Man at His Best

Men, Bromance, and Gods

Gong Yoo’s most intimate interview.

BY Shin Kiju | Jul 31, 2017 | Film & TV

Photographs by Hong Janghyun; Styling by Lee Hyeyoung; Hair by Lim Chulwoo; Makeup by Kang Yoonjin

How Godly is Gong Yoo?  For unbelievers, the man surfing the crest of the Korean Wave is best explained in terms of death and taxes: Gong Yoo was the poster boy of the National Tax Service of South Korea, literally. With actress Ha Ji-won, he took to the streets to... “encourage honest tax payment in support of the NTS,” reports The Chosun Ilbo. You just could not imagine any Hollywood star doing the same. Not even Brad Pitt.

For those who came in late, Gong Yoo, born Gong Ji-chul, is a pukka Korean film and drama star, titillating audiences since 2001 in a series of rom-coms starting with his first lead in Hello My Teacher (2005) and culminating in The 1st Shop of Coffee Prince (2007). He’s no Javier Bardem or Old Boy, instead bearing a passing resemblance to the Malaysian ex-model and actor Alan Yun, but he is a certified thespian, having done theatre at Kyung Hee University.

Gong Yoo emerged from compulsory military service in December of 2009 to star in the modest box office success, Finding Mr Destiny, but it was in the film Silenced in 2011 that his other side became apparent. Silenced is based on The Crucible, a novel by Gong Ji-young, which in turn is based on true incident of systemic sex abuse at a South Korean school for deaf children. The film resulted in public outrage; the case was reopened, and more stringent laws against child abuse introduced. Gong Yoo had read the novel during his military service and initiated its adaptation as a film. In The Suspect, released just two years later, he continued to pursue serious themes, this time playing a betrayed North Korean spy. But this, he tells Esquire, was not out of any attempt to reinvent himself.

Silk shirt by Louis Vuitton.

But it was last year that the stars aligned and transformed Gong Yoo into Goblin, the lead character of the smash-hit TV series The Lonely Shining Goblin (a.k.a. Guardian: The Lonely and Great God). Quite apart from goblins having a different connotation in Korean culture, the series is the work of Kim Eun-sook, the doyenne of scriptwriters who has been known to channel Nora Ephron (Zac’s mom, btw) and bits of George RR Martin.       

Goblin tells the tale of General Kim Shin, whose soul will seep into the sword stained with the blood of thousands as well as his own, transforming him into a dokkaebi, a higher being, or the goblin that never dies. In the first episode’s opening scene, viewers are told, “Only the goblin’s bride can pull out that sword. If the sword is pulled, may it return to nothing and be at peace.”

From an ancient scene of flying entrails to Paris, 1968 (of course), where we see a snappily dressed man and hear the voice-over: “He is water, fire, and wind, and also light and dark. And once, he was human.”

Flicking between these two worlds, Goblin eases the viewer into carnage, Lancelot-like heroism, gallantry and, would you believe it, modern-day bromance. A talking point of Goblin is Gong Yoo’s banter with fellow Korean Heavenly King (goblin?), Lee Dong Wook, who plays the Grim Reaper. Their affairs pivot around a young king whose jealousy is stoked by his eunuch-in-chief, General Kim Shin’s relationship with the Queen, played by Kim So-hyun.

At 39, Gong Yoo is not only on the cusp of the premium male middle-age segment that lifestyle marketers covet, he is in a magic crescent. Last year, Train to Busan broke the record for the highest single-day gross in South Korea (US9.64 mil, 1.28 mil admissions) and scaled its way to the Singapore box office summit for the first time, reported The Straits Times, thumping Hollywood’s Suicide Squad.

Inconceivably, Gong Yoo made Kim Eun-sook wait five years before accepting her approach to star in Goblin, his crowning glory to date, and her natural magnum opus after  Descendants of the Sun, A Gentleman’s Dignity and Secret Garden. What if he had missed out on the role?

