I’d already planned how I was going to start my interview with Ji Chang-wook . But as I stood face-to-face with him, I blurted out the first thing that came to mind.
“You are very handsome!” I said in Korean. He laughed and motioned me to sit down.
I let out a deep breath through my mask. He gave me a huge smile and made a gesture with his hands to tell me to calm down. I did. After all, I didn’t have to hurry our conversation.
We were told that we could take our time. Ji lifted the restrictions. He would answer all our pre-approved questions. It felt like winning the interview lottery.
I didn’t have to worry about the back-and-forth translations eating my precious minutes away. This was the first time I encountered a Hallyu celebrity that allowed the interview to take its course naturally.
It was conducted after the press conference at the Rigodon Hall at The Peninsula Manila on Nov. 5. Bench presented the presser and the fan meet, titled “Reach You,” the next day at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The lifestyle brand signed up the Korean actor as ambassador in 2019, but any fan meets had to be placed in the back burner owing to the pandemic.
It seemed natural that Ji wanted to get to know Manila. The same afternoon he arrived here, he went to the Bench Cafe at the Bonifacio Global City to have sisig and ube halo-halo. “Masarap, sobrang masarap,” he said in a vlog played during his fan meet. “I understand why people recommended it.”
As we wrapped up our one-on-one interview, I presented him with two crocheted dolls of Ri Eul, his character in the series “The Sound of Magic.” I told him it was a gift. He inspected them and looked impressed. He asked if I made it.
I said no. And in Korean, I added that it came from Ji Chang-wook Philippines.
“Ah, Philippine fans!” he said, looking pleased. I had mentioned earlier that they are the group of fans that grant wishes of cancer patients in his name. He looked pleased.
We walked back to the conference hall to take our pictures. We had markers on the floor. I was surprised that they were so close. I asked his staff from Glorious Entertainment if this was correct. They nodded. Come picture time, he stood very close next to me, I felt his warmth on my side.
That’s how Ji Chang-wook came off when he was in Manila: warm, sincere, eager to learn about the country where his many fans come from. This was what made him worth the wait.
Which type of role do you prefer to play more? Action or romance?
It’s a case-to-case basis. There are times I want to do action and there are times I want to do romance.
In romantic shows, how do you prepare for kissing scenes?
Since kissing is physical contact, we actually have a thorough discussion with the directors, the writers and my onscreen partner before filming. We do the discussions sensitively and we do it before we film anything.
Which part of your body are you most proud of?
I’m actually proud of my whole body because it’s something my parents gave me.
What is the most touching thing your fans have done for you?
It’s my first time here in Manila and there were already fans greeting me at the airport. It was a very touching moment for me. Even though there’s a great distance [between here and Korea], they keep on cheering me on and giving me love. I think that act of giving love is a very touching thing for me. It is through their love that I was able to come here to the Philippines.
Please describe your idea of a perfect date night.
It has to have a good atmosphere and with a fun, good person, of course.
Is there a specific food you would like to be eating that night?
Of course, food is essential. A good ambience and a good person are the key points for me to call it perfect.
What do you do to cheer yourself up?
I practice mind over matter.
What are the things that you regularly spend your money on?
I spend my money on meals when I eat out with my friends. Also on clothes.
Do you treat your friends often?
It depends. There are a lot of times that I buy for my friends but there are a lot of times that my friends buy for me.
What type of clothes do you usually buy?
I buy different things depending on the season.
It’s been 16 years since you debuted. If you could talk to your 2006 self, what would you tell him?
I would tell myself to cheer up, to trust myself and do what I want to do. Those are the messages that I would tell my 2006 self.
Besides clothing, what is one thing you never forget to pack when you travel?
My camera, perfumes and caps.
What do you like to take pictures of?I like to take pictures of the scenery and the people around me.
You often talk about how you want to stay child-like or act like a child. What child-like qualities do you want to imbibe and why?It’s not the behavior, when I say be child-like. I am referring to the mindset. Let’s not lose the mindset of a child, their purity.
What is the first word you think of when you hear the following:
Because it’s quite difficult for me to do music at work.
Who do you like to listen to for pleasure?
Lee Juck and Baek Ye-rin.
Something I really like.
It’s my first time here but it’s a fun city.