Actor Bae Sung-woo plays section manager Kim Byung-guk in the upcoming thriller "Office" who still comes to work after murdering his family. / Courtesy of Little Big Pictures
Poster of the thriller "Office"
By Baek Byung-yeul
Since "Misaeng," a TV drama portraying the precarious life of office workers posted record viewing last year, dealing with an irrational boss-worker relationship is no longer an odd theme in Korean dramas and films.
"Office," a thriller directed by Hong Won-chan, better known as a scriptwriter of "The Chaser" (2007) and "The Yellow Sea" (2010), is no exception.
The film attempts to depict an oppressive relationship between a superior and his subordinates, spiced up with a mysterious backdrop ― a horrifying office rumor that section manager Kim Byung-guk, who murdered his every family member, hides in his workplace.
Overall, Office mainly revolves around actress Go Ah-sung, who plays Lee Mi-rae, an intern, the only one who is friendly with Kim. After Kim kills his family and disappears, the intern becomes a person of interest in the murder investigation by detective Choi Jung-hoon (played by Park Sung-woong).
Bae Sung-woo plays Kim. With an innocent look, the actor occasionally steals scenes when he takes revenge on his colleagues who ousted him through office politics. Though he is a small-role player, Bae perfectly sustains the tension.
Bae said he depicted Kim as a victim of the irrational boss-worker relationship that can be easily seen in Korean workplaces.
"It was pretty hard for me to portray Kim as he is a two-faced character," Bae said in an interview with The Korea Times at a cafe in Samcheong-dong, central Seoul, Aug. 21. "Though he works diligently, nobody recognizes him because he is not good at office politics.
"But, in reality, no one attempts to murder their fellow employees even if they offer an insult. So I tried to understand his deeds throughout the film, thinking of him as one of the victims in society."
Bae, 42, began his acting career in a theater company in 1993 and has received a lot of attention for his brilliant performances in many films.
He has received excellent reviews for his role in the police action film "Veteran," which topped the box office as of Thursday. He plays a sly swindler in the used-car business who finally gets arrested despite efforts to escape.
"I always try to do what the director demands of me," Bae said. "In Veteran, director Ryoo Seung-wan wanted me to be a little clownish as the tone of the film is about good triumphing over the evil."
Office was well received at this year's Cannes Film Festival in the Midnight Screening section. Bae, who took part in the festival with actress Go and director Hong, said he was "amazed" at the responses during the movie's screening.
"Before screening, I was confused whether the audience could react as we intended when shooting," Bae said. "But after the movie started and characters who misbehaved got punished, I heard the audience cheering loudly. That was a very impressive moment.
"After the film ended, we received big applause from the crowd. They seemed to enjoy our film."
The actor is an older brother of sportscaster Bae Sung-jae, who specializes in broadcasting football matches.
"I've always been asked about my brother as he is better known," Bae said. "But I don't try to dodge questions about our relationship. I actually always like to be asked about my brother.
"Though we don't really try to talk at home like other brothers, we do really care about what we are doing and sometimes we give brief advice to each other. That really helps us."