“It might have been a huge deal (to others) looking from the outside,” he says.

“If I really wanted the role and then missed the opportunity, it might have been a big deal to me as well.

“I can’t list them one by one, but I have also missed many great works of opportunity,” he says, acknowledging that it’s common for the works to be extremely successful because other actors have appeared in them.

“I believe it’s sort of a destiny. Because that particular actor has played the role instead of me, that work has come out to be successful.

Does he believe the roles he has missed out on were never meant to be?

“Maybe it’s a self-consolation. Self-justification afterwards. But as I continue to work, it’s most beautiful and also comforting to think in that way.

Gong Yoo reveals much more of himself in the unprecedented interview below, translated from the Korean and presented here in a way that attempts to keep the poetic nuances of his interaction with his interviewer, Shin Kiju, intact.

“I don’t always disclose myself like this,” he tells Shin. “Through interviews, my expressions will also be interpreted differently. But at least through our conversation, you seem to understand me.”

“Maybe, deeply,” Shin replies.—Jason Tan


Wool and cashmere jacket, cotton shirt, wool trousers and leather shoes, all by Louis Vuitton.

GONG YOO: I am not a possessive person, both of humans and things. It’s my strength and weakness. I, turning almost forty, think that’s the way I am.

SHIN KIJU: Why is that a strength and a weakness?

GY: Not being so possessive has helped me to continue the long life of an actor. At the same time, it has always been an excuse for self-consolation. On things that I don’t want to acknowledge, I regard them as not being mine from the beginning.

SK: Honestly, who would actually take those words from you. You gathered a 10 million audience in Korea alone with Train To Busan and The Age of Shadows, and you have shaken Asia with Goblin. And you still say that you’re not possessive.

GY: I say that I am not greedy, but I think I appear as greedy in other people’s eyes. There was one interview that described me as ‘very greedy person’ to explain who I am.

SK: Possessiveness is the mind to make something yours that is not yours. But Gong Yoo is saying that something that is not yours was not meant to be yours. ‘If I had not shot Goblin, it was not meant to be mine in the beginning’ would be hard to say from a possessive person.

GY: Of course, my agency would have regretted much.

SK: (Laughs) I can imagine CEO Kim Jang Kyun, crying and regretting.

GY: Goblin is already successful at this stage, so it’s easy to speak when you know the result. Some might say that I’m talking high and mighty, and I’m always cautious with my words to not attract such comments, but very honestly, it really wouldn’t have been a big deal to me.


SK: Maybe this was exactly what made Kim Eun-sook persist with you for the last five years. Because Gong Yoo was not a covetous person, he was able to stay nonchalant despite the love call by the screenwriter who can turn anyone into a star by them simply being in the drama.

GY: Kim Eun-sook has said she waited for me for five years. I didn’t count the years. After hearing her say that, I was thinking, ‘Did I?’ but it was true I couldn’t take up the role (of Goblin) when she first suggested it, right after I was discharged from the military service.

SK: Coming back from military service, isn’t it easy to worry about recovering your past popularity? But you still rejected Kim Eun-sook’s love call?!

GY: I am just that type of person. My mind always stay the same. Not much obsession, not much regret, not that regretful. I still remember the conversation I had with [my manager] Kim Jang Kyun when Kim Eun-sook first proposed to us. He gave the script to me and said, ‘I know that you won’t be in it, but I’m showing you because I just know that this will be successful.’

SK: Why did he think that you wouldn’t be in it?

GY: Kim Jang Kyun knows me very well. I was also more interested in movies than dramas; I had the urge to do more things through movies. I am not trying to compare dramas with movies. Both of them are attractive but at that moment, movies were a priority for me.


Green wool chunky waffle knit sweater and white poplin oversized shirt, all by Louis Vuitton.

SK: You chose to work on Finding Mr. Destiny and Silenced consecutively.

