Seo In Guk is returning to the small screen this June with his upcoming OCN drama Squad 38, where he plays a conman who assists the police in catching errant taxpayers. It is hence befitting that this interview — though published way back in January — was written along the theme of “naughtiness”. Looking forward to seeing him channel his inner bad boy on OCN!
Oh! My Last Pinup Boy
29-year-old Seo In Guk has a face of innocence that is still very suitable for uniforms. Since the time he drew warm response from the audience through “Superstar K” in 2009, he is cute like a mischievous boy with his unchanging cynicism and his eyes, nose and mouth that wrinkle up when he smiles. Regard for his 30 years of age is tossed away at the years that pass by. Men await the age of 30 where the different experiences and sensitivities of life intermingle. Seo In Guk also awaits that kind of naughtiness at age 30.
You have a baby face. Are you satisfied with your face?
Some might say this is an advantage, but I do not like it. I’m not satisfied with anything.
Saying that you are not satisfied is similar to the famous words “I am still hungry” by Hiddink (Guus Hiddink was formerly the manager of the South Korean soccer team). Is that how Seo In Guk, who is not just a singer but also an actor, came to be?
I’ve always had a desire to try out this and that. I debuted as an actor after being a singer for 3 years, but rather than feeling the pressure of acting back then, I found it harder to continue as the singer Seo In Guk. It wasn’t a slump, but even with my 3 years of hard work, I had doubts as there weren’t many stages where I could fully perform as a singer. I also set restrictions for my own personal life, but acting in the stifling confines of a car gave me catharsis that helped release these stresses.
Within this period of time that is neither long nor short, you starred in many shows such as “Master’s Sun” and “High School King of Savvy”, and you even played the lead in many of them. Despite your acting experience, is there a reason why you were able to continuously get different kinds of shows and characters?
Because I seem approachable? One of the reasons why I can be proud of my filmography is its diversity. I’m proud of myself that I’m able to get closer to the audience through different kinds of shows as I wasn’t restricted to a single type of genre or character.
There must be a best work of your life among all those shows. How has that piece of work affected your life?
I guess it would be “Reply 1997”. Before starring in this show, I had doubts and worries thinking “Can a person like me be the lead?”, and I even told Director Shin Won Ho that I wouldn’t be able to do it. I told him “This project is like your own child, is it all right for me to be the lead?” and I wasn’t able to conceal my own uneasiness, but he picked me, overcame all those uncertainties and attained a very good result. From then on, the prejudicial convention that “only a handsome person should play the lead” was broken.
Your guess is right. That show was your best work that became a turning point in your life. As the forerunner of the Reply series, have you been watching “Reply 1988” that is currently airing?
I watch it whenever I have time. I don’t have any memories of that period because I was born in 1987, but when it comes to life, be it the past or present, there are elements that will definitely strike a same connection with people, so I’m once again enlightened to the amazing ability of director Shin Won Ho and writer Lee Yu Jin.
The theme of today’s pictorial is “Naughty”. There are many meanings to it, but how will you interpret the meaning of “naughty” that you have in mind?
Hmm, well…(laughs). Based on what I hear from the people around me, my image seems to be a combination of a manly man and cuteness. I’m not a difficult person, well, if you add all these together, I probably have a sexy side to me too. Ah, really…it’s embarrassing to say all these with my own mouth. My life itself probably has some naughtiness too (laughs).
Looking closely like that, Seo In Guk does seem like a naughty person.
The word “naughty”. It’s my first time hearing this today but it seems rather attractive. It’s a word that makes me want to be naughty!
(Note: The interviewer uses the actual English word “naughty”, that’s why he said this is his first time hearing this word.)
It does seem that way, so we’ve prepared “Seo In Guk’s Eight Kinds of Naughty”. After researching around for the naughtiness of Seo In Guk, there were 8 key words that emerged, so we will investigate further about how these are related to Seo In Guk.
(In surprise) There are eight? I’m looking forward to it.
Innocence — Is Seo In Guk an innocent person?
I don’t know if I look that way. But I think I should have an innocent side…right? (laughs) For example, just like how Shim Hyung Tak hyung likes Doraemon, I may appear innocent if I like something so much till I cannot be stopped and people cannot understand it? I probably appear innocent if I also show an honest reaction to something I like?
What do you like?
Eating. Did you see me earlier? I got excited and happy when I saw the strawberry banana juice. I think my behaviour when I give an honest reaction may look innocent. Ah…such words should be heard from other people in order not to cringe (laughs).
Laziness — Are there times when you get lazy? Is there something that makes Seo In Guk become lazy?
Last time, I wouldn’t go out of the house. Because I’m very busy at home. I need to play computer games, and I need to watch movies and dramas. It is time that I can spend in my own way, but the word that came to mind later was “useless person (废人)”. I was obviously doing things that I liked, but my life had gotten worse. “If I continue like that, my name wouldn’t appear in the entertainment section, but displayed as a headline in the societal news section right?!” I got scared so I resolved to exercise regularly at least. From then on, I would go out often and I also developed an interest in bikes.
Men look cute when they drive around in scooters.
My bike is a scooter indeed! Hahaha!
Arrogance — Have you ever heard that you are arrogant?
