There’s a lot of public knowledge about Korean actor Kim Soo-hyun. He is handsome, talented and has a knack for choosing the right roles. What I didn’t expect when I met him, however, was that he would be hilarious, too.
Kim was in the Philippines for his fan meeting on June 10 as the global ambassador of clothing and lifestyle brand Bench. His first agenda was meeting the press at Peninsula Manila the day before. A one-one-one interview was set-up the day
I was initially disoriented when I opened the door of the hotel’s Balagtas Room, because I saw Kim was on his feet, facing the fancy sofa that was set up for him. He gestured that I sit on that sofa instead. He took his seat across from me. It was a very subtle gesture, one so easy to overlook. But it was a moment where the critically acclaimed actor was showing his good manners to a female journalist.
Recording the interview was not allowed, so I took down notes old-school style—with a pen and a notebook. On my second question or so, I noticed that he pulled out the hotel’s stationery and started writing something whenever I turned my head to listen to the translator. Halfway through the interview, he gave me the paper. I looked and saw that he wrote down his name three times. Was he giving me an autograph? I gave him a confused look.
He pointed at my notebook. I looked down and remembered that I wrote down his name at the top of the page in big, bold Hangul (Korean letters). I felt embarrassed. Did I misspell his name? I did not. I looked again and realized that I wrote it carelessly and that my penmanship must have looked horrendous to him.
Perhaps, the paper was his gentle way of reminding me to write more legibly next time? I apologized profusely but he gave me a blank stare. One of his handlers later explained that Kim Soo-hyun was actually just mimicking me. That he was only writing because I was.
I smiled at this and took the paper, tucked it in between the pages of my notebook and told Kim, “I am keeping this!” He laughed.
Relaxed and sincere
The entire interview was like that. He would laugh at my reactions to some of his answers and the inevitable confusions. Read the my interview here.
I asked him, in Korean, to say what he thinks of first when I say certain words. I said, fashion. He quickly answered, “Bench.”
I got momentarily distracted and didn’t understand his answer. So I repeated what I said, and again he answered “Bench.” At this point, my brain cells just decided to stop functioning altogether because I had to ask again.
He blinked multiple times, leaned a little bit so we would be at eye level, before saying, “Bench! Bench! Bench!”
His blinks must have done it because I finally understood his answer. He laughed, as if he physically saw a bulb light up inside my head. The conversation was very short, but it was relaxed. He came off as very sincere.
When the 10-minute interview was over, it was he who reminded everyone that we should take photos. He stood up, went to the photo wall and asked me where I wanted to stand.
I felt comfortable enough to joke with him, “Left or right, as long as it’s by your side.” He laughed.
We took a rapid antigen test 10 minutes before meeting him. But two years of lockdown and social distancing have been ingrained in my system that when I stood to his left, I made sure that there was a separation of 1 meter between us.
Indulging a fangirl
I looked at the camera and smiled, but in the corner of my eye, I saw that he stood still like a statue and was staring at me intently—the kind of stare that would make you fall for him in a split second. I was the object of those beautiful eyes and it hit me like a bull’s eye.
“Why are you looking at me?” I asked. “I am going to die.”
I pretended to faint and fall to the ground. He laughed again and motioned for me to get up. Kim asked if I was keeping the distance because I wanted his name on the photo wall to be seen on camera. He moved closer to me.
I kept my arms in front of me. Proper etiquette with Korean stars dictates that I should not initiate any touching because I might accidentally invade his personal space.
Someone told me to set aside the mask I was holding so we could take the picture again. I did, but when I returned to my spot, Kim immediately placed his arm around my shoulder and pulled me closer.
I couldn’t help but let out a squeal. I felt his body shake with laughter.
Maybe it was just my imagination but I also felt the air from his mouth reach my ears. I know for sure that he was indulging my fan-girl moment.
Somewhere in this world, a series of photos of us together exists. The first one was when I was standing away from him, the next when we were together and finally with his arms around me as he grinned from ear to ear. When the photo session was over, we switched back to serious actor-and-journalist mode. I thanked him, told him that he did a good job, and bid my farewells to everyone, including his assistants, who kept giving me a thumbs-up sign, and the Bench staff.
Someone made a joke while I was on my way out. I turned my head and replied while I continued walking. That’s when I heard Kim’s voice calling after me from the end of the room, “Ap-e, Ap-e!” Which in that situation roughly translates to, “Look in front of you!”
He was concerned that I was going to hit the door because I wasn’t paying attention. It was an “awww” moment that I unconsciously bowed my head to him and said, “Kamsahamnida!”
On television, Kim Soo-hyun is quite the talented actor. You fall in love with the characters he plays, marvel at the sight of his derriere (“One Ordinary Day”) and laugh at the way he showers with a towel around his waist (“My Love from Another Star”). But in person, I found him to be very sweet and caring who looks out for everyone—qualities that make you believe that Kim Soo-hyun is truly a good, good man.