GY: Silenced should have come first. I was reading a book during the military service, and I requested to see if it was possible to make the story into a movie while I was off the duty for the holiday.

SK: You mean, the first movie that the sweet guy from Coffee Prince chose to make after his military was the society-criticising Silenced, and not the sweet love story Finding Mr. Destiny?

GY: If everything had been processed faster, Silenced could have been the first piece after my military service.

SK: The fact that you chose Silenced as the first choice explains to me why you didn’t respond to Kim Eun-sook’s drama, which bases its story on love despite the genre changing across fantasy, action, etc. By then, Gong Yoo was no more Coffee Prince.

GY: Then, I was not the person to just jump right into her drama. As an actor with more than 10 years’ experience, I now have the sense of what will be successful or not. I remember saying this while handing the script to Kim Jang Kyun: ‘This will be successful.’

SK: And you still rejected it. Didn’t he ask you for the reason?

GY: He didn’t say it that way. That’s why we have worked together for a long time. Kim once told me, “If you don’t want to you don’t have to. But I know that was going to be a hit. And I needed to show that because I was your manager.”

SK: What is this? This brilliance? It resembles the romance between the Grim Reaper and the Goblin?!

GY: (Laughs) Thinking how much time I’ve spent with Kim Jang Kyun, what could have happened if I didn’t take the role...


SK: You finally met Kim Eun-sook. But I heard you met her to reject her. After hours of conversations, you were convinced. What moved Gong Yoo’s heart?

GY: In order to explain that, I must explain who I am. When there is an opportunity but I cannot accomplish it, I think that it’s wholly my own lack, and I like that. It’s a motivation for me. Because I know exactly how I could have expressed myself and why I could not. I can only blame myself.

SK: And that same actor chose Kim Eun-sook’s drama. What kind of conversations went on between you and her?

GY: I kept on running away from that meeting, because itself was a burden. Because she’s a star screenwriter. I had already rejected her offers twice. I wanted to meet and thank her for thinking highly of me, but I worried that it might not be polite to reject the star screenwriter after hearing all the details about the drama. ‘She will be disturbed, so maybe it’s best not to meet her in the first place.’ But, she still wanted to have tea, and I wanted to meet her to thank her face-to-face. And that’s how I met her.

SK: On a very suitable and predestined day?!

GY: (Laughs) Now it hits me; I think Kim Jang Kyun was intentional on this. He told me to meet Kim Eun-sook and (Goblin director) Lee Eung-bok just one time. I think he wanted me to first listen to what they thought of me as an actor. He knew exactly what I was afraid of; he knew that I can let go of my own fear a bit through the conversations.

SK: And that worked.

GY: The work is joyful when the actor’s uniqueness and the screenwriter’s uniqueness make synergies that no one would have thought of. They say that movie is the director’s art, drama is screenwriter’s art, and play is actor’s art, but I think there are many different levels. It’s really important for me how each of those integrate with each other and create something that no one has expected.

SK: That kind of stubbornness makes Gong Yoo as an actor special. Some actors or actresses beg Kim to be in the drama, but Gong Yoo cannot let go of the question if he is real or not.

GY: It’s painful.


Cotton twill coat, wool cardigan, poplin shirt, wool trousers and canvas sneakers, all by Louis Vuitton.

GY: I was nervous when I first met Kim Eun-sook. She wasn’t the person I had in mind. There was a girl sitting down in front of me, and I knew it instantly. This person is very, very affectionate of me. I felt it in the way she looked at me. But it was exactly the same with Lee Eung-bok sitting right next to her. After just talking for one or two hours without much context, Kim Eun-sook, screenwriter, was a whole different person from what I had imagined her to be. We didn’t even talk much about Goblin.

She is a bit impatient. So, for her it’s either a go or no. She’s very honest and direct, and can’t say something in other ways. Her tendency is different from mine. I thought she was the opposite of me, but after meeting her, she’s different from me yet similar in some ways. There are some people who are just very different. Some look very different from the outside, but the core substance inside some people have a resemblance. The people who perfectly match inside the shell although different from the outside compared to those who look very similar outside are...

