Go Hyun Jung, transformed into the first female president in hit drama ‘Daemul’
[Here’s a translation of an article by Reporter Kang Hye Ran at Joongang Daily]
This drama that explores how politicians work, that which makes us laugh and cry…
In Queen Seon Deok last year, Go Hyun Jung (39) portrayed the role of Mishil convincingly as a female Machiavellian (‘one who’s cunning and deceitful in politics, also narcissistic and possibly a psychopath’).
Now, she takes on another role that becomes ‘king’ — as tough ahjuma Seo Hye Rim, who transforms into the first female president in history in the SBS drama ‘Daemul’, topping viewership ratings of the same timeslot in just the second episode. The third episode continued to hit a record 26.4% in nationwide ratings (AGB Nielsen Media Research).
This drama also struck a sensitive nerve in political circles.
During the parliamentary inspection of government offices (‘government audit’) on Oct 11, the Korea Communications Commission issued a complaint regarding the scene where Ha Bong Do (Lim Hyun Shik) licked the shoe of an assemblyman (Episode 1). Other scenes such as a submarine sinking, impeachment of the president, corruption scandals of assemblymen also attracted the attention of politicians.
In particular, thinly disguised references to specific political parties and politicians have become a hot topic within the various parties.
Today’s October 14. Along the Buk-Hangang river in Ga Pyeong, Gyeonggi-do, a blaze of blooming cosmos flowers spreads under the skies.
The scene where candidate Seo Hye Rim campaigns for an assembly seat in a provincial by-election is being filmed. When Go Hyun Jung appeared in a well-tailored formal dress, residents of the area exclaimed,
“She’s prettier in real life.”
“Aiyoo, it’s great seeing her.”
And thus with much difficulty, I finally could interview this lady who has hardly a minute to spare, and asked her about ‘Daemul’.
Your viewership ratings are unbeatable. Do you feel the true extent of your popularity?
To tell the truth, I didn’t know about Mishil’s popularity because I was always in the mountains (filming). But for this drama now, I go to restaurants and receive encouragement from the elderly, from students, and realised how much support there is (for me). I feel burdened with this new role because it also has a very strong character, but I accepted it after I was told that,
“Nobody else can take on a role of this size, except you.”
There were many scenes of crying after your husband was killed, as well as expressions of rage in protest of the government’s inactions.
( ※ The death of announcer Seo Hye Rim’s husband when he was killed when working in Afghanistan led to her involvement in politics )
The interpretation of the diplomatic situation between Korea and the U.S. in this drama was a problem that had to be dealt with earlier on. Some of the speeches my character said made me feel really good. But this isn’t a documentary, nor a political drama. Initially Seo Hye Rim lived her life passively without much ambitions, like any typical person. Being a politically apathetic character, this drama aims to show how various elements led her inevitably into her destined role in life.
Many politicians are talking a lot about this drama.
(Gives a disbelieving look) Why are they doing that? This drama is entirely fictitious. To tell the truth, I’m most worried about the people who have experienced traumatizing events in real life, whether they will be affected by the drama’s superficial portrayal of those events. Among the politicians, of course there are outstanding individuals, this is a reality that is recognized by many citizens as well. We don’t borrow just the corrupt side of politics to create the fiction in this drama. Through the power of TV, our aim is to be able to let you laugh and cry your hearts out.
There are many instances where Seo Hye Rim resembles certain female politicians.
(Smiles) If people think my role resembles any politician in real life, then that would mean my acting is not good enough. I would have to do better so that people wouldn’t know whom the role resembles, a role whom people wish would exist in real life, during hard times. Please place your focus on the way Seo Hye Rim’s identity evolve from time to time, as she satirizes various parts of society.
Is there a possibility you will get involved in politics?
(Laughs her head off) NOO~ WAY. I don’t really like standing in front of many people. Politics presents totally different problems from that of dramas. The difficulties one faces to attain a certain position, the responsibilities, the many times when one doesn’t get to say what one really wants to say — these happen countless of times (when you get involved in politics).
Do you think there are advantages of being a female president?
Just because she’s a woman doesn’t mean Seo Hye Rim is trying to antagonize men and women against each other. Does being a man mean one will be good at politics? (Rather than her presidency,) Seo Hye Rim’s life will resonate more soundly among female viewers.
How about comparing Seo Hye Rim with Mishil? Who do you resemble more in real life?
Seo Hye Rim is a character who gradually believes in herself after much trials and tribulations. I am not a sophisticated schemer nor a strategist that Mishil is. I think I’m more like Seo Hye Rim. However, now when I look back, I feel that Mishil is quite a fine woman too.
I think the Mishil craze stemmed from the people’s thirst for a leader like her, who will say “Have faith in me, and follow me.”
In comparison, Seo Hye Rim is a problem solver who says, “It shouldn’t be this way.” I, Go Hyun Jung, would like Seo Hye Rim to be a president that can bring comfort to the viewers.
What is the secret to your ‘pose’ which makes you stand out from others?
My ‘pose’… often the pose appears when I lose my temper, this started since I was a newbie (laughs). When I look back to the earlier days, when there were scary older seniors in filming sets, a junior can impress by learning how to interpret the atmosphere and react accordingly. (It is impressive because) This is only possible if you have confidence. However as an actor, I don’t think it’s good to be associated too closely with an ‘image pose’.
On the other hand, the foolish antics of ordinary folk were shown in contrast with Seo Hye Rim.
To make the ordinary people more believable, it was necessary to show the foolish antics at certain scenes. For the essence of the drama, comical effects were woven in, but when I look at those scenes later, I feel saddened. I wondered if there were other ways to portray the ordinary people besides foolish antics?
From now on, will you aim to become recognized as the nation’s actress?
(Talking whilst rocking side to side) I don’t really want to become the nation’s actress. That’s because I hate becoming one-sided. I hope to be known as an intense actress.
Just as the interview ended, I realised my mobile has been ringing ceaselessly. Writer Hwang Eun Gyung who wrote the script till episode 4 was replaced by another writer, Yoon Dong Yoon. Rumors on the internet speculated: “Did this happen due to political pressures?” However, the switch of writers has apparently been decided before broadcast. “Those are baseless rumors…
“… these are how things go about nowadays?”
said PD Oh Jong Nok* with a laugh. That laugh is probably for all the awareness generated through this kind of ‘noise marketing’.
*Note: After episode 6, PD Oh has been replaced by PDs Kim Cheol Gyu and Cho Hyeon Tak (till…? -.-;)