There are many things that you can appreciate about interviewing Hyun Bin via Zoom. For one, you can freely stare hard at him without getting shy about it. It allows you to admire his sharp jawline, his gelled-up crew-cut hair and the generous smile that shows off his dimples.
During Inquirer Lifestyle’s one-on-one with him on June 24, he sat comfortably in his chair, moved closer to the screen to talk, and rested his elbows on the table. He gestured with his hands to explain a point. He sometimes rested his left hand on his neck or touched the collar of his jacket, like he was posing for a photoshoot.
But the most absent-minded gesture that could easily drive a fan crazy was whenever he placed a finger on his lips, drawing attention to his puckers.
This is Hyun Bin, after all: a walking sex object and one-half of the couple credited for the so-called fourth Hallyu wave that reached Western shores. The other half, of course, is his real-life sweetheart Son Ye-jin.
The actor debuted 18 years ago, gaining fans internationally, including in China, Japan and the Philippines. His series “My Lovely Sam Soon” (2005) became so popular here that it was adapted by a local network.
The gender-bending “Secret Garden” (2010) saw a different side to him. Incidentally, Son had a cameo in that series. In “Memories of the Alhambra” (2019), he showed that he is also an action star with sword-fighting skills.
CLOY 'a gift to me'
But “Crash Landing On You” (CLOY) took him to global stardom. He was paired in the series with Son. They previously worked together in the film “The Negotiation” (2018). As Captain Ri Jeong-hyeok, he set high standards for the ideal man. The series also saw the birth of the romance between him and Son.
Hyun Bin told Lifestyle that he considers CLOY a gift to him.
“CLOY was streamed to viewers all over the world almost at the same time, through Netflix, so I was able to meet [global fans] in just a short period of time. This is like a gift to me because people still remember me for it," he said.
"So, for me, it was a piece that made me show my acting and communicate with so many people all at once. Also, I’m very happy that people started to show more interest in K-dramas and contents through CLOY."In a press conference for Bench earlier in the hour, he said that people were attracted to his character because Captain Ri is pure, serious, and knows how to sacrifice for his loved ones.
He added that even though CLOY is over, people are still talking about it. So it’s not a series that he could forget easily, even as he had moved on to other projects.
He added that he cannot name a specific genre he would like to star in in the future. Instead, he looks into the script itself. If the story is good, then he’d love to be part of it.
Virtual fan meet
What we’re sure of about his future is that he will hold a virtual fan meet on July 11, hosted by Bench, on KTX.ph. The show will be 75 minutes long.
In the press conference attended by Ben Chan, chair of lifestyle retailer Bench, Hyun Bin was asked what he liked about the brand. Bench signed him up last year at the height of CLOY's popularity.
“If it weren't for the circumstances right now, I would have been there in the Philippines to say hi in front of my fans," he said. "I would be able to communicate how comfortable and stylish Bench is.”
The actor has a collection of T-shirts and hoodies from the brand. It includes graphic tees that spell out the word “Captain” in Varsity font, a reference to his role in CLOY.
He said that a basic white T-shirt goes well with almost anything, including his preferred denim jeans or slacks. He also offered a hack to transform the t-shirt from casual to a little more formal: just wear a jacket or a blazer over it.
And one knows that he practices what he preaches, because that’s what he wore during the presser. He had a raven-colored shirt under the black jacket. He said that if he wants to elevate a look, he wears a watch and good shoes. "But I don't like anything too extravagant."
The actor looks like he’s growing out the military haircut that he probably had to sport for the second part of his upcoming film, “Confidential Assignment 2: International.” He reprises his role as Im Cheol-ryung, an elite force officer in North Korea.
We asked our questions about the film in English, and when we asked if the first film was shown four years ago, he nodded and responded in English, “four or five years.”
Again, it reminded us that Hyun Bin understands English. His Korean letters to his fans are always mindfully translated to English, as well as Chinese and Japanese.
We asked if being a soldier is a role that he is drawn to since he was an exceptional marine during military service. He smiled, shook his head furiously before replying with a firm “No,” then laughed.
So instead, we asked how it was doing a role he already said goodbye to five years ago.
"It’s been five years since we last shot 'Confidential Assignment,' and we just finished the shooting last week. I don’t think I completely lost the character Cheol-ryung. Considering that I played him for months, and including the preparation time, I spent almost a year as that character," he said. "It’s like the puzzles have been spread out and I have to look back for the pieces and put them together.”
Fans may be familiar with the character, but he said, “I tried to upgrade the character and put more color into him. I think during the press conference of ‘Confidential Assignment 1,’ we jokingly talked about the second season coming out. I never imagined that it would actually happen for real.”
He reunites with Part 1 costars, including Yoo Hae-jin and Im Yoon-ah. He also worked with Daniel Henney, who plays an FBI agent.
“The shooting process was smoother and more fun, as we have already worked together before. With Daniel Henney, we worked together when we were both rookies in 'My Name is Kim Samsoon,'" he said. "Then we continued on our own ways and developed [our skills], and we met again after 16 years. I was very happy and we congratulated each other on how each of us had matured into better people."
The actor has not slowed down despite the pandemic. He flew to Jordan last year to shoot another film, “Point Men.” But we did ask him if there was anything that he did differently because of the pandemic. His answer showed us his discipline.
“I've actually just kept working during the pandemic, I didn’t get to pick up any hobby," he said. "But I went to Jordan for the filming of 'Point Men' and had to undergo a 14-day quarantine twice, both in Jordan and in Korea. So I picked up home training."
Traveling to PH
The actor said that he knows there’s a great future waiting for us after the pandemic. But in the meantime, we should take care of our health and keep eating healthy.
Even though he was able to fly for work, we also asked him where he wanted to go once leisure flights are allowed. He answered quickly and without hesitation.
“Philippines!” He smiled and paused as if to watch the reaction of this writer, Chan, and the other staff present at the interview. When the laughter died down, he explained the reason for his answer.
“So, after finishing shooting for a film or a drama, traveling is my way of relaxing. But I couldn't do that these days. So if I could go anywhere I would like to go to the Philippines. I heard that the Philippines is full of beautiful beaches so I would like to go there and relax and with a free mind," he said.
In the press conference, he did say that he can only relax after shooting and filming, and never before it. His fans have caught wind that he has nothing lined up after “Confidential Assignment 2,” such that they're speculating on wedding plans between him and Son.
It was recently reported that the actor bought a villa worth $4.3 million in Guri, Gyeonggi, a 24-minute drive from Seoul. The province is known for the Hwaseong Fortress.
However, his agency, VAST Entertainment, has denied marriage rumors, and said that the villa is not a “marital home.”
Whatever the future holds for Hyun Bin, he is assured of a strong fan base and support.