SK: More connected in soul.

GY: Yes, and if it’s matching, it automatically connects. Also more fun than those who are too similar. At the first meeting with Kim, I thought she was maybe that type of person.


GY: The loneliest drama. ‘Lonely and Radiant God’. The one copy line inside the script explains this drama most completely. The sentence doesn’t look like anything special, but inside it, there is a whole series of a drama within. Kim Eun-sook, screenwriter, suddenly seems like a genius. The source of the drama seems to be contained in this sentence.

SK: What does it mean by being lonely? It’s different from unsocial. I thought it’s about living and enduring the loneliness because there is hope. I thought that’s what it means.

GY: (Smile) Yes, I like that statement, I thought the same.

SK: The loneliness from Kim Shin has smeared inside me after the drama, since I re-watched the episodes over and over after it was finished. At the end of last year and beginning of this year, I was busy catching up with the drama’s story line when it was on air. The humour between the Goblin and the Grim Reaper was noticeable.

GY: Bromance.

SK: The more I watch the scenes, the more I can feel the loneliness of Kim Shin.

GY: Kim has said about the bromance between the Goblin and the Grim Reaper. The humour that creates all sorts of situations inside the house when the two lonely gods meet. The story is so sad, but it’s so funny. In a way Goblin is like a sad comedy.

Her script is not easy at all. It feels like a roller-coaster. There are so many things in one sequence. It starts seriously but ends up in a comedy. So many scenes where you repeat laughing and crying. It’s not easy for the director and actor to take the scene inside the camera. Eung-bok is a very sensitive person. I have pondered many times how to express crying, laughing, and crying again.


GY: (Sigh) There are many thoughts at this moment. There seems to me many leftovers inside me. I had the similar victim’s mentality before I met the drama Coffee Prince. At age 39, I still feel the same. Not necessarily because it’s the age of ending with 9, but something similar. When I make self-judgement, it’s about time to cleanse myself of those leftovers. These days, I think about that.

SK: Maybe it’s the time. If 2016 with Train to Busan and The Age of Shadows was the year to absorb everything, 2017 might be the year to cleanse the leftovers. Gong Yoo resembles Kim Shin a lot. Kim Shin acts as if he is the strongest on earth, but he is the most vulnerable at heart.

GY: The vulnerable side of me has probably helped in playing Kim Shin.

SK: Gong Yoo seems like a very sensitive and quick on catching other people’s emotions. Doing hard things because he is sorry for the others, because his feelings for the other feelings are bigger than his own. This also resembles Kim Shin. Goblin also cares about the human world, and interferes constantly, but feels the pain of the side effects.

GY: I can’t pretend that I don’t see (what’s not right).

SK: You know that type of personality of yours, so that’s why you wanted to run away from the rejecting meeting in the first place.

In the beginning, Eun-sook told me, “I’m not the type who writes monologues or any written orders, so don’t worry. I will let you play as you wish.” She said, like a girl, like a baby: “I am not going to mess around just because my previous works were successful. I will work really really hard. So trust me.” She wasn’t the star screenwriter that I had imagined.

Previous work: Descendants of the Sun. The drama that was a huge success that shook not just Korea, but Asia. And still?

GY: And she wasn’t kidding. She was saying it so honestly to the point I questioned if it was okay to say all those things. This is me. Judge me. Trust me. I know what you’re worried about. Like that.

SK: If someone discloses everything like that, there is no reason not to do the same.

GY: Even if Goblin wasn’t somehow successful, I would have never blamed Kim for that.

I was more amazed by the power behind [Goblin] that makes the audience crazy and fall into the drama. That’s when I felt her words to trust her. Because, she can’t predict the outcome either. But, she has let out all her long-held desires into Goblin, for sure. I felt that while shooting.

