he was in high school. ‘Since then, I’ve never met another girl whom I like so much.’

This entry was posted in Korea. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *