Like many other actors when they debuted, Jung Hae-In played the lead character's brother or friend. It was not till 2018 when he paired with Son Ye-Jin in the romance drama, Something In The Rain, his role as a "warm boy" caught the public's attention and he was conferred the title of "National Cougler", that Jung's career reached its turning point.
During this interview, Jung's leading role in D.P. season 2 was about to be aired, his part as a soldier is a stark departure from his previous "warm boy" roles in romance dramas, which can be said to be another breakthrough for Jung's career.
During D.P.'s first season, it had already triggered social discussion in its native country as the drama explores the South Korean military's hierarchical practice and the associated bullying. Jung's role of a private assigned to a team, tracking down military deserters, endured various experiences in the process. Likewise after the series aired, not only did it ignite many heated discussions, it also evoked memories of people's own experiences during their military service. The drama received critical acclaim and went on to win "The Best Drama" at South Korea's Baeksang Arts Awards, so naturally all eyes are on the new season's plot. "The characters in the second season are explored more in-depth than the first season, delving into the characters' inner contradictions and battles. The second season will also add new characters to enrich the plot," shares Jung.
He will be promoted in the new season, and the series will continue to explore why the dark side of the military is deliberately ignored, and why bullying and discrimination are daily military occurrences that are not taken seriously.
Coincidentally, D.P. season 2's airing marks Jung's 10th anniversary since his debut. Jung's childhood dream was to become a bioengineer. That is until after his college entrance examinations, and he was on the way to the movie theatre, when he was discovered by a talent scout. Thereafter the idea of becoming an actor began to germinate, and he subsequently enrolled himself in acting courses.
His parents were initially opposed to the switch, but Jung managed to win their approval and support through his persistence and enthusiasm for acting. "Since then, I have enjoyed acting very much. Different works and roles have also allowed me to accumulate rich performing experience, and I believe my acting skills will change and evolve with age. My goal in life is to be able to continue to act, but I will not say that I have achieved my goal yet. I'm continuously moving toward my dream. My dream is actually quite simple: to be healthy and to live every day and with a grateful heart," says Jung.
Having been in the industry for a decade, it's logical to sort out and summarise Jung's performance over the years. "If I had to choose my proudest work, it would be difficult. Put it this way, I would think D.P. brought me a breakthrough in my acting career, because the character and plot are completely different from all my previous work.
"The thing is, I have never deliberately counted how long I have been in the industry. Whether it is five or 10 years, it's just a number. The most important thing is that I hope I will not regret my past performances if I were to watch them in the future. In the past 10 years, I have acted in more than 20 dramas and movies, and I have enjoyed satisfaction from these works, regardless of how tough the process was, or the challenges I faced. I still find it very interesting.
"Of course, I will want to take a vacation and have a good rest. If my body sends a signal, I will definitely take a vacation to recharge and clean the slate of my previous roles, so I can absorb new subject matters and perspectives. I think this kind of treatment is applicable to everyone, energy can only be added if there is an offloading."
Apart from acting, Jung also likes to sing. He fell in love with South Korean singer Lee Moon Se's song when it was included in the original soundtrack of the drama he acted in.
"I fell in love with his song when I heard it, I listened to it on repeat. I generally pay attention to lyrics when I listen to songs as well as the emotions carried in them. Recently, I've taken a liking to sports too and I really enjoy playing golf. Contrary to how it appears, golf is not an easy sport, and I'm attracted to overcoming unique challenges," shares Jung.
Jung has always been stereotyped as a "warm boy" or a "National Cougler" in his career thus far. The truth is that his persona also falls in line with the "warm boy". When he is not working, he enjoys dinner with his friends. He particularly enjoys barbequing and would volunteer to grill food for others to enjoy, so much so that he is fondly hailed "barbeque expert".
"I like to help others barbeque meat because I'm confident of my skills, and I feel that I'm very good at controlling the heat and taste. But I'm not a master chef and I usually cook simple dishes like stew or fried rice at home," says Jung.
Looking forward to the future, Jung doesn't have too many thoughts, he just hopes to do his best for every role. "If I hadn't become an actor, I think I would still work hard to equip myself to become an actor eventually. To be honest, if I'm not an actor, I can't think of what else I would like to do. Every time I watch the work of my seniors, it reinvigorates and motivates me. I respect the two seniors, Han Suk-Kyu and Lee Byung-Hun, and I appreciate that they can perfectly present different images and characters in each role. If I had to choose my favourite movie, I would say it's About Time, the portrayal of people and time in it is quite beautiful," says Jung.
There's a spark in Jung's eyes whenever he talks about acting. With his hard work and determination, becoming the next best actor could just be around the corner.
Photography: Choi Moon Hyuk
Art Direction: Paddy Chan
Styling: Yoon Seul Ki
Photography Assistants: Kim Dong June, Seo Hye Yoon, and Jeon Sung Woo
Makeup: Soon Yeol
Hair: Sung Chan