Cotton shirt, knitted tank top, wool trousers and canvas sneakers, all by Louis Vuitton.


SK: Shall we talk about something other than Goblin? Because we get too lonely. Yesterday, I re-watched The Suspect. I was deciding between which movie to watch before the interview with Gong Yoo. The reason I chose The Suspect was because I considered the movie as the tipping point for Gong Yoo. The first movie that resets Gong Yoo’s filmography after the mass-appeal Coffee Prince.

GY: It was the work that pushed me to the max, physically.

SK: You said that it almost felt like doing the military service.

GY: After watching The Suspect, I hated the comment where it was the movie to show Gong Yoo’s beautiful muscles. I read all of the comments about the movies. There were many comments that summarised the movies in one single view point, when it wasn’t the intention. It wasn’t hanging on the gallows to win over the female audience’s heart through my body.

SK: Ji Dong-chul is left by his wife, loses his kid, and abandoned by his own country. The reason an actor tries to push his body to the max is to understand the character’s pain. That’s how director Won Shin-yun explains it.

GY: If you spend three, four months dieting and shaping your body for action scenes like The Suspect, your mind becomes exhausted. Because it’s abstinence. Those who haven’t felt the mental pain by being restricted from the most basic instincts can’t understand what it feels like. Not letting one sleep, and not feeding, that becomes a torture. That was the feeling towards the movie and my attitude towards Ji Dong-chul.

SK: If Goblin were loneliness, The Suspect should be painfulness.

GY: I pushed myself to my limit on the movie, and that’s how it started.

But still, people thought that I wanted to win over the female audience’s heart once again after Coffee Prince.

SK: Once your public image is shaped, you have to choose either to break that image or stay in it. It’s a problem when you can’t break it due to the lack of courage. When you break that image, but people can’t recognise, it’s both upsetting and sad. In my own eyes, The Suspect’s Gong Yoo was very different.

GY: That was the reason why I rejected action movie in the first place. Same goes for director Won’s proposal. Commercial art is really hard, because you can’t really go wherever you want to. It gets worse when there are more eyes watching. It’s not even something you can do alone. I am less selfish compared to the past me. As I age, I understand about the commercial movies too.

SK: Even if it is a popular art and commercial movie, it’s still unfair to be misunderstood.

GY: In fact, I already know what kind of misunderstanding
it will bring. I didn’t want to take on an action movie right after
my military service because of the notion that a male actor wants to take a one-man action movie after the military. I didn’t want that. But even if I didn’t care about other people’s eyes, the moment I think about it they are already feeling and judging. I didn’t want people saying, “Gong Yoo wants to break his image after building the soft character from Coffee Prince.” I rejected because of this reason despite how clear the piece was.

SK: I believe that eventually the atmosphere of the tangled filming scene of people is really important. In the case of The Suspect, the atmosphere of the scene was said to be very good. Especially the bromance with actor Park Hee Soon. Bromance again?!

GY: The atmosphere on The Suspect film set was really good.

SK: In previous works, you have attuned with actresses, like in Coffee Prince, but you’ve said it was nice to hang out and cooperate with men in The Suspect. There’s a way of communication among manhood.

GY: It was good for me.

SK: After that, you been working in the masculine filming scene from Train To Busan and The Age of Shadows. Well, A Man and A Woman is exceptional.

GY: Since I am from Busan, mingling with guys, uniting with each other, and such a kind of thing is the best. When you have a woman on the film set, there’s a time when I have to pretend that I don’t know their feelings, even though I know their feelings. I would rather pretend I don’t know, because I’m going to get tired when I pretend to know it and react. But it does not have to be with men. It feels like going to the filming scene is getting naked and going to the public bath.


SK: Leading to Train To Busan, The Age of Shadows and Goblin, can it be said that it is the heyday of Gong Yoo? To be honest, I don’t like the expression ”Heyday“. I don’t want to define a time in life as a word that is because life is long. But it‘s true that the results are good enough to be better than this.

