Actor Choi Su-jong, left, and his wife, actress Ha Hee-ra
By Han Sang-hee
The evening news these days has been quite a show, literally, with politicians throwing fists and chairs at one another regarding next year’s budget. While it seems as if television doesn’t need any more political drama, a new soap on KBS is aiming to captivate viewers with the man in the middle of the political chaos, discussion and controversy: the president.
“President” will air on Wednesdays and Thursdays and will compete with the political drama “Daemul,” featuring top actors Ko Hyun-jeong and Kwon Sang-woo. The worries regarding the harsh competition were indeed evident at the press conference Thursday at a hotel in southern Seoul, but the makers and the actors insisted that the two works would offer completely independent material.
“There’s the basic difference of having a male president opposed to the female president in ‘Daemul.’ We are also more focused on family relations, rather than the love interest,” said producer Kim Hyeong-il.
“It’s time Korean dramas show more diverse genres. It took around four to five years to prepare ‘President,’ and now we are here with the final product. The drama will not reflect the reality of the political aspects regarding the president, but the more down-to-earth and friendlier side of governance.
“We will add reality, and show that the president is also someone who has a family and has to deal with small and big problems just like us,” he added.
The new show will be the journey of the passionate and talented politician Jang Il-jun, who plans to run for president. Viewers will join him on his career path, from the very first steps as a politician to the dramatic decision-making he must take on as the president, while also juggling the roles of husband and father with friends and foes.
The spotlight has been on the two protagonists, the president and the first lady, who will be played by one of Korea’s favorite couples, Choi Su-jong and Ha Hee-ra.
“When we think about kings, we instantly think of power. But I think a president is someone who has to communicate with the people, share his emotions and also pursue his and their dreams at the same time,” Choi said.
This is the first time in 19 years of marriage for the couple to act together on the same project. Awkward it may have been, but the two veteran actors thought it was an honor to work with each other and made the decision together.
“I read the script after my husband was cast in the role of the president. When they offered me the role of the first lady later on, I was really surprised. I loved the character because it would have given me the chance to try something new, but I had to think about it since I was going to play opposite my husband,” Ha said.
So Ha sent a text message to her husband, who was in the next room of their home, asking what he thought she should do as actor Ha Hee-ra, not as his wife.
“I texted her back saying that it would be a great honor to work with the actress Ha,” Choi said with a smile.
The two looked as happy as ever as they posed for photographers in the preview, and they even created a kind of Obama-Michelle image, dancing, holding hands with big smiles and waving to the crowd.
“Surprisingly enough, I feel comfortable and the acting is going really well,” Ha said.
The president of a nation is an interesting and a very appealing character to portray in any form of art. From veteran actors, including Lee Sun-jae and Go Du-shim in “Good Morning President” (2009), and Ahn Sung-ki in “Romantic President” (2002), to younger and handsome ones such as Jang Dong-gun (“Good Morning President,” 2009) and Ko Hyun-jeong in “Daemul,” each have all created their own unique style and character personality.
Although Choi is known for his impeccable acting and charismatic presence from his some 20 years of acting experience, it will take more than a charming president in a sleek suit, bow tie and a stern frown to draw viewers. Hopefully, his wife, as the first lady, will help him along the way. “President” starts airing on Dec. 15 at 9:55 p.m. on KBS.