This seems to have a meaning that is slightly different from “having no manners”. Hmm…everyone feels differently. I’m not too sure, but even while I’m talking now, someone might feel that my manner of speech is arrogant. The word “arrogance” is often used negatively so there’s a sense of aversion towards it, but I think the “arrogance” that we’re talking about here carries the meaning of being cynical, chic and nonchalant. I will draw a clear line when I work and I’m the type who will clearly say “no” if I mean “no”, even if I work with a very difficult person. This can be seen as being professional, but on the other hand, it can also be seen as arrogance. Except for the times when I’m laughing, I some times hear people say that the way I speak is often cynical.
Machismo — What is the macho appearance of Seo In Guk?
Being overly manly? This is probably similar to the “manly man” that I mentioned earlier. Actually I’m not sure if the word “manly man” is really a good word. Because it’s natural for a man to be manly. It is understood from the word itself when you tell a man that he is feminine…well, I’m thankful that people see me as manly, but I don’t think I can say for myself that I’m a “manly man”. Instead, I think I’m feminine in many ways. Not in the sense of being delicate, but unlike most men who tend to be tactless, I am usually good at catching on the situation.
Uniqueness — People say that being comical and funny has a lot to do with facial expressions. Through what kind of behaviour can we see the uniqueness of Seo In Guk?
Since I was young, my mother often said, “Ah-yoo, you look just like a naughty boy.” It is that funny because of my mischievous face. But I also appear chic if I just keep still. So the reason why I’m so happy now is because of the fact that I can easily answer these kind of questions that appear in the interview, and I also feel proud hearing you say that I possess all those various qualities that you mentioned earlier (big grin). I feel very good about myself as I do this interview. Because I’m able to do something in many different ways. I think that kind of behaviour is unique.
Sexiness — It’s finally here. Sexiness! There are different kinds of sexiness that appeal to people of the same or opposite gender. Seo In Guk seems to be the type who can draw a positive response from both gender?
I’m rather popular among hyungs and younger brothers. Because of that, at some point in time, I became a leader in that kind of group. I give directions and sort things out. I show charisma through the leadership I display and that seems like a kind of sexiness. With regards to the opposite gender, I treat them comfortably like I do with men, and they seem to like me because they feel really comfortable with me. And the thing that appeals most to females are my eyes. They say my small narrow eyes leave a deep impression.
There seems to be some sexiness in your comments that are chic and seemingly indifferent?
Ah, this is more like “tsundere”.
(Note: “Tsundere” is a Japanese word that refers to people who are initially cold and even hostile towards another person before gradually showing their warm side over time.)
Gentleness that is almost metamorphic — Seo In Guk looks very good in suits. Your gentle expression matches really well with suits. So it is even more transformative. Does Seo In Guk’s metamorphosis have anything to do with gentleness? No, do you have other kinds of metamorphosis besides gentleness?
A perverse ability to learn? Haha…I think I know what you mean. You mean that I have an unexpected side of me that is different from how I look on the outside. For example, it’s just like referring to an unimaginably cunning side of a perfect person. I do hear people saying to me “Surprisingly, you actually like this kind of thing?” Even though I may be cynical and I do not smile, I really love animations, and when I go “hey~” in a moment and laugh, that may be an unexpected “metamorphosis”.
(Note: The Korean word used in the interview is “변태 (變態)”, which can either mean “a change in form” or “perverse/pervert”. I’m not sure which is the correct translation to be used here as I think both meanings fit into the context of this interview, but it seems strange to describe him as a pervert in English, so I chose to interpret the word as “metamorphosis” instead.)
Lax — Seo In Guk who behaves in a lax manner without any anxiety. You probably have the lax attitude of a heodang.
Among the things that people often say to me is “You can’t find a trace of anxiety even when you watch him perform live. How did he prepare himself before coming?” I have a strong sense of concentration so I’m really focused once I am at it, but it drops really quickly once the moment is over.
(Note: Heodang is a Korean term used to describe someone who is dense/empty-headed but not necessarily stupid. It was famously used to describe Lee Seunggi in the variety show “One Night Two Days”.)
There, the eight kinds of naughtiness have been completed and have now become layers.
Seo In Guk seems to be revealed in that finished product. Interesting (laughs). All of this is “me” and the life I’ve had thus far, and also serve as direction for me in the future. This is probably similar to the eight stages of life? It makes me want to enjoy the naughty lifestyle.
What is the naughtiest piece of work you’ve done so far?
“High School King of Savvy”. I think I did every kind of emotion and conduct of life. Thinking back to how I sometimes I act according to my mood, or how I vented my emotions when I was being oppressed, that seemed quite close to being naughty.
Questions that you don’t want to be asked any more?
I’ve been hearing questions about the difference between singing and acting for years. That’s why I’ve always been giving the same answer for years. Seems like it’s still not enough (laughs). Next time I might say “Variety shows are the best”.
Since you mentioned variety shows, you are starring in the JTBC variety programme “Mari And I”. Could you explain a little about the content?
It’s about pet sitters who take care of pets because their owners are unable to do so for inevitable reasons. You would probably know since the first episode has already aired, but I’ve already become a “mother” in the programme. There’s an incident related to this that I have to talk about before I forget. When I was turning the ferret’s clothes into sleeping socks, I blurted out three typically motherly words because of the poor chopping skills of Min Jae, who was preparing the animal feed next to me. “You can’t do it like that, you do it this way”, “Your finger will get chopped off if you do it like that”, “Ya! Just give it to me, I’ll do it”. Then I continued sewing like nothing happened.
Just like senior Ra Mi Ran in “Reply 1988”?
Anyway, I think I’ll appear in the show with CG of me as a mother (with apron and headscarf).
Scans and Korean-English translation by Gabby. Please do not take out translations from this site.