GY: I think it’s appropriate to express it like that. That is why everyone does that.

SK: How about you?

GY: I don’t like words like rediscovery. There was a drinking session with senior actor Song Kang-ho, who had been working with The Age of Shadows. Since, he is also from Gyeongsang province, he can’t really keep his feelings in his heart. If my guess is right, we are from the same province; there are times when I can feel what his feelings are even when he doesn’t speak; there are moments when I can feel his heart in his jokes. I treated The Age of Shadows filming team on the last meeting for the DVD commentary. I told Song Kang-ho, “This year I was so lucky. I do not know why my works are doing well, and again, I think I’m very lucky”. Song Kang-ho was drinking all of a sudden, he said while making a serious face, “Why do you think it’s luck?” And he reproved me, “Why do you think it’s luck? I can see what you have built up. Modesty is good, but you do not have to talk about it too much.” I did not express it, but I had a lump in my throat.

SK: Right. It’s not luck. Gong Yoo built it. It happened at the same time as a result by chance. I know you’re worried that if you say this, people will say you’re putting on airs. But this is the accomplishment of Gong Yoo.

GY: Maybe it’s because of my inherent personality that my parents gave me, it’s partly due to the training that was created by being exposed to the public as an actor. I hate not being sincere, but I’m afraid of conveying my heart to someone. But sometimes it’s so breathtaking.


SK: You are at an age ending in 9 facing the forty right in front of you. You often say that you have no plan to force yourself to stay as an actor even after you become old.

GY: It’s kind of a self-defense. And maybe I’m just saying this repeatedly because I am nervous. I’m actually cautious about these things because it’s an unexperienced part. The fear of going down. I understand from my head that you can’t stay youthful forever when you age, and that stage will also come to me too. Maybe it’s a self-defense that over-prepare for that stage of time.

SK: Fearful but acknowledging that you must accept. Like a destiny.

GY: An acting job is a job, but you can’t regard it only as a job. This is the part that’s really hard to explain to other people. Because of this job, I was able to enjoy all the wealth and fame, and I am thankful indeed.

SK: But to Gong Yoo, acting isn’t the tool for reaching wealth and fame as its purpose.

GY: I say this gingerly to those who must work to live their lives daily, but defining an actor’s job as a means to living a life will instantly make it boring and uninteresting; like life is closing in around me. Of course, acting a means of living for me as well. But, because I had this non-goal-oriented mindset since the beginning, I can talk this way. If I had instead felt this way after earning a lot of money and becoming famous, I might be seen as haughty. But, this was the attitude I had from the beginning; I didn’t start my career thinking I should earn a lot of money and succeed, to give luxury lifestyles to my mom and dad. No, I haven’t thought in this way from the start.

SK: Then, what is the meaning of ‘actor’ as a job to Gong Yoo?

GY: I wish it to be an art form. When I was young, I didn’t even want to use the term commercial art, because I was more arrogant. I wanted to put myself into the category of art. I didn’t want to be categorised by commercial art. So, I acted all classy by myself. Of course, being in the public eye was very uncomfortable. It seemed like they were regarding me, the actors, the acting all too lightly. Of course, they can just laugh and chat, watch TV to fill up time, go to the movies and eat some popcorn; they can do that as the public. Because, they go to destress themselves, and watching a movie is sort of an entertainment. But, from the actor’s point of view, that mindset is not enough. At least I am that person acting the character. So, I still speak this way and work in this way. Considering how cocky I am by myself and how much success I had achieved up to this level, I have to thank God. Whole-heartedly.

SK: Maybe that is the reason Gong Yoo’s acting seems elegant and Gong Ji-chul is so attractive as a person …

GY: When I think over on my own, I lack many qualities that a celebrity’s role should have.

