Q. You’ve defined yourself before as being “between boy and man, neither a child nor a man.” How about now? Do you think that’s where you’re still at? I’m asking because you say that being vague is dangerous.
Kim: Oh, but at the same time I like vagueness. Rather than someone telling me, ‘This guy does this, he’s this age, and his family is rich,’ I much prefer and enjoy hearing, ‘What color is this?’ And me right now… I think I’m furthering away from being a boy. (Touches his chin) I even have a beard like this…
Q. When do you feel like you’re a man (adult) versus a boy (child)?
Kim: It’s more about how I see it rather than feel it because I get my photos taken, right? Whether they’re for interviews or editorials. And when I see through those photos that my face is different, that the contour of my face has changed, that’s when I think I’ve grown. Those photos just somehow make me sad.
Q. Oh no, why? The fact that your face has a more defined contour probably means that you will look like you have more authority and weight.
Kim: Because I still look so different this year compared to last year. (Laughs) But I’m not necessarily that scared of changing, just a bit sad. It’s not like I can do anything about it. And I’m more curious about it these days. What I’d look like when I’m 30.
Q. For you, what would the rite of passage be to becoming a man?
Kim: Hmm… what is there. My eyes? This is my goal as well but I’d like to be able to play with my eyes by learning to control them at my will. And it doesn’t matter whether my scene partner is a man or woman. I’d just like to be able to control distance with my eyes. To draw in and push out the other person. I think people will call me a real man once I figure out how to do this.
Q. Who do you think has such eyes?
Kim: There’s a very strong ‘male’ energy that comes from actor Ha Jung-woo’s eyes. It’s something I don’t have, sort of a macho energy? His eyes are full of something that comes from that power. A power that will sort of push you out if you try to get in, that is telling you that you shouldn’t enter, and if you do, that something might really go wrong. But I think it’s the reason people sometimes call him sexy. For me though, should I say that I want to be able to draw in people? Eyes that say, “Come within my range! Come!”
Q. In the movie, you wrote with your left hand. And you’re actually left-handed too. There are different scientific opinions on this but it is said that the right side of the brains of left-handed people are more developed, so they are more creative. Do you think you’re creative?
Kim: If acting counted for creativity, I’d say that I’m not without it. When it came to reenacting my character that was originally just expressed in cuts within the cartoon, or producing the stupidly-naive image, or deciding how I’ll act based on the movement of other actors… I’d say that my creativity came out a bit in those aspects.
Q. Okay, this is a completely different question but what did you spend your money on recently that was for yourself?
Kim: Money for myself? Hmm, the group dinner for “Secretly Greatly?”
Q. That doesn’t count, that’s spending for others.
Kim: No, it ultimately comes back to me. Because people will say, “Hey, Soo-hyun bought the dinner!” (Laughs)
Q. Not like that. You know, the typical items that guys in their twenties want. I’m sure everybody has one, but you don’t?
Kim: Oh, a badminton bag! I bought a badminton bag recently. Because I wanted to be able to carry around a lot of rackets. But other than that…
PR agency rep: (After listening in) You can guess from that… how busy he is right now because of us. Sorry, Soo-hyun.
Kim: No! I didn’t mean it in that way at all. (Laughs)
Q. You said you let out a lot of feelings you have inside you through acting but how about in daily life?
Kim: By hanging out with my energetic friends from school. We get done with classes around six. So we’ll eat and go to the bowling alley. And we play quite a lot of games. To the point that we’ll start saying, ‘My ball isn’t rolling well anymore.’ And after that comes badminton. I hang out with friends that can play both bowling and badminton so I guess I have an ordinary yet loud school life.
Q. In a way, that’s the hidden side to you. What do you think you’re like when you’re with friends?
Kim: Because I’m amongst mischievous people, I become mischievous too. I’m completely myself.
Q. So you’re not conscious of the fact that you’re ‘actor Kim Soo-hyun’ when you’re with your friends?
Kim: Not really. I am more when I’m alone because I need to defend myself but when I go to school, that attention I pay to myself naturally moves over to my friends. And I rather worry what to do if someone somehow took a photo of me with my friends and it went up on the Internet. I’m okay with it but they might not be. I don’t want them to leave me because it becomes uncomfortable to hang out with me so I think I actually worry about that more. (Laughs)
Q. What are your thoughts on loyalty? The friendship amongst guys stands out in “Secretly Greatly.”
Kim: When I went back to school this time around, a friend of mine who is my age and in my class, went back to school as well. So we were having a drink one day and talking about this and that when he suddenly said, “Thanks for coming by when my grandmother passed away.” And this was from a long time ago, when we were freshmen, and I went to his grandmother’s funeral hall. It wasn’t even a big deal yet it felt weird to hear him thank me for it. And then I wondered when the last time was that I’d heard someone thank me. I don’t know if this is the answer you were looking for, but this is what I think. That loyalty isn’t always about the grand things but also about the small emotions that it wakes up inside you. That those types of feelings are part of loyalty as well. That’s what I think.
Q. By the way, do you always talk to people in such a formal manner? [Throughout the interview, Kim used a higher honorific form of Korean.]
Kim: I sort of do. (Laughs) And because I talk formally, it takes some time for me to become close to actors that are more senior than me. I think it makes it hard for them to feel at ease with me. (Laughs)
Q. Is it because you’re shy?
Kim: I think I instinctively feel that it’s more ‘stable.’
Q. That too may be an aspect of how you’re shielding yourself.
Kim: It could be. And I think it’ll take some more time for me to let down that shield completely. It’s something that I’ll have to work on.
Reporter. Jung Si Woo firstname.lastname@example.org
Photographer. Chae Ki Won email@example.com
Translator. Jessica Kim
Editor. Hong Ji You firstname.lastname@example.org