In terms of global attention, the tipping point for me seems to have come already.  Physical pain is bearable. You can just sleep deeply after taking the ringer shot. But, mentally, I felt that I was very exhausted when I was shooting Train to Busan and The Age of Shadows. And that continued while shooting Goblin. I urgently feel that I need the time to live solely for myself.

Everyone will say Gong Yoo will be feeling as if walking on the clouds. Whatever he does, he will be happy. That’s why it’s harder to speak about myself in front of other people. Because I might say my true feelings, the feelings that don’t match with people’s expectations. That’s what I’m fearful of.

SK: Gong Yoo at the moment is lonely because he is radiant.


SK: You have well-interpreted the Louis Vuitton x Supreme. It was the biggest news in Paris collection. You modelled many fashion brands through Goblin. Are you into fashion?

GY: I like the fact that Louis Vuitton collaborated with Supreme, and even more so that I get to work on this fashion spread. My knowledge of fashion is bound by common sense. I don’t know much, really. Frankly, I’m a sweatshirt, jeans and sneakers kind of guy. I like to wear comfortable clothes. Actually, the job of being an actor is already splendid. When I work, I wear it fancy. That is why I appreciate the Louis Vuitton and Supreme collection. It’s my kind of taste.

SK: It’s not lavish, but sophisticated, minimal and ordinary.

GY: I like being simple. I like clothes that I can feel the difference in detail when I wear it. In case of furniture, I don’t like showy ones but those you can feel the difference invisibly. Fashionista? It’s ridiculous that I’m a fashionista.

People around me envy the work I do. I didn’t want to take a meaningless pictorial. When I put on this kind of emotional clothes as an actor, I wanted the pictorial to be synergistic and meaningful. In that sense, this Esquire pictorial has inspired me. It’s given me a feeling of being new.


SK: When do you feel like a real man, instead of a boy?

GY: I don’t like people who are hard on the weak people. Those people are actually weak against the strong people. That doesn’t mean that I can’t just go up there and fight that person, but I simply cannot stay and stare doing nothing. At least I squirm. If I weren’t well known, I would have moved more; that sometimes upset me. When I cannot interfere. It’s definitely the moment that someone has to stand up and move, but nobody actually does while everyone just looks at one another wondering what they might think of themselves. There are many moments like that when you are living in the eyes of society. That’s when I feel against the job of being a celebrity. That’s why it’s hard for me to meet those people who are hard against the weak. It shows through me. When I meet them, it simply shows despite my effort to hide them because of my role as a celebrity. People who are unreasonably stubborn, those who scold when they are the ones who did the wrong, impolite people, the moment when the majority attack the minority. There are all sorts of people in the world. Although it is the world and life itself with all sorts of people mixed together, I sometimes cannot stand such situation. That moment when I decide to say something, that’s when I feel that I am a man. And of course, in front of a woman who I am attracted to, I feel and want to become a man. That’s an instinct.

SK: Last question. It seems like a sword is still inside Gong Yoo’s heart. Perhaps it’s time to find a person who can take it out.

GY: If you phrase it that way, I don’t think there is anyone who could do that. I don’t think that it’s a question about a relationship. This interview is the first authentic interview that I’ve done since Guardian wrapped, and it has reached deep within me. I just wanted to open up and share the weight on my shoulders.

Maybe I can just break down right now. I feel like I’m in a desert, thirsty, and I can’t see anything in front of me. It’s so unbearable that I just want to reach out to someone, anyone. But that’s not easy. The feeling of isolation.

The sword in my heart. It hurts. I can’t take it out. Someone might be able to, but I’m in a position where I can’t ask anyone to do that. Even now, I don’t think that anyone can. Maybe I should ask.

SK: Nobody can see that sword inside Gong Yoo’s heart. And that’s why Gong Yoo is radiant but lonely. There must be the person who can see the sword.

GY: That’s right. It’s a little scary that the analogy matches me too perfectly. Although I don’t think anyone can take the sword out from my heart, I still believe that someone might. I’d like to share my story. I think I need to.